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UFC 143: Diaz vs. Condit Preview/Predictions Prelims part 1

Good afternoon Maniacs,

After a busy week that left me without internet for 4 days, and plenty of college stuff to do I wasn't able to get out my UFC on Fox 2 predictions out, but I have time today and tomorrow to get started on next weekends pay-per-view.

This event looks promising, with some decent fights on the undercard, not just the stellar main event.

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UFC 143: Diaz vs. Condit Prelims part 1

Middleweight bout: Rafael Natal vs. Michael Kuiper
Background: Natal is 13-3-1 and Kuiper is 11-0


-Rafael Natal - 29 years old - 6'0" - Reach: 77"
-Natal was born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and made his pro debut 2005 at Champions Night 12 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is a ok finisher, with a ratio of 76% with 7 submission victories and 3 KO/TKO wins. He opened his career a perfect 7-0 before being KO'd after nearly a year long stretch between fights. He would go on a 3 fight win streak before losing by doctor stoppage, his 2nd career loss. He would rebound with wins over WEC/Bellator vet Allan Weichert and former UFC fighter/ TUF winner Travis Lutter. He signed with the UFC after that in 2010 and made his debut against Rich Attonito, losing by decision.
His next fight went to a majority draw, with him winning the first two rounds, only to miss victory. The judges scored the final round a 10-8 in favor of his opponent, Daniel Roberts. He finally earned a UFC victory by defeating Paul Bradley by decision at UFC 133. Natal is a BJJ black belt, and in theory shouldn't have any issues taking fight to the ground if it goes there. He is learning boxing, but his base for striking is capoeira, but I haven't seen anything that looks like it in the videos I've found. He does have ok striking and ok power, but he's not on the level of he mid tier strikers in the UFC.
Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4lOt4xH0EQ

http://www.rafaelsapo.com/ (his website)

-Michael Kuiper - 22 years old - 6'1" - Reach: 73"
-Kuiper was born in Riel, The Netherlands and made his pro debut in 2009 at Outsider Cup 12. He's opened his career impressively with 11 straight wins all while competing in Judo and BJJ competitions. He has been to decision only once, with 6 KO/TKO's and 4 wins by submission. 6 of his stoppages have come in the first round, including a 10 second KO win by punches. All this looks impressive, but his opponents haven't been stellar, not by a long shot. His only opponents with any experience currently own a 10-12 and a 8-11-1 records respectively. The rest are equally unimpressive, save two fighters who own 3-1 records. His opponents combined records are 29-39-1. His grappling is his base, with his Judo black belt and BJJ purple belt, he has no issues locking up with the more experienced Natal. For being 22 years old he seems to have a good amount of patience. He has good takedown defense and good punching power.
Youtube links: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKiIbWx6b_k
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4PIurZz6T0

http://www.michaelkuiper.org/michael.html (his website, in Dutch)

My Pick: Natal should be the favorite here. He has more experience and has been in the cage/ring with better competition. This is Natals forth UFC fight and Kuipers first so it's possible he'll have the "Octagon Jitters." I don't know why, but I'm liking the stalking/ bully style striking of Kuiper. He has a sloppy, brawling style and he can take a decent shot from what I can tell in the videos I've found. At 22 years old he has plenty of room to grow and improve. I'm calling for Kuiper to win by TKO in the 3rd.

Welterweight bout: Dan Stittgen vs. Stephen Thompson
Background: Stittgen is 7-1 and Thompson is 5-0


-Dan Stittgen - 31 years old - 6'1" - Reach: N/A
-Stittgen was born in the United States and made his pro debut in 2009 at Extreme Challenge. There's not a lot of info on him on the internet. His only loss comes by submission to UFC fighter Justin Edwards by submission in early 2010. He has 5 wins by submission, and 1 by TKO for a finishing ratio of 86%. He's fought solely on the regional circuit and this will be his first big test. He's coming in as a short notice replacement for the injured Justin Edwards, taking the fight with about 2 weeks notice. He trains with Clay Guida and from the vids I've been able to find he seems to have a wrestling base but has improving jiu jitsu skills. His striking doesn't look as good... nowhere near.
Youtube links: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XPjEOJ5ChM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sycZSPYNcoM

-Stephen Thompson - 26 years old - 6'0" - Reach: N/A
-Thompson was born Simpsonville, South Carolina and made his pro MMA debut in 2010. He has 2 wins by KO/TKO and 1 by submission. This kid might be something special. He has been training in Muay Thai/Kickboxing for 14 years and holds a 37-0 amateur, and 57-0 (40 KO) pro kick boxing record. I'm not sure what to think of his videos though, I can only find one MMA video and it's from someone's phone and doesn't show the entire fight. The rest are kickboxing. To give you an idea of how good this kids striking is, GSP brought him in to spar for his cancelled fight with Carlos Condit. I can't say anything about his grappling prowess because I can't find anything on it, all I can say is he does have a win by RNC.
Youtube links: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XChOKe6lWok
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcvATLQtsNw

My Pick: This is a grappler versus striker match up from what I can tell. There's not a lot of information on either fighter. If Thompson has been doing a lot of takedown defense I really like his chances. He probably won't be as wild as his kickboxing bouts I found, and will look to pick apart the wrestler on the feet. If Stittgen gets this fight to the ground, I wouldn't be surprised if he got the submission quickly. There's no way Thompson has had time to develop a ground game that's the same level as a lot of other UFC fighters. But I like his potential. I am gonna call for Thompson to stuff the takedowns of Stittgen and KO him in the 2nd round. This fight has so many unknowns...

Welterweight bout: Matt Brown vs. Chris Cope
Background: Brown is 12-11 and Cope is 5-2


-Matt Brown - 31 years old - 6'0" - Reach: 76"
-Brown was born Xenia, Ohio and made his pro debut in 2005 at Higher Power Fighting. Brown is a guy who just can't stop being submitted. 9 of his 11 losses are by submission, including 4 of his last 5 fights. He himself has 5 wins by submission and 6 by KO/TKO, for a finishing ratio of 91%. You would think that with a brown belt in Judo and a blue belt in BJJ he'd be better at defending submission, that being said, he's been in the cage with some very good submission grapplers; Chris Lytle(2x), Ricardo Almeida, and others, most of which have good submission games. He's never been KO'd and has good striking skills himself with good power. He's 5-5 in his last 10 fights, all in the UFC. He's lost to quality opposition, far better than anything Cope has seen.
Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5bT2E3dYmM

-Chris Cope - 28 years old - 6'0" - Reach: 73"
-Cope was born in Carmel Valley, California and made his pro debut in 2007. He is a veteran of TUF, and though he didn't win the competition he was given a shot in the UFC defeating Chuck O'Neil where he looked much improved over his previous fights. He has 2 wins by TKO/KO and 3 by decision. Both of his losses are by KO/TKO. In his last outing he was outclassed in a 40second blitzing where he was mauled with a faster, more athletic fighter with knees and punches. Not the most athletic fighter, he does have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and clearly works hard. His overall game is developing, but he has a lot of work to do if he wants to move up the ranks.

My Pick: Matt Brown is in very little danger of being submitted by Cope. Cope doesn't have the power on the feet nor the technique on the ground to win this fight. Matt Brown has been fighting longer, he's has fought better competition and he's probably hungry for a win, plus he probably wants to keep his job. Brown is going to win by KO in the 1st round. I'm calling for a flying knee or a head kick.

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