UFC 154 Jack Slack's Cheat Sheet: Carlos Condit

Esther Lin / MMA Fighting

How will Condit's active BJJ guard and adventurous kicking abilities hold up against Georges St. Pierre: possibly the greatest wrestler in Mixed Martial Arts competition to date? Jack Slack analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the Natural Born Killer.

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Carlos Condit is truly a unique commodity: a striker in the welterweight division who has genuinely earned his place in the top five of the weight class. The welterweight division has always historically been stacked with wrestlers who can simply take down and hold down anyone who doesn't have their stellar wrestling pedigree. The UFC has tried to push strikers at welterweight numerous times before - Thiago Alves, Paul Daley, even an overweight B.J. Penn, but each ended up losing out to strong wrestlers like Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck or even Rick Story. Strikeforce, for it's part, was keeping Nick Diaz as far away from wrestling talent as possible. What makes Carlos Condit interesting is that he is a striker who has faced strong takedown artists like Dong Hyun Kim and Rory McDonald and always come out on top.

How will Condit's active BJJ guard and adventurous kicking abilities hold up against Georges St. Pierre: possibly the greatest wrestler in Mixed Martial Arts competition to date and one of the best boxers to boot? Today we'll examine the strengths and weakness of the Natural Born Killer, Carlos Condit focusing on:

- Kicking Diversity

- Octagon Control / Ringcraft

- The Predictability of the Unorthodox

Kicking Diversity

Carlos Condit's collection of kicks is more diverse than the vast majority of strikers we see in MMA and while it isn't quite up there with the Cung Le of four or five years ago, it's still pretty flashy. Condit will use biting low kicks, middle kicks, kicks to the arm and the threat of the head kick to keep his opponent guessing; but more than that he will use front kicks, snap kicks and thrust kicks in addition to the mainstay Thai style roundhouse kick. Against Dong Hyun Kim, Condit continually finished his combinations with an attempted front snap kick to the face.

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Here Carlos Condit conditions Dong Hyun Kim to expect hard kicks at head height - delivering front kicks in the top left, top right and bottom left stills, and a hard roundhouse kick in the bottom right still.

Condit finished the fight with a skipping flying knee - faking a kick with his back leg similar the the front kick he had been throwing all night, then leaping in with his right knee to Kim's jaw. (GIF)

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1. Condit throws a front kick at face height as Kim retreates toward the cage.

2. Condit's right foot lands in front of him and he brings his left knee up - Kim expects a kick and leans away to his right.

3. Condit uses the momentum from raising his left leg to carry himself into the air and delivers a hard right knee which Kim is leaning into.

High kicks dictated the pace of Condit's fight against Dong Hyun Kim, and ultimately set up the finish, but Condit's chasse push kick had a similar effect in his meeting with Dan Hardy. Dan Hardy has sharper pure boxing than Condit, whose punches loop out on extended arcs at times and who tends to do more damage with his punches in wild exchanges than through intelligent set ups. Yet Carlos Condit was able to beat Hardy to the punch and knock out the Englishman with a left hook: the punch which Hardy is known for.

The secret to Condit's success was to keep Hardy off of his front foot. Here is what I had to say about the fight when I examined it in Jon Jones' Toolbox: The Chasse / Oblique Kick:

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In the above stills you will notice that Condit really troubled Hardy as soon as he started throwing his chasse / oblique kick. In the top two stills Hardy attempts a right hand lead, doubtless to set up his left hook, but his knee is almost hyper extended by Condit as Hardy puts his weight forward. In the bottom two stills you can see that Hardy's stance is much shorter and his legs are underneath him, rather than spread to drive off of and create power. (G)

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Condit's kicking of Hardy's front knee literally put Hardy on the back foot, as Hardy was reluctant to put weight on his lead leg so that he could pick it up and get it out of the way. This removed the power from Hardy's left hook as he could not plant his left foot deep in front of him to throw it. Notice in the last sequence - the three punch exchange that everyone remembers is immediately preceeded by the chasse to the knee which again almost hyper extends Hardy's knee joint. Hardy draws his lead leg back as Hardy dives in.

You will notice that Hardy tried to use his usual left hook counter (bottom right still, end of the sequence) but his feet were so close together underneath him that he had no power in his punch, where Condit was driving from his legs and hips with his own left hook. The UFC commentary played up the "Condit got there first" angle, but Hardy's punch connected anyway and had none of it's usual power, simply due to the fact that he was forced out of his usual sprinter's style stance.

Octagon Control / Ringcraft

Personally, I hate the phrase octagon control because it is listed as a judging criteria but is interpreted completely differently by every judge. It led to Quinton Jackson winning a bout against Lyoto Machida by walking forward onto punches and kicks all fight, but led Nick Diaz losing a bout to Condit by doing the same thing. It is this kind of vagueness and inconsistency in judging criteria that alienates viewers and costs this sport fans.

There is no consistency in the judging of octagon control, but the art of ringcraft is important to learn for a fighter to be effective in the stand up. I have already demonstrated how Anderson Silva uses the fence to his advantage, and how Bas Rutten's entire striking game was built around push kicking his opponent's onto the fence or ropes.

Two notable examples of Carlos Condit's ringcraft and the weaknesses of it are his bouts with Rory McDonald and Nick Diaz. Interestingly it is Diaz who is known as the pressure fighter but who couldn't deal with Condit's circling out.. Diaz's slow feet and sloppy footwork meant that Condit could kick Nick's lead leg in and circle while Nick was recovering each time - making it near impossible for Nick to drag Condit into a brawl. I examined this in my article on the Diaz - Condit bout but is worth covering briefly again

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"Though many have complained about Carlos Condit's kicks lacking power and being purely to score points ("leg jabs" is the term I hear thrown around in arguments about this fight) you can see that almost all of the kicks Condit threw were able to buckle Diaz's knee inwards, hindering his mobility, simply because Nick already fights with his lead knee turned intwards. Were Nick to fight in a slightly more square on stance he would not only be more able to check kicks, but he would be able to take them without his knee buckling and allowing Condit to escape.

Throughout the bout the lead outside low kick was the weapon of choice for Condit as it continued to prevent Nick from following him as Condit circled out towards' Nick's lead side."

On the other side of the coin, Rory McDonald had tremendous success pressuring Condit in the first round and a half of their meeting. Carlos Condit is in the bad habit of kicking while moving backwards - this is fine with his push kicks to the knee, that is basically what those were designed for - but it is not at all sensible to throw roundhouse kicks against an opponent who is coming forward in an MMA match. It helped that McDonald is an orthodox fighter and so Condit couldn't continue to circle out in one direction comfortably because the bout was fought from a closer range and with a different dynamic than those against southpaw opponents such as Diaz and Kim.

McDonald pressured Condit until Condit conceded to punching - opening him up for counters from the stockier fighter at close range, or clinches - or to kicking - which allowed McDonald to pick up Condit's leg each and every time. Kicking while the opponent is moving in serves only to muffle the kick and allow the opponent to get to close for comfort. In kickboxing it can lead to some beautiful counter kicks such as those used by Ernesto Hoost and Remy Bonjansky as their opponents were stepping in, but their opponents weren't looking to take them down.

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Rory McDonald ultimately gave that fight away by fading after he stopped pressuring in the middle of the second round. When Condit is allowed to stand at range his kicks carry the most momentum and will beat and bruise anyone in front of him. The bout was controversially stopped with a few seconds left in the third round as a gassed McDonald struggled to survive under the more experienced and always in shape Condit.

It is worth noting that even against Diaz and Kim, Condit still made errors in his ringcraft. There are the famous images of Condit turning his back and running back to the centre of the octagon against Diaz (an old Roy Jones / Pernell Whitaker tactic), which suggest that Condit allowed Diaz too close for comfort by the forth round. (Gif) Diaz is one dimensional enough in his approach that he simply allowed Condit to escape - but a GSP or Rory McDonald would have picked up an easy clinch or takedown from that position.

A final note on ring craft is Condit's overconfidence from time to time when stepping in with his opponent's back to the fence. Here against Dong Hyun Kim he charges in swinging and gets turned and taken down with ease. Later in the bout he landed that incredible flying knee against the fence, so he knows what he's doing but over-aggression against GSP might prove a bad idea. Unlike Kim, Georges St. Pierre can actually do some damage with the takedowns he succeeds on.

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The Predictability of the Unorthodox

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Photo by Esther Lin / MMA Fighting

Something which my own brother pointed out to me years ago when I was enjoying a period of fascination with jumping kicks and right hand leads was just how predictable the unexpected can become if you are always attempting to surprise your opponent with bizarre technical sequences. Carlos Condit has come to suffer somewhat from the same affliction in that in his fights one can be guaranteed to see:

  • The front kick to the face
  • The spinning elbow or backfist
  • The jumping knee
  • The superman punch, running into a kick.
Watch any Carlos Condit fight and you will see almost all of these tricks brought out and to be honest they rarely land with the success of his flying knee on Dong Hyun Kim. The majority of the time Condit will throw a superman punch or spinning backfist, flailing at air and then attempt a kick off of it. Condit's love of running in with superman punches into kicks (a favourite trick of Georges St. Pierre) will also expose him for a takedown against the champion and could well work against him - just as his jumping knees will be dangerous to attempt in a bout where Condit should avoid going to his back.

It is often after using these unusual techniques that Carlos is able to revert to a normal punching combination and catch his opponent unawares where he never would have been able to before, because once the bizarre is established orthodox technique becomes the unexpected.

Conclusions
Carlos Condit has shown the kind of consistency which simply can't be attributed to luck - he is a ruthless opportunist who will jump on any opening in an attempt to finish a fight but he has also proven that he can sit back and work a game plan even with Nick Diaz shouting at him. His weaknesses for walking too close to the cage and kicking as he is being backed up will likely result in takedowns for Georges St. Pierre if they rear their heads, but what remains to be seen is how well Condit can stifle the welterweight king's top game with his notoriously tricky guard game.

If Condit can last into the later rounds the accumulative damage of his biting kicks on GSP's injured right knee (undoubtedly a target in this fight) may cause errors in the champion's defense which Condit can pounce on.

Tune in to Fights Gone By in the coming days to catch Jack's breakdown of Ricky Hatton's techniques ahead of The Hitman's return.

Learn the techniques and stragies of effective striking in Jack Slack's BRAND NEW ebook: Elementary Striking.

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To learn 70 strategies from 20 elite strikers, pick up Jack's first ebook, Advanced Striking

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Jack can be found on Twitter, Facebook and at his blog; Fights Gone By.

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