Johny Hendricks vs Carlos Condit is UFC 158's early 'Fight of The Night' pick

Casey Hartsfield

Two top flight welterweights are set to compete in the UFC 158 co-main event tonight (March 16, 2013) when Johny Hendricks collides with Carlos Condit in what promises to be a barnburner of a mixed martial arts (MMA) match up.

At UFC 158 later this evening (Sat., March 16, 2013) from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Georges St. Pierre is set to defend his Welterweight title against arch nemesis, Nick Diaz, in the main event, while Carlos Condit will take on top division contender Johny Hendricks in the second-to-last bout on the pay-per-view (PPV) card.

While the headliner is intriguing and exciting for numerous reason, the co-featured fight of the night is among the most interesting mixed martial arts (MMA) match ups to play second fiddle in recent history.

Hendricks -- a four-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler out of Oklahoma State University (OSU) -- has never been one to compete at the lower athletic levels in any sport in which he has participated. In fact, with an ultra-impressive collegiate wrestling career, "Bigg Rigg" has faced the highest level of athletic competition his entire adult life.

Tonight, he'll face his toughest MMA challenge to date when he locks horns with Condit, a former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and UFC interim welterweight champion. When compared to Hendricks' other top-shelf opponents, Condit hits harder, moves faster and lasts longer, making this a definite fight to watch.

Their fight styles clash, as Hendricks brings a fairly basic brute force-based wrestling and boxing aresenals, whereas the unorthodox Condit mixes fluid Muay Thai and kickboxing attacks with smooth ground work.

For Hendricks, the approach is simple: Push the pace and make Condit fight on his heels. However, that is no easy task with a fighter like "The Natural Born Killer," despite being unfairly branded a "runner" after his footwork-heavy performance in defeating Nick Diaz.

Indeed, Condit's movement is something to behold. And when he implements it properly, it puts opponents into compromising, frustrating positions.

In this fight, neither man can be safe anywhere. Although Condit is known to have a fairly reliable chin, Hendricks certainly has the power to put his beard to the ultimate test. And the same goes the other way around -- both these men boast very high finishing rates and each should be ready to give, and to take, a big shot ... or several.

Then comes the ground game, where another interesting clash of styles exists. Hendricks -- the larger, more powerful wrestler -- will be up against Condit's dangerous bottom game, where he always looks to exploit the mistakes of his opponents and make them pay with crafty submissions.

If and when Hendricks initiates ground exchanges, he'll need to be very careful. An arm or leg out of place and Condit could could bend it the wrong way. At the same time, Condit has to be wary of overcommitting to submissions because if he leaves his face open, he's not going to like the result.

The ground portion of this fight will be a chess match, but expect Condit to press the action enough from bottom to make it interesting and exciting.

This fight will come down to who can get their game established first. If Condit can find a home for his stinging punches and kicks, Hendricks may be in for a long (or short) night, but if Hendricks can establish his heavy-handed boxing early into the three-round bout, Condit may eat some shots even he can't take.

When we see Hendricks' brute-force power punching style collide with Condit's sneaky, multifaceted attack, a battle will undoubtedly erupt that triggers strike after hard strike. Of course, with this much firepower, there is always the possibility that one of these men will go down early, but even if that happens, expect him to go down swinging.

This fight is meaningful for both men. For Hendricks, it's the one final hurdle before a well-deserved title shot. Meanwhile, for Condit, it's a chance at redemption after losing his last fight to the division champion. With this added pressure, it's very likely that we see both men go all out from bell-to-bell.

And when that happens with two heavy-handed, iron-chinned strikers, it can lead to a sure-fire "Fight of the Night" at UFC 158.

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