Two former welterweight champions will meet in one of the most eagerly-awaited interim title fights ever tomorrow night (February 4, 2012) as former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz meets former WEC welterweight champion Carlos Condit in the main event of UFC 143 in Las Vegas.
Nick Diaz is an anti-hero, winning over fans by not even trying to win over fans simply because of his incredibly entertaining fighting style and due to the fact that he stands out from the crowd with his attitude. His big win streak outside the UFC was validated by his thrashing of former champion B.J. Penn last fall and now he's got a shot at interim UFC gold.
Carlos Condit has long been one of the most exciting welterweights on the planet. He's truly come into his own recently with consecutive first round knockouts over Dan Hardy and Dong Hyun Kim. "The Natural Born Killer" is a bonus machine and after having two title shots delayed, he's looking to take out his frustration on Nick Diaz tomorrow night.
Will Nick Diaz continue his incredible run to UFC superstardom with another emphatic victory? Can Carlos Condit prove the doubters wrong and spoil the dream fight between Diaz and Georges St. Pierre? How does each riveting 170 pounder win tomorrow night?
Let's find out:Nick Diaz
Record: 26-7 (1 No Contest) overall, 7-4 in the UFC
How he got here: Nick Diaz has been fighting tough challengers since he was 17 years old. He battled Chris Lytle to a unanimous decision victory in just his second professional bout. Diaz was the inaugural WEC welterweight champion and burst onto the scene in the UFC when he knocked out Robbie Lawler, a fighter the promotion had been grooming to be a potential future champion.
Diaz had a 6-4 run in the UFC, but could never quite get over the hump. He left the promotion in early 2007 and defeated Takanori Gomi via gogoplata in one of the most exciting bouts in MMA history although the result was overturned with a positive test for marijauna. Diaz would lose a match to K.J. Noons for the EliteXC lightweight title before heading to Strikeforce and winning the inaugural welterweight championship there.
Diaz is was the midst of a 10 fight winning streak that included victories against the likes of Paul Daley, Evangelista Santos, Hatato Sakurai as well as avenging his loss to Noons. When he made his UFC return last fall, he earned his much-deserved validation with a victory against B.J. Penn. Not only did he beat the former multi-divisional champion, he put a horrific beating on him.
He'll get a shot at interim UFC gold tomorrow night.
How he gets it done: Nick Diaz has got a crazy offensive attack in his striking that consists of pure volume strikes, mixing in so many blows that the opponent gets confused and doesn't see the heavy shots coming.
Diaz also likes to talk trash, leave his arms up, get his opponent flustered. It's all a giant mind game for him. If he can get Condit angry, perhaps draw him into a brawl, that's the type of fight he loves and that's the type of fight he can win. If Condit loses his composure in the fight, he could make a mistake that the Stockton slugger could capitalize on.
The Cesar Gracie trained fighter has a style reliant on constant pressure and using heavy offense as his best form of defense. He's one of the few fighters who can push an incredibly intense pace for up to five rounds and never get tired, especially at welterweight. He can win this fight if he keeps Carlos Condit on the defensive for up to five straight rounds and never relents.
Body shots will also be very important. Diaz throws strikes with precision whether they're jabs, crosses or big uppercuts and hooks to the body. Those blows suck the life out of opponents and if he can land enough of them on Condit, he can slow him down and then really open him up in the later rounds.
Record: 27-5 overall, 4-1 in the UFC
How he got here: Carlos Condit is 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 and come away with a razor thin split decision victory.
The Greg Jackson-trained fighter was at it again in his next fight, getting dominated by Rory MacDonald in the first two rounds before turning it on and overwhelming the fading "Waterboy," scoring an insane TKO victory with just seven seconds remaining in the contest.
Most recently, Condit would showcase his striking, knocking out out the brash former title challenger Dan Hardy in the first round as both men traded big lead hooks. After a fight with Chris Lytle fell through due to an injury, the former WEC champ ran through the previously undefeated Dong Hyun Kim with a ferocious flying knee and follow-up punches on the ground.
After multiple delays and opponent switches, he'll be battling Diaz for the interim UFC welterweight title.
How he gets it done: While both men are very competent with submissions and sweeps on the ground, I'm almost certain that this fight is held in the stand-up realm.
I feel that while Nick Diaz has better punching technique, Condit has more one-strike power. He put Dan Hardy's lights out with one punch at UFC 120 and he's got the explosive power to take out someone like Dong Hyun Kim with a flying knee last summer. The key for Condit is to actually have room to breathe and throw those types of strikes. He'll need to use his footwork to avoid letting Diaz corner him and unleash his patented barrage of high volume strikes.
Expect to see Condit keep his distance early, and throw a large volume of kicks. If there's any striking weakness for either of the Diaz brothers, it's been leg kicks. Donald Cerrone took out Nate Diaz's legs repeatedly with kicks and Evangelista Santos teed off on Nick Diaz last year in his title fight with heavy kicks. Condit needs to go to work on the Stockton native's legs early and often to slow him down.
If Diaz gets hobbled, Condit will smell blood like a shark and pounce. Nick Diaz does not have the best striking defense, making up for it with tremendous offense so if he gets slowed down and can't utilize good footwork, it could be "The Natural Born Killer's time to shine.
Fight X-Factor: There are two major X-Factors for this fight. The first is Nick Diaz's trash talk. Normally, a fighter's talk doesn't get into the heads of his opponent, but Nick Diaz practically forces his foes to brawl with him by talking smack, taunting, leaving his hands at his sides and completely frustrating his opponents. He's going to be doing everything he can in the Octagon to fluster Condit and take him off his game and get him to deviate from his plan of attack. If he can do it, he'll give himself a significant edge in the fight.
The other X-Factor for this bout is Nick Diaz's slow starts. It often takes him some time to warm up in a fight and he tends to get hit hard early. Don't forget that he actually lost the first round of his fight with Penn as well as his first round with Evangelista Santos last year before turning it on. If there's ever a moment of vulnerability for the Stockton scrapper, it's his slow first round and you better believe that Carlos Condit is preparing for that. If he can catch Diaz before he truly wakes up for the fight, he could ruin a ton of parlays with a stunning first round stoppage.
Bottom Line: This is usually the part in the preview where I try to convince you that a fight is going to be exciting when you think it might not be, but that's not the case here. Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit is a dream fight. When Strikeforce was purchased by Zuffa, this was the one fight I wanted to see most of all. Both Diaz and Condit have this extra "oomph" to their fighting style where they're not afraid to take risks to benefit from big rewards.
Quick, name me a Carlos Condit or Nick Diaz fight in the last 4 years that wasn't amazing. That's a trick question because neither guy knows what it's like to have a boring fight. Expect constant aggression from both men, big risks taken and huge rewards for the fans watching live and around the world. Something amazing is likely going to happen not just every round, but potentially every minute. I'd try to picture a way a fight could be boring to temper expectations, but that's impossible with two fighters like this finally meeting. I will eat my hat if this fight is boring. Expect greatness, expect one of the best fights of 2012, guaranteed.
Who will come out on top at UFC 143? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!