Carlos Condit has not suffered back-to-back defeats since 2006. | File Photo: Sherdog.com
Carlos Condit (28-6, 5-2 UFC) vs. Johny Hendricks (14-1, 9-1 UFC)
The Matchup: Perhaps no UFC welterweight has a more concrete claim to the division’s No. 1 contender spot than Hendricks, who was bypassed in favor of Nick Diaz despite a resume that includes emphatic knockout victories over top 10 regulars Martin Kampmann and Jon Fitch.
“Big Rigg” was originally scheduled to face fellow heavy-handed wrestler Jake Ellenberger as part of the promotion’s unofficial 170-pound mini-bracket, but an injury to Rory MacDonald shuffled the deck and paired Hendricks with Condit, the former No. 1 contender. Condit is a far more diverse striker than Ellenberger, who would likely have been content to trade power punches with the Team Takedown member.
Although “The Natural Born Killer” was largely controlled for the duration of his five-round meeting with Georges St. Pierre at UFC 154, he was able to score a third-round knockdown with a head kick that the reigning welterweight champion never saw coming. Condit’s ability to change levels with his kicks and punches while utilizing intelligent movement will provide Hendricks with a different type of challenge.
While Kampmann is a versatile offensive fighter in his own right, Hendricks was able to capitalize on the Dane’s tendency to start slowly, unloading with a right hook followed by a decisive straight left. Condit has better footwork than Kampmann, which he demonstrated by consistently frustrating Diaz in their interim title bout at UFC 143. The Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts product is able to control striking exchanges by throwing combinations and then retreating from danger. Condit is 6-foot-2 and owns a five-inch reach advantage against Hendricks, so he should be able to control range with his kicks while avoiding the powerful left hand of his opponent.
Hendricks’ chances of another resounding knockout victory are slim, but he can control this fight by using his punches to move into clinch and takedown range. A two-time NCAA national champion wrestler at Oklahoma State University, Hendricks should try to bully the lankier Condit with dirty boxing in the clinch before dragging the action to the mat. What Condit lacks in defensive wrestling he makes up for in activity on the canvas; he owns 13 victories by way of submission and will also stay busy with punches and elbows from his back. Although he was unable to do so against St. Pierre, Condit proved he can return to his feet after being taken down against Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 132.
The Pick: Look for Condit to outpace his adversary with a high-volume and versatile attack on the feet, before Hendricks shifts gears and attempts to impose his will through wrestling. The bout could come down to a tense third frame, with a key takedown or significant strike shifting the momentum. A split decision would not be a surprise here. Condit keeps Hendricks guessing just enough to eke out a narrow victory.
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