The anticipation from hardcore MMA fans could not have been higher for the UFC 143 main event last night (February 4, 2012) between Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz with the interim UFC welterweight title on the line. Even more people were already getting hyped up for a super-fight between Nick Diaz and Georges St. Pierre.
But someone forgot to tell Carlos Condit that he was supposed to lose.
With both men's incredibly aggressive fighting styles, this fight was hyped up as one of the best of the year, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, the result wasn't nearly what many expected.
So how did "The Natural Born Killer" frustrate Diaz and score a unanimous decision and claim UFC gold? More importantly, where do both elite welterweights go next?
Follow me after the jump for our Carlos Condit vs. Nick Diaz UFC 143 post-fight review and analysis:
There was a large outpouring of anger from many who thought Diaz won, but I'll explain why Condit was the rightful victor. Just follow along.
Diaz has a reputation for being a slow starter and Condit took advantage, peppering the Stockton slugger's legs with repeated kicks while circling away from danger. While Diaz didn't throw many strikes in the first round, he kept a constant pressure on "The Natural Born Killer" by repeatedly channeling him towards the fence with terrific footwork. Condit, though, was not going to let himself be bullied, instead, quickly exploding away from being cornered and resetting again in the center of the cage.
This was a cycle which would repeat itself time and time again throughout the fight. Diaz thrives on cornering opponents along the fence and then unleashing huge flurries of strikes to overwhelm his opponents, but Condit was having none of it. On top of escaping danger, he would make sure to sneak in a big punch to the body or a leg kick in on the exit to make sure he was staying active while retreating.
Condit stuck to the gameplan in round two, although he began to mix in push kicks, front kicks, flying knees and spinning back fists/elbows. Diaz was not happy about this and began to taunt him, dropping his hands to his sides, even slapping the Greg Jackson-trained fighter in the face, but he couldn't get the Arizona native to deviate.
At one point, Diaz finally cornered Condit along the fence, throwing combinations of strikes to the body, but instead of panicking, the former WEC welterweight champion grabbed Diaz behind the head, threw a knee and again circled away from danger.
Rounds three and four were more of the same, except the big difference was Condit became much more fluid and comfortable near the end of the third. From that point on, not only was Condit clearly getting the better of the striking exchanges, he was starting to make infuriate the former Strikeforce standout. Diaz even began shooting in for takedowns, but wrestling is not his forte and he couldn't secure anything significant.
In the final round, Condit was once again well on his way to clearly outstriking Diaz, but he made a mistake and allowed his back to be taken with a minute left in the fight. Diaz tried to secure a choke and then an armbar, but Condit defended well, forcing a scramble at the final horn.
In the end, the judges awarded Carlos Condit a unanimous decision with scores of 48-47, 49-46 and 49-46. Here's why I think they made the correct call.
Nick Diaz was never able to find a rhythm - Diaz is at his best when unloading a huge volume of punches at his opponent along the fence. He can sneak in the power strikes to both the head and body because he's overloading his opponent's ability to defend and it's a terrific strategy but Carlos Condit never let him do it. Every time Diaz finally trapped Condit along the fence, "The Natural Born Killer" would escape and reset in the center.
Condit did not pull a Kalib Starnes - Yes, Carlos Condit was on his bicycle for much of the fight, circling away so much he gave the referee a huge workout but he was not running. While backing away, Condit would randomly explode forward with flying knees, punches, elbows and spinning back attacks as well as constantly throwing kicks both to the legs and body. Also, whenever he exploded away from danger when cornered along the fence, he almost always threw a huge punch to the body or a kick before doing so.
Forward movement doesn't mean you win - We've seen this with elusive fighters like Lyoto Machida and he's praised for it, but just because Carlos Condit wasn't moving forwards, doesn't mean he didn't win those rounds. Sure Nick Diaz was constantly moving forward, but he was not outstriking Condit. Check out the Fightmetric report if you don't believe me. The only round Diaz landed more than Condit was the second, and even that was only by three more significant strikes.
Condit never lost his composure - Despite Diaz's best efforts to talk trash, drop his hands, toy with him after the horn and even slap him in the face, Carlos Condit never deviated from his gameplan. He was instructed with a specific method for defeating Diaz and he kept at it despite the Stockton scrapper's best efforts to distract him and force him into a brawl, which is a fight Diaz would have had a much better shot at winning.
Nick Diaz never had a sense of urgency - In the final round, Nick Diaz received some horrible advice from his corner, telling him that they thought he was up 3-1. I don't care how biased you are with him being your brother, you can't do that to a fighter and make him believe he's ahead that badly when the fight is that close. (I actually scored the first four rounds for Condit, although the second round could have gone either way). By giving Nick a false sense of security, he wasn't nearly as aggressive in spending his energy as he could have been. He had plenty left in the tank when it was over. If he had been more active in pursuing Condit, it would have exaggerated his opponent's backward movement to a degree where the judges may have actually given him a few more rounds.
My final thought for those that are disappointed with the result is this. Stop being angry at Carlos Condit for not fighting the exact same way that the last 11 people have when they lost to Nick Diaz. If he had fought his normal style of crazy-aggressive forward action, Nick Diaz would have beat him. Plain and simple, he forced Nick Diaz to fight his fight instead, which was something that no one has done to Diaz in four years. He deserves some credit for that, not vilification.
Okay, back to the fallout of the fights:
For Nick Diaz, he truly only has himself to blame. He did not make adjustments to Condit's gameplan. He didn't pick up the pace despite clearly having plenty left in the tank at the end of the fight and he only checked about 10 percent of the leg kicks thrown his way, if that. Moving forward constantly doesn't automatically give you a win. Sure it looks better, but you have to land strikes too, and he didn't land nearly as many strikes as Condit did.
Diaz said he was quitting MMA in his post-fight speech. We don't know if that's all bluster or raw emotion from disappointment right now. Hopefully he's not actually going to step away because he's still one of the best in the world. There are still several great fights for Nick Diaz which practically promise excitement. One possibility is the upcoming loser of Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Ellenberger. The other is the winner of Martin Kampmann vs. Thiago Alves and the last one could be a rematch with Carlos Condit depending on whether or not the fans demand it.
For Carlos Condit, that was the picture perfect use of a gameplan to defeat a very tricky fighter. He never allowed Diaz to get into any sort of rhythm, he took advantage of a defensive liability and battered Diaz with leg kicks and eventually got comfortable enough to start mixing in combinations of his own. He earned this victory and no one should take it away from him simply because they wanted a Nick Diaz vs. Georges St. Pierre fight more or they wanted the fight to be more action-packed.
Next up for Condit will most likely be Georges St. Pierre depending on whether or not the champ is recovering as quickly as we've heard. Another possibility could be the winner of Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Ellenberger for one defense of the interim title or, while it's a long shot, a rematch with Nick Diaz. It all depends on how Georges St. Pierre's recovery is going. Either way, there's plenty of opportunity for interesting fights in a suddenly very wide open division.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Despite my best efforts to persuade you otherwise, do you still think Nick Diaz won last night? Will Diaz stay retired? How will Carlos Condit fare against Georges St. Pierre if he indeed faces the reigning champion next?
For complete UFC 143 results, including blow-by-blow, fight-by-fight coverage of the entire event as well as immediate post-fight reaction click here, here and here.