UFC 143: Diaz vs. Condit will be airing this Saturday, Feb. 4th  live from The Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas via PPV. The main card broadcast will start at 10 P.M. Eastern.

After going 3 for 3 on predicting last week’s UFC on Fox 2 main card fights  (not to mention being 2 for 3 on predicting the finish of the fights), here are my predictions for tomorrow night’s main card:

Ed “Short Fuse” Herman vs. Clifford Starks: Herman is a 26 fight MMA veteran and former “The Ultimate Fighter” contestant, while Starks is 8-0 and wrestled while at Arizona State University. Herman is a step up in competition for Starks, who was dominant in the smaller MMA promotions before making his UFC debut in October of last year. I think Herman’s experience will be the big difference in this fight as he avoids getting taken down by the former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and toughs out a 3 round victory. Prediction: Herman by decision.

Renan Barao vs. Scott “Young Guns” Jorgensen: The 25 year old Barao made his MMA debut back in April 2005 and lost via decision. He’s fought 28 times since then and has not lost once. Jorgensen is a former 3-time PAC-10 Wrestling champion out of Boise State, who’s lost only once in his last 8 fights, to UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz. Jorgensen is one of the top fighters at 135, but you don’t end up 27-1-1 like Barao does completely by accident. Expect this fight to end up on the ground somehow and for Barao to use his Nova União pedigree to submit Jorgensen. Prediction: Barao by 2nd round submission.

 Josh Koscheck vs. Mike Pierce: Koscheck is one of the top 170-pounders in the world. When he was one of the contestants of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, his stand-up game was very rudimentary, in stark contrast to his world-class level wrestling (4-time All-American and former National Champion). His stand-up game has evolved by leaps and bounds and the only way I can see Pierce winning this fight is if he catches Kos somehow with a KO punch out of nowhere. Otherwise, Kos has just too much game. Prediction: Koscheck by 2nd round TKO.

Roy “Big Country” Nelson vs. Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum: Werdum is one of the best BJJ practitioners in the world and was responsible for ending Fedor’s 10 year winning streak in MMA via Triangle Choke. Nelson has his own Black Belt in BJJ also; while he’s not in Werdum’s class, he is skilled enough on the ground that I don’t think he’ll get submitted. Nelson has more KO power in his hands, but I don’t think that’ll play a factor here. This fight will end up on the ground, and while Werdum won’t be able to submit Nelson, he’ll dominate from that position and get the win. Prediction: Werdum by decision

For the UFC Interim Welterweight TitleNick Diaz vs. “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit: This fight has gone through so much twists and turns in the last few months. Diaz was originally supposed to fight Georges St. Pierre this past October for the UFC Welterweight title. Diaz was pulled out of the fight and it was given to Condit after Diaz no-showed several UFC events to promote the fight. GSP then got injured, and Condit decided to not fight in October and wait for GSP to heal and fight him in Feb. 2012 instead. In the meantime, Diaz ended up beating down B.J. Penn in the main event of that October UFC card and during his post-fight interview, called out GSP by saying he didn’t think GSP was really injured, he was just scared to fight. Because of that, GSP demanded that he fight Diaz next instead of Condit. Condit was then pulled from his scheduled title fight with GSP, and Diaz was booked for it instead. Then, while training for the fight in late 2011, GSP tore his ACL and as a result will miss most of 2012. UFC then booked Diaz vs. Condit with the winner being declared the UFC Interim Welterweight Champion, with the eventual goal being a title unification match with GSP once fully healthy.

Got all that? Good.

Diaz is one of the most volatile and interesting personalities in MMA today. But he is a skilled fighter, no doubt about it. His MMA boxing is pretty unique, in that he does not try for the one punch knockout at all. Instead, he overwhelms his opponent by throwing short, “low-power” punches non-stop, but the accumulated damage ends up being too much to handle. He is also a black belt in BJJ, has one of the best chins in the game, and is one of the most fit athletes in the sport (his pastimes include running Triathlons and going Mountain Biking for hours).

Condit, besides having my favorite MMA nickname of all-time, is also a very skilled fighter. Unlike Diaz, Condit has pure KO power and has it in a variety of ways. In his last 2 fights, Condit knocked out 2 guys who had never gotten KO’d in their careers  until that point in Dong-Hyun Kim  (via a flying knee) and Dan Hardy (via a one-punch left hook KO).  Condit is one of the best finishers in the sport – of his 27 wins, only 1 has come by decision. 13 have come by KO and another 13 via submissions, ample evidence of his very good all-around game.

Condit’s ability to KO guys with great chins might play a factor here, as Diaz loves to take a punch or two so he can get inside and deliver 6 or 7 of his own. Diaz’ relentless pace and style just wears people down however. This should be The Fight of the Night, and I expect 5 full rounds of non-stop action from both. In the end, I think Nick’s relentless pace and punches will give him the Interim Title. Prediction: Diaz by decision.

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