Saturday, February 4, 2012

UFC 143 Main Card Preview

 Ed Herman vs. Clifford Starks

Clifford Starks vs. Dustin Jacoby was the quietest UFC bout I've ever watched. There was no action, there were no boos, and absolutely no one was there. It was like someone took two good athletes who were UFC fans and just threw them on an undercard, hoping that no one would hit up their Fight Finder page only to realize that it didn't exist.

Mind you, I'm not saying that Starks is a bad fighter. I'm just saying that, having watched him for fifteen minutes, I feel like I don't have enough information. He's a stocky guy that can take you down. And um ... yeah.

He's going to have to bring far more than just the "move around and time takedowns" routine if he wants to topple the likes of Ed Herman. Herman is a solid, plodding middleweight that has shown improved submission chops (that heel hook he laced on Kyle Noke was a brutal surprise) and substantial power in his hands, two things that seemed to elude him in the past. Ed Herman was never a guy who you weren't worried about getting plunked by, because he's a big guy who swings hard. But recently, his punches have been much more on the button.

Simply put, Starks is in trouble here. I would be blown away if Ed Herman won by decision, because he's going to win by some kind of stoppage. The hell with Dustin Poirier vs. Max Hollaway (Hollaway is good) ... this is the biggest mismatch on the card BY FAR. A rare mistake by Joe Silva putting this on the pay-per-view broadcast. It should have been Poirier-Hollaway. Herman will overwhelm Starks and earn a TKO stoppage.

Renan Barao vs. Scott Jorgensen

While Renan "Barao" Pegado is clearly a force to be reckoned with, he needs to stop the disturbing trend of sucking his thumb after victory as millions worldwide are watching. It's sort of like how LeBron James used to chew his nails while he was sitting on the bench; it doesn't necessarily mean bad things are coming, but in a vacuum, it's a bit questionable.

Personal barbs aside, Scott Jorgensen is really just a better, tighter version of Brad Pickett, who Barao blew away in his last fight. The difference for Scott in this fight will be if and when he decides to commit to using his wrestling and putting Barao on his back. If he does that, a unanimous decision victory is well within his grasp.

Scott is a technically sound boxer with above average power, but if there's one truth about Barao, it's that you don't want to exchange with him. He's young and improving rapidly, and stepping into the pocket with this guy ... I just wouldn't recommend it. He's going to punch or knee you. Hard.

The "Renan Barao is a title contender" hype train seems to be growing, and with a win here, he's definitely on the short list of challenges for Dominick Cruz.

I think the hype train gets derailed here. After feverish punching exchanges in the first minute of each round, Jorgensen will think about his win bonus and revert to his wrasslin'. Jorgensen by decision, in one of those 29-28 contests that one judge scores for Barao on damage, and the other two score for Scott on control.

Josh Koscheck vs. Mike Pierce

Count me among the blowhards that love this matchup for Mike Pierce. The storyline is pretty similar to all of the others; Josh Koscheck's opponent thinks he's a tumbling dickweed, and Josh Koscheck says he "doesn't care" and will "put a beating on him."  Just once, I'd like to a future Koscheck opponent to give an interview where he openly gushes about what a great guy Koscheck is. I want him saying things like "guys like him are true ambassadors for this sport" and "he's a great role model for my kids." What would Koscheck do? "Tilt his head in confusion" gets my vote.

Mike Pierce has quietly put together a really nice UFC run. His only defeats have came to Johny with one N Hendricks in a competitive, entertaining fight that many people thought he won, and Jon Fitch, who he had in serious trouble for most of the third round of their tilt.

In the Fitch fight, Pierce's power carried him to a dominant third round, but he's since added some nice dimensions to his boxing game. He's setting up his power shots with more feints and footwork now, and he's also touching up dudes to the body, which is a fantastic skill to add.

Pierce is improving his standup every time out, without neglecting his rock solid wrestling chops. Koscheck has nice power in all of his strikes, but he's been prone to falling in love with his standup when he still has one of the best double legs in MMA history.

I still slightly favor Koscheck because I doubt that Pierce can stop three rounds of double legs, but the real question is whether or not Josh will realize it. This will be a competitive fight on the feet as well, but Pierce is a bit more disciplined. So, while I favor Josh, I'm picking Pierce by decision in a better fight than people expect.

Roy Nelson vs. Fabricio Werdum

It's nice to see Fabricio back in the UFC, which is where he should have been the whole time. Then again, if he hadn't left, he wouldn't have become the first man to topple Fedor Emelianenko, so it all worked out great for him. Sometimes, even a bogus release can pay dividends down the road.

He takes on Roy Nelson, who has seemingly laid off the Burger King a bit. He looked quicker and more fluid in his last bout. As always with Nelson, he'll want to end up on top at the end of any grappling exchange. Roy doesn't want to find himself underneath a huge, technically brilliant grappler like Werdum, but at the same time, Werdum doesn't want to flop to his back, butt scooting and doing the "come on down here and try out my guard" semi-homoerotic finger wag either.

This is one of those fights that I could see being aesthetically reprehensible to watch. If anyone is going to mount an insurmountable lead, my money is on Werdum, who is a great grappler in any position. I think the story of this fight might be the fact that, while being good grapplers, niether are particularly good wrestlers. Who ends up on top more times than not? And who finds success on the feet?

I like Roy's left hook and winging overhand right, and he can definitely rock Werdum's world with both. However, I see this fight playing out on the floor, with Werdum pulling away late in the fight as he beats Roy up on top and wins a decision.

Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit

It's time for Nick Diaz to fight again. I haven't been this intrigued or anxious to see a guy fight without caring who he's fighting since Fedor Emelianenko's heyday.

For my full take on the Diaz brothers, I refer you to a previous post.  For my full take on Carlos Condit, I refer you to the next paragraph.

I gotta be honest: up until he took Dan Hardy's head off with a crushing left hook, I had never been particularly impressed with Carlos Condit. He had a way of winning fights and looking poor in doing so. I mean, who wages a back-and-forth war with Hiromitsu Miura? Jake Ellenberger knocked him around, he looked awful in his UFC debut against Kampmann, and he seemed like a guy that was just good enough to hang around in fights and mount baaaaarely enough offense to win. But you didn't leave Condit's wins thinking "that guy is a world beater". You just didn't.

Then, after he gave Rory MacDonald a sobering beating in the third round of their fight, he fought Dan Hardy. Hardy's demise has been epic and well documented, but the fact is that this guy was never anything to write home about. Sort of how I viewed Carlos Condit.

Up until that fight, Condit could mount stand up offense, but he always punched like a wet noodle and had trouble doing true damage. So to see him killshot Dan Hardy was crazy. And to see him dismantle Dong Hyun Kim with brutal precision, leaving him slumped against the cage looking like something out of a Romero movie, was freaking bananas. Who WAS this guy?

It was (and is) Carlos Condit, and I give him a much better chance of putting Nick Diaz on his ass with a strike and possibly cutting him up than I would have a year ago.

If Condit kicks Diaz's legs and mixes it up with some hard punches, I could see this fight being competitive. But I don't think so. Until someone shows that they can stifle that Nick Diaz offense, I see another beating transpiring. You know, of the "pop-pop-pop-big shot-"Condit's hurt!"-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-bodyshots galore-big shot-"and it is ALLLL OVERR!!!" variety. Diaz by TKO, round two.

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