While last weekends UFC on Fox 2 appears to have done decent numbers, the main card didn’t exactly have hardcore fans buzzing. It is, however, impossible not to be psyched about this card. In fact I’m sure some fight fans would pay the full ticket price just to see the main event alone. A match between Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit could not possibly be boring and could well be an early contender for fight of the year. Since GSP has been out of the Welterweight picture, a couple of young pretenders have risen to prominence like Jake Ellenberger, Johnny Hendricks and Rory Macdonald. Head and shoulders above these guys though stand Diaz and Condit and they will contest the interim welterweight title to see who is top dog at 170lbs in the absence of St Pierre. As much as I hate interim titles, it will be nice to see a title fight at 170lbs that does not involve excessive dry-humping. Even if this one does go to a decision, you can bet your house that all 25 minutes will be fireworks.
Throw in the mix another potential Heavyweight contender in Fabricio Werdum making his UFC comeback against Big Country, Koscheck vs Pierce and the outstanding talents of Renan Barao and MMA fans have an outstanding night of top class MMA ahead of them this Saturday night.
I am not going to spend too long pre-ambling about this, so let’s get right into the action!
Nick Diaz 26-7-0 (1 NC) vs. Carlos Condit 27-5-0 – Interim Welterweight Title
The 170lb merry-go-round has finallty thrown up a title match – albeit an “interim” title – after a lot of fights nearly happened then didn’t. You know the story so I won’t recap it. Here we are four months on from UFC 137 and we end up with what is, on paper, a much better match up than the originally slated GSP vs Diaz / GSP vs Condit. Both men suit each other stylistically and make a very fan-friendly fight that should raise the Mandalay Bay roof.
On one side, Diaz: A former Strikeforce champion, undefeated since 2007 with only two of his eleven wins since then going the distance. Never submitted in 34 fights and only stopped twice in that time. He has eaten the best shots of power punchers like Paul Daley and just kept on coming back. A Cesar Gracie blackbelt, he has an outstanding guard off his back and great submissions. On the feet he has that distinct “Diaz boxing” style and it is the volume and variation of angles in his punches that overwhelm opponents rather than raw-power. He is undoubtedly one of the best 170 pounders in the world and with a who’s who of MMA on the wrong end of his fists he will be confident coming into this match.
On the other side, Condit: A former WEC champion, with only one loss since 2006 a hotly debated split decision on his debut against Martin Kampmann. In his 12 wins since 2006 he has only been to the judges once in a split decision win against Jake Ellenberger. Never knocked out in 32 fights he has only been stopped by submissions three times. While many would argue that he hasn’t faced the level of opponents of Diaz, you cannot argue with his stoppage percentage – 13 wins by T/KO and 13 wins by submission with only one career win going the distance. he has elite level, powerful striking and is the only person to ever stop Dong Hyung Kim (a fighter who holds a win over the other Diaz!).
The only thing that I can predict about this fight with some degree of certainty is that this WILL get the fight of the night award. I don’t see any other match-up on the card that comes close to the potential explosiveness of this encounter. Both will be happy to stand in the pocket and throw down and although I would argue that Condit has more power in his punches, that power may be cancelled out by the granite in the chin of Diaz. Neither man is an out and out wrestler so I can’t see too many power doubles being blasted across the Octagon. In the ground phase, I give the edge to Diaz by the narrowest of margins. That being said, I think we will see most of this fight play out on the feet. What both these men have in abundance above all other traits, is gameness. They will get knocked down and get back up again and come right back at you (see Condit vs MacDonald and Diaz vs Daley as recent examples!). When you have two men like that facing each other, then you know all the fans are going to leave happy!
As for the prediction, well the three key factors in this fight for me are:
- The ability of Diaz to take Condits power shots and keep coming.
If Diaz is able to absorb Condits biggest shots and keep coming at him, this will be demoralising for Condit and may throw him off his game enough to allow Diaz to drag him into the later rounds wilting under pressure and tired from throwing power shots. If Condit is able to hurt Diaz early, he may hand Diaz another stoppage loss inside 2 rounds.
- Condits ability to mix up the striking early and not get dragged into the kind of down and dirty brawl that Diaz loves.
I think if Condit can integrate elbows, knees, kicks and punches as well as he ever has then this could be his key to victory. If he gets drawn into a slug-fest and finds himself pressed against the cage eating punches from all angles then he is in trouble – Diaz has wicked body shots and as the damage from these mount up they hurt his opponents cardio in a big way. Diaz isn’t much of a kicker though and if Condit can kick well and do damage early, he might be able to take a little of the wind out of Diaz sails.
- The state of both men in the later rounds of the fight in terms of gas in the tank and damage sustained.
As this is likely to be a bruising encounter the damage done in the first two or three rounds will be the telling factor as this goes into the latter stages. If this does play out as a mainly kickboxing fight then the judges will undoubtedly have to take damage done into account on delivering their final verdict. Cardio later on will be a factor: Diaz has been more active than Condit recently having had eight fights since April 2009 compared to Condits five. He also has the benefit of having gone five full rounds against KJ Noons in his first Strikeforce title defence. It’s not that Condit has bad cardio, but Diaz is a machine.
I honestly don’t see how either man finishes the other, but anything could happen in this fight. If there were to be a finish inside the 25 I would hand on heart have to say Diaz subs Condit. But equally possible is Condit smashing the legs and body of Diaz to pieces with kicks and taking a TKO. I do not have a preference on which fighter wins as I really like both, but I am leaning a little bit towards Diaz on the final pick. This will easily be one of his toughest matches to date, but the run he has been on, the quality of opponents he has dispatched and the manner in which he has done so, just sway me a bit towards him. I think Diaz nicks a decision in an instant classic. Diaz decision
Fabricio Werdum 14-5-1 vs. Roy Nelson 16-6-0 – Heavyweight
Werdum makes his return to the Octagon after being dropped following his first rounf KO loss to current champ Junior Dos Santos at UFC 90. He put together three big wins in strikeforce, not least of which was the submission over Fedor but then suffered a lacklustre loss to Overeem in the Heavyweight tournament. Despite that loss, he actually found some success with his striking in moments of the fight, but the fact he spent most of it on his butt inviting Overeem into his guard meant a loss was inevitable. Werdums Jiujitsu credentials are undeniable and he is still active in grappling competition, placing second at the most recent ADCC.
Nelson is also coming off a win against a fading Cro-Cop but it took him two-and-a-bit rounds to put the aging veteran away. Prior to that he was on a two fight skid with decision losses to Mir and Dos Santos. Nelson will be buoyed by the fact that Dos Santos dispatched Werdum relatively easily where he was able to suck up all the punishment the current champ could give. No doubt Roy has a chin and a half (well several actually) and I doubt if Werdum will find a KO easy to come by in this one.
The mat is where Werdum will look to have most of his success but Nelson has never been submitted and has fought elite MMA grapplers like Monson, Mir and gone the distance with them. Conversely, Nelson will probably look to keep this on the feet and land one of his trademark power punches.
I think both men will struggle to finish the other and this one is very likely to go the full three rounds. I think the workrate of Werdum and his constant hunting of the sub will see him take the decision from Nelson. Nelson has the ability to win this and in his most recent loss to Mir, if he had better conditioning he may have taken the match. If Nelson gets serious about getting himself in better condition he could be a real force – most probably in light heavyweight, but until he looks to take his conditioning issues seriously it is hard to see how he can succeed against top-tier heavyweights. Werdum decision
Josh Koscheck 16-5-0 vs. Mike Pierce 13-4-0 – Welterweight
Former contender Koscheck looks to continue his resurgence at 170lbs with a win over Mike Pierce. His last fight, a brutal KO of Matt Hughes is no yardstick to judge this fight by though. Pierce is a bruiser with big power and is tough as nails. The big advantage for Kos here is in the wrestling and both Fitch and Hendricks proved that if you can dominate the wrestling you can beat Pierce.
Pierce has just as many KO’s as he has decision wins but he has not fought the same level of opponent that Koscheck has, although that is no fault of his own. This is a big test to see if Pierce can step up a level in the UFC, but I am not sure he is up to the challenge. Both men have big power in their strikes and both can take a shot pretty well too. I actually think Pierce takes a shot a lot better than Koscheck, but it is just too hard to look past the wrestling of Koscheck as the clincher in this fight. Again I think this will go to a decision and Koscheck should get the nod. Koscheck decision
Scott Jorgensen 13-4-0 vs.Renan ‘Barao’ Pegado 27-1-0 (1 NC) – Bantamweight
If there were doubts raised about the quality of opponents that Barao fought on the way to acquiring his outstanding record, they were quickly put to bed when he dispatched Brad Pickett in his last UFC fight. He looks to be the real deal and he has now shown the world that another star is about to spring out of the Nova Uniao production line.
A win over Jorgensen here, who has contested the WEC belt against current champ Cruz, should put him in line for a shot at gold as Cruz has all but cleaned out the division of worthy challengers. Barao is the archetypal Nova Uniao fighter, slick muay thai and killer jiujitsu that blend seemlessly together to make a killing machine in the Octagon.
I do not want to appear dismissive of Jorgensens skills but anyone betting on him has to be out of their mind or has some insider knowledge of a debilitating injury or illness to Barao. Whilst his wrestling and conditioning cannot be discounted as excellent tools for him to use to get control of this fight, he still has to get past the dazzling array of strikes that Barao posesses. If Jorgensen can get this to the mat, he then has to deal with the sort of elite jiujitsu that is a given for fighters coming out of Andre Pederneiras’ school.
I don’t see this one going the distance and fancy Barao to latch onto something lightning quick midway through the fight to force the tap. Barao submission round 2
Ed Herman 19-7-0 vs. Clifford Starks 8-0-0 – Middleweight
Herman has looked impressive since his return from injury and has defeated his last two opponents inside a round. Starks comes into the fight with a nice record, but the list of opponents is a little thin on credibility in comparison to that of Herman.
This fight will be a true test of whether Starks can live up to the hype, If his last fight with Jacoby is anything to go by however, then Herman should take this one fairly comfortably. Against Jacoby, Starks won on the strength of a few takedowns and not much else, in what was essentially a snail paced fight. He will need to show a lot more than that against Herman.
Herman puts submissions together well and although his stand-up isn’t outstanding, it is effective enough to allow him to setup his takedowns. Herman is slick on the mat and I think he gets this done pretty quickly. Herman submission round 1
Prelims on FX:
Dustin Poirier 11-1-0 vs. Max Holloway 4-0-0 – Featherweight
Originally slated to face Erik Koch (which would have been a much more exciting fight in my humble opinion), Poirier makes his fourth appearance at featherweight and will look to continue his impressive run. I really like Poiriers style and have been impressed by his relentless performances in the Octagon to date. I know very little about Holloway but he comes in undefeated and at only 20 years old surely has a bright future in the sport. He is also pretty tall for a featherweight at 6’1″, giving him a reach advantage over his opponent.
Coming in at late notice, to face a far more experienced and dangerous opponent shows that Holloway has balls, and there aren’t too many fighters who would have knocked back the opportunity, so you can’t blame him. But I think he has bitten off more than he can chew here. Hopefully Poirier takes his opponent seriously and doesn’t view this as an easy win as that has been the downfall of many a fighter and would give Holloway a chance of making a huge impact on his debut. Everything about him is an unknown to me, but with his reach advantage, if his striking is solid he could trouble Poirier who loves to just come out swinging. All that said though, it’s pretty hard to favour Holloway in this one.
The youngsters time will undoubtedly come, but I think he will be overwhelmed by the offence of Poirier and fall to a sneaky submission early on. Poirier submission rd 1
Matt Riddle 5-3-0 vs. Henry Martinez Lopez 8-1-0 – Welterweight
Riddle had to drop out right at the last moment of his scheduled fight at UFC 141, so he will be itching to get back into action in the octagon. Riddle is one of those rarely found fighters whose whole career in MMA has played out in the UFC but 2 tough losses have left him looking at the real possibility of plying his trade elsewhere, if he can’t pull out the win on Saturday night.
Fortunately (possibly) for him, he has been handed a debutant who comes in on late notice to replace the injured Jorge Lopez. Martinez – again – is an unknown quantity but he fights out of Jacksons MMA so has a good camp behind him and a decent record. He will be dwarfed by the 6’1″ Riddle though, as he is tiny for a 170lb fighter at 5’7″.
Riddle has strong grinding wrestling and this will be the biggest obstacle for Martinez to overcome. Most of Martinez wins come via submission, but without knowing an awful lot else, it is hard to predict exactly how likely he is to submit Riddle. Seeing as Riddle has never been submitted thus far, I am not liking the odds. This is another one of those matches – like Poirier vs. Holloway where the new guy could come in and blow everyone away with a stunning upset. But Riddle is a tough nut to crack and making your Octagon debut on short notice to a tough tough guy is a big ask for anyone. This coupled with the size disparity means I’m leaning heavily towards Riddle to wrestlestomp his way to another decision. Riddle decision
Alex Caceres 6-4-0 vs. Edwin Figueroa 8-1-0 – Bantamweight
Caceres has descended two divisions since debuting in the Ultimate Fighter and with his most recent victory over veteran Cole Escovedo, Bantamweight is looking like his best weight class. Caceres has unorthodox striking rooted in Jeet Kune Do and Kempo and he is an awkward opponent for anyone.
Figueroa is a fearsome striker with a Muay Thai based attack and this matchup looks to be a fan-friendly affair. Caceres should have the edge on the ground here, but for me Figueroa has the tighter more disciplined standup. If he can get into his stride quickly and avoid the aerial kicking attacks of “Bruce Leroy” I think figueroa could stop Caceres here. Figueroa TKO rd 3
Chris Cope 5-2-0 vs. Matt Brown 12-11-0 – Lightweight
Brown has to be one of the few fighters left in the UFC who is still kept around despite so many losses. His kryptonite has always been submissions but his willingness to throw down has kept him among the Zuffa ranks and in this fight he has an opponent who will likely oblige him on the feet.
Cope is a decent striker who employs a more methodical approach than Brown but is no less effective. The difference in this one is likely to be Browns reach and his ability to throw power shots in nice combinations. I think Cope will struggle with the intensity Brown is able to produce and will fold inside two rounds. Brown TKO round 2
Prelims on Facebook:
Rafael Natal 13-3-1 vs. Michael Kuiper 11-0-0 – Middleweight
Natal comes in as a heavy favourite against Kuiper but write off the European at your peril. He has all but one of his 11 wins by stoppage and 6 of those were in the first round. He is a Judo Blackbelt and BJJ purple belt and won the blue belt heavy at the BJJ Europeans last year. Whilst his BJJ may not compare favourable with Natals, this is an MMA fight and not a grappling match.
Kuiper will no doubt have the advantage as long as this fight stays on the feet and his ability to keep it there will dictate how he fares in this fight. If Natal is able to get this to the mat, I think he should find the submission follows at some point in the fight. If Natal fails to respect the power of Kuiper and his ability in the clinch with his high level Judo, the Brazilian may find himself in trouble. I’m making this one my underdog pick as I think Kuiper could surprise everyone on the night, not least Natal himself. A Natal submission might be the smart pick if you are laying money on this one, especially given the step up in class Kuiper is making. I like to throw a curve ball now and again however, so I’ll take a punt on the striking of Kuiper to win him this match. Kuiper TKO rd 2
Daniel Stittgen 7-1-0 vs. Stephen Thompson 5-0-0 – Welterweight
I know very little about either of these guys. On paper Stittgen looks impressive, only his most recent fight got out of the first round (decision win against Mark Stoddard) and his lone loss was to UFC fighter Justin “Fast Eddy” Edwards. However when you dive a little deeper into his record, you find that Edwards is the only fighter who has a positive record on Stittgens extremely mediocre list of opponents.
Stephen Thompson comes in looking slightly more credible on the surface: A Carlos Machado blackbelt (Machado also happens to be his brother in law) who comes with the official Chuck Norris seal of approval by virtue of being ranked #1 in Chucks World Combat League. He also boasts a very impressive 56-0 kickboxing record and a whole host of Regional titles. His MMA record isn’t exactly a who’s who of MMA and like Stittgen, most of his opponents have losing records, but in his first 2 fights he fought people making their debut and in his 3rd fight he fought Marques Worrel who was 2-0 at the time. Thompson is that fighters only loss to date.
A fight pick here from me is pure finger in the air guess work, but a Machado blackbelt, an impressive kickboxing resume and a thumbs up from Chuck Norris himself, means I have to pick Thompson. Can he cut it in the UFC? Time will tell as his opponents get harder, but this fight looks like a good opportunity for an impressive debut. After a tentative start as both adjust to the Octagon jitters, look for Thompson to assert his dominance on the feet and destroy Stittgen with a flurry midway through the fight. Thompson TKO rd 2
****************** UPDATED WITH ACTUAL RESULTS ***************************
Nick Diaz vs Carlos Condit – My Pick:Diaz decision Actual: Condit Decision
Fabricio Werdum vs Roy Nelson – My Pick:Werdum Decision Actual:Werdum Decision
Josh Koscheck vs Mike Pierce – My Pick:Koscheck Decision Actual: Koscheck Decision
Renan Barao vs Scott Jorgensen – My Pick:Barao Sub rd2 Actual: Barao Decision
Ed Herman vs Clifford Starks – My Pick:Herman Sub rd 1 Actual: Herman Sub rd 2
Dustin Poirier vs Max Holloway – My Pick:Poirier sub rd 1 Actual: Poirier Sub rd 1
Matt Riddle vs Henry Martinez – My Pick:Riddle Decision Actual: Riddle Decision
Edwin Figueroa vs Alex Caceres – My Pick:Figueroa TKO rd 3 Actual: Figueroa Decision
Matt Brown vs Chris Cope – My Pick:Brown TKO rd 2 Actual: Brown TKO rd 2
Michael Kuiper vs Rafael Natal – My Pick:Kuiper TKO rd 2 Actual: Natal Decision
Stephen Thompson vs Dan Stittgen – My Pick:Thompson TKO Rd 2 Actual: Thompson TKO rd1