SI.com analysts Ben Fowlkes, Loretta Hunt and Jeff Wagenheim provide their predictions for UFC 143 on Saturday.
Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit
WAGENHEIM: I wouldn’t be shocked to see either of these guys knock the other out, and if not for both fighters’ prodigious defensive skills on the ground, I could see a submission going either way, too. They’re both finishers by nature, but also both robust enough to go the distance. Diaz by decision.
HUNT: If you want to pick a good upset, Condit is your man. He’s the total package, who’s best days are still ahead. Still, I’m going with the numbers and the iron-willed Diaz’s 11-fight win streak. Diaz by decision.
FOWLKES: Diaz is a master of walking opponents down and wearing them out, even if it means he has to get his face smashed in the process. He has, and he will. In the end, the other guy usually breaks before he does. Diaz by TKO.
Roy Nelson vs. Fabricio Werdum
WAGENHEIM: It’ll be fun to see what happens if they take their fight to the ground, since Werdum is a mat master and Nelson has grappling skills augmented by bulk. “Big Country” also has the kind of punching prowess that can send Werdum to the canvas unwillingly. Nelson by KO.
HUNT: If Werdum hasn’t made drastic leaps with his striking and wrestling since his June loss to Alistair Overeem (and I don’t think he will have), Nelson should take this one on its feet. Nelson by TKO.
FOWLKES: We’ve seen Roy Nelson get out-boxed and out-wrestled, but never out-jiu-jitsu’d. I doubt Werdum will be able to manage it, just like I doubt his ability to take too many Nelson right hands. Nelson by TKO.
Josh Koscheck vs. Mike Pierce
WAGENHEIM: Koscheck is so dangerous as a striker that, even though he comes from a collegiate wrestling background, it’d be advisable for Pierce to take the fight to the mat. Good luck with that. Kos’s stout grappling game allows him to dictate where the tussle takes place. Koscheck by KO.
HUNT: Pierce has quietly amassed a 5-2 record in the UFC, though his most memorable moment with the promotion, so far, has been calling top dog Koscheck out on Twitter. Koscheck by TKO.
FOWLKES: Pierce is just like Koscheck only less so, if that makes any sense. He’s a smaller, less dynamic version, and he can’t do anything to Koscheck that Koscheck can’t do better right back to him. Koscheck by decision.
Renan Barão vs. Scott Jorgensen
WAGENHEIM: Barão dropped a split decision in his pro MMA debut way back in 2005 and hasn’t lost any of his 28 bouts since then. He’s submitted three of the four fighters he’s faced in the UFC and WEC. Jorgensen is by far his toughest test, but I say he passes. Barão by decision.
HUNT: Barão hasn’t lost since his first pro fight in 2005, though his opposition hasn’t been as tough as what Jorgensen’s faced on the WEC/UFC circuit. Jorgensen will probably try to curtail his wrestling instincts to steer clear of the ground, but it’s unavoidable. Barão by submission.
FOWLKES: Jorgensen has the edge in the wrestling department, but nowhere else. Against some opponents that might be enough, but I like Barão’s chances to keep it standing long enough to do something horrible to Jorgensen’s equilibrium and then finish with a choke. Barão by submission.
Ed Herman vs. Clifford Starks
WAGENHEIM: Starks is unbeaten but has had just one UFC fight, while Herman has been under the big show spotlight since 2006. There have been ups and downs, but his octagon experience will carry the day. Herman by decision.
HUNT: Herman, a TUF 3 finalist, skipped all of 2010, but came back with two wins in 2011 and has a lot of hard-earned mileage over undefeated newcomer Starks. Herman by decision.
FOWLKES: Maybe Starks is ready for a fighter of Herman’s caliber and experience-level, but we haven’t been given many reasons to think so. Not yet, anyway. Herman by TKO.