The UFC returns to its familiar five-bout Pay-Per-View format Saturday as UFC 143: Diaz vs. Condit hits the air waves from the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. After the prelim fighters finish their business on Facebook and FX, the PPV portion of the broadcast will open with a bout between middleweight TUF alum “Short Fuse” Ed Herman (17-8) and undefeated prospect Clifford Starks (5-0). Next up, a bantamweight affair hits the cage as WEC mainstay “Young Guns” Scott Jorgensen (12-3) squares off with Renan Barao (27-1). For the anchor and co-main, “Kos” Josh Koscheck (16-5) will face Mike Pierce (10-3) and heavyweights Fabricio Werdum (14-5-1) and “Big Country” Roy Nelson (16-6) will throw their weight around the Octagon. Even with such a strong supporting card, all eyes will still be on the main event fight for the Interim UFC Welterweight Championship. In one corner, controversial former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz (26-8), in the other, former WEC champion “Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (27-5).
At First Glance: Both of these men were promised title shots against welterweight king “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (22-2). Both men were denied their shot, Diaz due to his own failure to respect the UFC’s wishes regarding pre-fight behavior and Condit due to an injury to the champ himself. Instead, the welterweights will fight for the interim title, a belt that serves as a place holder for the number one contender in the absence of the true champion. Fate has delivered the promised title shot denied each man and has given the fans an opportunity to see two of the most effective strikers in the division go toe to toe for UFC gold.
In Depth: Like many anticipated MMA bouts, this fight is a classic match-up. The difference though is it is a classic boxing match-up: the technician versus the brawler. Diaz has a solid jab and uses his reach well not only to control distance but to deal damage. The rest of his stand-up, however, is rudimentary at best, relying on heavy-handed, wide hooks and leaning, over-extended crosses. These function well for him for two reasons, his jab keeps his opponent distracted and MMA strikers rarely posses the needed striking abilities to deal with his reach and hand speed. Unfortunately for Diaz, Condit is an exceptionally skilled technical kickboxer who knows how to deal with Diaz’s aggressive and damaging style and can also match his reach and speed. This puts the “209″ native in an unfamiliar position. He is facing a technically superior striker who won’t be intimidated by his aggression and doesn’t have to worry about fighting from the outside. Diaz will be at a disadvantage standing, a situation he isn’t accustomed to.
The Stockton brawler does have an ace in the hole, however. His ground game is several steps above that of Condit. Both men have wrestling that is best described as serviceable, but Diaz is not only a BJJ black belt to Carlos’ purple, he also is a Sambo expert and has one of the most respected closed guards in the business. Should the fight go to the ground, Condit will find it difficult to simply survive long enough to stand the match back up. Should Diaz successfully pull guard or secure a takedown against the “Natural Born Killer”, he could end the fight in short order.
Wild Card: Diaz has a quality that even some of the elite MMA fighters in the world lack. He isn’t just a natural fighter, he’s a bred fighter. Diaz was fighting for his life literally since he was a young child and that grants a fighter more than just a hunger to win, it gives them an instinctive need to win built from years of either winning or facing serious life threatening injury. Like many of the blue chip prospects out of depressed third world countries like Brazil, Diaz was battle hardened from a young age and it gives him a killer instinct that is second to none.
The Verdict: Diaz has the skill on the mat to end the fight and the toughness, both natural and developed, to last on the feet. He also has the proven cardio to go five rounds. Those will be key assets to his arrival at the judges’ decision, but they likely won’t win him the fight. His stand-up is geared toward fighting from a distance where takedowns are difficult to secure and Condit is more than capable of defeating him. Condit via Unanimous Decision