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UFC 143 Breakdown: The Main Event

It has been quite a roller coaster ride for UFC 143‘s main event participants. After being scheduled to take on champion Georges St. Pierre – on two separate occasions each — a plethora of unfortunate circumstances led to Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit squaring off for the UFC  interim welterweight title. On the heels of an underwhelming year on PPV, St. Pierre’s injury is a major blow for Zuffa. With the retirement of Brock Lesnar, “Rush” becomes the company’s undisputed PPV king, and losing him for one of the biggest shows of the year is going to put a significant dent in its buy-rate. And yet, the popular Canadian’s injury has oddly led to a far more compelling main event; one with legitimate potential to go down as one of the most memorable tussles in MMA history.

Interim Welterweight Title Fight: Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit

If nothing else, Condit’s preparation will be rendered easier by the fact that he, along with everyone else, knows what Diaz will be looking to do in this fight. The far more complicated problem of course, is actually finding a way to counter it.

As ever, Diaz will move forward, throw his trademark “peppering punches”, put together plenty of combinations, and go to the body repeatedly. This is the way the older of the Diaz brothers has always fought, and he has done remarkably well to improve upon it in recent times. While his approach and strategy remain the same, his technique has gotten significantly better. That is not to say that Diaz will ever be mistaken for a technical striker, but he has displayed glaring improvement in his boxing — namely his ability to sit on his punches and produce extra power.

Many of Diaz’s opponents have found themselves helpless against the sheer volume with which he throws, and the Stockton native will look to overwhelm Condit the same way he did to many of his previous adversaries. He will try to take advantage of his reach by establishing his jab, get his lead right hook working, and follow it up with the left — most likely to the body. In fact, Diaz’s single most dangerous punch is his left hook to the liver, and if he is to have a real chance of stopping the otherwise extremely durable Condit, the left hook to the body is the shot he will bank on.

However, for all of Diaz’s offensive improvements, his defense has remained typically shaky. His flat-footed stance means he is always a still target, which, coupled with his lack of head movement, makes him extremely susceptible to getting lit up by a talented counter-puncher. Additionally, while Diaz does well to utilize his reach effectively, he is often all too content to stand inside the pocket and trade. This almost cost him dearly against Paul Daley, and had it not been for his otherworldly chin and recovery, Diaz  would have likely been separated from consciousness.

Nevertheless, Diaz remains MMA’s embodiment of the old adage: “the best defense is a good offense.” Despite the aforementioned defensive flaws, his offense is often too overwhelming for that to matter. Because of his iron chin and unlimited gas tank, Diaz can afford to keep moving forward, throw with abnormal volume, while simultaneously absorbing shots that would have been enough to stop most humans. Bizarrely, those defensive holes can at times work in Diaz’s favor, as upon seeing how open he is, opponents are often all too tempted to engage in ill-advised fire fights with him, and pay a dear price in the process. Diaz simply has a way of forcing opponents to fight his fight.

Condit needs to avoid falling victim to that trap. “The Natural Born Killer” needs to use a lot of footwork, circle away, and crucially, stay away from being trapped with his back to the fence, where Diaz could unload on him with trademark combinations. Concurrently, Condit would be wise to throw kicks liberally. He will likely look to fight “long” by utilizing plenty of body kicks (namely push kicks) from the outside to keep his opponent at bay. Most importantly however, leg kicks should be the backbone of Condit’s offense, as Diaz’s stance and unwillingness — or inability — to check them make him particularly vulnerable to getting his legs chomped on, as witnessed in his bout with Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos.

Condit will have the luxury of being the more diverse striker, as in addition to his kicks and improved boxing, he possesses some lethal knees. If he is to put Diaz away, the latter is going to be the most likely method. As such, the clinch battle could prove vital, as Diaz is sneakily good at landing short punches from close-quarters, while Condit’s knees are not something the Cesar Gracie protege wants any part of.

Against Dan Hardy, Condit displayed a brand of crisp boxing on the inside that he seemed to lack prior to that. He was able to stand inside the pocket, beat “The Outlaw” to the punch, and land clean, powerful counters, the last of which being a left hook that turned the Brit’s lights out. Should he be able to replicate that sort of counter-punching against Diaz, the bout could be his for the taking. However, doing so while absorbing minimal damage will be substantial, as Condit will inevitably slow down if he is to take too many of Diaz’s shots to the body.

Diaz’s historically iffy takedown defense could result in Condit taking the fight to the ground at some point. Diaz is guilty of being too comfortable off of his back, as he isn’t urgent enough in his attempts to get back to his feet and instead relies on throwing submissions from the bottom. However, Diaz does make up for it with excellent scrambling. Condit’s top game is often too aggressive, and Diaz could well use that to his advantage if he finds himself on the bottom. As such, the Team Jackson product needs to be more methodical in his attempts to pass the guard — something he is unlikely to have too much success with against a grappler of Diaz’s caliber to begin with — and perhaps be a bit more content to stay tight, and land short elbows from inside the guard.

Diaz holds an edge in cardio over most fighters in the division, but Condit’s stamina has never been an issue, and he has repeatedly proven that he is more than able to go the distance, and at times get stronger as the fight progresses. That however, could change if his opponent is able to put it on him early, as Diaz’s style has a tendency to take a toll on his foes.

If Diaz is to win this fight, he needs to pile up the pressure, tag Condit continuously, avoid the incoming counters, and wear him out. On the other hand, Condit needs to take Diaz’s legs away early and take over the fight from there. Which is more likely to happen is anybody’s guess, but it is just difficult to pick against Nick Diaz at the moment, least of all in a five-round fight.

Official Prediction: Nick Diaz to defeat Carlos Condit by Decision