For all the rigamarole we hear about foreign fighters being unable to cut it in the UFC, South Korean Dong Hyun Kim is still undefeated. The likely reason is his gritty grappling style, which is the virtual antithesis of most overseas fighters and strangely akin to the exact flavor they generally find the most poisonous.
After fifteen career bouts and five in the Octagon, the only fighter to unload the "Stun Gun" was Karo Parisyan, whose comparable build and rugged clinch armament is entirely inimitable. The split-decision in favor of the esteemed Judoka was overturned, and many thought Kim deserved the nod anyway, so perhaps it's the jaw-dropping performance of Matt Brown that Carlos Condit should tack up as the blueprint.
The elements that nearly propelled Brown to an upset can all be found in Condit: height and length, sharp striking, good scrambling, and most importantly, the strong heart and boiling determination to never quit clawing toward victory.
The former WEC champion's bridge to the UFC was encumbered by fang-bearing welterweights aspiring to make the transition as unfriendly as possible. Though Martin Kampmann marks the only official loss on his record since crossing over, one could argue that Condit was not soundly defeated in that bout, just as one could contest the opposite in his brawl with Jake Ellenberger. Condit was also a few ticks from dropping a decision to young prospect Rory MacDonald before Greg Jackson doped him up with a third-round vial of killer instinct, fueling him to a literal last-second stoppage.
In a collision between two top-of-the-line and talent-laden welterweights like this, the only safe prediction is that an all out dogfight will ensue. I'll do my best to analytically liquify both fighters, mix them together in a test-tube, and assess the volatility of the chemical reaction after the jump.
So, you're fighting Dong Hyun Kim. You gather up your courage, the bell rings, you step out of your corner and take a deep breath, and by the time you exhale, you are not only on the ground, but engulfed in a sea of suction-cup-covered tentacles. The creature enveloping you in this suffocating labyrinth of limbs seems to be somewhere behind you; perhaps latched to your back, which would explain the sudden increase of 170-pounds that you can feel, but cannot account for.
Inspired by much more than mere curiosity, you sneak a wayward glance over your shoulder, to at least get some type of visual on the vile assailant. As you turn your head, you catch a fleeting glimpse of what looks to be a black spacecraft, fronted by four vertical columns and etched in white lettering, zooming at light-speed toward your face.
You're not positive the incoming projectile is a UFO, but it is an object, and it is also both unidentified and flying. Your suspicion is confirmed when the alien vessel suddenly disappears and your vision bursts into a million stars, all twinkling and swirling brightly amidst a murky black background, like a kaleidoscope of Milky Way galaxies.
Realizing it portends negatively to my over-imaginative mental health, any sane and logical MMA fan can agree that fighting Dong Hyun Kim is not entirely unlike this quasi-surreal nightmare of wrestling with an angry octopus while an armada of indiscernible objects fly into your head.
He's a judo black belt, a quick and agile wrestler, and when he's adhered, he devours his adversaries one position at a time. His ground offense consists of the perfect mixture of stiff ground-and-pound, textbook transitions to advance position, and an insatiable appetite for pouncing on submission opportunities.
The fully stocked arsenal of a top-level Judoka makes up his clinch: hip throws, trips, arm drags, kimura-rolls, and a battleship for a base.
The animation to the right, depicting his relentless succession of elbows against Jason Tan, is a good example of the pure tenacity Kim fights with.
The only facet of his game unbefitting an exagerrated metaphor is his striking and guard-game, which, of course, is where Carlos Condit shines.
On one edge of the sword facing all fighters is the pressure to entertain, while the proverb that "you're only as good as your last fight" looms on the other. Condit deserves a lot of respect for embracing the type of fighter that fan want to see, even though it also presents a risk to his record and reputation.
He never ceases to amaze with his whirring dance of deadly Muay Thai and venomous Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu acumen, but the sacrifice is that his offensive-minded approach leaves him susceptible to poor positions and taking damage. (On this note, I have no idea why we haven't seen Condit vs. Nate Diaz yet.)
His slobberknocker with Jake Ellenberger is a prime example, where thrashing forward with unbridled aggression filled any available space that calculated defense could possibly fit into. He has tightened up his stance and protected his chin better when unrolling combinations, but absorbing strikes and allowing takedowns is still an area of concern.
His low and front kicks aren't as prevalent as they once were, but he vanquished the critics who felt he didn't have punching power by becoming the first to finish Dan Hardy with strikes in his last outing.
Dong Hyun Kim exudes many of the traits that Condit should struggle with. He's smart and methodical, he's strong and agile, he preys on mistakes, he's a beast in the clinch, a powerhouse with takedowns, and unforgiving on the ground.
Everywhere but standing, he should be able to work his game, so it's the free movement phase that will decide Condit's fate. It's worth mentioning how tough it will be to win the fight from his back, so maintaining his footing will be the prime directive.
If he goes ballistic on the feet, Kim will easily slide under for a single leg or weasel his way into a clinch tie-up. Even though Condit has the technical abilities to survive in both spots, the odds just favor Kim more in those areas. Taming the ferocity of his stand-up so as not to over-commit and keeping Kim on the tip of his punches is ideal. We haven't seen him uphold an effective sprawl-and-brawl strategy, so I don't know if it's possible or if he'll even attempt it.
He might just fast-forward to round three of Diaz vs. Kim and replicate the barbaric onslaught that Diaz unleashed, jettisoning all defenses and simply overwhelming him with offense, never letting Kim find his groove or gather his wits in the process.
I would have guessed that Kim would be favored on the betting lines, which are mostly even as of the time of writing. I actually think he deserves to be, even though I'm going to pick Condit to overcome what I think is a bad match-up for him. A frenzied pace and a storm of well-rounded aggression have been the only elements to cause Kim to falter, and while I'd never lay a bet on a fight this close, I'll guess that Condit can summon up something incredible.
My Prediction: Condit by decision
Gifs via MMA-Core.com