Las Vegas, Nevada plays hosts again for mixed martial arts action when the UFC unleashes what could already be one of their most pivotal cards of the year with UFC 143: Diaz vs. Condit. Middleweights kick off the card when “Short Fuse” Ed Herman (17-8) battles Clifford Starks (5-0). Mike Pierce (10-3) is looking to jump into the higher ranks of the welterweight division, but he will have to go through “Kos” Josh Koscheck (16-5) in order to do so. In the co-main event, heavyweights take the stage as “Big Country” Roy Nelson (16-6) welcomes back one of the top submission artists in mixed martial arts, “Vai Cavalo” Fabricio Werdum (14-5-1). The welterweight title picture is sure to change as “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (27-5) and former Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz (26-8) battle for the interim welterweight title. Traces of the WEC make itself known though in the middle of all this action as Renan Barao (27-1) and “Young Guns” Scott Jorgensen (12-3) collide. Each have made their own strides within the bantamweight division but the time has come for these two to meet in what could ensure a chance at gold in the future.
At First Glance: While the addition of the bantamweight division in the UFC has certainly been exciting, the talent pool available to challenge current 135lbs. king “The Dominator” Dominick Cruz (18-1) is rather limited. The silver lining to this problem is that with a spectacular performance a prospect can jump into contender status and a contender to the next challenger for gold overnight. Enter Renan Barao and Scott Jorgensen. Barao may be under the radar compared to his opposition but with an impressive 27-fight win streak that is supported by a well-rounded game, he is very on the cusp on making his own title aspirations come to light. A former PAC-10 wrestler who picked up a hard hitting stand-up game, Jorgensen once had his chance at gold but fell short against the champ. If he could latch a third victory in a row at the expense of a fast-rising star in the division, he could set himself as the only remaining contender at the moment for Cruz.
In Depth: Jorgensen and Barao have grown to become punishing stand-up artists in their own right but be it one punch from Jorgensen or Barao’s knee, at some point one fighter will flinch to where they seek to bring the fight to their comfort zone on the mat, where control becomes the name of the game. The Jiu-Jitsu black belt Barao would enjoy the submission edge over “Young Guns” easily provided he can hold the former title challenger down or scramble quickly into the submission just as he did with Brad Pickett (19-6) and Chris Cariaso (12-3). Considering that Barao’s recent opponents have been stand-up artists or Jiu-Jitsu practitioners who are game to roll with him, just how well he can fare with a high level wrestler can make-or-break this fight for the Brazilian. Jorgensen has been in his fair share of shootouts in the WEC but since debuting with the UFC his wrestling has provided him smooth sailings with a knockout win from Ken Stone’s (10-3) guard and complete control of Jiu-Jitsu whiz “Big Frog” Jeff Curran (35-14-1). Should Jorgensen’s endeavors on the feet come up short, he could find solace in grinding Barao on the ground for three rounds or until the opportunity to finish presents itself.
Wild Card: The issue of control on the ground will remain prevalent always between a wrestler and a Jiu-Jitsu specialist but for Barao, he also has to mind the pressure Jorgensen will look to imply in the rounds’ start. Barao lacks the technicality of striking like his training partner “Junior” Jose Aldo (19-1) but with a heavy willingness to throw with the power to back it up, it keeps him a threat at all times to be weary of. Jorgensen has a stiff jab and can apply it to push himself inside to tie up with the Brazilian and seek a takedown or work against the cage. If Barao is too generous in giving Jorgensen ground to work with, he will get an impromptu lesson in wrestling whether he wants to or not.
The Verdict: UFC 143 is a stacked card but this bout between Jorgensen and Barao could easily stand out with “Fight of the Night” potential riding behind it. Both men have solid chins that will keep them up and going should they engage in a firefight or find themselves in the weeds. On the ground, it will turn into a battle of who is the better master of their own art as Jorgensen’s wrestling will attempt to tame the Jiu-Jitsu of Barao. Considering that these two have been to wars and their losses have come only by way of decision, it is hard to see the other indefinitely stopping the other. Barao is lethal but Jorgensen has proven that he can take a hit but also exhibit respectable submission defense while implementing his own gameplan. It will be a battle of inches but Jorgensen should see himself closer to a title shot with Barao’s win streak snapped. Jorgensen via Split Decision