UFC 143 is live on Pay-Per-View tonight, and with picks locking at 2 PM EST, it's getting close to lock-in time. As usual, Ben and myself are here to offer you are last-minute looks at the main event, the best underdog options and the safest plays on the card.
Who you taking in the main event?
Ben: Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit locked inside a cage for twenty-five minutes should be a main event for the ages. But what if it’s not? A referee screw job or early doctor stoppage would certainly dampen the consensus expectations that this will be a fight of the year candidate. Both Diaz and Condit are known for their superhuman ability to rally after eating damaging shots. With Steve Mazzagatti refereeing anything is possible, just ask Brock Lesnar. Let’s get serious, the likelihood of either scenario happening is slim to none, and slim just left town, so we should be able to enjoy an epic UFC main event on Saturday.
Both fighters are highly experienced while still relatively young and entering their athletic prime at ages 27 and 28 for Condit and Diaz respectively. Diaz is the moderate favorite and the fighter almost everyone wants to see fight Georges St. Pierre down the road. Carlos Condit is looking to spoil the UFC’s good fortunes and book his own date with "Rush".
While I am a huge Carlos Condit fan, I think Diaz takes this fight. Since underwhelming me with his pedestrian five-round fight against KJ Noons in October 2010, Nick Diaz has really put together his MMA game with impressive wins over "Cyborg", "Semtex", and "The Prodigy." Diaz can throw a hundred punches a round and not get tired—that’s pretty nuts. And if Condit gets tired of being punched and looks for a takedown, Diaz off his back is equally skilled and capbale of finishing the fight even against a stud like Condit.
Ben’s pick: Nick Diaz by decision as he lands 375 strikes.
Bobby: Ever since this fight was announced I knew that Diaz would be a betting favorite, and that he possesses both the better jiu jitsu and a set of striking skills which will see him almost certainly land more strikes than Condit. And yet, since this fight was announced, I just can't shake the thought that Condit is going to take this fight. Part of Diaz's boxing prowess in MMA is the ability to stand his ground and fire off his barrage of punches, knowing that he possesses a chin which requires a button shot to rock it, and quick recovery skills when the button is found. This has done Diaz well of late, however it is a risky proposition when fighting an opponent of Condit's caliber. "The Natural Born Killer" is a dangerous striker who has shut off the lights of his last three opponents with everything from an accumulated beating to a single devastating hook, and finally a flying knee. Condit will likely begin to wear down in the championship rounds, but he will have plenty of time before then to put Diaz on queer street, and if he does, Condit is not one to allow an opponent any time to get his wits about him.
Bobby's pick: Carlos Condit by TKO.
Everybody loves a longshot. Who's your longshot with a shot?
Ben: Scott Jorgensen is an underdog with odds in the +200 range most places. His path to victory lies with putting together timely takedowns, sprinkling in some moderate ground and pound and positional dominance, and most importantly avoiding submissions and sweeps.
Scott fights Renan Barao, a Brazilian wunderkind who is red-hot coming off a first round stoppage win in the co-main event at UFC 138 in November. Meanwhile Scott rides a two-fight UFC winning streak, recovering from a five-round decision loss to the champ, Dominick Cruz. I was surprised to hear the five-man panel on MMA Junkie’s radio show all pick Jorgensen to win on the strength of his wrestling. In general, the fantasy fight pickers are favoring the Brazilian with 67% picking him to win on Sherdog.
Bobby: Generally speaking, when making underdog picks I try to pick somebody on the books who I will also be taking in the straight picks. Tonight I think my dog will probably lose. So why is he my best underdog? Because of the value available in the fantasy books. Mike Pierce is a +220 according to the pros, meaning he would need a win probability of a little under 32-percent to be profitable. On Playground he is an astounding +560, requiring just under 16-percent probability to be a profitable fighter. Any time you are being given more than twice the reward that you receive from the pros, that's a sign that you have a line to jump on. Koscheck didn't look great prior to finishing Matt Hughes, and we've yet to see him properly tested since suffering from a broken orbital against GSP. If Kos is to win, Pierce will make him work for it, and there's better than the 1/6.5 chance that Kos' is not ready for it, particularly when you factor in how dismissive of Pierce he has been, raising questions and making one think back to the last time Kos underestimated an opponent and got knocked out by Paulo Thiago for his trouble.
What's the most surefire lock since Rickson by armbar?
Ben: Dustin Poirier is the benefactor of an injury to his original opponent, Eric Koch. Instead of facing a top-ten guy at the weight class, Poirier now gets to fight an inexperienced 20-year old making his UFC debut. Poirier should take care of business handily, the only debate here is whether it is in the first or the second round. Although he is at –750 odds on MMA Playground, he is still worth a safe bet for a modest gain.
Bobby: When it comes to making one sure-fire lock, it's hard to argue with Ben. If you're in a weighted pool, Poirier is your top option. To keep things interesting though, I'll dig a bit deeper and go with my next surest lock, and that's Matt Brown taking on Chris Cope. Matt Brown is the kind of fighter that wouldn't cause outrage if he was released from the UFC, but has at least shown a consistent ability to put away other fighters from the depths of the division, struggling only when asked to step up to upper or mid-level opposition. Cope has shown nothing of the sort to date, and appears to be outmatched all over by Brown, who should comfortably cruise to a decision or stoppage.