By Jaime C. Feal
After the disappointing fights that millions of viewers endured last Saturday watching ‘UFC on Fox 2,’ Zuffa will be very pleased to have such an exciting main event for the very next pay-per-view. This Saturday, February 4, live from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, is a can’t-miss headliner between Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit for the interim UFC Welterweight Championship. Both fighters have extremely aggressive, crowd-pleasing styles, which clash nicely and make for a very exciting fight. This could not come at a better time for Dana White and the UFC, who desperately want to get fans out of their seats again with something to scream about.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Ed “Short Fuse” Herman (19-8, 6-5 UFC) vs. Clifford Starks (8-0, 1-0 UFC)
Starks’ gaudy record is misleading as he hasn’t beaten any noteworthy opponents. Furthermore, his lone win inside the Octagon was on the undercard against the equally unknown Dustin Jacoby. A former collegiate wrestler at Arizona State University, Starks will be looking to take this fight to the mat early and often. He faces by far the biggest challenge of his career in Ed Herman. “Short Fuse” has been around since The Ultimate Fighter Season 2, and while he is not an elite middleweight, he has both talent and experience. Herman has power in his hands, and is also physically strong for the division. Look for Starks to come up short is his biggest test yet.
Prediction: Ed “Short Fuse” Herman wins by unanimous decision.
Bantamweight Division (135 lbs.):
Renan “Barao” Pegado (27-1, 2-0 UFC) vs. Scott “Young Guns” Jorgensen (13-4, 2-0 UFC)
The lighter weight classes have consistently delivered explosive, fast-paced, and wildly entertaining bouts. This bantamweight scrap figures to be no different. Pegado is on an insane 17 fight win streak, and “Young Guns” Jorgesen has destroyed everyone he’s faced in the last three years outside of bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz. Jorgensen is primarily a stand-up fighter, although he does possess good chokes, and will want to keep this fight on the feet. If “Barao” gets it to the ground it’s going to be over for Jorgensen, who simply does not have the pedigree to compete with the Brazilian on the mat. Expect the fight to be highly competitive at the start, with Pegado seizing an opportunity late to elicit the tap.
Prediction: Renan “Barao” Pegado wins by Submission, Round 3.
Welterweight Division (170 lbs.):
Josh “Kos” Koscheck (16-5, 14-5 UFC) vs. Mike Pierce (13-4, 6-2 UFC)
Koscheck has fallen short twice in meetings with Georges St. Pierre, but outside of GSP there may be no man in the welterweight division who can out-wrestle “Kos.” Koscheck, a former All-American wrestler, has superb athleticism and a devastating overhand right to boot. Often times he falls in love with this overhand right, which he does not set up with combinations due to his one-punch knockout power. Against Pierce, he faces a grinder whose only two UFC losses have come against elite wrestlers Jon Fitch and Johny Hendricks. Both Fitch and Hendricks were able to out-wrestle Pierce en route to decision victories. Koscheck needs to follow the blueprint and use his elite wrestling to take down Pierce and pound out a win.
Prediction: Josh Koscheck wins by TKO, Round 3.
Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):
Roy “Big Country” Nelson (16-6, 3-2 UFC) vs. Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum (14-5-1, 2-2 UFC)
Nelson is coming off a solid win where he stopped Mirko Cro Cop by TKO, and has always displayed tremendous power in his hands. A BJJ Black Belt, Nelson is best when smothering opponents and using top control, often working for a mounted crucifix position. Werdum lacks the stand up skills Nelson has, but his ground game is more diverse. If Werdum gets on top of Nelson, it will be an absolute nightmare for “Big Country.” Conversly, Werdum has great guard skills and will have no problem if Nelson takes him down. One needs to look no further than when Werdum submitted the great Fedor Emelianenko, derailing Fedor’s legendary win streak with a triangle-armbar from the guard. “Vai Cavalo” is so dangerous on the ground that Nelson would be wise to make it a stand-up war. But the rotund one is too confident in his ground game, and will attempt to take Werdum down, ultimately spelling the end for “Big Country.”
Prediction: Fabricio Werdum wins by Submission, Round 2.
UFC Interim Welterweight Championship (170 lbs.):
Nick Diaz (26-7, 7-4 UFC) vs. Carlos “The Natural Born Killer” Condit (27-5, 4-1 UFC)
With UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre on the shelf due to an injury, Diaz and Condit fight for the interim title. The winner presumably gets GSP in late 2012 for a title unification bout. Both Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit are on winning streaks, which makes this fight all the more intriguing. Diaz is currently riding a crazy eleven fight win streak, with his most recent win over UFC legend BJ Penn. What Diaz did in the Penn fight was nothing short of scintillating, literally breaking Penn’s will with incredible cardio and volume punching. Condit has looked nasty of late, too, and is on a four fight win-streak. Condit’s last two performances have been spectacular knockouts of Dong Hyun Kim and Dan Hardy. The only caveat is that due to fight shuffling and injuries, Condit has not been in the Octagon in about six months, and cage rust could be a factor.
The great thing about this fight is both welterweights are very aggressive and confident in every facet of their game. What this means for the fans is two fighters who will push the pace, and won’t be afraid to be taken down as they are comfortable with wherever the fight goes. This is the antithesis of what happened last Saturday on ‘UFC on Fox 2,’ where we saw conservative, one-dimensional fighters putting on boring fights. Both Diaz and Condit are so well-rounded, so gritty, and so tough, the fact it’s a full five round title fight is important. The fight figures to go into the championship rounds unless someone gets caught early. Diaz loves to come forward and put his hands on you. Similarly, Condit has very solid Muay Thai and will be looking to land knees and counters. If the fight is remotely close to even on the feet, both combatants will willingly stand and trade. It is only if Diaz starts to wear on Condit in the stand-up that “The Natural Born Killer” will look to take Diaz down.
But Condit would open up a whole new set of problems if he does so. A Cesar Gracie black-belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Nick Diaz’s ground game is elite, as he demonstrated in masterfully defending against BJ Penn’s back control in Round 1 of their epic fight. That was no small feat, as Penn may have the best back control of any mixed martial artist in the history of the UFC. Condit is no slouch with his jiu-jitsu, but one has to think Diaz is the more dangerous ground fighter. Simply stated, it would be an absolute shocker if Condit tapped out Nick Diaz, as Diaz has never been submitted in his career. The much more likely scenario is the two men testing each other on the feet, and if Diaz can avoid getting caught early, his cardio and superior boxing will get to Condit in the championship rounds.
Prediction: Nick Diaz wins by TKO, Round 4.