UFC 143 will begin with a middleweight bout between veteran Ed Herman and Clifford Starks.
Herman has had to endure a long, grueling road back into the UFC following a reconstructive knee surgery that kept him out of action for nearly two years. Upon his return last year, he scored two straight victories over Tim Credeur and Kyle Noke.
Starks is coming off a strong debut over Dustin Jacoby at UFC 137. While the victory didn't necessarily win over any fans per se, due to the slow-paced action, it was a valiant effort on Starks' part and he will look to extend his undefeated record of 8-0.
A former Division I wrestler at Arizona State, Starks will look to try and utilize his superior wrestling skills against the experienced Herman, as he will likely try and close distance and either clinch or attempt a takedown.
In his bout against Jacoby, Starks established his wrestling as early as he could, scoring a takedown in every round, and he should attempt to establish a similar game plan against his opponent.
However, Herman is essentially good inside of the clinch and he will look to throw strikes from short range when he gets an opportunity. His knockout win over Credeur at The Ultimate Finale 13 proved his clinch game is one of his main strengths as he dropped Credeur with an uppercut to end the bout.
"Short Fuse" is also exceptionally well-versed on the ground and owns 12 submission victories to his name thus far.
Starks should be aware of Herman's ground game each time he tries to transition into a more dominant position on the canvas. If he can neutralize Herman's clinch work by applying pressure and scoring the takedown more frequently, then his grappling should be able to wear on his opponent's cardio and pick up the win via unanimous decision.
Prediction: Clifford Starks unanimous decision.