Nate Diaz did what 23 previous men could not: he finished Jim Miller.
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner submitted Miller with a second-round guillotine choke in the UFC on Fox 3 headliner on Saturday at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J. Diaz (16-7, 11-5 UFC) cinched the submission and coaxed the tapout from the New Jersey native 4:09 into round two, as he won for the third time in as many outings.
“I’m happy to come out and perform for you guys,” he said. “[Miller] is a great fighter. I have nothing bad to say about the guy. I had a hard time being motivated to train for this fight, so I had to [think about fighting] behind enemy lines.”
Miller’s game plan became clear from the outset, as he initiated the clinch and tried to engage Diaz in close quarters. It was ineffective, and once the two men separated, Diaz established his superiority on the feet. The 27-year-old Cesar Gracie disciple floored Miller with a straight left hand late in round one. The AMA Fight Club ace withstood the blow, but his face was bloodied and he was struggling to keep pace.
Diaz did not let him breathe in the second. He battered him with the high-volume punching attack that has become his calling card. Miller (21-4, 10-3 UFC) staggered forward and soon found himself trapped in the choke. Diaz adjusted his grip, rolled into full mount and sealed the deal there, perhaps cementing his position as the No. 1 contender for the UFC lightweight crown.
“He had my number. Nate is a tough guy. I knew that coming in,” Miller said. “He was just landing strikes and hurting me. [The game plan was to apply] pressure and not let him use his range, but he found it and went to work. Nothing was really surprising. He deserves that [title] shot. There shouldn’t be anything in his way now.”
Surging Hendricks Outpoints Koscheck
The thudding left hand of Johny Hendricks carried him to a narrow split decision over perennial welterweight contender Josh Koscheck in the co-main event. All three judges scored it 29-28, two of them for Hendricks (13-1, 8-1 UFC), who has won his last four fights.
Hendricks brought the battle to his opponent with clean power punching and did some subtle work in the clinch, as well. However, his left hook -- the same punch that wiped out Koscheck’s former American Kickboxing Academy teammate, Jon Fitch, in December -- was the most effective weapon in the 15-minute encounter. Hendricks delivered it with regularity, leaving visible damage on Koscheck’s right eye, and mixed in a sneaky right uppercut and occasional knees when the opportunities presented themselves.
Koscheck (17-6, 15-6 UFC), whose 15 wins inside the Octagon rank fifth on the all-time list, made one final push late in the match. He put Hendricks, a two-time national champion wrestler at Oklahoma State University, on the ground, passed to half guard and worked from top position. However, it was not enough to swing the decision in his favor.
“I hit him with everything I had, and I did everything I could,” said Hendricks, who absorbed a number of stout right hands from Koscheck. “Hat’s off to that dude. He’s a real fighter. Nothing [surprised me]. I knew he had heavy hands and he was going to be one tough fighter. I just thank God for this.”
Belcher Stymies, Stops Palhares
Roufusport representative Alan Belcher stopped Brazilian leg lock connoisseur Rousimar Palhares on first-round ground strikes in a featured middleweight bout. Belcher (18-6, 9-4 UFC) buried his foe with punches, elbows and hammerfists 4:18 into round one.
Palhares (14-4, 7-3 UFC) expectedly snatched a leg and secured a takedown from the start, fishing for kneebars and his trademark heel hook. Belcher weathered the engagement and turned the tables, threatening the Brazilian Top Team member with a twister before moving into top position and settling in guard. From there, he let his hands and elbows fly. Before long, Palhares was shying away from contact, forcing referee Dan Miragliotta to intervene.
“That’s what I’m talking about. Why don’t you guys ask ‘Toquinho’ who the baddest man in MMA on the ground is. It ain’t him no more,” said Belcher, who has pieced together four consecutive wins. I’ve been doing this all the time in training camp. I was so ready. I wasn’t scared in this fight. “
Belcher then took aim at reigning UFC middleweight king Anderson Silva.
“I just wanted to prove that I could beat the best guy on the ground, and I can beat the best guy standing up,” he said. “That belt is mine. I’m coming for it, and I think you know it now.”
Johnson Stops Barry in First
Strikeforce import Lavar Johnson obliterated Pat Barry with a violent volley of punches in the first round of their heavyweight showcase. Barry (7-5, 4-5 UFC) met his end 4:38 into round one.
Johnson (16-5, 2-0 UFC) was far from flawless. The fight spilled onto the ground early, and he was exposed. Barry moved to mount and ultimately transitioned to side control, a position from which he threatened to finish it with a keylock.
Johnson freed himself, returned to his feet and let his thunderous power do the rest. He backed Barry into the cage and unleashed a savage barrage of right uppercuts and left hooks, mixing in a knee to the body and an elbow to the head for good measure. After one final hook to the head, Barry folded.
“I feel great,” Johnson said. “Pat is a very tough guy. I’m just happy to be here in the UFC.”
More UFC on Fox 3 »
• UFC on Fox 3 Prelims: Michael Johnson Menaces, Upsets Tony Ferguson
• UFC on Fox 3 Play-by-Play