Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Carlos Condit and Tyron Woodley will face off in the co-main event of UFC 171 this Saturday night (March 15, 2014), airing live on pay-per-view (PPV) from American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas.
The two dangerous knockout artists will be fighting for extremely high stakes, as Condit was told he will get another title shot if he gets past Woodley. "Chosen One" may have an outside chance at the same, depending on the fashion in which he defeats Condit.
Coming in off of stoppage wins, both fighters bring momentum into the bout. Condit was last seen avenging a previous loss when he dismantled Martin Kampmann with a fourth round technical knockout at UFC Fight Night 27.
Woodley got the biggest win of his mixed martial arts (MMA) career when he knocked out former title challenger Josh Koscheck at UFC 167. The dangerous former NCAA All-American Division I wrestler campaigned long and hard for this bout late last year, and he finally got it.
Now, he's in for the fight of his life.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Condit vs. Woodley:
Record: 29-7 overall, 6-3 UFC
Key Wins: Nick Diaz (UFC 144), Rory MacDonald (UFC 115), Jake Ellenberger (UFC Fight Night 19), Dong-Hyun Kim (UFC 132), Martin Kampmann (UFC Fight Night 27)
Key Losses: Georges St. Pierre (UFC 154), Johny Hendricks (UFC 158), Martin Kampmann (UFC Fight Night 18)
Keys to Victory: Former interim UFC champ Condit is an extremely technical striker who's fought a long list of the world's best welterweights. He's also maintained an astronomically high finishing rate along the way. With 14 knockouts, 13 submissions, and only two decision wins, "Natural Born Killer" has earned every bit of his moniker.
However, powerful wrestlers have been the only fighters who have given him trouble in the past.
Hendricks scored an alarming 12 takedowns on Condit at UFC 158. Although "Natural Born Killer" was able to successfully get up from most of them, he needs to be able to keep this fight on the feet.
Woodley fits the mold of an elite power-striking wrestler perfectly, so Condit obviously needs to show up to Dallas with his takedown defense at an all-time high. If and when Woodley secures a takedown, Condit has to be careful. He's tapped out three times, and "Chosen One" actual has more submissions than knockouts.
Condit should maintain a speed and technique advantage standing. He'll look to keep Woodley at range with his jab, all the while sapping his power with a steady volume of leg kicks. His three-inch reach advantage should pay big dividends here.
But, don't think Condit won't go for a knockout if he finds an opportunity.
Woodley has been viciously knocked out before. He may think Condit is a "point fighter," but you don't score that many finishes playing it safe.
No.-2 ranked Condit knows a title shot looms for him. He'll bring the skills and gameplan to secure it.
Record: 12-2 overall, 2-1 UFC
Key Wins: Josh Koscheck (UFC 167), Tarec Saffiedine (Strikeforce Challengers: Woodley vs. Saffiedine), Paul Daley (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson)
Key Losses: Jake Shields (UFC 161), Nate Marquardt (Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy)
Keys to Victory: Woodley has translated from wrestling to MMA rather seamlessly, plying his wares in Strikeforce before coming to the Octagon.
The American Top Team-trained product brings a dangerous mix of wrestling and thunderous striking to the table, making him a handful for any welterweight. Against Condit, it's no secret that Woodley is going to be looking for several takedowns.
Given his strength and technique in that area, he'll most likely secure a few of them.
It's what he does after he gets the fight to the mat that counts. Against Hendricks, Condit was able to either pop back up to his feet or blast "Bigg Rigg" with a torrent of shots from the guard. Getting caught up in that won't be Woodley's best way to win this fight.
"Chosen One" is looking to make a huge statement at UFC 171; the statement that he is already at the top of what may just be the most stacked division in all of MMA. To do so, he'll most likely have to knock out the notoriously iron-chinned "Natural Born Killer."
If he did, he'd become the first man to do so, and would probably deserve his title shot.
That's not an outcome he can realistically count on, however, so Woodley needs to show up ready to win a war in the trenches. Years spent grinding away in wrestling rooms will undoubtedly assist him in this cause, but his relative lack of experience striking may begin to haunt him as the bout wears on.
Condit is one of the best out there, and he wants nothing more than to have the gold wrapped around his waist. Woodley needs to fight the best fight of his life in order to steal Condit's momentum.
Bottom Line from Dallas: The bottom line for this fight is fairly simple: a new title challenger will emerge.
The UFC welterweight arena was blown wide-open when longtime champion Georges St. Pierre decided to vacate the belt in late 2013, clearing up pathways for many of the top-level contenders to prove their worth.
UFC 171 is the first major battleground for the best fighters to accomplish that goal, so expect the co-main event to have a ton of fireworks.
Woodley may not be highly ranked, but he has the confidence and strength to knock out anyone on any given night. Condit has the big experience advantage, and that will become a pivotal factor if he can survive Woodley's initial burst.
All told, Woodley has never faced a striker as technical and dangerous as Condit. Tarec Saffiedine is definitely very skilled, but he just isn't on the same level. Woodley may have trouble dealing with Condit's range and diverse stand-up game, and he could also eat some big knees while shooting for a takedown.
However, if he drags it to the canvas and is able to avoid Condit's offensive guard, a huge upset could be in the making.
Fights like this are what make this sport exciting. Enjoy the blockbuster bout.
Carlos Condit will face Tyron Woodley for a chance at gold. Can "Chosen One" shock the world in what promises to be a heavy-hitting affair?