Photo of UFC 143's Dustin Poirier via UFC.com.
Pre-order your chow, hit the head, let the dog outside and take care of anything else essential because you're not gonna want to miss a second of UFC 143: "Diaz vs. Condit" from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Feb. 4, 2012.
Colliding for the interim welterweight title in the absence of 170-pound champion Georges St. Pierre, are two of the most elite fighters in the division, Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit. It is an incredible match up of high-intensity striking and crafty grappling.
In addition, Roy Nelson and Fabricio Werdum will put their impressive grappling pedigrees to the test against one another in a heavyweight showdown, while Mike Pierce will look to finally break into the upper echelon of the welterweight division at the expense of Josh Koscheck.
And that's not even mentioning the "Prelims" card, which will be shown in its entirety on Facebook/FX. We took a deep dive into the first few UFC 143 "Prelims" bouts yesterday right here.
Now join us after the jump for breakdowns of the remaining three:
145 lbs.: Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway
A World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran who originally turned heads with an absolute destruction of then-number-one contender Josh Grispi at UFC 125, Dustin Poirier (11-1) -- unbeaten in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) -- is regarded as one of the brightest prospects in the division. In his most recent effort, "The Diamond" ran over the highly-touted Pablo Garza, bullying the lanky "Scarecrow" and eventually submitting him with a D’arce choke in the second round.
Poirier, an immense featherweight, just turned 23 years old, and could be knocking on the door of a title shot with a win over Holloway.
While he only has four professional bouts to his name, X-1 World Events lightweight champion Max Holloway (4-0) has considerable experience on the amateur circuit, honing a highly-entertaining striking style reminiscent of Anthony Pettis and Erik Koch, the latter of whom Holloway is replacing against Poirier. Utilizing high-intensity kick and punch combinations in conjunction with an absurdly spacious gastank that lets him maintain this madcap offense for five rounds at a constant pace, the undefeated "Lil' Evil" is a handful for anyone willing to engage on the feet.
Halting the rise of Poirier would skyrocket him into contention.
While he hasn’t faced the cream of the crop in his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) career, Holloway -- who will be one of the youngest if not the youngest fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) -- has looked excellent. He really is reminiscent of Pettis in a lot of ways -- he’s a long, effective striker who’s perfectly willing to throw all sorts of bizarre strikes at his opponent. In addition, as mentioned, he can do this all night without lessening his pace. He has quite a bit of potential and could seriously trouble a good portion of the division in the stand up.
The problem is that Poirier isn’t going to oblige him.
While he does ostensibly prefer to strike, Poirier is more than willing to take a fight to the ground if needed. And considering his immense size and power at 145 pounds, I don’t see Holloway stopping him from doing so. Attempting to engage Holloway is likely a futile effort, but it’s not one Poirier needs to engage in, and considering Holloway’s apparent lack of stopping power, Poirier won’t have to fear a knockout strike should he attempt to move in.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Holloway scored the upset here, but against the size, experience and versatility of Poirier, nasty striking just isn’t enough. Poirier will get it to the ground, probably after some crazy maneuver from Holloway, and finish him off there.
Prediction: Poirier via second round submission
170 lbs.: Matt Riddle vs. Henry Martinez
A veteran of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) who scored one of the most brutal knockouts in the history of the show, Matt Riddle’s (5-3) brief career has been plagued by the injury bug. He was forced out of two bouts before his decision loss to Lance Benoist and had to pull out of his UFC 141 clash with former Shooto champ Luis Ramos literally hours before the fight.
Now on a two-fight losing streak, the battered Riddle’s UFC future could very well hinge on a win over "Lil’ Monster."
Continuing the trend of any fight involving Matt Riddle inevitably getting reshuffled into an unrecognizable shape, Wand Fight Team striker Jorge Lopez was forced to pull out of his fight with "Monster Mash" less than a week before he was scheduled to throw down. Stepping in for him is former Bellator featherweight tournament contender Henry Martinez (8-1). Martinez, who last fought less than two weeks ago, will head into the UFC riding a four-fight win streak, all finishes. Stepping in on such short notice with such a large opponent has surely gotten him into Dana White’s good graces, and beating Riddle would undoubtedly send his stock through the roof.
There appears to be no recent footage of Martinez, but I think it’s fair to say that while he’s got some brass ones for taking this fight, he’s more or less boned for several reasons.
- That wasn’t a typo up there -- in Bellator’s 2009 tournament series, Martinez competed at featherweight, losing to Wilson Reis in the first round.
- His last fight was at lightweight. It was also less than two weeks ago.
- Riddle is enormous.
Riddle’s poor striking will get him thrashed by anyone who can stop his takedowns, but against someone he’ll probably have between 10 or 15 pounds on come fight night, it won’t be a factor. Look for him to ride out a comfortable decision from top control via hugeness.
Prediction: Riddle via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Alex Caceres vs. Edwin Figueroa
Most of the MMA world had written off TUF 12 veteran Alex Caceres (6-4) when he stepped into the Octagon to take on Cole Escovedo in the former’s bantamweight debut. Shockingly, Caceres completely and utterly dominated Escovedo everywhere the fight went, picking him apart with newfound striking prowess and hurling submission after submission at the "Apache Kid" whenever he managed to get the fight to the ground.
Ten pounds lighter, about half of which was probably his afro, "Bruce Leroy" will look to further his rise from punchline to contender at the expense of the hard-hitting Edwin Figueroa (8-1).
"El Feroz" drew one of the least-friendly welcomes in UFC history, replacing Nick Pace on short notice to take on the highly-touted Michael McDonald. While he was unable to overcome the technical striking and grappling prowess of the young prospect, his astounding toughness in surviving a cavalcade of strikes and submission attempts endeared him to fans.
After disposing of Jason Reinhardt with relative ease, the Texas-based striker could establish himself as a force to be reckoned with in the UFC bantamweight division by stopping the resurgent Caceres.
I’m man enough to admit I was dead wrong about Caceres in his last fight. And despite my fear of being called a bandwagon jumper, I’m calling utter domination of Figueroa. While Figueroa’s power can’t be questioned, his punching technique is atrocious, and what we’ve seen of his ground game hasn’t been anything to write home about. He’s tough, sure, but is way too sloppy to go far in the current bantamweight division. Caceres doesn’t hit all that hard, but his timing and variety of striking looked excellent against Escovedo, and they should be enough to carry the day once again. Expect Caceres to pick apart the flailing Figueroa with his array of effective kicks, taking the decision with relative ease.
Prediction: Caceres via unanimous decision
See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC 143, beginning with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook scheduled for around 7 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the FX and pay-per-view (PPV) main card action as it happens throughout the evening this upcoming weekend.