UFC 143 fight card: Ed Herman vs. Clifford Starks prediction, preview and breakdown

Ed Herman (L) and Clifford Starks (R) will kickoff the UFC 143 pay-per-view (PPV) main card at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Esther Lin via SBnation.com.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran, Ed Herman, hopes to bump his win streak to three against unbeaten Clifford Starks, later tonight (Feb. 4, 2012) at UFC 143 from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

And with his big edge in experience, "Short Fuse" has a lot more to lose here than Clifford.

A former Arizona State University (ASU) wrestler, Starks has displayed expectably good takedowns with little else in fights. He doesn't seem particularly comfortable and vetted in the stand up department, relying on getting it to the mat where he can ride out rounds and win fights instead. This is something that virtually every collegiate wrestler has to evolve through (remember when Josh Koscheck was considered a boring, one-dimensional fighter?), but at this point, he's going to have to show a lot of improvement off his decision win over Dustin Jacoby, a bout he took on short notice.

Herman has drifted around the middleweight division for some time since his epic decision loss to Kendall Grove at the TUF 3 Finale in 2006. At times showing outstanding submissions and old-timer's savvy, he's been limited by lack of a stand up game himself. The Team Quest product never really developed much more than a perfunctory striking attack, relying on grappling, conditioning and submissions to pull out fights.

Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 143 fight between Ed Herman vs. Clifford Starks:

The Breakdown

Herman's last two showings have been first-round stoppages. With a knockout of Tim Credeur and a first-round heel hook of Kyle Noke, he's rejuvenated his career somewhat. This is an interesting piece of matchmaking because the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight division is exceptionally thin, and an unbeaten wrestler like Starks can have a considerable upside if he develops the striking and requisite skills to complement that core discipline.

He'll have to show it against Herman, however, as that could go a long way. And while Ed's offensive stand up is limited, he still has decent defensive skills to avoid better strikers (which is almost everyone he faces) and somehow find a way to force the fight into a realm where he's more comfortable.

Defensive wrestling is a key here for Herman. Starks likes to grab opponents and take them down to the mat and Herman's ability to use the cage and stymie these attempts will be a huge factor in the battle for momentum. Herman's had a ton of long, taxing fights, which is another advantage. If Starks can't plant him on the floor early, he may get tired trying over and over to get the tough veteran down.

Also, I'm not entirely sold on Starks being able to outwrestle Herman in the first place. Herman's years of training with Team Quest are an invaluable source of experience, while Starks was only a wrestler of modest achievement at ASU.

The Pick

This fight could really go either way, with Starks scoring takedowns, riding out a decision, and showing (hopefully, for him) improved stand up to score in spots when he can't take Herman down.

However, Herman's experience and ability to remain calm in bad spots is a real trademark. He's not going to panic, and can score submissions from his back. The longer the fight goes without Starks dictating what happens, the more that favors Herman, who's going to get stronger as they go deeper into the bout.

Herman will stuff enough takedowns, and threaten with submissions and sweeps to wear Starks down en route to a third-round submission win.

Herman via submission

Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC 143 results of all the "Diaz vs. Condit" pay-per-view (PPV) action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the Facebook video stream, FX "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the PPV broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 7:00 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Saturday morning.

See you later!

Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst or Jason@jasonprobst.com

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