Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) interim champ, Carlos Condit, will scrap with fellow Muay Thai specialist, Thiago Alves, this Saturday (May 30, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 67 inside Goiania Arena in Goiania, Brazil.
After destroying his knee in his last bout with Tyron Woodley, Condit will finally return to the Octagon. "Natural Born Killer" needs to make a statement in this bout, as he's fallen on some hard times. He's lost three of his last four fights -- admittedly to some of the best in the world -- so victory here is important for Condit to re-establish himself as a top fighter.
Luckily, Condit has been given an excellent match up for him in Alves. Condit doesn't have to worry about takedowns from the Brazilian, so he should be able to let loose with his nonstop offense.
Let's take a closer look at his skill set.
Condit has been training under coach Mike Winkeljohn since the inception of his career, and his style very much shows it. The New Mexico-native is a highly aggressive Muay Thai-style striker with a deep arsenal of techniques, and he rarely stops throwing strikes.
While Condit is not the cleanest boxer in the world, he's an effective puncher. He makes good use of his straight punches, lining up the cross with his jab. In addition, Condit puts forth a pretty high volume of hooks. With both the straight and the hook, Condit covers a pretty good amount of distance, particularly when he leaps into the hook.
When at his best, Condit is stringing together countless punches and digging to the body. Often, the threat of the takedown or counter punches can prevent this, but if Condit's opponent begins to slow down, he'll swarm like no other.
"Natural Born Killer" may be an active puncher, but he's throwing kicks even more frequently. He really mixes it up, throwing round house kicks with or without a switch step to the head, body, and legs.
Condit uses his low kicks to interrupt his opponent's rhythm very well. This was obviously noticeable against Nick Diaz, though it was more effective against Dan Hardy. Against the Englishman, Condit used the oblique kick -- a Winkeljohn signature technique -- to prevent Hardy from settling into the fight, which eventually lead to the knockout.
Additionally, Condit uses front kicks and teeps very well. He can use these strikes to help circle his opponent into the fence or to keep his opponent away. If his opponent backs far away from the strike, Condit will follow up with a flying knee.
One of the most important parts of Condit's game is his ability to mix kicks into combinations. Condit's combinations can begin with kicks, end with them, or, most dangerously, feature a seamless kick in the middle of his punches.
If Condit starts his attack with a kick, follow up punches are very likely on their way. How he delivers these strikes depends on his opponent's movement. The most common reaction is to back away, and Condit will simply step forward with punches after the kick. Should his opponent move forward in pursuit of the counter, Condit will throw a return as his leg moves back into his original stance. While that strike alone may not be a huge power punch, any following strikes can pack heat.
Ending a combination with kicks is perhaps the most common technique mentioned, as it's rather effective. If Condit's punches fall short of his opponent, expect him to attack with some type of roundhouse kick immediately after. Against George St. Pierre, Condit also incorporated head movement into his combination before kicking by coming out of a roll with a high kick.
Finally, there are a lot of benefits to setting up the kick with punches, landing the strike, and then following up with the off-beat punches I covered in Thiago Alves' breakdown. Above all else, It's simply tough to block all of that offense. So long as Condit mixes up his targets throughout the combination -- and he does this well -- it's difficult to react and cover everything in time.
Besides his kicks and punches, Condit has proven to be very dangerous with his knee strikes. He's always looking for opportunities to throw knee strikes, as his build makes them especially dangerous. In addition to stepping knees -- which serve as excellent takedown deterrents -- Condit loves to latch onto a double-collar tie and slam knees into his opponent's skull.
Condit has long struggled with the wrestling aspect of mixed martial arts (MMA). He's not helpless, but it's been the biggest problem for him since the beginning of his career. Offensively, Condit almost never looks for takedowns, though he'll look for trips from the clinch when he does.
Despite his lack of interest in takedowns, Condit has been on top enough to prove his viciousness there. Usually, Condit only ends up on top after scoring a reversal or dropping his opponent. Regardless, Condit is relentless with his elbows and punches, endlessly pound away at his opponent from the top. In particular, Condit was very effective from the half guard against both Rory Macdonald and Jake Ellenberger.
Defensively, Condit often struggles with his opponent's physical strength. He's simply not the most explosive fighter, as his sprawl isn't very powerful. If his opponent gets in on his hips -- which is not a difficult task when Condit is reaching with punches -- then Condit is going for a ride.
However, Condit does have some tricks up his sleeve. For one, Condit likes to use the switch to reverse his opponents after being taken down against the fence. Even if he can't finish the maneuver, Condit can often use it to scramble back to his feet.
While it's technically a submission move, Condit uses the kimura to prevent takedowns quite well. If his opponent shoots for a single leg, Condit will quickly look to lace up his opponent's arm in a figure-four grip. Once Condit locks his hands, he'll pull half guard and look to roll his opponent over. He's used this technique on some excellent fighters, such as Johny Hendricks and Rory MacDonald.
A black belt in Gaidojutsu, Condit is very active with his submission attempts and strikes from his back. While he has yet to finish an opponent in the UFC via submission, he has used his grappling to reverse position and do damage plenty of times.
For the bottom fighter, creating space is key to standing up, landing sweeps, or locking up submissions. It's pretty common for fighters to use some form of open guard to create space, such as butterfly. Instead, Condit will keep his guard tight and ruthlessly attack with elbows and punches from his back.
Simply put, Condit's guard is a meat grinder.
Condit's guard is pretty difficult to pass, so for anyone except the division's absolute best grapplers, they're stuck there. Holding down a squirming foe that's firing off constant elbows is exhausting and can be demoralizing, so most opponents will back out of his guard a bit and consider his options.
During this moment, Condit will attempt a stand up and force his opponent to decide. Since dropping back down and eating more elbows is an unenviable choice, it's not uncommon for fighters to just allow Condit back up.
Alternatively, diving into Condit's guard will give him opportunities. This is the time Condit will climb up high with his guard and search for submissions, or use his opponent's momentum against him to scramble.
In a different example of Condit's guard work, Condit found himself on his back early against Dong Hyun Kim. He worked in a butterfly hook in and began to occupy one of Kim's arms with his own. Next, he elevated Kim and rolled backward, while pushing off the cage for additional leverage. The butterfly guard doesn't often make appearances in Condit's fights, but he's clearly skilled with it.
In addition to using it as a takedown defense, Condit likes to use the kimura when his opponent leaves a hand on the mat. He'll immediately hip bump up and reach over their shoulders, threading his arm through. If he can, he'll work for the sweep first, rather than trying to finish from his back.
Best Chance For Success
In this fight, Condit is faced with a fellow kickboxing specialist unlikely to look for takedowns. While both men have their advantages in this fight, Condit should look to swarm his opponent and overwhelm him across five rounds.
Alves struggled in his last bout with Jordan Mein's combinations. For the most part, he likes to shell up or attack with a couple counter strikes. Against a high volume output like Mein's -- or Rick Story's for a successful example -- Alves can fall behind.
Few can do high-volume offense like Condit. "Natural Born Killer" should constantly be on the offensive, mixing together his kicks and punches to the head, body, and legs. So long as Condit does not shy away when Alves looks to counter, he'll soon have his opponent on the defensive.
It will be difficult to defend against Condit's barrage for five straight rounds. Condit's conditioning and pace are pretty incredibly, and if he stays active and targets the body early, he should be able to secure a late finish.
Will Carlos Condit return to the Octagon on a high note, or can Thiago Alves regain his former contender status?