The pressure is going to be heavy tonight (Sat., Aug. 27, 2016) at UFC on FOX 21 live from Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, for former interim Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight champion Carlos Condit. Not only will "The Natural Born Killer" be entering the Octagon for the first time since losing a 170-pound title bid opposite Robbie Lawler at UFC 195, but he's making his return against surging Brazilian submission wizard Demian Maia.
With a five-fight win streak under his belt, the 38-year-old Maia is one impressive finish away from locking down a title shot sometime in 2017. Since entering the division back in 2012 after a successful run at 185 pounds, Maia has earned an impressive 8-2 divisional record, including finishes over Matt Brown, Rick Story, Dong Hyun Kim and Neil Magny. In more ways than one, Maia represents one of the toughest tests of Condit's lengthy mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
Entering UFC on FOX 21, Condit must demonstrate the passion that drives the very best fighters in the world to compete beyond their limits. The Greg Jackson protege has shown an innate ability in the past to unleash every ounce of fight in his body, but comments regarding retirement has fight fans wondering if Condit's head is in the right place. Condit is obviously still emotional from his UFC 195 loss to "Ruthless," especially considering the 32-year-old seemed to have done enough to capture the title, so it's likely that his mental outlook with snap back into fight-or-flight mode once he finds himself across the Octagon from a Brazilian legend.
Assuming Condit has reprogrammed his mind, he now has to deal with Maia's physical strengths. Unlike many of the Welterweights Condit has faced over the past few years, specifically Lawler, Nick Diaz, Thiago Alves, Johny Hendricks and Martin Kampmann, Maia looks to throw the least amount of strikes. As one of the very best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners on the planet, the MMA veteran is able to get away with a depleted striking arsenal. Instead of punching and kicking, Maia utilizes a fairly underrated wrestling game to gain control of his opponent, drag them to the canvas and squeeze them dry like a sponge on hot blacktop. This gameplan put forth by Maia is so potent that fighters are unable to prepare for it even though they know it's coming.
As an elite striker who has seen his share of wrestling-exchanges-gone-wrong, it's important for Condit to keep his distance, land his offense early and do everything in his power to remain on his feet. But with a meager 40 percent takedown defense rate, "The Natural Born Killer" may have limited time to finish Maia before the action spills to the canvas.
With a potential title shot at stake, Condit must overcome his past Octagon defeat to Lawler, keep his mind in the game, outsmart one of the more savvy competitors in the sport today and capture one of the most important victories of his storied career.
MMAmania.com is delivering LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 21 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the UFC Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 5:00 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.