The two top-ranked welterweights in the world will clash this Saturday night (Nov. 17, 2012) as current UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre takes on interim welterweight champ Carlos Condit in the main event of UFC 154 in St. Pierre's backyard of Montreal, Quebec, Canda.
St. Pierre has notably been out of action for 19 months after suffering a knee injury which required surgery. "Rush" was the UFC's go-to pay-per-view draw and he's looking to reclaim the throne after an extended layoff. He's got a stern test ahead of him in Condit.
Carlos Condit has faced a murderer's row of competition throughout his UFC career. Hell, his first two UFC fights were Martin Kampmann and Jake Ellenberger. While he had a reputation for putting on incredible performances and leaving fans with their jaws wide open, you're only as good as your last fight and many fans turned on him after his calculated and measured decision victory over Nick Diaz earlier this year.
Both men have a lot to prove to the fans tomorrow night.
Georges St. Pierre
Record: 22-2 overall, 15-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Georges St. Pierre started out his career as a flashy kickboxer with a karate background, but he has evolved into something much, much more. He has turned his original weaknesses into his biggest strengths and despite never wrestling in college, the welterweight champ now possesses what is likely the best MMA wrestling on the planet.
The Canadian wunderkind has stepped up and competed against the best men in the stacked welterweight division night in and night out. No one possesses the résumé that GSP has, no one is even close. The man has stepped up and put down every challenger to his path dominantly and even had a ridiculous streak of not having lost over 30 rounds which was snapped by Jake Shields in his last bout.
While preparing for a fight against Nick Diaz and then Carlos Condit at UFC 137, GSP injured his knee. He aggravated the injury in advance of UFC 143 and this time required extensive surgery on his ACL. After a lenghty layoff, he's finally rehabbed and ready to go against Condit again.
How he gets it done: Georges St. Pierre gets criticized for fighting "safe" but that's just playing it smart. He carefully studies every aspect of the fight, finds a gameplan that puts himself in the least hazardous position, and then executes it perfectly.
GSP is well-rounded enough to capitalize on every fighter's weakness. He tired out B.J. Penn's arms by leaning against him along the fence, he battered Jon Fitch standing, he put Dan Hardy on his back and he kept Josh Koscheck at the end of his jab for five consecutive rounds.
Condit will likely be able to hang with St. Pierre on the feet, at least in terms of trading strikes blow-for-blow, but the biggest difference in both fighter's skill-sets is St. Pierre's offensive wrestling and his ridiculous timing. The second St. Pierre has any of Condit's strikes timed, he'll be looking to duck under a hook or even a jab and power through with a swift double leg takedown..
Once on the ground, St. Pierre needs to stay on Condit and be aggressive with ground and pound. He can't let "The Natural Born Killer" get too comfortable or he'll leave himself open to sweep and submission attempts. Neutralizing Condit's weapons is GSP's primary goal and will help him win this fight. .
Record: 28-5 overall, 5-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: Nick Diaz (UFC 143), Jake Ellenberger (UFC Fight Night 19), Rory MacDonald (UFC 115)
Key Losses: Martin Kampmann (UFC Fight Night 18), Jake Shields (Rumble on the Rock 9)
How he got here: MMA fans have short memories, but before UFC 143, Carlos Condit was one of the most exciting fighters on the planet. He first came to fame in the WEC where he fought for and won Mike Pyle's vacant welterweight title in just his second fight with the promotion.
Condit would defend his WEC welterweight title three times before the UFC would merge all fighters above lightweight into its promotion. In his first fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Condit had an absolute barnburner with Martin Kampmann in a fight that was extremely close with both men displaying incredible scrambles and exciting striking. Kampmann would walk away with a split decision victory.
In Condit's next fight, he would again have another Fight of the Year candidate against Jake Ellenberger. "The Natural Born Killer" survived being rocked multiple times to outgrapple and outwork Ellenberger. He followed this win up by surviving an early two-round onslaught from current contender Rory MacDonald only to bounce back with an insane third round TKO victory with just seven seconds remaining in what is still the only dark mark in MacDonald's career.
Since then, Condit has showcased his striking, knocking out out the brash former title challenger Dan Hardy in the first round and then running through the previously undefeated Dong Hyun Kim with a ferocious flying knee.
"The Natural Born Killer" battled Nick Diaz interim UFC welterweight title earlier this year and fought a much more measured gameplan, avoiding big exchanges and pattering away with range and leg kicks to earn a decision and the belt. He sat on the sidelines waiting for St. Pierre and will find out if this was a smart decision tomorrow night. .
How he gets it done: Condit will want this fight to remain standing if he can. He's got the tools to hang with St. Pierre on the feet. He can take a shot with the best of them, has significant power in both his hands and his gap-closing knees and he's got diversity in his attack.
The key for Condit it to be aggressive enough to land those blows without being too reckless and giving St. Pierre and easy takedown. He can't be too passive either because St. Pierre will simply sense the weakness and press with his striking.
While Condit had a leg kick-centric gameplan against Nick Diaz, that will fail spectacularly if he attempts it against St. Pierre, as he'll give the champ an easy single leg if his kicks are caught.
If taken down, Condit needs to be extremely aggressive both with submission attempts and sweeps. St. Pierre is used to just dominating fights who don't want to be on their backs, but Condit is active enough that he might actually go on the offensive if put on the canvas. If he can actually sweep St. Pierre, look for him to unleash some pain before working back to his feet.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be the extended layoff for St. Pierre. Prior to his ACL tear, the longest layoff St. Pierre had was between UFC 100 and UFC 111 with his groin tear. This knee infury is considerably more significant and considering how much GSP relies on explosive movement to time his takedowns and catch his opponents off guard, even the slightest sign of slowing down could put him in trouble against a dangerous fighter like Condit.
The other factor obviously is the mental game. How much confidence will GSP have in himself after 19 months away from the cage? He's likely a nervous wreck right now, even if he doesn't show it on the outside during the press conferences. If Condit stuffs a takedown or lands a good shot, St. Pierre could begin to doubt himself.
Lastly, not having Greg Jackson will affect both men, but likely more for St. Pierre as Jackson is always extremely vital to keeping GSP grounded and calmed down in between rounds. He does a great job of channeling St. Pierre's nervous energy and with him not there on fight night to support the champion, he could be adversely affected.
Bottom Line: This fight has all the potential in the world to be exciting. On the feet, it'll be a tactical battle of St. Pierre's evolving striking technique against Condit's raw power and diverse arsenal of attack. If St. Pierre does take Condit down, he's still not going to have an easy time as the Albuquerque native is very active and dangerous off his back. Condit swept Dong Hyun Kim like he was nothing and that's the same man who dominated Paulo Thiago just a week ago. Expect anything and everything in this fight and if Condit can somehow stuff a takedown attempt or two from St. Pierre, the stakes will be raised significantly. This should be good.
Who will come out on top at UFC 154? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!