It’s only the first weekend of February and already one of the year’s most anticipated fights has arrived in the form of UFC 143’s main event between Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit. While welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre may have been originally slotted to face Diaz in a super-fight of sorts, Condit is a more than adequate replacement and makes for an equally entertaining adversary given his substance/style.

Below you’ll find some quick picks for the evening’s earlier fights followed by a more detailed breakdown of the evening’s tripleheader of tilts between Josh Koscheck-Mike Pierce, Fabricio Werdum-Roy Nelson, and of course Diaz-Condit.

After reading my predictions make sure to check back at MMATraining tomorrow starting at approximately 7:00 PM EST when preliminary results start rolling in to see if things unfolded as I’ve expected (or as you may have guessed instead depending on where your opinions differ from mine).

Stephen Thompson def. Daniel Stittgen via TKO Round 1
Rafael Natal def. Michael Kuiper via Unanimous Decision
Matt Brown def. Chris Cope via TKO Round 2
Edwin Figueroa def. Alex Caceres via TKO Round 3
Matt Riddle def. Henry Martinez via Unanimous Decision
Dustin Poirier def. Max Holloway via Unanimous Decision
Ed Herman def. Clifford Starks via Unanimous Decision
Renan Barao def. Scott Jorgensen via TKO Round 2

Josh Koscheck vs. Mike Pierce

Both Koscheck and Pierce are apt grapplers but I favor “Kos” when it comes to utilizing his overall abilities inside the cage as opposed to a pure wrestling match. Pierce is hit-or-miss when it comes to competition, lacking consistency as evident in a great performance against Jon Fitch or Johny Hendricks vs. a mediocre one against Paul Bradley or Julio Paulino. I also favor Koscheck when it comes to power, plus he’ll have composure on his side since he’s been in much bigger fights while Pierce will be in one of his first truly featured fights. I see Koscheck stuffing Pierce’s takedown attempts, then working him over from above while whispering sour nothings into his ear for calling him out.

Winner – Josh Koscheck def. Mike Pierce via Unanimous Decision

Fabricio Werdum vs. Roy Nelson

This is an interesting fight in that both men are excellent when it comes to ground-work but also excel in striking, albeit with different styles given Werdum’s Muay Thai and Nelson’s boxing. They are also fairly durable when it comes to absorbing damage, each only having been finished a single time in a career spanning 20+ fights. I can see this being an active, back-and-forth bout rather than either the standard heavyweight snoozer or quick finish. As long as he shows up in shape I see Werdum barely picking up the decision since it seems Nelson occasionally struggles with guys who can stand yet also fend off his BJJ/wrestling.

Winner – Fabricio Werdum def. Roy Nelson via Split Decision

Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit

There are few better pairings in MMA than those featuring opponents who not only have high-level technique but also understand the essence of the sport – that it’s a fight, not a game being played. Their in-Octagon face-off alone should be enough to send shivers up the spines of fans tuning in. It should truly be electric, or at least as animated as a Las Vegas crowd gets.

When it comes to the actual action, it’s a tough one to pick with each having advantages over the other (Condit – diversity of strikes, power / Diaz – precision, tenacity). As long as Diaz has a miraculous recovery in his back pocket, as he seemed to against Paul Daley, I think he’ll be safe meaning he’ll probably eat one big shot but that’s the only real risk he has of losing. If Jake Ellenberger and Martin Kampmann, two somewhat comparable fighters to Diaz in terms of well-rounded ability, can go the distance with Condit I’m pretty sure Stockton’s finest can hang with him too while dishing out damage throughout the twenty-five minute period if necessary.

Winner – Nick Diaz def. Carlos Condit via TKO Round 4

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!