Esther Lin of MMA Fighting.
Carlos Condit is a super-exciting fighter with a ton of finishes. How does he retain his finishing touch in a division filled with strong wrestlers? Ben Thapa explains the Natural Born Killer's tactics using in a picture-filled Judo Chop.
At UFC 154, Carlos Condit and Georges St. Pierre will face off to see who is the undisputed champion of the UFC welterweight division. The time off for the two title holders has been considerable, so specific technical things may have changed or improved in the interval between fights, but in general, we know going into this fight that GSP is going to try to put the American down and submit him or punch him out and we know that Condit will try to outstrike and outpower the Canadian.
In an earlier Judo Chop today, I examined the preferred ground game tactics of GSP, covering the three basic passes he goes to time after time, his strategy for creating submission finishes and the excellent combination of strikes into the grappling game. Just about everyone GSP has ever faced has been unable to stop the takedown. Unless Condit has dramatically improved his sprawl timing and technique, it is near certain that he will spend some time on his back in this fight. Now it is time to see how Carlos Condit has dealt with being in such situations before and how he has fought fire with fire to finish by submission or KO an astounding 26 of 33 career fights.
First things first, when in the stand-up battles, Carlos Condit has always, always, always gone for the strike instead of the safe move. It has gotten him tripped, laterally dropped, scooped up and taken down again and again in his fights. However, he hasn't suffered much for it. There has been a remarkable streak where he has avoided taking much damage from strong top game players, gotten up and then knocked them silly with a swerving hook or a sharply angled knee.
First, we look at the Dong Hyun Kim fight. The Korean Stun Gun opened up strongly with some aggressive striking and got a quick takedown as Condit reacted with his own aggressive tactics. Honestly, Condit gifted Stun Gun with the double leg, but what happened afterwards was truly interesting. Kim chose to stand and start trying to work free of the guard and maybe deliver a few punches. Condit went for a half-butterfly guard, with his left foot hooked in and his right leg pulled up the back.
In the past, Condit has often used the right leg for rubber guard, so it is quite possible that Kim knew this and Condit knew Kim knew this and was thus faking out Kim here. I say that because if you pay attention to Condit's left hand, you see that it's trapping Kim's right arm to his body. It turns out Condit doesn't care about Kim standing up and actually wants to flip Kim overhead and behind him.
As you can see above, after a little bit of turning and twisting, Condit succeeds in getting the overhead sweep. Kim cannot stop it because his hand is trapped and over he goes. Boom. Situation reversed.
Condit in top position loves raining down elbows. It is his first tactic, but he recognizes a good guillotine or a good armbar when he sees one. Here he tries to get Kim with a guillotine, but the active scrambling of the Korean wrestler prevents this from working. Condit wisely backs off and soon finishes the fight with the jumping KO that Fraser Coffeen kindly Judo Chopped for us before.
This Kim fight shows a version of Condit that possesses a much better understanding of how to deal with wrestly types who posture up than the Condit of old. However, this was one ultra-short sequence in one fight - not exactly a statistically definitive sample. Thus we turn to his older fights and to the famously exciting comeback victory against Rory MacDonald.
After a trip, Rory lands in the half guard preferred by GSP (among others) and starts trying to either strike or pass guard. Condit refuses to yield the pass and gets his left foot on Rory's hips. What is unusual about this interaction is that for some reason - perhaps a sensation of inconsistent or uneven pressure and movement from Rory - Condit goes right into punching and elbowing MacDonald in the head. There's barely any cover up attempts at all and it forces Rory to huddle up first.
If you huddle up with Condit, he will rubber guard you. It's a nice tactic for breaking down posture, but an experienced grappler will posture up and bull through the high-up leg. GSP did it to B.J, Penn easily and Condit's rubber guard is not nearly as good as Penn's or someone like Shinya Aoki. This might appear in the GSP/Condit fight, but I doubt Condit will find it effective.
Here, MacDonald manages to shake loose of the rubber guard, but Condit launches right into delivering elbows to his face and forehead. This makes Rory posture up - exactly what Carlos wants.
Which lets Condit launch into a kneebar/heel hook attempt. He did it before against Hiromitsu Miura in his last WEC fight (for the welterweight championship), but has less success here. It's still a very nice and unexpected transition into an attack from a defensive position. MacDonald defends and a scramble ensues before they get back to the feet.
The next sequence examines one of GSP's favorite passes.
Old story - Condit gets taken down. Look at how Rory's right arm is controlling the head and his own head is on the far side of Condit's body from the trapped leg. Rory is going to shift into the topside kimura/half guard pass that GSP loves to do.
Yep. However, the key difference is that Rory's left leg is not based up perfectly as GSP's was in the other Judo Chop and his weight is a bit too much on his right hip. MacDonald's balance is tilted towards his back and Condit takes advantage of that right away.
Condit whisks his own left leg in, lets Rory pull the trapped left leg and butt scoots (also called shrimping in the grappling world) out and onto his own left hip. His right arm has snuck from Rory's control (the kimura threat) to underhooking Rory's arm and grabbing the back. Rory cannot keep Carlos flat and thus loses control of the position. Condit butt scoots/shrimps back to guard and eventually stands up as MacDonald stalls out in the position.
One tactic that made its appearance briefly in this fight was the willingness of Condit to concede a single leg takedown position - if it meant he could grab a keylock on an arm and fall back for a possible finish. It is a classic bait trap for an attack on a wrestler-type and MacDonald defends by abandoning the leg, yanking in the arm and scrambling free. Condit would later use his own top position grappling to batter MacDonald into exhaustion and force the referee to stop the fight, but it was his ability to protect himself and take advantage of Rory's mistakes that let him do that.
The Rory MacDonald fight is an outlier of sorts. Despite the 10 fight winning streak, Rory was 20 years old and making many, many mistakes throughout the fight. Condit had a much easier time dealing with him on the ground than with Jake Ellenberger. Execution matters in fighting and Condit's was better over time, despite the takedown lapses. It has been a recurrent pattern of sorts for Condit, but Ellenberger was a tougher war to win.
Again, we see the susceptibility of Condit to single leg scoop-ups and takedowns. Rory got him three times in their fight and Ellenberger does it almost right off the bat in this fight. Ellenberger had better hips than MacDonald displayed in that fight and it showed. Condit was far less willing to give Ellenberger space in order to launch attacks and clamped up in a "head and one arm" control position. The left leg is somewhat preventing the free movement of the right arm of Ellenberger, but it can still hurt - which is why Carlos's head is on the opposite side.
Where GSP differs from Ellenberger is in the spatial awareness stage - Georges will drag an opponent away from the cage to prevent the ability to wall-walk back to the feet, while Jake (in this fight) is content to keep Condit mashed up against the fence. That may be a decent tactical choice, but it also allows Condit an easier set-up for his preferred escape route to his right and his opponent's left.
In the above still, Condit uses the space to wall-walk his way back to the feet and start hurting Ellenberger with standing strikes. The encircling left arm of Condit lets him keep Ellenberger down and the tight hips prevent the right hand of Jake from coming around and scooping Condit in tighter. In another instance later in the fight, Carlos went for his back-up plan - the keylock.
Because Ellenberger did not prevent the movement to the left or the encircling left arm, Condit gets a nice tight grip on the arm - which prevents Jake from grabbing onto his own shorts (legal in the UFC) or at the very least, slapping a palm onto his own belly to provide some friction, if not a grip. Condit would use this kimura grip to pull upwards and to his left - which forced Ellenberger over and to give up top position. It is a terrific sweep and it allows for a possible finish (if conditions are still good after the flip) or great position in half guard or even mount or side control, depending on how the legs of the fighters end up.
Condit would win the split decision because of his dominant work with the top position. His steady stream of short elbows and constant activity make for a very difficult time for stunned or tired opponents to deal with.
We've seen how Condit has dealt with top position grapplers and takedowns over his last few fights here. How do you readers think he fares against GSP in the upcoming unification bout? Will he show respect to the takedown and tame his wildness in hopes of landing a decisive series of blows? Will he allow the takedown and work for sweeps like he did against Ellenberger and Kim? Or will Carlos Condit reveal a new evolution in his skill package and do something unexpected?