It's hard to imagine a pairing that would promise a greater combination of intensity, two-way violence and sustained action than Nick Diaz vs. Condit, which will headline the UFC 143 main event tonight (Feb. 4, 2012) at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Dueling for the interim championship thanks to Georges St. Pierre's knee injury, these two are far more alike than either would willingly admit. Both rely on striking, conditioning and excellent Brazilian jiu-jitsu to bail them out when modest to mediocre wrestling fails them. Both also have outstanding chins and a tendency to battle back when hurt, precisely when it looks like they're vulnerable.
Diaz's smothering stand up attack has vexed even the most dangerous foes, seemingly able to find a groove in tossing leather and daring you to try and exchange. It's one of the best-executed con jobs you'll see in mixed martial arts (MMA), as opponents initially think little of Diaz's pushing, pawing attack until they're too punch drunk to resist being mugged. The Cesar Gracie-trained fighter's outstanding submission game has also made recent opponents reluctant to attempt takedown, making his stand up that more effective.
Since dropping a close decision loss to Martin Kampmann in his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut, Condit has steamrolled into this bout with four impressive wins. Gifted with a great knack for when to explode and shoeleather toughness, Condit utilizes his 6'2" frame to uncork anything and everything to punish foes.
Whether it's pretty kickboxing combinations or textbook jiu-jitsu, he's very efficient in how he approaches opponents, backed up by a pitiless killer instinct when they're hurt. The finishing round and barrage he put on Rory MacDonald in a fight he was clearly behind in was a thing of sustained beauty, and his dismantlings of Dan Hardy and Dong Hyun Kim showed he's really coming into his own.
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 143 fight between Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit:
Condit may be tempted to stand and bang with Diaz, which would be his first mistake, even if he feels he's holding his own or better. Why? Because without threatening a takedown - something he's got a slight advantage in in terms of their relative abilities to score and defend against them -- he's conceding a stand up match to Diaz, who sets a fast pace when he isn't worried about having to drop his hands and deal with tie-ups and grappling.
"The Natural Born Killer" should look to exploit the main hole in the Diaz stand up style, and that's attacking his lead leg with teep kicks and smashing shots to the lower limb to take away his striking base. He should also look to deliver flying knees in close, when Diaz wades forward tossing shots, as well as spin Diaz in clinches to hammer home more knees.
Diaz puts combinations together and forces opponents to buy in to his game, invariably sucking them dry until they wilt. What's fascinating about this match is that both have incredible chins and yet are constantly looking to finish opponents. In Condit's 27 victories, an astonishing 26 are inside the distance, with only the super-tough Jake Ellenberger going the distance, in a bout that really could have gone either way. Diaz has only been finished once, early in his career, and has shown perhaps the best pure chin in the sport, absorbing bombs from middleweights like Scott Smith while barely flinching.
On the ground, Condit's jiu-jitsu doesn't get the raves that Diaz' does, but it's every bit as good in a purely MMA sense. He has great defensive grappling, a very tough guard to pass, and physically he might be just a tad stronger than Diaz, especially if he's on top. Condit should look to force tie-ups and grappling whenever possible, especially if hitting a takedown late in a round can help sway the judges his way in what is sure to be a close, five-round war.
If Diaz has one weakness standing, it might be in the Muay Thai discipline. While his striking from distance and mid-level pocket range is laser-sharp and accurate, he tends to be a bit lazy in clinches and can be nailed by a good Muay Thai stylist, which Condit is. Carlos' knees and kicks from the distance will have to be outstanding, because Diaz's hands and standing work rate are too much for just about anyone that faces him.
Much of this fight will be decided by how Condit wants to engage. Part of the Diaz con job is opponents thinking they can stand with him as though to prove a point, and a couple minutes later you're getting your bell rung every few seconds and look like a man fighting underwater.
If Condit uses big kicks, movement and tie-ups to keep Diaz from getting into his potent standup groove, he should follow them with takedowns and riding Diaz from the top while scoring enough to avoid a ref restart. This is a pretty good prescription to win a fight given his skills, as Diaz will have a tough time submitting him.
However, there's something in Condit's makeup that makes him a pitbull-style fighter, and he's never shied away from a mutual chin-check, something Diaz will be forcing whenever they are on the feet. I think Condit gets sucked into a war here, and like Donald Cerrone learned against Nate Diaz, loses too much, too early to really recover his bearings and change the tempo of the fight.
Diaz will score readily on the feet and eat some big shots from Condit, and keep pressing ahead. By the middle of the fight, the weary Condit will look to take it to the ground, but Diaz will stymie him from his back enough to get restarts when needed, or work his way back up. Both will be bloodied and battered down the stretch, but Diaz will simply prove too much with his high-output style, punishing Condit to win a spectacularly entertaining and clear-cut unanimous decision.
Diaz via unanimous decision
Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC 143 results of all the "Diaz vs. Condit" pay-per-view (PPV) action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the Facebook video stream, FX "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the PPV broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 7:00 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Saturday morning.
See you later!
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst or Jason@jasonprobst.com