They weren't nearly as flashy or dynamic as the guys they beat, but Stipe Miocic and Darren Elkins were proof-positive at UFC 146: "Dos Santos vs. Mir" Saturday night (May 26, 2012) in Las Vegas, Nevada, that conditioning is one hell of an equalizer. Both absorbed considerable early damage before turning the tide in the kind of showing that reinforces the importance of being strong at the end of the fight, not just the beginning.
For Miocic, it was a case of absorbing the thudding kicks and slick angles offered by Shane del Rosario. In a meeting of unbeaten heavyweights, Miocic simply didn't have the foot speed to corral the slippery del Rosario, whose punishing kicks, especially to the midsection, were very sharp.
But Miocic, a former college wrestler with two UFC wins under his belt, including a gritty debut decision over Joey Beltran, simply hung though, eventually switching gears and taking the tiring del Rosario down in the second. And then he went to work, pounding his man, who'd gone from being a vexing standup proposition to hopelessly marooned on the ground. After about a zillion and one hammer fists and assorted ne'er-do-wells from the relentless Miocic, del Rosario was finished.
Score one for conditioning.
On the undercard, Darren Elkins put in one of the guttier performances you'll see in decisioning The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 winner Diego Brandao in a fantastic featherweight battle. Elkins was every bit the stereotype of the tough, hard-nosed Midwestern wrestler, as he absorbed Brando's frightful shots and ground and pound in the first half of the brawl, only to keep coming as the explosive Brandao slowed, eventually getting taken down and worked over.
Unlike del Rosario, Brandao didn't wilt en route to a stoppage, instead taking considerable punishment while constantly forcing Elkins to work, but Darren's outstanding conditioning and pressure took the bout. It was an inspiring performance for Elkins, who seemed outmatched early, but banked on his ability to survive that early onslaught and essentially take over the second half of the bout. Brandao is a gifted fighter and the loss shouldn't be a black mark on his record. He simply needs to pace himself more.
Score one for the merits of conditioning, especially in a case where the more explosive fighter is sure to burn energy faster and earlier than the more textbook-based approach.
Jason Probst can be reached at email@example.com or twitter.com/jasonprobst.