Recent Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight title challenger, Carlos Condit, looks to bounce back into the title picture opposite Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, Demian Maia, this Saturday (Aug. 27, 2016) night in the main event of UFC on FOX 21, which takes place inside Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Nine months ago, Condit came within inches of winning the title. In one of the closest and most controversial title fights in recent times, Condit went to war with Robbie Lawler for five hard rounds. Unfortunately for the New Mexico-native, the judges awarded his opponent the decision victory.
Condit tried to argue for a rematch, but it didn’t happen.
Now, Condit has to make another climb toward the top. Luckily, he’s already been paired off with one of the division’s strongest contenders, the surging Demian Maia.
Let's take a closer look at Condit’s skill set:
Condit is a high-volume kickboxer with loads of different techniques in his arsenal. He fluidly blends elbows, knees, kicks and punches into his combinations, often springing forward into a blitz of limbs that can be very difficult to avoid.
Condit is one of those few fighters who simply never stops working. At all times, he’s throwing out something, from feeler kicks to full-fledged lunging combinations. He can sometimes get himself off-balance in his attempts to find an opening, but few fighters are more ruthless once they have found a weakness to exploit.
For example, Condit's most recent victory over Thiago Alves gives some solid insight into this aspect of Condit's striking. Early on, Alves' tighter combinations were landing more cleanly, and he countered a fair amount of his opponent's attempts to come forward. However, once Condit began mixing elbows into his charges -- which directly interfered with Alves' attempts to stand his ground and counter -- Condit soon landed the fight-changing blow and then overwhelmed his opponent (GIF).
On the whole, Condit is an effective puncher. He's not the smoothest boxer with impeccable hand speed, but Condit makes good use of long, straight punches and can put solid power behind his punches.. In particular, he really loves to pair up his cross and left uppercut, which set up his kicks well. Additionally, Condit looks for his left hook often (GIF), commonly using the punch to counter his opponent and shut down their offense.
Condit's boxing is at its best when he's swarming his opponent with lengthy combinations, digging to the body often (GIF). Normally, the threat of the takedown prevents him from really unloading, but Condit attacks like few others if his opponent starts to fade or simply cannot threaten him with counters or takedowns.
While Condit will work from the pocket -- usually when his opponent is trapped along the fence -- much of his best work is from the outside, where Condit best blends his punches and kicks into seamless combinations. Condit tends to reach with his punches and use shift-stance punches often from this range, but that's because it allows him to cover distance and force his opponent backwards into kicks.
One of the best examples of this came in Condit's title bout with Georges St. Pierre. Switching stance with each movement, Condit came in hard on St. Pierre with a left hook and right cross, rolling afterward. With Condit suddenly very close, "GSP" skipped back out of range. However, Condit came out of that roll with a tricky high kick, catching the longtime champion unaware and hurting him badly (GIF).
On the outside, Condit will pot shot with kicks as well. Opposite Lawler, this was a major part of his game plan, as it prevented his foe from really settling into his range and moving his head.
At distance, Condit throws a solid mix of kicks, utilizing round house kicks from both sides, front kicks straight up the middle (GIF), and the oblique kick. At times, Condit will simply peck and poke at his opponent with these kicks, scoring some points while forcing his opponent on the defensive.
Finishing combinations with kicks is reasonably common and undoubtedly effective, but Condit will also follow up his kicks with punches. These strikes are commonly called off-beat punches, as they often catch their opponent unaware.
The most common reaction to a kick is simply to back away, and that's when Condit can step forward with his kicking leg, which covers distance and allows him to punch from a new stance. Alternatively, if his opponent comes in looking to counter, Condit can return the kicking leg back to its original position and fire off strikes as his opponent is coming in (GIF).
Finally, Condit mixes knees into his attack well. If his opponent is backed into the fence, Condit will commonly look for a flying knee, which can either be a takedown deterrent or give away the takedown depending on his distance. Plus, if Condit finds himself too close following a combination of punches, he'll also reach out for the double-collar tie and look for knees from there.
As a lanky fighter who throws a ton of kicks, Condit simply has never been all that difficult to drag down to the mat. His takedown defense isn’t terrible, but good wrestlers have consistently been able to drag him to the mat, and he rarely looks for a shot of his own.
Condit may not look for actual takedowns often, but he lands reversals and knockdowns commonly enough that we know his top game is absurdly violent. From top position, Condit fires off a relentless stream of elbows and punches, rapidly chipping away at his opponent. It's been a little while, but Condit really abused both Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger from half-guard, showing off his ground striking.
If he manages to get on top of Maia at all, expect him to do some serious damage.
As a lanky fighter — therefore not the most physically powerful — without a wrestling background, Condit has a problem if his opponent manages to get in on his hips. While some top strikers, such as Stephen Thompson, use their expertise to maintain distance and provide few takedown opportunities, that’s never really been Condit’s style. Instead, Condit’s upright flurries and jump knees often leave him vulnerable to the shot, allowing his foe in on his hips.
Against a strong wrestler, it’s easy to see how that can cause problems.
On the bright side, Condit is very skilled at scrambling back to his feet, which is perhaps more important than being able to defend the initial shot. For example, he makes solid use of the switch, reversing his opponent's takedown attempt to gain top position or simply scramble up to his feet (GIF).
Condit uses other methods to stand as well, such as wall-walking, but it’s really his insistence on fighting his way back up that makes him a difficult foe to blanket. Condit never stops working, and therefore his opponent must keep up. It’s exhausting to be forced to take and hold down an opponent over and over, and Condit does an excellent job of smashing his foe once he’s tired.
Condit is a black belt in Gaidojutsu and about half of his many finishes come via submission. While Condit hasn't actually submitted any of his opponents since 2008, he's made great use of his jiu-jitsu to threaten and sweep his opponents. Plus, his defense and escapes will be especially important in this bout.
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 the butterfly guard. Instead, Condit normally keeps his guard locked tight and tries to climb it high, where he can control his opponent and feed him a steady diet of elbows and punches.
For the aforementioned wrestler just trying to maintain top position and hold on, that’s a miserable position.
Since Condit's guard is difficult to pass, anyone except for the division's absolute best grapplers are stuck inside it. Holding down a squirming foe that's firing off constant elbows is exhausting and 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 and try to take him down (to the same situation) later on.
Alternatively, diving into Condit's guard will give him opportunities. That is Condit's moment to climb his guard up high 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, one of the division’s best at smothering opponents. 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 (GIF).The butterfly guard doesn't often make appearances in Condit's fights, but he's clearly skilled with it.
Perhaps the most common submission in Condit's arsenal is the kimura. On the mat, he'll look for his opponent to place a hand on the mat. Then, he'll immediately hip bump up and reach over the shoulder, threading his arm through. If he can, he'll work for the sweep first, rather than trying to finish from his back.
Condit also uses the kimura to defend single leg takedowns fairly often. After locking up his opponent's arm in the figure-four grip, Condit will sit to his guard and look to yank his opponent over. It works more often than not, and that's because Condit uses it as a reversal rather than a submission hold (GIF).
This is simultaneously the worst possible and best style match up for Condit in the division. On one hand, Condit has always had difficulty with fighters who look to take him down, and his meat grinder style of bottom game isn’t very effect against a fighter like Maia who can pass his guard. However, Condit is also a nightmare for fighters who get tired. Maia is a 38-year-old who’s gassed before in five round fights, making this an intriguing match up that either man could simply dominate.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.