Photo via UFC.com
There's a belief in the mixed martial arts (MMA) game that if it doesn't happen inside the Octagon, it's nothing to crow about.
When a fighter experiences any measure of success in Japan, their accomplishments are often minimized due to what is perceived as a lower class of competition. It happened to Jorge Santiago who had not one but two Fight of the Year bouts against Kazuo Misaki in the Sengoku promotion. Still there were detractors who swore up and down once "Sandman" made it back to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), he would be facing a higher caliber of fighter and be exposed.
They were right.
But for every Santiago, there's a Ben Henderson, an Anthony Pettis or a Carlos Condit. "The Natural Born Killer" was World Extreme Cagefighting's (WEC) last welterweight champion when it was decided the weight class would no longer be contested inside the blue cage. The New Mexico native transitioned over to the Octagon and two and a half years later, an interim title and a date with Georges St. Pierre proves his success in WEC was a result of skill, not a shallow talent pool. He's defeated every opponent the UFC has put in front of him ... except one.
Martin Kampmann spoiled Condit's Octagon debut and is the only man to have beaten the interim champion in the past five years. The Dane takes on Thiago Alves in the main event of Friday's (Mar. 2) UFC on FX 2 main event. A win against the Brazilian could score another match with Condit with the stakes being much higher than they were the first time around.
Let's take a look back at that bout, the main event of Fight Night 18 in Nashville, TN.
Condit opens with some jabs and a high kick before clinching up and landing a blistering body punch to his opponent. Kampmann bullies the New Mexico native against the cage, wraps his arms around him before dropping Condit onto his back. From there, a tight guillotine attempt threatens to end the fight early but Condit remains calm and works his way out of it and back to his feet.
Once there, "The Natural Born Killer" almost immediately drops the Dane onto his back, giving "Hitman" a taste of his own medicine. Proving his grappling chops are just as impressive as his striking, Kampmann is able to slide out from under his opponent, ending up on top and landing ground and pound. "Hitman" then attempts a heel hook but Condit is able to turn out of the submission attempt and again winds up on his feet.
A huge punch from the top connects with Kampmann's face before the Dane begins to regain his vertical base. As he makes his way to his feet, he makes sure to avoid a knee from Condit by keeping one hand on the ground, rendering any knee thrown to the head illegal. But a split second after "Hitman's" hand is lifted from the canvas, a knee from Condit barrels its way to Kampmann's face and opens up a huge gash under one eye.
A combination from the New Mexico native tags Kampmann in the head and on the body. He continues putting together punches, knees and kicks in impressive fashion until the end of the round, not allowing Kampmann any room to fully recover from the devastating knee landed just seconds earlier.
Condit starts the second round as he finished the first, stringing together punches and kicks. Less than a minute in, however, Kampmann puts his opponent on the mat and begins to work him over with ground and pound. Condit remains in this defensive position until midway through the round when he is able to kick Kampmann off, create some distance and get back to his feet. On their feet, Condit lands a nice short elbow but it's answered with a huge hook that snaps the Greg Jackson fighter's head back.
"The Natural Born Killer" responds with a front kick that finds its mark and follows it up with a stiff punch before dumping the Dane onto the mat. Kampmann quickly gets back to his feet but a hard elbow cracks him in the face. Undaunted, "Hitman" presses forward and sinks in a deep guillotine choke attempt. For the second time in the fight, Condit is forced to fight through the submission and for the second time, he succeeds. They scramble on the mat; the New Mexico native on top at first with Kampmann reversing position to end the round.
Just like the previous round, Kampmann opens up the third and final stanza with a takedown. Hard ground and pound from "Hitman" begins to score points as Condit's head bounces off the mat. Two times Condit is momentarily able to get back to his feet but each time Kampmann immediately drags him back down to continue the beating he was already dishing out. "The Natural Born Killer" stays busy on the bottom, attempting submissions and trying to free himself, but the Dane keeps him horizontal nearly the entire time. A last second guillotine attempt from Condit serves as just about the only offense he saw in the last five minutes.
The first judge scores the bout for Kampmann, the second for Condit. When the third judge's decision is read, a 29-28 nod to Kampmann, the Dane raises both arms up, lets out an elated "yes" and drops to his knees in joy. The Greg Jackson product walks away, shaking his head in disappointment.
Condit wouldn't feel that way for long. Five straight wins inside the Octagon have given "The Natural Born Killer" the chance to unseat the most dominant welterweight champion of all time and by proxy, ensuring his place in the MMA history books.
Kampmann's emotional state was also short-lived as a brutal knockout to Paul Daley five months later erased all the goodwill "Hitman" had earned at 170 pounds. His career continued a roller coaster ride for the next couple of years. Consecutive wins over Jacob Volkmann and Paulo Thiago acted as the highs while back to back losses to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez served as the lows.
After the particularly disappointing loss to "The Dream," Kampmann put himself back in the win column by taking out Rick Story. It looks like, at least for right now, his career is experiencing a high. Kampmann will look to ensure it continues against Alves.