Go back to one week ago. We were all anticipating a clash of titans between Rick Story and Nate Marquardt, one that would have huge implications for the title picture at 170 pounds going forward: either Story would add to his dominant run in the division, or longtime top contender in Nate Marquardt would finally find himself in the immediate title picture after a frustrating 2-2 performance in his last four fights at middleweight (with both of those losses propelling his adversary into a title fight). But then the story broke that Nate was off the card due to failed medicals, and Charlie "the Spaniard" Brenneman was thrust into the spotlight against Story. Brenneman used sound wrestling technique to end Rick's streak, and effectively end his presence in the title picture for at least the time being.
Georges St-Pierre is currently set to face Nick Diaz at UFC 137, in title unification fight that has separated fans into optimists and pessimists about Diaz's ability to deal with the long reigning champion's wrestling. This fight is set for 3 months from now, leaving a fight for any other top contender in the UFC's welterweight about 7-8 months away, barring any injury incurred from the fighter that walks out of the cage that night with the belt adorning his shoulder. This leaves room for most of these top contenders to have a fight, or two at the most, to continue their winning ways and keep themselves in the mix.
Currently, I would speculate that the welterweights who stand the best chance of continuing their success throughout that time period are Diego Sanchez, Jon Fitch, Carlos Condit, and Dong Hyun Kim (I don't think BJ will be given a shot anytime soon, though I could be wrong, Josh Koscheck is still out due to his eye orbital fracture, and Jake Shields will need a few more wins before being back in the picture). Fitch is coming off a shoulder injury and will most likely not get another shot within this time period. Sanchez, despite having a controversial win over Martin Kampmann in his last Octagon outing, is a fan favorite and also one of Dana White's favorite fighters. If he finds a way to deal with the aging Matt Hughes at UFC 135, I'd say there is an excellent shot that he will be a win away from a welterweight title fight. This leaves Carlos Condit and the outside chance that the UFC capitalizes on the undefeated Dong Hyun Kim's UFC streak- plus the marketability he brings the UFC in the battle for success against Asian promotions.
Story's loss gives both Condit and Kim a huge opportunity to propel themselves into the immediate title picture, and I'd say that gives their matchup at UFC 132 quite a bit of relevance. Carlos was brought into the promotion when Zuffa decided they'd rather make the WEC a promotion for the lower weight classes. He is the last WEC welterweight champion, and I guess if we go with the concept of lineal titles the lineal champion would now be- who else- GSP (Condit-Kampmann-Daley-Koscheck-St-Pierre). After suffering the setback against Kampmann in his first UFC fight, Condit has gone 3-0 to bring his record to a staggering 11-1 in his last 12 fights. Kim, on the other hand, is undefeated in his career- the technicality coming from his split decision loss at UFC 94 to Karo Parisyan being overturned to a No Contest due to "the Heat" failing his drug test due to painkillers. Kim's record now stands at an impressive 14-0-1-1, with a draw in the last fight before his UFC tenure began and the aforementioned No Contest. Kim's victories in the UFC have kept him undefeated, but they are against middle to low level competition- Jason Tan, Matt Brown, TJ Grant, Amir Sadollah, and most recently Nate Diaz respectively. Condit's record is slightly more impressive- after split decisioning Jake "the Juggernaut" Ellenburger, Carlos has gone on to record a fantastic come-from-behind TKO victory over Rory MacDonald (the only loss is Rory's career), and most recently briefly put an end to Dan Hardy's neverending trash talk with a hook-from-the-hip KO victory that saw both fighters land the punch simultaneously, and Hardy with his first career loss due to strikes.
Condit completely epitomizes his pseudonym of "The Natural Born Killer"- he has sharp, vicious Muay Thai that sees him utilize all 8 points of striking- excellent straight punches (and apparently hooks), good kicks, an above average clinch, and sharp elbows and knees. He also has a jiu-jitsu game that is well-adapted to MMA, possessing a good guard, great back control, and the saavy to get him back to his feet where he seems to prefer his fights. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated an immunity to boring fights- and most often uses his iron head to get the better of slugfests-but one thing that few may realize about Carlos is that he's finished 25 or his 26 wins within the distance, and is the definition of well rounded with 12 TKO or KO victories and 13 submissions under his belt. Dong Hyun Kim is nowhere near as well-rounded as Carlos, but is just as dangerous due to his imposing physicality and 4th dan black belt in Judo. He's shown improving striking skills, but has used his strength in top control to ride out his last 4 wins to decision. In his last fight, against Nate Diaz, Kim utilized this approach to gain the first two rounds on the scorecards, and then withstood Diaz's attempts to come on and push the pace in the third to earn the judge's nod. This victory was not controversial, but had the elder of the Diaz brothers, Nick, complaining about MMA judging awarding fights to point fighters instead of those looking to damage and finish their opponent. Nonetheless, Kim's record has a "W" for that fight, and Diaz's has a "L."
The one thing that is unsure in this fight is if Kim can utilize the top control that has kept him undefeated to neutralize Condit's attack. Carlos, much like Diaz, is a fighter that looks for damage and the finish, and has put him in the difficult position of needing to turn up his attack in the third round. Unlike Nate, Condit has more power in his strikes and much more proven ability to finish the fight in that manner. Starting his career at Greg Jackson's camp in New Mexico, Carlos then made a move to Arizona Combat Sports to work on his defensive wrestling, but has since made a return to Jackson's. Kim still trains in South Korea, at Busan Team M.A.D, where he formerly was one of the top sparring partners to the title contender in Yushin Okami. I think this difference in camp shows a great disparity, with the edge going to Condit- still though, Condit has never had fantastic takedown defense. His ability to control the distance and avoid takedowns is the ultimate question in this fight. I think that Condit needs to avoid another slow start, and come out with the intention to stop Kim before the fight hits the third round. If he cannot, he may see his title hopes slip through the cracks again. If Kim wins, I think that he is a fight away from the title, considering the UFC's hopes to become a major player in the Asian MMA market.
Questions: What type of gameplan does Carlos utilize to try to neutralize Kim's wrestling, i.e. has he worked on his sprawl and brawl technique or his footwork to avoid Kim's clinch and takedown tactics? Much like many Greg Jackson fighters- will he try to surprise Kim with takedowns of his own, choosing to rely on his own top control and submission abilities? Does Kim need to follow in Okami's footsteps and come to the U.S. to train, or are his skills evolving to a high enough level that he can make a permanent move up to the next level in welterweight? Does he look like he's spent more time working on his judo and grappling skills to hone is craft, or on his striking to improve his well roundedness?