Jim Miller vs. Melvin Guillard puts former number one contenders right back into title contention. Also, find out lands cleaner in the exchanges between Josh Neer and Duane Ludwig.

UFC ON FX: Miller vs. Guillard

Melvin Guillard2011 was officially the rise and fall of Jim Miller and Melvin Guillard. They were able to climb to the top of the division only to come up short right before a potential title shot. A win here puts the victor right back into contention. The loser, however, will be forced to travel nearly an impossible route back to contention.

Before running into Ben Henderson at the “Hardy vs. Lytle” event, Jim Miller was declared the number one lightweight contender. Although the UFC Odds makers made Miller a -170 favorite for that fight, he was dominated and completely outmaneuvered for three rounds. He had no answer for Henderson’s relentless takedowns and punishing top control.

A demoralizing beating of that nature has the potential to entirely reroute a fighter’s career. Prior to the loss, Jim had not tasted defeat in two years and was riding a 7 fight win streak in the process. Now, against some of the heaviest hands in the division, he’s being forced to respond to a loss for only the third time in his career.

His opponent, Melvin Guillard, experienced his own share of downfalls in 2011. After racking up 5 straight wins in a little over a year, a basic defensive mistake against Joe Lauzon erased his impressive win streak.

Greg Jackson constantly has to remind Guillard to tame his own bravado inside the octagon. Dropping his hands against Lauzon was just the latest mishap of his career. A win would have all but cemented his status as the number one lightweight contender. It seems at times he simply can’t get out of his own way. Heading into that fight Melvin was close to a -400 favorite and was expected to run through the lowly ranked Lauzon.

I have a lot of reservations about making any UFC picks here. I’d prefer to see the UFC betting line first but at the moment I’m expecting the line to open with value on Jim Miller. For straddle purposes, I would take the prop bet on Miller winning in round one hedged with a straight/decision bet on Guillard.

Join in the discussions in the UFC forum and tell us who you are backing and why.

Josh Neer vs. Duane Ludwig

Stringing together a 7-1 record after being released in 2009 was enough to earn Josh Neer his second chance with the UFC.

His only loss in that timeframe was to former Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez. Lately he seems to have refined his aggression, inducing a much more refined boxing attack. He has good understanding of range (by MMA standards) and expertly imposes his reach and height advantages. As an official sparring partner of Nate Diaz, we can expect to see some of the crispest boxing of Need’s career.

Against Duane Ludwig, Neer will need to utilize every bit of his improved striking. He’s up against a former Muay Thai world champion with 10 knockouts on his record.

Ludwig has twice now, in back to back fights, come through as a huge underdog. He was hovering around +300 against both Nick Osipczak and Amir Sadollah. He managed to completely outclass Sadollah in the stand-up and had a gutsy comeback against Osipczak. You have to think those two upsets will give the linemakers some pause when creating the sports betting line for this match-up.

This match-up comes down to Neer’s relentless pace and overwhelming submission edge. He’s simply closer to his peak as a fighter and I expect him to secure a possible side-choke by the third round.

Free UFC Pick: Josh Neer SU


Pat Barry vs. Christian Morecraft

Not too many UFC fighters are allowed to keep their job after going 1-3 in their last 4 fights. Pat Barry happens to be on a short list of fighters with enough fan influence to carry him through an extended losing streak.

However, a loss to Christian Morecraft may just be the final straw, ultimately leading to his release. This very well could be a make or break fight for Barry’s UFC career.

Throughout the kick-boxer’s career he simply hasn’t adjusted to the grappling aspects of MMA. Sure he’s made strides but not nearly enough to compensate for his glaring inadequacies in that department. In his UFC career he’s been submitted three times, the latest coming against Stefan Struve in October.

Christian Morecraft defines mediocrity. He doesn’t excel anywhere but is well rounded enough to hang with the UFC’s lower tier of heavyweights. Since entering the UFC he’s 1-2 with losses to Matt Mitrione and Stefan Struve. He has good top control from guard but not much else outside of that. His takedowns are way too telegraphed and his striking is that of a slow plodder without much explosion.

I regretfully have to back Morecraft as the lesser of two evils in this match-up. I’d play Barry in round 1 or not play him at all. Both have displayed poor conditioning but at least Morecraft can stall his way to victory against the cage in the last two rounds.

Free UFC pick: Christian Morecraft SU