Danish mixed martial arts (MMA) sensation, Martin Kampmann, is set to rematch former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) interim Welterweight kingpin, Carlos Condit, this Wednesday (Aug. 28, 2013) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.
After a fairly successful run at Middleweight, Kampmann decided to shed 15 pounds and try his hand as a Welterweight. Not long after, he was matched up with the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion, a man named Carlos Condit.
"The Hitman" and "Natural Born Killer" had a back-and-forth fight, ending in a controversial split decision for Kampmann. Afterward, the Dane took full advantage of this momentum by immediately losing to Paul Daley in a poor showing of fight intelligence.
This has become a bit of a pattern for Kampmann. He'll string together a few exciting wins then lose an important fighting foolishly. However, he often follows these losses by performing well in his next bout, either finishing or clearly beating his opponent.
It's this version of Kampmann that Condit is about to run into.
Let's take a closer look at one of the successful European fighters in the UFC:
Kampmann is a Ray Sefo-trained Muay Thai striker, finishing eight of his opponents with strikes. Despite his technical prowess, Kampmann has always had trouble with his defense, resulting in multiple knockout defeats.
"The Hitman" excels at picking apart his opponent from the outside. This is largely thanks to his sharp jab, which Kampmann uses quite well to keep his opponent at the edge of his range. Kampmann often feints with his jab first, then immediately follows up the feint with a real one.
Additionally, Kampmann has a very nice right cross. It's quick and accurate, and while he will throw it after his jab, he also throws it as a lead. Kampmann doesn't wind up at all when he throws the cross, and he doesn't need much space to land hard.
Kampmann is a capable aggressor, but he's even better when he's countering. When his opponent attacks with wide, looping hooks, Kampmann will send a tight, straight punch directly to their chin. He counters almost exclusively with his power hand, occasionally mixing a right hook in with his straight.
Further enhancing his rangy attack is Kampmann's kicking ability. He often ends his combinations with roundhouse kicks to the head or body, but it's his front kick that really deters his opponent's forward movement. The front kick counter he landed on Alves was very nasty and stopped "Pitbull" in his tracks.
Finally, Kampmann is a dangerous clinch striker. He immediately begins to work for at least a single collar tie as soon as he gets close to his opponent, then quickly starts attacking with knees. Kampmann rarely throws more than three or four knees before breaking away to land a quick combination of punches.
Kampmann's movement is normally quite good, but he has an awful habit of being forced into the cage by pure aggression. Fighters that try to maneuver the Dane into the fence are in for a hard time, but guys like Diego Sanchez and Rick Story had success simply by charging forward with power punches. Once his back is along the fence, Kampmann does not try to work his way out, he just brawls. It may be entertaining to watch, but it causes him to eat hard punches unnecessarily.
Additionally, Kampmann is a very slow starter. While this weakness affects more than just his striking, I've included it here because it's the reason for his most recent loss. In his last two fights, Kampmann has been caught standing still by two huge lunging power punches within the first minute of the fight. While Kampmann was tough enough to survive Ellenberger's onslaught, it's impossible to be tough while unconscious.
While Kampmann's wrestling ability was merely average in his early UFC career, he has evolved into quite the grappler. Almost all of Kampmann's takedowns originate in the clinch; even on the rare occasion he shoots a double he changes level from the clinch.
Kampmann is very talented with both trips and throws. For trips, he likes to pressure his opponent backwards before dropping his weight as he sneaks his leg behind their foot. In his fight with Rick Story, Kampmann capitalized on the talented wrestler's forward movement, side stepping and deftly kicking him onto the mat.
Additionally, Kampmann likes to get a body lock on his opponent and pressure their hips out from under them. This is the style of takedown he used repeatedly to drag Condit to the mat in their first encounter, as the Greg Jackson-trained fighter would give up underhooks in order to land punches. When he commits to these takedowns, Kampmann does a very good job of forcing his opponent to lean backwards, which decreases his strength significantly.
In addition to improving his offensive takedowns, Kampmann's defense has been bolstered exponentially. He's incredibly difficult to double leg, as his sprawl is quite quick. Additionally, he keeps a wide base long after his opponent's initial drive, making it more difficult to turn corners on him.
While Kampmann's double leg defense is nearly impenetrable, his clinch and single leg defense is less so. Jake Shields had a lot of success with single leg takedowns, and while he is an extremely crafty grappler, he landed the same techniques on Kampmann multiple times. Additionally, Alves and Condit were both able to trip up Kampmann from the clinch, although they were also taken down from that position by the Dane.
By far the best aspect of Kampmann's martial arts abilities is his submission grappling. Kampmann, a Robert Drysdale-trained brown belt, has won a majority of his UFC fights by submission.
Kampmann is one of the most active submission grapplers in the welterweight division. Almost all of his submission attacks are chokes, as he constantly cycles between most of the high percentage jiu-jitsu attacks such as the guillotine, d'arce, and arm triangle choke.
When on top, "The Hitman" is constantly trying to capitalize on his opponent's mistakes with their arm positioning. If they allow him to isolate a head and arm, he'll attack with either a d'arce or arm triangle, depending on his position. If their arms aren't protecting their faces, Kampmann will even attack with a north-south choke. Once Kampmann latches onto his opponent's neck, he relentlessly pursues the finish, sometimes to his own detriment.
Kampmann is constantly trying to make his opponent's lives difficult when they take him down. If his opponent continues to chase a double leg after Kampmann sprawls, Kampmann will snap their head down and start working for a d'arce choke. While he was unable to finish the American Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, Kampmann forced Shields into bad positions that finish most fighters with his d'arce attempts.
The best technique in Kampmann's arsenal is likely his guillotine; it's certainly his most used. Kampmann is always willing to give up top position to go for a guillotine, regardless of whether the arm is in or not. When Kampmann has the option, he prefers to roll his opponent into mount, which he did to both Thiago Alves and Jorge Rivera. If he can't roll them over, his technique is still very good, but the choke loses a bit of it's power. In his fight with Condit, Kampmann repeatedly threatened with guillotines, and some appeared to be near finishes.
Additionally, this is another way Kampmann threatens those who try to take him down.
One of the nastier guillotines Kampmann has hit in his career was his first round finish of Jacob Volkmann. Volkmann is an incredibly talented wrestler but was having little success bringing the fight to the mat. Frustrated, he unwisely came forward swinging awkward, looping punches, which Kampmann violently countered.
After he fell to the mat, Kampmann softened up "Dr. Feelgood" with hard punches. Volkmann, desperate to escape this barrage, got an underhook and worked to stand up. However, he left his neck out. Kampmann immediately attacked and swam his arm deep around Volkmann's neck, before locking it up with a rear naked choke grip. The speed with which Kampmann locked up this choke is quite impressive, as it was over before Volkmann had a chance to defend.
While Kampmann clearly has submission skills, he's not an offensive guard fighter. He will work for the guillotine from his back, but he doesn't attack with his legs for moves like arm bars or triangles. Instead, he works to either create space and stand up or attempt to sweep.
The best part about Kampmann's guard game is that he rarely, if ever, goes to a closed guard. Against high caliber opponents, it's very difficult to get anything going from the closed guard. There are exceptions, but more often than not fighters get pinned down from full guard and lose the round.
Kampmann avoids this by always keeping his feet in his opponent's hips and threatening to kick them off at any moment. Once he sees an opportunity, Kampmann will explode back to his feet. From half guard, he can both kick off his opponent or escape out the back door, two simple yet invaluable techniques. If he fails to kick his opponent off of him, he'll continue pushing them back while scooting towards the fence so he can cage walk.
In his fight versus Jake Shields, Kampmann showed off how good his defense is. Shields is an expert guard passer and was able to pass to mount multiple times, but each time Kampmann quickly elbow escaped back to at least half guard. From there, he was able to kick off the tenacious grappler and bring the fight back to the feet.
Best chance for success
Kampmann should be able to figure out his game plan based on what went well for him in their first fight, as both men strained the others' ability in each area of MMA throughout the fight. Condit was able to repeatedly land hard punches and kicks on the feet, whereas Kampmann had great success on the mat.
It doesn't take a master strategist to watch that fight and realize that Kampmann should work hard on dragging Condit to the mat. Additionally, Condit has had trouble with getting out-wrestled in his two most recent fights and has multiple losses by submission, Kampmann's best weapon. Frankly, it would be plain silly for Kampmann not to at least try take this fight to the mat.
How he should do this is relatively simple as well. Kampmann needs to work from the clinch and trip Condit to the mat. To get the clinch, Kampmann should aggressively push forward with tight punches then capitalize when Condit gets off balance from throwing power shots. If he does this, takedowns will come easily.
Once he gets him to the mat, the fight is far from over. Condit is a skilled grappler in his own right and an expert at beating up his opponent from within his guard. To avoid unnecessary damage, he needs to work on passing guard quickly. Again, he can capitalize on Condit's aggression by working for an under pass once Condit begins throwing up submission attempts.
If he can pass, Kampmann is in prime position both to do damage and finish. By constantly attacks with submissions from dominant positions, he can for Condit to slip up. This strategy presents an ideal way for Kampmann to finish while greatly reducing the chance of eating punches and getting finished.
Does Kampmann have what it takes to once again work his way back up the ladder, or will Condit have his revenge?