Carlos Condit beat Nick Diaz to the punch at UFC 143. | Photo: Sherdog.com
In October, Ultimate Fighting Championship officials told Carlos Condit to step aside for Nick Diaz. Four months later, he answered with his feet, fists, elbows, knees and, most importantly, his mind.
The “Natural Born Killer” engaged in a fascinating cat-and-mouse game with one of MMA’s fiercest fighters on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, as he walked away from the UFC 143 headliner against Diaz with a unanimous decision in his back pocket and the interim welterweight championship around his waist.
Rewarding the execution of a masterful game plan, all three judges ruled in Condit’s favor, two of them giving him four of the five rounds. According to FightMetric.com figures, he outlanded Diaz 159-117 in total strikes and 151-105 in terms of significant strikes. Though he spent much of the 25-minute battle moving backwards, Condit was the more active fighter, as well, throwing 74 more strikes than Diaz.
The win, Condit’s 13th in his past 14 fights, sets up a unification bout with longtime welterweight king and Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts stablemate Georges St. Pierre, once he recovers from reconstructive knee surgery. The two men figure to lock horns sometime later this year.
In wake of UFC 143 “Diaz vs. Condit,” here are six other matches we want to see made:
Nick Diaz vs. Jon Fitch: In the immediate aftermath of his first defeat since November 2007, Diaz sounded like a man fully prepared to leave the cage for the last time. One has to wonder whether or not that feeling will remain once frustration wears off. Still only 28, Diaz has plenty left in the tank physically and would be entering his prime years with much to prove and sufficient motivation. Should Diaz reverse course on retirement, a showdown with Fitch might provide him with the quickest route back to title contention. If not, MMA has lost one of its preeminent competitors.
Fabricio Werdum vs. Frank Mir: Quite simply, Werdum has never looked better. The two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist throttled the rugged Roy Nelson from the Thai plum, landing one crushing knee after another to his opponent’s face. Werdum’s punches and kicks often found their marks, too, and kept “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner on the defensive. Werdum has rattled of four wins in five outings, including victories over Antonio Silva and the incomparable Fedor Emelianenko. Still widely regarded as one of the premier heavyweight grapplers on the planet, the 34-year-old Brazilian has put himself in prime position to secure more meaningful fights. Mir, anyone?
Roy Nelson vs. Shane Carwin: No one will ever question Nelson’s resolve. The slimmed-down 35-year-old absorbed a horrendous beating from Werdum in the co-main event, losing a one-sided unanimous decision.
Nelson had no answer for the Brazilian in the clinch, as Werdum tipped the spear of his close-quarters onslaught with heavy knees from the Thai plum. Nelson has more than enough tools to remain relevant in a division lacking depth, but he has lost three of his last four fights. Victory now becomes a necessity. Carwin, who finds himself recovering from a second back surgery, carries with him arguably the heaviest hands in the sport. A duel with Nelson might prove pure gold, if for no other reason than to find out whether or not “Big Country” can withstand that kind of otherworldly punching power.
Josh Koscheck vs. Jake Shields-Yoshihiro Akiyama winner: Koscheck escaped his grueling 15-minute encounter with the criminally underrated Mike Pierce, taking a split decision from the former Sportfight champion. Love him or hate him, Koscheck has made himself into one of the most successful fighters in UFC history. His 15 victories inside the Octagon tie him with Tito Ortiz for fifth on the all-time list, behind only Matt Hughes (18), Georges St. Pierre (16), Chuck Liddell (16) and Randy Couture (16). Koscheck looked tentative at times against Pierce, but he can always fall back on his top-shelf wrestling chops when the need arises. UFC President Dane White has already shown public interest in pairing him with Diaz. Should that bout fail to materialize, perhaps the man that emerges from the Shields-Akiyama tussle at UFC 144 later this month could step up and fill the void.
Renan “Barao” Pegado vs. Dominick Cruz-Urijah Faber winner: Pegado needs no more fine tuning. On an incredible 18-fight winning streak, the 24-year-old Nova Uniao export has clearly established himself as a top contender at 135 pounds. Pegado zipped past Scott Jorgensen with a diverse striking game, stout chin and airtight takedown defense. In short, he kept the fight standing, all but ensuring Jorgensen’s downfall. Coaching opposite one another on the forthcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, bantamweight champion Cruz and archrival Faber will tie a bow on their trilogy at some point this summer. The man they call “Barao” will be waiting on the winner.
Ed Herman vs. Brian Stann-Alessio Sakara winner: Herman has carved out a nice niche at 185 pounds. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 finalist dispatched the previously unbeaten Clifford Starks with a combination of in-cage experience and submission savvy. Herman has won each of his last three fights, bouncing back well from multiple knee surgeries. The 31-year-old will not set the world on fire with any one skill, but he promises to be a difficult out for anyone inside the middleweight division with stars in their eyes. Stann and Sakara will collide at UFC on Fuel 2 on April 14 in Sweden. Pair the victor with Herman.