After all of the drama and twists in plot, the UFC’s welterweight division is now prepped and ready to smooth itself out. Another UFC Super Bowl weekend is upon us, and will deliver to the fans a new interim welterweight champion. This Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, the humble and patient Carlos Condit will fight the brash and unpredictable Nick Diaz at UFC 143.

This is the most important fight of both fighters careers. On the line is the interim welterweight championship. Current champion, Georges St-Pierre, has been sidelined by injury that will keep him away for some time. Being a very diverse and exciting weight class, the show must go on. While GSP is recovering, Condit and Diaz will meet in the Octagon to determine the interim champion, and who will reign supreme until the Canadian superstar is back on his feet.

Condit and Diaz were both slated to face GSP before, but due to a wild series of events, we are left with the two, who are two of the best at 170. With very polar personalities, but similar abilities, UFC 143’s main card is shaping up to be an all-out war. For a very long time, GSP has left everyone else in the shadows. Come Saturday, a new star will arise.

Condit vs. Diaz headlines a stacked main card, which will start with two prelims on Facebook and four on FX. Facebook prelims will start at 7 p.m. ET, prelims on FX will start at 8 p.m. ET, with the PPV following at 10 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s panel of Gregory Chase, Rob Tatum and Corey Adams will break down the five main card bouts in this edition of the Round Table.

MW: Ed Herman (19-8) vs. Clifford Starks (8-0)

Adams: This middleweight bout between a proven vet and a rising star wrestler may not be the most spectacular match-up, but does have potential to be a solid contest.

The experience advantage, without a doubt, will go to Herman. “Short Fuse” is an alum of the The Ultimate Fighter 3 and has gone on to face solid competition in the UFC. His career may not be how he’d like it to be, with severe injuries and an almost-below .500 record, but Herman is starting to get on track with two consecutive victories. Herman has a black belt in BJJ, but his striking may be the key to winning this fight when facing a wrestler in Starks.

Casual MMA fans aren’t going to be familiar with the name Clifford Starks when he steps into the Octagon on Saturday, but after only one UFC win, he may be the next big thing in the middleweight division. In his fight against Dustin Jacoby at UFC 137, Starks dominated his opponent for all three rounds to earn a unanimous decision. But Herman will be a big step up for the former Arizona State wrestler and he will have to figure out a strategy to use his wrestling on a tough veteran in Herman.

Ed Herman (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

This fight is going to end either by Herman finishing the fight with a knockout or submission, or Starks is going to grind out a decision. I feel like Starks is going to have a good performance early on in the fight, but won’t be able to hang with Herman in the later stages. I have “Short Fuse” winning this fight in the third round.

Tatum: While Corey covered the credentials of both fighters, I think he may be putting a little too much faith into Starks. Sure, he’s undefeated and carries a Division I wrestling pedigree, but from what I have seen from him in action leads me to believe he is in over his head against Herman.

In the Jacoby fight, Starks looked both timid and robotic on the feet. That alone could spell his doom against a veteran like Herman. When Starks did get the fight to the ground, his control from the top position looked solid, but Jacoby gave little resistance and did not attack from his back. Starks won’t have that luxury against Herman.

After destroying his knee at UFC 102 against Aaron Simpson, Herman was away from the Octagon for nearly two years. During that stretch, Herman made the move to Colorado and has since reeled off two impressive wins over Tim Credeur and Kyle Noke. Herman exhibited killer instinct in both bouts, something I fully expect to be on display at UFC 143.

Starks will get an early takedown, but his inexperience will spell his doom as Herman quickly locks in an armbar and finishes the fight in the first round.

Chase: I have to side with Rob about Starks. He may be undefeated, but the caliber of fighter he has fought isn’t where Herman is. He has had one fight in the UFC, and where the first event for some is tough, he pulled out a win. However, he went to a decision with Jacoby, who, with all due respect, isn’t at Ed Herman’s level of experience.

Herman has had a pretty decent layoff, but still is coming off of two wins, both by finish. Clifford may be fresher, but I think Herman’s submissions will get the better of Starks. If it went in Stark’s favor, then a TKO is something he could pull off, but I think Starks might go for the takedown and like Rob said, find himself in a submission.

The fight has the chance to be a solid fight, like Corey said. I think both guys have good hands and good wrestling, but Herman’s jiu-jitsu will be the determining factor.

BW: Renan Barao (27-1) vs. Scott Jorgensen (13-4)

Tatum: A pivotal bantamweight battle graces the main card, as WEC veterans Barao and Jorgensen lock horns. The winner will likely be the next to challenge for the 135-pound belt after current champ Dominick Cruz faces Urijah Faber early in the summer.

The Brazilian Barao enters the contest as one of the hottest fighters on the planet. Since losing his MMA debut in 2005, Barao has put together an undefeated streak that stretches 27 fights. The dangerous Nova Uniao black belt has submitted three of his first four opponents since being signed under the Zuffa banner. His destruction of Brad Pickett at UFC 138 in his last bout earned “Fight of the Night” honors.

For Jorgensen, the fight represents a chance to continue his climb back up the ladder. Jorgensen fell to Cruz at the last WEC event at the end of 2010 and would love to get another shot at the champion. The loss is the only blemish on the former Boise State Bronco’s record in the past three years.

This fight is great stylistically, as neither fighter is afraid to trade on the feet and both are more than comfortable on the mat. Barao is the more explosive striker and is harder to predict than Jorgensen, but his tendency to attack with flying knees and kicks could set up an easy takedown for Jorgensen. Jorgensen has exhibited strong control and ground-and-pound from the top position, but he’ll have to be conscious of the sweep and submission attempts from Barao.

Scott Jorgensen

Both fighters are fun to watch and this could easily go either way. My gut tells me this will be similar to Barao’s fight with Pickett, where he rocks his opponent and gets the top position. From there, it’s just a matter of time before Jorgensen is forced to tap to a first-round rear-naked choke.

Chase: Rob said it very well, Barao is on a tear. He stands 27-1 in his career and has been finishing all of his opponents. This guy is a submission artist and truly presents a very big threat on the ground for Jorgensen.

Jorgensen has not been on as long a winning streak, but still impresses me each time he fights. Jorgensen comes to fight, and puts up a good one at that. He is on a two-fight winning streak and like Rob said, title shot implications lie within this bout. Undoubtedly, Jorgensen wants to get back his loss to Dominick Cruz in the WEC and wants to show that he has evolved now in the UFC.

This is a fight I do not see going to a decision. If this fight stays on the ground, then Barao certainly has the advantage. Not that Jorgensen can’t hold his own, but he isn’t at the same level as Barao. If the fight stays on the feet, I have to go with Jorgensen.

Every fight starts standing, and I think Jorgensen can do a great job keeping it there. Jorgensen has only lost by submission once, which was back in 2006, and he is now a much better fighter then he was back then. I am going to have to go with Jorgensen by TKO/KO. Given Jorgensen can get submitted, I don’t think Barao has faced someone like Jorgensen before. I think this challenge will end up being his toughest one, and prove to be a guy that is not so easy to get a hold of and submit.

Adams: This fight is one of the hardest I’ve ever had to pick. Both bantamweights are so good at what they do, Jorgensen with wrestling, Barao by jiu-jitsu. It’s so hard to pick against a guy who hasn’t lost since his debut in MMA, but I’m going to slightly favor Jorgensen in this fight.

It’s basically a coin flip for me, but the wrestling of “Young Guns” is going to be the key. It may be a long shot for him to keep Barao down without him maneuvering out or locking up a submission hold, but the Brazilian hasn’t faced a dominant wrestler in his career.

I, like Gregory, think this one will go to Jorgensen, but I think it goes the distance with Jorgensen getting his hand raised.

WW: Josh Koscheck (16-5) vs. Mike Pierce (13-4)

Chase: Watching Koscheck fight is always interesting to me, since he can finish the fight or gets beat up in the attempt. He is facing Mike Pierce, who is 13-4, coming off of only one win against Paul Bradley. Where Pierce has shown ferocity in his hands, I think Koscheck has the advantage on the feet. Both are coming off of a win, but respectfully, both were fights against fighters who are not at the top of the list.

Koscheck is coming off of a KO of Matt Hughes, and while Hughes is a legend, his name carries more value than his abilities these days. Pierce is coming off a split decison with Bradley, another contender who is not at the same level as Koscheck in my book.

Since both fighters are not afraid to use their hands, I see this fight ending in the first or second round. I think Koscheck will walk away with a TKO victory, and look to reestablish himself after being beaten up by GSP. The caliber of opponents Koscheck has faced is higher than Pierce’s, and I think his experience and preparation will show.

Adams: I’m going to agree with what Gregory has stated by going with Koscheck, but Pierce is going to make it a very close fight, I believe.

To me, the wrestling of both men is pretty much even. Pierce has fought notable wrestlers Jon Fitch and Johny Hendricks, dragging out close decisions against the two. But even if they were defeats, Pierce hung with them on the mat. The key to this fight, as Gregory alluded to, will be the striking game. We haven’t really seen how Pierce performs on the feet that much, but Koscheck has an array of strikes in his arsenal while training out of AKA in California.

Since Pierce called Koscheck out and asked for this fight, my hunch is that “Kos” will come into this bout a little upset with emotion. That reason has given me the choice to go with Koscheck by knockout in the second round.

Tatum: While I think it’s the logical choice to take Koscheck in this fight, I think this fight will be closer than most think. For starters, Pierce has never been finished. However, all four of his losses have come to fighters with better wrestling pedigrees. As Corey mentioned, his bouts with Hendricks and Fitch were extremely close and I expect him to push Koscheck from the opening bell.

For Koscheck, I have to question if he’s taking this fight seriously. Originally slated to face Carlos Condit, Koscheck has been adamant about the fact he feels Pierce isn’t worthy of fighting him. If Koscheck overlooks Pierce, we could easily have a replay of his UFC 95 knockout loss to Paulo Thiago.

The safe bet in this fight is Koscheck. His wrestling is as good or better than fighters that have defeated Pierce, and while I don’t think he’ll be able to finish the fight, he’ll get the nod on the judges’ scorecards.

HW: Roy Nelson (16-6) vs. Fabricio Werdum (14-5-1)

Tatum: Ultimate Fighter winner Roy Nelson has been tabbed to welcome Fabricio Werdum back to the Octagon. A prior contract dispute sent the Brazilian packing for Strikeforce, but with Zuffa’s purchase of the promotion and the decision to dissolve their heavyweight divsion, Werdum is back in the UFC.

While Werdum is easily the most decorated grappler in the heavyweight division, he has largely relied on his striking for the last five years. The two submission wins in that stretch, over Fedor Emelianenko and Mike Kyle, were certainly impressive, but they are unlikely to strike fear into Nelson. After all, Nelson is a Renzo Gracie black belt himself.

Nelson also has a propensity for striking despite his grappling prowess. The former IFL champ has scored three knockout victories since joining the UFC. Further troubling for Werdum should be the fact that Nelson has only been finished once. Nelson survived the onslaught of both Frank Mir and current champion Junior dos Santos. Werdum was famously knocked out by dos Santos in under two minutes at UFC 90.

For all the fanfare that Werdum received from defeating Emelianenko, it does not change the fact that his stand-up game is still not very fluid. Training with Rafael Cordeiro has helped, but there are still holes in his attack. The same could be said for Nelson, who has fallen in love with his heavy right hand. He has a propensity for head-hunting with an overhand right, which may give Werdum an opportunity to counter.

I believe this fight ends badly for Werdum. His tendency to keep his chin high in the air will spell doom against Nelson’s powerful striking. Look for Nelson to finish Werdum in the second round with a highlight reel KO.

Adams: After rebounding from two straight losses with a win over Mirko Cro Cop, it appears “Big Country” has got his career back on track. His wrestling is looking solid, his boxing is coming together, and, surprisingly, his cardio is improving a lot. With that being said, Nelson has the skills and potential to be a top-five heavyweight in the future.

Werdum has had some huge wins in his career, most notably Fedor, but Nelson will give a test he hasn’t taken yet. I don’t believe the Brazilian has ever faced a fighter with an all-around game both standing and on the feet. The only advantage Werdum will have is in the BJJ department, but the jiu-jitsu of Nelson will even cancel that out.

I agree with Rob that Werdum will be out-matched on the feet, leaving Nelson room to score a knockout. But I’ll give Werdum some credit and say he outlasts Nelson, but loses in a lop-sided decision.

Chase: I agree with Corey that Nelson is back on track, and I would say he is on a different and better track. He still needs to prove his two straight losses weren’t an indication of anything and come out like he did against Cro Cop. Nelson looked really good, in better health and determination than he had before.

Nelson wants to exchange with you, and doesn’t mind throwing his weight around. He will lay on top of you and go for a mounted crucifix without hesitation. He has good submissions, but lately we’ve seen him throw punches with guys who also have good ground games.

Werdum deserves some credit for his striking with Alistair Overeem, and will certainly be more confortable with it coming into this fight. The biggest problem for him is that Nelson’s chin is made of iron. If Werdum can swarm Nelson with punches after staggering him, he could win a TKO, but Nelson is still very hard to put away. I agree with Corey that the ground game should cancel itself out, but I still have to side with Werdum for submissions. Nelson’s cardio will play a big role here. If he gets tired or sluggish early, he opens his face and limbs up for a submission.

I think either man can win by decision. However, if it does end early, I see a TKO from Werdum, or a KO from Nelson. For a guy who has fought as long as Werdum, his chin may not be where he wants it to be. Officially, I will say Nelson wins by decision, after frustrating Werdum and tiring himself out.

WW Interim Championship: Nick Diaz (26-7) vs. Carlos Condit (27-5)

Adams: The UFC did an excellent job when putting together a main event for Super Bowl weekend that is sure to draw a large audience, as Diaz and Condit will go to war.

It is relevant to say that this bout will be exciting for the fans in attendance in Las Vegas and those watching at home. For me to predict a winner in this contest between two evenly talented fighters, every aspect will have to be broken down.

Starting with former Strikeforce welterweight champion Diaz, he, along with his younger brother, Nate, is one of the guys in the sport who doesn’t care about anything else other than training. Diaz has arguably the best cardio in the division due to fact he is always training and competing in triathlons. Aside from that, Diaz is also very well-rounded, with excellent boxing skills where he will work his jab often, with power in his hands as well. But it’s on the ground where Diaz is possibly even more dangerous. Training out of Cesar Gracie’s camp in Calif., Diaz is a high-level BJJ practitioner, submitting eight opponents in his career. Wherever the fight may go, Diaz will be prepared to scrap.

Diaz will be facing the biggest threat of his career on Saturday against Condit, a fighter with 26 of his 27 wins coming by way of knockout or submission. A former WEC welterweight champion, “The Natural Born Killer” has made his way up the rankings in a hurry, with key wins over top contenders. But the opponents Condit has fought don’t compare with Diaz. Condit’s last three victories have come by knockout and my hunch is that he will want to keep the fight standing. Sure, Condit has a BJJ purple belt, but his ground game isn’t up to par with Diaz’s. I expect Condit to look to get inside early and land shots to try and end the fight early.

I wouldn’t be surprised if either man won this bout, but I’m leaning more towards Diaz. If he is able to avoid the heavy hands of Condit, he will be able to pick his shots on the feet and try to take the fight to the ground if he prefers. I have Diaz winning in the fourth round by submission.

Chase: Corey said it well. The UFC picked a great card to have for Super Bowl weekend. Unfortunately, we couldn’t have the original GSP fight, but two top contenders fighting for the interim title is very exciting.

I agree with Corey that this fight can go either way. On the ground, Diaz is superior. His pure jiu-jitsu is at a very high level and he is very confident in that regard. Condit has power in his hands and loves to throw them. Condit may not be revered for his submission game, but he does have a very good one. Thirteen of his wins are by submission, and he is not a one-trick pony in that regard. Diaz does have the better jiu-jitsu in my book, and Condit does have three of his five losses coming by submission.

Condit and Diaz are both well-rounded fighters who can finish the fight wherever it goes. I can’t see this fight going all five rounds, but rather should finish by the second. Many people give praise to Diaz for his boxing, but I do beg to differ. I think his striking is effective only to the point of being unorthodox and relentless. His strikes are messy and slow, but somehow he makes them work for him. I do not think Diaz has fought someone like Condit before, however. You can argue that BJ Penn was a big challenge, but BJ hasn’t been looking like himself these days.

Diaz is on a huge winning streak, with 11 fights in a row. Condit is on a four-fight winning streak. Both men are given an opportunity to become champion in the absence of GSP, and then get their shot at gaining the undisputed title. I think Condit will have the better exchanges standing, and be able to hold his own once on the ground.

I will predict Condit, but I will give predictions for both. If Diaz wins, it will be by submission, like Corey said. If Condit wins, it will be by TKO. This will surely be a great match-up of skill and power, and should be the most exciting fight of the night.

Tatum: Corey and Gregory have laid everything out on the table in this one, but I’m going to be a little more definitive with my prediction. Condit is hungry and his aggressive nature is going to be a huge problem for Diaz. Gregory’s analysis of Diaz’s striking was spot on and while his quantity rather than quality approach has worked against fighters who sat back, it will not work against Condit.

If the fight does see the mat, I believe that Condit’s experience is more than adequate to avoid Diaz’s submission game. It’s been more than five years since Condit was last submitted and his ability to get off his back is one of his strengths. Look at his sweep of Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 132. He took a top-level judoka and swept him easily. That’s no easy task.

Carlos Condit will be the new interim welterweight champ when he finishes Diaz by second-round TKO.

Top Photo: Nick Diaz (Sherdog)

About The Author

Gregory Chase
Staff Writer

Gregory Chase is an MMA enthusiast and aficionado. He is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report (MMA), a Featured Columnist at Sports-at-Work, a Contributor for The MMA Corner, and is the Connecticut MMA Examiner for Examiner.com. Chase also trains in MMA, focusing on a mixture of striking disciplines, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He writes to promote thought, give perspective and provide a coherent analysis on topics, while maintaining a smooth read and educating/entertaining. He lives by his motto of “MMA: Live it. Breathe it.”