UFC 143: Diaz Vs. Condit - Ed Herman Vs. Clifford Starks Dissection

Fighter images via UFC.com

The UFC 143: Diaz vs. Condit pay-per-view will open up with a middleweight tilt pitting veteran Ed Herman vs. D1 wrestler Clifford Starks. The event begins at 10 p.m. ET after the four preliminary contests on the FX channel and the two on the Facebook stream that will kick off the festivities.

If you think about it -- every one of Ed Herman's (19-8) UFC losses come with an asterisk that lends the hard-nosed scrapper a little more credit than the numbers on his record reflect. First emerging on TUF 3, Herman's see-saw battle with Kendall Grove was dramatic enough to earn him the equivalent of a winner's contract despite falling short on the score cards. He was submitted by Jason MacDonald, a cunning BJJ black belt who's tapped out nineteen of the twenty-five opponents he's beaten. "Short Fuse" racked up three straight stoppages with two subs of his own (Chris Price, Scott Smith) and a TKO over Joe Doerksen before becoming entangled in a triangle choke courtesy of Demian Maia, who is the most highly trumpeted ground wizard in the weight class.

In Herman's next (and last) two shortcomings, he was edged out by Alan Belcher in a split decision in which many -- including myself -- tallied the first and third for Herman. The satisfaction of realigning his progress with a win over David Loiseau at UFC 97 proved ephemeral, as Herman would wrench his knee badly in the first frame against Aaron Simpson. Exuding an admirable fighting spirit, Herman refused to yield and limped out from his corner to re-engage in the second but dropped to the canvas in obvious agony after further aggravating his knee by attempting a high kick.

The grievous impairment resulted in the referee waving the fight off and -- literally adding insult to injury -- no less than three reconstructive surgeries that sidelined Herman for almost two years. Nowadays, Herman is a revivified prospect who's two steps deep on the comeback trail, having flattened Tim Credeur with a fearsome combination and finagled a stellar heel-hook on Kyle Noke from 50/50 guard that warranted a Bloody Elbow Judo Chop.

More UFC 143 Dissections

FX Channel Preliminary Card | Facebook Preliminary Card

Clifford Starks (8-0) hasn't been around long enough to oblige a juicy backstory like Herman's. Associated with the Arizona Combat Sports squad and a former Division 1 wrestler at ASU, the unbeaten Starks debuted successfully at UFC 137 when he filled in for Brad Tavares to take on fellow newcomer Dustin Jacoby. Despite a tentative and uneventful opening round, Starks' wrestling acumen enabled a few double-legs in the remaining frames and propelled him to a unanimous decision win.

Gifs and analysis in the full entry.

SBN coverage of UFC 143: Diaz vs. Condit


The bulk of Starks' foray with Jacoby consisted of adjusting to his taller opponent's long punches and trying to find a counter-punching rhythm. Mostly with his left hook, Starks was able to decipher the range and increase his connection rate in rounds two and three.

Staying firmly composed and keeping himself protected with a rigid guard, Starks patiently awaited opportunities to plug in a basic one-two and did a nice job of closing his combinations with intelligent motion, such as the sharp nine o'clock angle he cuts to the right.


He also started to work in takedowns, going a perfect three-for-three overall and wisely completing one per round to leave a lasting impression on the judges. The way Starks got a feel for Jacoby's tempo to land counters on the feet also opened the door for his wrestling prowess. Instead of setting it up with strikes, Starks merely employs precise timing (left) to get deep penetration from Jacoby's forward momentum, and turns the corner nicely. Jacoby kept an active guard but Starks stifled him with top control, except for one legit kimura attempt that was interrupted by the bell.


Now that he's enhanced his kickboxing, Herman fits the coveted mold of a three-dimensional fighter. He's somewhat like a middleweight version of Evan Dunham in that he's an aggressive southpaw with dangerous striking and a balanced medley of wrestling and submission grappling.

The vast majority of his wins are by submission (twelve of nineteen) with five TKOs and two decisions. Conversely, the same applies for Herman's losses with five of eight coming by way of tapout. Most of the fighters who were able to catch Herman were experienced, A-level submission specialists.


Herman has strong technique across the board but definitely embodies more of a rugged brawler than an artful tactician. That holds true in the series of uppercut jackhammers he drops Credeur with (above). It might look like base violence but, after whiffing with the left hook, Herman's crafty in snatching the single collar-tie to stabilize Credeur's head. Takedown defense will obviously be a key factor here, and Herman's been solid in that department. Testifying to his offense-first mindset, he often goes on the attack after shucking off a takedown by pursuing one of his own (left).

A point of interest is that Herman has only encountered one other pure wrestler in Aaron Simpson who, like Starks, competed for ASU at the D1 level. Since Simpson has a superior set of credentials (two-time All American) over Starks and that was the ill-fated bout where Herman jacked his knee up early, it's hard to draw any conclusions from the comparison. Another salient aspect is that Herman's takedown defense has been efficient in the past because he's faced so many submission grapplers as opposed to purebred wrestlers.

Those two footnotes are basically the only warning signs for Herman in this bout, who comes in as the rightful favorite on the betting lines at -300. Wrestling is the only facet where Starks has the clear advantage and singular-sport pedigrees don't always translate directly to MMA. Herman's not a bad wrestler himself and will have the deeper bag of tricks by far, in addition to knowing exactly what Starks' strategy will be.

My Prediction: Ed Herman by submission.

All gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com

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