The Ultimate Fighter
The interim UFC welterweight title is on the line this Saturday night in the main event of UFC 143 in Las Vegas. Michael DiSanto breaks down Diaz vs. Condit.
Russell Crowe, in his career-defining role as Maximus in the box office bonanza “Gladiator,” made famous a line that has been uttered more than once to a crowd by UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer in the off-camera moments just before a pay-per-view broadcast kicks in.
Are you not entertained?
The question was yelled to a silent crowd following several minutes of gladiatorial battle.
I guarantee that neither Buffer nor anyone else will be asking the crowd that question at the Mandalay Bay Events Center when Nick Diaz versus Carlos Condit finds its conclusion this Saturday night. G-U-A-R-A-N-T-E-E.
This is an absolutely delicious matchup for fans who enjoy all-action bouts. It certainly may come to an abrupt end in the first few minutes. Any fight can end suddenly. But the matchup suggests otherwise. All signs point to a back-and-forth war, where both men enjoy moments of solid success, though both will likely get bruised and bloodied.
Don’t get me wrong. I think there is a clear favorite, though it wouldn’t necessarily be an upset for either man to win. Yes, those are contradictory statements. I don’t care. They accurately describe the fight, in my opinion.
Diaz is the man most expect to win. I agree with that notion. This guy is in the midst of one of the most impressive welterweight winning streaks since Jon Fitch ran off 16 in a row. Unlike during Fitch’s run, however, nobody is questioning Diaz’s finishing ability or his ability to thrill a crowd. The Stockton, California native fights with a full-throttle, unyielding style that is designed to break an opponent mentally and physically.
It is a style that has overwhelmed everyone since the beginning of 2008, including all-time greats BJ Penn and Frank Shamrock. He mixes possibly the best boxing in the sport with a granite chin, an endless gas tank and high-level Gracie jiu-jitsu. Not a bad combination.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Condit is the far more explosive fighter. If this fight ends by knockout in the first round, Condit is the one who will have his hand raised. Not Diaz. And while Condit isn’t riding an 11-fight winning streak, his recent run of success isn’t much less impressive than what Diaz has experienced.
Condit has won 12 of his last 13 bouts. That lone loss, a split decision dropped to Martin Kampmann, was arguably a bad result. At the very least, it was highly controversial. In his last two bouts, he walked through Dong-Hyun Kim and Dan Hardy via first round knockouts. The former was undefeated at the time. The latter was just over six months removed from challenging for the world championship.
The pair will meet on Saturday night for the interim UFC welterweight Championship, a secondary title that officially anoints a number one challenger to injured champion Georges St-Pierre. Better put, Saturday’s bout definitively answers the question as to who is the second best welterweight on the planet.
When referee Steve Mazzagatti signals for the action to begin, Diaz will do what he does in every fight. The surly gladiator will aggressively take the center of the Octagon with his hands held unorthodoxly high, likely at eye level or higher, and begin his unrelenting attack.
Diaz will work from the southpaw stance, focused on just touching his foe with his fists over and over again. He won’t load up on his strikes. That takes too long and increases the odds of missing the target. Instead, sharp right jabs, often mixed with pawing grabs at his opponent’s left hand, will establish the range.
He will pump the jab again and again, bruising, bloodying and distracting his foe. The shots will come in short succession, like one-arm combinations. But he is far from a one-armed striker. Diaz will fire his straight left—a very straight left, as soon as his right foot establishes the proper position on the outside of Condit’s lead left foot.
Sometimes he will throw the left in isolation following a jab. Often he will follow it up with a clean-up right hook. He will also mix in leading with both of those strikes. The point is to overwhelm and confuse his opponent, all the while chipping away at his strength and cardio from the constant bombardment of shots thrown at 70% of his maximum power.
From time to time, Diaz will clean up his straight right with a right outside leg kick. He might even add a left or right high kick here or there. If Condit finds some success on the feet, Diaz may switch to an orthodox stance, fighting with the same fistic patters as when he attacks from his more traditional southpaw stance. His straight right is nowhere near as good as his straight left. By contrast, his left jab and left hook are close to, if not equal, to their southpaw counterparts.
The one constant throughout the attack will be Diaz’s taunts. He will lean forward, sticking out his chin with his hands spread wide apart, as if he is giving an opponent a free shot. Diaz knows that he has amazing defensive skills, so the goal is to bait his opponent into missing so that Diaz can counter. If his foe hesitates, Diaz will fire slapping hooks from his widely spread fists.
Those are calculated moves designed to show his foe that the former Strikeforce champion is the superior fighter. It’s as if he is screaming, there is nothing you can do to hurt me. I leaving myself wide open, and I’m still putting my stamp on you.
Physical taunts aren’t the only mind games that Diaz plays with his foes. A big part of his game is using harsh words to both hype up himself and enrage his foe.
The former often serves as a shot of adrenalin—or, more appropriately in Diaz’s case, a steady stream of adrenalin from bell to bell. The latter often leads to an opponent fighting with more recklessness or loading up more on strikes. Either of those mistakes makes Diaz’s tappy-tap attack more effective.
Thus, venomous taunts will flow like water exiting a wide-open spigot. Personal insult after personal insult will bombard his foe second only to the nonstop barrage of punches.
It is a demoralizing assault, one that only the mentally and physically toughest fighters can withstand. Diaz is counting on the fact that Condit is not among those. I’m quite sure Condit disagrees.
Like Diaz, Condit is also a savagely aggressive fighter with an excellent chin, equal comfort on the feet or the ground, and a deep gas tank. Sounds like a carbon copy, doesn’t it? These two are actually as different as they are similar.
Condit is the physically stronger fighter. He possesses a high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fiber in his body, which enables him to explode on foes in a way that leaves many other welters green with envy. Diaz generates knockouts from perfect timing and technique. Condit does it with explosive speed and power.
Condit is also more of a go-for-broke attacker. He is willing to throw caution to the wind and attack in berserker style. All of Diaz’s attacks are calculated and controlled. He is never wild. He never forgets defense.
Guess what? Both of those traits – tremendous explosiveness and a willingness attack, even in the face of guaranteed return fire – are exactly the recipe for defeating Nick Diaz on the feet, assuming, of course, that a fighter has the standup skills to execute during the attack.
Carlos Condit and well-rounded go together like peanut butter and jelly.
“The Natural Born Killer” is one of the most well rounded fighters in the sport. In 27 professional wins, he has 13 knockouts and 13 submissions on his resume. That is reminiscent of a prime Rich Franklin, before the former middleweight champ became obsessed with his standup game.
Condit’s standup is pretty straightforward, though extremely effective. He fights with the squared orthodox stance of a Thai fighter. He is more versatile on the feet than Diaz, incorporating kicks, elbows and knees with his fists, as opposed to Diaz’s heavily boxing-focused attack. And he can end the fight with any of those strikes. Typically not in one-strike fashion. Condit is more of a combination striker, but he has the juice to score one-shot wins. Just ask Dan Hardy.
On the ground, Condit is much craftier fighter than his Brazilian jiu-jitsu rank suggests. He doesn’t inspire fear in opponents from his guard. But he is a monster from the top position and a back expert.
His ground acumen is irrelevant in this fight. He isn’t on the same planet in terms of BJJ skills, compared to Diaz. The only way Condit wins this fight by submission is if he first lands a consciousness-altering strike, leaving Diaz basically defenseless for a brief period.
Condit doesn’t much care about that. He isn’t coming Las Vegas to submit Diaz. He is coming to knock him out, whether cold or by cuts. And I’m sure he believes he can do just that.
Neither Diaz nor any other fighter is invincible. The big key to victory for Condit is to force Diaz to fight moving backwards. Condit must be the bully. He cannot sit back and counter. Otherwise, Diaz will overwhelm him with his volume punching, just like he did Penn. He might land a fight-ending counter. That can happen in any fight. It is just highly unlikely based on Diaz’s history facing even bigger, more explosive strikers, like Paul Daley, and smothering them with his whirlwind attack.
On the other hand, if Condit comes out and fires first, he has a chance to do what only KJ Noons has done since mid-2006—defeat Nick Diaz.
Noons beat Diaz by beating him to the punch. Noons, who doubles as a professional boxer, used good angles and always made sure he fired first with accurate, sharp punches. Diaz never got into a rhythm against in his first bout against Noons principally because he never had the opportunity to lead. In the rematch, Diaz undressed his former conqueror in typical Diaz fashion. He was the bully from bell to bell. Condit can’t let that happen on Saturday night.
The second key to victory for Condit is to clinch with Diaz, force him up against the cage and use dirty boxing—elbows, forearms and slicing punches. Diaz has a history of easily cutting along his eyebrows. That is no big secret. He underwent surgery in 2008 to remove excess scar tissue and grind down his brow bones to help correct this problem. It certainly helped in subsequent fights, but his brow leaked against Penn, which suggests that scar tissue might be building back up. Condit should seek to find out.
I truly believe that this fight will be an epic war. Will Condit be the one to survive the war? Is he the man to put an end to Diaz’s amazing 11-fight run?
It doesn’t seem likely, in my opinion. A skilled, explosive and attacking striker is the best way to beat Diaz on the feet, but it is still a long-shot way of winning.
The absolute best way of beating Diaz is to put him in the cage against a dominant wrestler with great submission defense who takes him down and holds him there. Condit isn’t that guy. So I’m going with Diaz, likely by decision but possibly by late-round stoppage.
• 28 years old
• 27-7, 1 NC
• Finished 9 of last 11 opponents
• 5-0 in last 5
• 10-0 in last 10
• 11-fight winning streak
• 4-1 in title fights (4 in Strikeforce, 1 in Elite XC)
• Has never been submitted
• Former Strikeforce welterweight champion (never lost title; vacated it to return to the UFC)
• Fight of the Night (UD3 over BJ Penn at UFC 137)
• Current layoff is 98 days
• Longest layoff of career is 315 days
• 27 years old
• 4-1 in last5
• 9-1 in last 10
• 4-0 in major title fights (all in WEC)
• Has never been knocked out
• Has only gone the distance 3 times in 32 professional fights (1-2 in those bouts)
• Fight Night award in last 3 fights
• Knockout of the Night (KO1 over Dong-Hyun Kim at UFC 132)
• Knockout of the Night (KO1 over Dan Hardy at UFC 120)
• Fight of the Night (TKO3 over Rory MacDonald at UFC 115)
• Current layoff is 217 days
• Longest layoff of career is 269 days