UFC 143: Fighter Grades

Matthew HemphillCorrespondent IIFebruary 5, 2012

UFC 143: Fighter Grades

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    UFC 143 is over and fans may still have a sour taste in their mouth after how the Diaz-Condit fight ended or choose to talk about what happened in the Werdum-Nelson fight.

    No matter what, fans are buzzing about how the fighters did.

    The best way to judge is to hand out grades and while we all hated report-card season growing up, it is fun to see how are favorite fighters do "academically."

    Every fighter on this list was graded not by how fun their fight was or how much heart they showed, but how skillful and impressive they were. Some might have given the fans dull fights, but walked away with a victory.

    So here are the scores for those who fought at UFC 143.

Carlos Condit: B

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    You don't have to like how he did it or agree with the decision, but Condit won the interim welterweight title and got a title shot against Georges St-Pierre.

    There was no Fight of the Year contender when he stepped in the cage with Nick Diaz and the bout didn't even win Fight of the Night. Condit moved backward the entire bout throwing leg kicks and staying out of Diaz's boxing range.

    Not engaging heavily with an opponent is a double-edged sword. It leaves the fighter at the mercy of the judges and can easily be used against them. Some judges like aggression and Condit didn't show that on Saturday.

    Condit lucked out and got all three judges to see the bout his way.

    It easily could have been different, though.

    Because of that and the lack of a finish, Condit goes home with a "better than average" grade.

Ed Herman: B-

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    Herman got a great submission win over Clifford Starks on Saturday in the second round.

    If he had been dominant in the first, his grade would have been higher. Instead, he and Starks traded punches and jockeyed for position. While watching two men throw leather at each other is always fun, it doesn't make for a dominating performance.

    While Herman does have a great chin, his only knockout loss is thanks to an injury. He should learn to defend punches with something other than his face.

    Herman did redeem himself by getting the choke and making sure that he didn't let his opponent roll out of it. With it, he made the start of 2012 as dominant as his 2011.

    If he keeps winning fights like this, Herman just might get bigger fights in the UFC. For a fighter who missed all of 2010, Herman has turned his career around, and tonight just means better things for him.

Scott Jorgensen: D

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    If I didn't fail one fighter, then this wouldn't be a very effective grading system.

    Being serious, Jorgensen just didn't have what it took to stop Barao's striking or even take him down to the ground.

    The one time he was able to pull his opponent to the floor, it ended with Barao still dominating the action and Jorgensen failing to find the opening for the submission.

    Jorgensen was the shorter fighter, which might have caused him some problems, but striking is something he is going to have to work on if he wants to climb back up the division rankings.

    He struggled against Cruz and now against Barao. It's going to be tough for Jorgensen to find a place for himself in a crowded division in which he has already failed to beat the best.

Clifford Starks: C-

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    Maybe this grade is a bit too hard on Starks. He did have a decent first round with Herman and if they squared off again, it's easy to believe that it might be him who walks away with the victory.

    When he got caught with the choke he even tried to roll out of it.

    Still, he lost by choke in the second round and proved he isn't ready for a certain level of opposition yet. He is almost there, but he still needs some seasoning.

    If Starks hadn't landed a nice punch on Herman in the second round, he would have scored a little lower, but since he did, he just barely passes.

Josh Koscheck: C+

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    Josh Koscheck just won't go away. No matter how much fans hate him, and the crowd at UFC 143 showed that they did, he found a way to win taking out opponent Mike Pierce.

    And with that win, Koscheck has kept himself relevant and someone who people will see get top-tier fights. That is because people are willing to pay to see him lose as long as he keeps acting like a villain.

    The fight went as should have been expected, with two great wrestlers pushing each other and trying to get a dominant position. On a technical level, it is interesting, but many fans probably felt cheated and booed the slow fight.

    The men broke up the monotony long enough to trade punches and make it so fans didn't fall asleep.

    It was close as many wrestling matches can be, but Koscheck landed enough punches to get the decision, even though it easily could have gone to Pierce.

Roy Nelson: F

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    In a class, someone has to fail and Roy Nelson did just that.

    He may have hit Werdum with a decent punch or two and even dropped him once, but the damage he took was so terrible that it nullified those brief moments.

    Nelson came in the best shape of his life, but it still wasn't to the caliber that he should have held himself to. Nelson still had a gut and it was rattled all night long by Werdum's knees and punches.

    It may be too late for Nelson, who is already 35. He has had plenty of years to lose the weight and work on his cardio and in this fight, both were improved, but not at a top-tier level. Even if he keeps training every day, he still will not be at his best until he is 36.

    It is a shame because Nelson is likable, full of personality and as he showed at UFC 143 by taking a one-sided beating, has heart.

    Where he goes next is tricky as the Strikeforce heavyweights come in.

Mike Pierce: C

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    Mike Pierce just can't win the big one. He is a gutsy wrestler who is underrated because of his record and doesn't get recognized even when he gets put in serious fights.

    He first lost a unanimous decision against Jon Fitch, then a split decision against Johnny Hendricks and now another split decision against Josh Koscheck.

    It didn't help that Pierce suffered an eye poke in the third round and it might have distracted him enough to lose the decision.

    Pierce is only 31, but at this point he could be stuck at the gatekeeper status in the welterweight division. It isn't the worst place he could be, but it probably isn't where he wanted to end up.

    In a division full of wrestlers, Pierce needs to work on his striking if he wants to move forward. Until he does, that he is never going to rise above his current status.

    Other than that, he just needs to get in a fight where the judges are on his side.

Fabricio Werdum: A

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    The only way that Fabricio Werdum could have gotten the plus added to his performance was if he submitted Roy Nelson.

    Considering the fact that Nelson is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has shown impressive grappling in all of his fights, it is a minor quibble.

    The shocking part of the fight wasn't that Werdum was able to do whatever he wanted, but that he did it while striking.

    Many people thought that Nelson had the better stand up, but Werdum proved Saturday that it was fallacy and not fact.

    Werdum kept the fight standing and there was almost no time at which Nelson was beating him. The beating was so bad that referee Josh Rosenthal stopped the fight to have Nelson's bloodied nose looked at.

    By the third round, it was obvious who won. Now Werdum just needs to keep improving.

Renan Barao: B+

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    The only way Renan Barao could have done better is if he had submitted Scott Jorgensen and finished the fight the way he started it.

    Barao simply looked amazing on his feet and fought at a pace and distance Jorgensen couldn't interrupt. Considering how talented Jorgensen is, that was no easy feat.

    Some people will start comparing Barao to featherweight champion Jose Aldo and while that is a bit much there, is no denying that he should get a title shot at bantamweight title holder Dominick Cruz.

    Jorgensen couldn't even take Barao to the ground as the Brazilian was able to stuff his takedowns and then resume the beating he put on the former standout wrestler. 

    Jorgensen was able to look impressive in the last few minutes of the second round. Barao looked a little wild, but was able to come back in the third round and compose himself.

    In the third, both men traded shots with Barao still getting the better of it, but they were somewhat fatigued. He will need to work on that if he wants to beat Cruz.

Nick Diaz: C

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    Technically, Nick Diaz should get a lower grade, but he is the reason that the fight was somewhat entertaining, so he gets a bit of a boost.

    He also could have won the decision if different judges had been scoring the bout. The fact that he had to chase Condit for five rounds was anti-climactic and aggravating not just for Diaz, but for fans who paid to see it.

    No one can fault Condit for wanting to win, but more then a few can argue that Diaz deserved the victory. Based on that, Diaz is able to get a passing grade.

    The only disappointment other then not seeing a great fight is the possibility that he may never fight again. After his fight with Condit, Diaz stated that he was thinking about retiring from MMA.

    If that is the case, the grade might be downgraded to a D for disappointment.


    Matthew Hemphill writes for the MMA and professional wrestling portion of Bleacher Report.  He also hosts a blog elbaexiled.blogspot.com that focuses on books, music, comic books, video games, film and generally anything that could be related to the realms of nerdom.