Saturday, February 04, 2012

UFC 143 Picks

* Roy Nelson over Fabricio Werdum, decision
Werdum returns to the UFC after an overall successful (yet bizarre) Strikeforce stint that saw him win three of four fights, become the first man to ever submit Fedor Emelianenko and yet also look like an absolute horse's ass in a decision loss to Alistair Overeem. If you missed that fight, Werdum spent most of it on the mat trying to engage Overeem on the ground, only to have Overeem refuse. That speaks to Werdum's main issue --- he is entirely one-dimensional, but the one dimension is fantastic. He is one of the better submission guys in the sport and if he gets anyone on the ground, the fight is probably over. BUT, Werdum's standup is, how you say, not good, and his takedowns aren't much better.

Against someone like Roy Nelson, that's a severe problem. Big Roy is a solid wrestler who can keep it standing, and he has a MAJOR striking edge over Werdum. If the fight does hit the ground, Nelson is certainly at a disadvantage, but his own BJJ black belt should allow him to at least survive against Werdum and avoid submissions. My guess is that Nelson is able to control where the fight goes and lands enough punches to earn himself the decision.

* Ed Herman over Clifford Starks, decision
Geez, this is on the main card of a pay-per-view? Give me Poirier vs. Holloway any day….sure, it's Poirier beating up a kid barely out of his teens, but Poirier could be next in line for a shot at Jose Aldo's featherweight title. He could use a nice showcase fight to build him up, though I suppose the UFC's logic is that if Poirier has such a showcase on free TV on FX, more people will see it. Whatever, my main point is that Herman/Starks is not PPV-worthy. Seriously, Ed "Short Fuse" Herman? I don't care that he's won two fights in a row, this isn't 2007.

* Renan Barao over Scott Jorgensen, submission, R3
Awwww man, speaking of showcase fights, here we go. This could definitely be seen as a #1 contender's bout in the bantamweight division, were it not for the fact that the BW belt is held up until July thanks to Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber coaching the next Ultimate Fighter season. So, the winner here will have to face someone else in the interim with the winner of THAT getting the first shot at Cruz/Faber. The delay is a little unfortunate since you could argue that bantamweight has a couple of contenders ready to go in Barao and Michael McDonald.

I say Barao is ready to go and not Jorgensen since, while Jorgensen is a tough guy and a quality fighter, Barao might be the next big thing. After losing his first-ever fight back in 2005, Barao has reeled off 28 straight results without a loss. 28! That includes a 4-0 mark in the WEC and UFC, and I think Barao will hit five wins after Saturday. Jorgensen, hope you know where you find an extra kidney, since you're about to suffer renan failure!….okay, the trash talk needs work.

* Josh Koscheck over Mike Pierce, decision
Pierce's only two UFC losses came to Johny Hendricks and Jon Fitch, which tells me that he's a guy who might very well be a gatekeeper. As much as I hate Koscheck, he's proven enough that he's one of the better welterweights in the UFC, if a clear cut below the upper echelon. I'm not just sure what Pierce brings to the table that would allow him to beat Kos, unless Koscheck fights like an idiot again and relies too much on his striking, leaving himself open to get clobbered. Koscheck wins here and then probably moves on to a bout against the loser of our main event….

* Nick Diaz over Carlos Condit, decision
The one bright side of Georges St. Pierre's knee injury is that a division that had been under lockdown for years is suddenly wide-open. Between these two fighting for the interim championship, you also have welterweights like Jake Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald, Hendricks, Koscheck and others all in the mix to make their case for a shot at the interim gold before GSP returns. Now, St. Pierre has said that his rehab is going extremely well and he could be back in July or August, rather than his expected timetable of November or December. My guess is that GSP wants to hurry back for the big payday/grudge match against Diaz, but he'll go back to taking it slow if Condit wins the title. Condit is also a Greg Jackson-trained fighter, so it wouldn't surprise me if GSP is doing what he can (limited as though he may be in training) to help Condit prepare for this fight.

But anyway, let's forget GSP for a moment and focus on these two fighters since this matchup deserves it. It's a tough, tough fight to call. Condit is the better wrestler but wrestling isn't his bread and butter. Diaz has the edge in submissions but Condit is no slouch in that department and Diaz prefers to keep it standing anyway. When it comes to striking, Diaz is the better boxer and will rain punches nonstop for as long as it takes, while Condit throws bombs that can end fights quickly.

I think Diaz's constant pressure and iron chin will net him the win, and I can't believe I'm saying this given how just a few months ago I derided Diaz as maybe the most overrated fighter in the sport. You'd think a win over an out-of-shape BJ Penn wouldn't turn my opinion so quickly but it's more a case where I just see Diaz matching up particularly well against what Condit brings to the tables. I still think Diaz gets smoked by an above-average wrestler, but Condit isn't that kind of fighter. Hate to say it, but I see Diaz winning the belt and we have to see his ugly, Moe Szyslak face promoted as a top draw for the next several months. Hurry back, Georges.

* Henry Martinez over Matt Riddle, decision
* Edwin Figueroa over Alex Caceres, submission, R1
* Dan Stittgen over Stephen Thompson, submission, R2
* Matt Brown over Chris Cope, decision
* Dustin Poirier over Max Holloway, TKO, R1
* Michael Kuiper over Rafael Natal, decision, in a result that elates a confused Roger Federer

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