The Ultimate Fighting Championship flips the switch on its 2016 schedule with an anticipated welterweight title clash, as champion Robbie Lawler defends his crown against Carlos Condit in the UFC 195 main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. In the co-headliner, heavyweights Stipe Miocic and Andrei Arlovski square off in a potential title eliminator.
The rest of the main card has plenty to offer, from a high-octane welterweight showdown pitting Albert Tumenov against Lorenz Larkin and a featherweight battle pairing Diego Brandao with Brian Ortega to a lightweight tilt between heavy hitters Tony Sims and Abel Trujillo. A delayed confrontation between American Top Team’s Dustin Poirier and Joseph Duffy highlights the undercard, along with the return of blue-chip prospect Michael McDonald.
Let us take a closer look at each UFC 195 “Lawler vs. Condit” matchup, with analysis and picks:
UFC Welterweight ChampionshipRobbie Lawler (26-10) vs Carlos Condit (30-8)
THE MATCHUP: Lawler is an amazing and perplexing fighter. Though still one of the hardest hitters in welterweight history, “Ruthless” is now so much more than a mere puncher. In fact, he is perhaps the most cerebral striker in the division.
Lawler’s defense may be his greatest asset. Though not impossible to hit, Lawler’s serpentine upper-body movement makes him damnably difficult to hit cleanly, all while shifting his weight from side to side and thus allowing him to unload with heavy counters whenever he avoids or rolls with a punch. Lawler’s hands are a busy aspect of his defense, as well, constantly parrying and trapping the opponent’s attacks, and his subtle footwork gives him the angles he needs to give devastating answers.
When it comes to grappling, everything Lawler does is based on the premise of keeping the fight standing. When put on his back, he uses a crafty butterfly guard to get his opponents off-balance, either sweeping them entirely or simply creating space in which to scramble back to his feet. More often than not these days, however, Lawler nips the ground game in the bud, stuffing the takedown altogether before viciously punishing the man who initiated it, authoritatively de-incentivizing further attempts.
Condit is no less violent than the champ, but his style is different in several key ways. Whereas Lawler relies on shifty defense to find his openings, Condit is always keen to put himself through the ringer in order to find his openings. It is almost as if Condit has to have his tactics negatively reinforced before he can make the changes. Condit’s toolkit is much larger and more diverse than Lawler’s, but his adjustments are neither as smooth nor as subtle. Where Lawler makes slight changes to punch trajectory and angle, Condit will sling up a wide array of kicks, flying knees and step-in elbows in order to capitalize on his openings.
Condit’s takedown defense is virtually nonexistent against competent wrestlers. Curiously, he is a very capable wrestler once his back hits the mat but very rarely before. From his back, Condit typically looks to hit a switch and work his way to top position, though he is also quite dangerous from his back. Whether with submissions, sweeps or spiking elbows, Condit is one of the few fighters in modern MMA capable of winning rounds from his back, though this is nobody’s idea of a reliable stratagem.
THE ODDS: Lawler (-110), Condit (-110)
THE PICK: In the end, I think this fight is decided by distance management and adaptation. Condit has never controlled the space between himself and his opponent with any kind of consistency, and that gets him hit. Lawler has a complicated relationship with range, sometimes boxing from the outside, sometimes slinging leather in the pocket and sometimes bruising in the clinch. However, he is always in command of whatever range he chooses to take. If Lawler wants to come forward, he will be able to keep Condit on the end of his jab. If he wants to sit back, he will be able to draw Condit in; and Lawler is the right kind of clever to make these decisions on the fly, in the midst of what is sure to be a violent, back-and-forth fight. The pick is Lawler by fourth-round TKO.
Next Fight » Miocic vs. Arlovski