Photo of Carlos Condit landing a big knee via Chris Cozzone.
The last World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) welterweight champion finally has his chance at earning gold inside the Octagon.
Carlos Condit, who was the only 170-pound champion the Zuffa-owned WEC ever had, is taking on Nick Diaz in Saturday's (Feb. 4) UFC 143 main event. At stake is an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) interim welterweight title and a date with injured champion Georges St. Pierre later in the year.
But more than that, it's a chance for both men to take on the man many consider to be the perfect mixed martial artist (MMA) in the French-Canadian. Seemingly without weakness, St. Pierre outwrestles wrestlers, outstrikes strikers and pretty much makes each and every opponent look bush league. For Condit, a chance at facing "Rush" and beating him means MMA immortality.
"The Natural Born Killer" has already had his brushes with greatness which include his WEC 35 title bout with Japanese fighter turned boxer Hiromitsu Miura. Their back and forth war was the final 170-pound title fight the promotion had as the weight class -- along with middle- and light heavyweight -- was absorbed into the UFC six months later.
Let's take a closer look at that bout.
Condit starts his attack by unleashing kicks to both Miura's legs and body. Nearly a minute and a half into the round, the Japanese fighter clinches with the champion and attempts a judo toss which Condit defends perfectly. But seconds later, the New Mexican is slammed onto his back when Miura attacks with a vicious O-goshi throw. Condit is able to get back to his feet quickly but a beautifully executed sweep -- aided by a diversionary one-two punch combination -- gets the champion on the mat for the second time.
A third toss drops "The Natural Born Killer" but as with the previous two, Miura has difficulty holding him down. As they reset on their feet, both sets of hands begin to fly and the Japanese fighter finds himself stunned when a looping hook is perfectly countered with a vicious straight. Miura drops to the canvas and Condit dives in after him, looking to finish off his staggered challenger.
From sidemount, Condit rains down short elbows before trapping Miura in a crucifix, allowing for more strikes to land while also working towards a submission. The attempt finally comes when Condit spins around and looks to extend his opponent's arm but Miura, grappling savvy and tough as nails, slips out and drops a couple bombs in retaliation. The champion gets to his feet but yet another hip toss drops him back down. The commentator states it might be the most impressive display of judo technique inside the cage fans have seen yet and it's hard to disagree.
Early into the second round, fortune smiles on Condit as Miura loses his footing and falls backwards onto the mat. From there, the champion takes over and the first four minutes -- save for a nice upkick from the challenger -- are all Condit. Ground and pound from sidemount leads to a smooth transition to full mount which culminates in a tight armbar attempt with 90 seconds remaining in the round. Miura defends beautifully and is able to wiggle his arm free and ends up on top. Neither fighter does much of anything and are stood up. A botched hip toss leads to Miura back on the mat with "The Natural Born Killer" on top, the position the challenger had been in for most of the round.
The third round opens with both fighters exchanging and it seems Condit has found his range. He's using his reach advantage impressively, keeping Miura at bay while also using his strikes to set up takedowns. Condit ends up behind his challenger and wrestles him to the mat, threatening with a guillotine momentarily. Once released, however, "The Natural Born Killer" is once again in full mount, this time with over four minutes remaining in the stanza. Short elbows are the name of the game but two minutes in, Miura explodes out and sweeps his opponent, ending up in half guard. The Japanese fighter gives the champion a taste of his own medicine as he unloads a bevy of punches before both fighters end up in a vertical base.
The crowd roars as the two begin to exchange wildly but an ill-timed takedown attempt from Miura leads to Condit once again ending up on top. A kimura attempt is shrugged off by the challenger but "The Natural Born Killer" once again gets full mount and begins to brutalize Miura with punches and elbows. He gives up his back to Condit but is able to fend off the rear naked choke until the horn sounds.
The round may have been demoralizing for Miura but you wouldn't suspect it judging by his performance in the fourth round as an early flurry had the champion reeling. Midway through the round, the two fighters -- Miura on top of Condit -- are stood up and upon restarting immediately begin throwing heavy leather. A spectacular takedown from the champion looks to be the beginning of the end for the spirited challenger as Condit achieves full mount for the charmed third time but Miura, tough as he is stubborn, refuses to relent and once again sweeps the American on to his back.
Miura unloads ground and pound until Condit is able to kick him away, creating enough distance to get vertical. The challenger storms in and "The Natural Born Killer" barrels a knee into the Japanese fighter's chin, dropping him to the mat where several hammerfists give the referee all the incentive he needs to halt the bout. Condit showed a toughness that cannot be taught in the gym that night, the same toughness on display when he survived an early onslaught from Jake Ellenberger and came from behind to finish off Rory MacDonald.
Will it come into play on Saturday when he steps inside the Octagon against Nick Diaz?