As last week’s pre-UFC 142 pay-per-view prelims on FX had no “gladiator man” intro at the beginning, Friday night will feature the UFC’s true inaugural show on the network. And just as some of the low voltage SpikeTV cards we were privy to, this one features one fight that’s a shiny beacon of pugilistic goodness, plus a selection of meaningless matchups. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t tune in – you should. It will be fun in its own way. At the top of the card, Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller, both coming off of losses that derailed their lofty title aspirations, should have an exciting and worthwhile throwdown. Meanwhile, the lesser pairings (i.e., pairing that will have no bearing on the rankings) include the veterans Josh Neer and Duane Ludwig, who are usually good for a scuffle, as well as unrepentant banger Pat Barry against Christian “1-2 in the Octagon” Morecraft. Like I said, it’s not a high-powered card. But I get FX for free, and at this stage in the game I’d watch cockroaches battle if the UFC logo were visible somewhere. So! Preview time!
-Melvin Guillard vs. Jim Miller – Aside from a submission loss to Nate Diaz back in 2009, Guillard was on quite the tear, wrecking dudes like Denis Siver, Evan Dunham and Shane Roller, and smashing a host of others. Then came a regrettable performance against Joe Lauzon at UFC 136, and now the “Young Assassin” is in desperate need of getting back on track. Unfortunately for him, someone with an even more impressive win streak – a streak broken only by a recent loss to top lightweight contender Ben Henderson – stands in his way. To say Miller holds the advantage over Guillard in nearly every area that matters would be an understatement. With his wrestling chops Miller can take him down, and with his black belt-level jiu-jitsu Miller can tie him in knots. And as Lauzon proved, you don’t have to be a world-class striker to catch Guillard and stun him; if Miller can put down the iron-chinned Kamal Shalorus with a knee to the grill, he can definitely do the same to Guillard. Guillard is a fast and entertaining denizen of the UFC lightweight division, but Miller is putting him away.
-Josh Neer vs. Duane “Bang” Ludwig – Neer reached his ceiling in the Octagon a while ago, when Kurt Pellegrino and Gleison Tibau both decisioned him back in 2009. But the man has still got some fire in him, and he’s always good for putting forth a strong effort in the cage. “Bang”, meanwhile, just got official recognition by the UFC that his six-second knockout of Jonathan Goulet back at UFC Fight Night 3 (in 2006) is the fastest KO in UFC history. That little tidbit, plus the hard-fought decision he snagged over TUF winner Amir Sadollah at UFC Live: “Hardy vs. Lytle”, probably means something. I’m not sure what, though, other than that Ludwig has still got some fire left in him too. He won’t be knocking Neer out in six seconds (or thirty, or 120), but odds are he’ll be able to thwack his opponent right back for every fist and shin he eats. In terms of predictions, Neer is superior on the ground and Father Time has made Ludwig a bit slower, so look for the Midwesterner to tap out the Colorado native.
-Mike Easton vs. Jared Papazian – UFC newcomer Papazian may have made his bones punching dudes in the long-running promotions King of the Cage and Rage in the Cage, but the bantamweight has got a tall order before him in Easton, who wields dangerous Muay Thai to go along with his Lloyd Irvin-trained black belt-level submission skills. Given both guys’ penchant for banging out wars, this donnybrook could very well be a crowd-pleaser – a crowd-pleaser that I see Easton emerging victorious from via decision.
-Pat Barry vs. Christian Morecraft – Having lost to Tim Hague, Mirko Crocop, Cheick Kongo and Stefan Struve, it’s simply amazing that Barry has a job. I guess a willingness to trade blows with reckless abandon goes a long way towards job security… or something like that. Anyway, Barry can hit and hit hard, and he can break his hands and feet and render himself defenseless, and he can get taken down and submitted like a white belt – traits that, if he were facing any other heavyweight, could spell his doom. But he’s facing Morecraft, who may be competent on the feet and on the ground, yet somehow finds ways to lose spectacularly. I’m not going to make a prediction in this one, although I will go on record and say that, unless these guys make total fools of themselves, they’ll likely still remain employed by the organization.