Despite the very different paths their careers have taken since their first meeting, Martin Kampmann and Carlos Condit are very similar fighters. Both men are known as kickboxers but possess sturdy submission games (relatively unique skillsets in the wrestler-heavy welterweight division). Both men have excellent finishing instincts and high finish ratios. And both men are about to fight one another in a meaningful battle for continued divisional relevance at UFC Fight Night 27 in Indianapolis tomorrow night.
But it's the small differences that set these two apart. Despite Kampmann's claim to the dubious title of "most technical welterweight" - and in many ways he is a more technical striker than Condit - it is the Natural Born Killer who boasts a higher percentage of knockout wins. Though both men suffered recent losses to imminent title-challenger Johny Hendricks, it was Carlos Condit who survived to the final bell, even leading many, including yours truly, to score the hard fought battle in his favor. And despite Kampmann having seized the lineal WEC welterweight title from Condit in the latter's UFC debut (the hypothetical belt now resides with GSP), Condit is now enjoying a sizeable advantage in the books for the rematch.
Unorthodox, high-risk, and undeniably potent, it's hard to argue with the odds. Despite their similarities, Carlos Condit has made more of his uncommon skillset than Martin Kampmann has his. But why? If only there were someone willing to analyze the wrinkles of Condit's game... Oh, wait!
This is likely Condit's biggest boon, and it's helped him to trouble more technical and more powerful opponents many times before. Of course, there is the famous head kick that nearly ended the reign of Georges St. Pierre (GIF), and Condit's unpredictable strikes were certainly the key to that kick landing. It was similar combinations that seemed to be winning Condit the early standup exchanges of his first fight with Kampmann.
- Condit and Kampmann square off.
- Carlos enters with a jab that falls short.
- Kampmann's slip causes the follow-up right hand to simply graze the target. Kampmann has stepped to an angle, and now turns to hit Condit with a straight left.
- The Dane's punch is intercepted by an unexpected kick to the gut, thrown from the same side as the previous punch.
It might not look like much, but these little tricks - throwing repeat strikes from the same side, using kicks to counter footwork that would have otherwise been quite effective - are what win Condit fights. Often the results are not aesthetically pleasing: Condit has an awkward, stiff way of striking that ill-befits his skeletal frame. But Condit's game is not designed to look pretty and, as against GSP, his unorthodox combinations set up kicks that come from completely unexpected directions (in the above GSP GIF, note that the champion never even sees the left kick coming, his eyes being occupied by Condit's body.
I should, however, note an aspect of Condit's style that actually hampers these inventive combos, and probably explains his ever-present stiffness. Condit has poor posture, and always has. The moment the fight begins, he stands with his back hunched, shoulders raised, and head forward. He is prescient enough to prevent most upward strikes, avoiding the fate that befell Alistair Overeem two weeks ago, but his posture does have a negative effect.
Though Condit's knockout of Dan Hardy quieted the whispers, it has long been said that the Natural Born Killer is not much of a natural born puncher. His punches often lack authority, and he usually resorts to kicks or accumulative damage to earn his knockouts. I do not think, however, that Condit lacks the simple mechanical ability to punch with power. Rather, I blame his posture. With shoulders hunched, Carlos is forced to throw arm punches. Power comes from leverage, which comes from the ground up, but with Carlos' shoulders lifted out-of-socket, his arms are incorrectly placed to deliver this leverage through to the ends of the arms. Condit has a problem with kinetic linking, and as a result his punches do not possess the same snap as Kampmann's.
Condit's poor posture also causes his elbows to flare when he punches which, as well as further weakening the link between his core and his fists, could very well grant Kampmann the underhooks he loves so well, as I discussed in yesterday's breakdown.
THE FLYING KNEE
It should go without saying that the flying knee is a pretty chancy move. It's one of those high risk, high reward techniques that, for whatever reason, is extremely popular with mixed martial artists. Mike Winkeljohn and the striking coaches at Jackson's MMA really seem to have perfected the technique with their fighters, however.
- Having backed Dong Hyun Kim up with a punch combination, Carlos Condit casually approaches him at the fence.
- Seeing Stun Gun's bent-forward posture, he throws a lazy front kick that lands him in southpaw.
- From southpaw, Condit jumps into a flying knee of the variety sometimes called a "scissor knee." He throws up his rear left leg first as a feint and momentum-builder, keeping his hands high to ward off any Fedor-esque counter punches.
- The right leg follows, the knee slamming into Kim's jaw.
This is about as good as a flying knee gets. (GIF) Condit has Stun Gun more or less backed into the fence, so his options for retreat are limited. As he jumps into the attack, his hands are held high, palms open, ready to either block strikes or pull the opponent's head down into the strike. As it happened, Kim did half the work for Condit, turning his head and ducking straight into the strike. As a result, Condit hit Dong Hyun Kim with a knee that could've sunk a turtle ship, sending the Korean's head sailing into the lighting rig, whence it had to be dislodged by a full team of the arena staff. This cost the UFC an additional $2,000 in venue fees, which they promptly deducted from Condit's $500,000 knockout of the night bonus, because holy hell that knee was perfect.
But however perfect its application, the flying knee is always a risky strike for both parties. The real risk with the flying knee is that the fighter must throw the entire weight of their body into the strike while leaving the ground. It is effectively an irreversible attack, and so timing is absolutely crucial when throwing it. A mistimed flying knee, or one thrown from a poor position, can give the opponent a full second, or in fight terms "a lifetime," to adjust and counter. Worse, the missed strike will often cause the attacker to land in a poor position relative to the opponent.
Condit faced the consequences for an ill-advised flying knee in his title bout with Georges St. Pierre. (GIF) Failing to put GSP's back to the fence, Condit left the champ with ample room to maneuver to a dominant angle and punish him with a straight right. Condit survived the shot, but a better timed or harder shot could have disastrous consequences, even against a cornered opponent. (GIF)
LAPSES IN RINGCRAFT
Unfortunately, mistakes such as the flying knee against St. Pierre are not an uncommon aspect of Condit's game. Though he displayed better ringcraft (cagecraft?) than ever before against Nick Diaz, Condit still frequently makes choices that, given his position in the Octagon, are extremely unwise. Here's another example from the GSP fight.
- St. Pierre attempts a single leg on Condit, whose back is to the fence.
- Condit, meanwhile, has managed to lock up a Kimura.
- Condit attempts to use his Kimura to hit a sacrifice throw, utilizing a hook in GSP's crotch for additional leverage.
- The close proximity of the cage helps GSP avoid being thrown or swept, and he lands in top half guard, while Condit transitions, inverting for a leglock attempt.
Now, GSP is a very clever grappler. His ability to avoid being taken down and maintain/regain top position is exceptional, while Condit has never been a fantastic takedown artist. Still, Condit has used this kimura throw with good results before; it's safe to say it's a technique with which he's quite comfortable. The problem here is that he attempted to sacrifice throw GSP over his own body while his back was already against the fence. GSP would likely not have been thrown in the first place, he adjusts so deftly to Condit's movements, but the fact remains that Condit's throw, had it succeeded to off-balance St. Pierre, would have merely bounced the champion into the fence and... right back on top of Condit. In fact, much of the St. Pierre fight featured Condit struggling to get his back off the cage, the champion's controlled pressure consistently keeping him where Nick Diaz' plodding footwork couldn't. (GIF1, GIF2)
In numerous previous fights, Carlos has shown a disconcerting tendency to lose control of range when striking. He barrels forward, throwing his unusual array of strikes, and winds up walking right into the clinch, often engaging superior wrestlers on their terms. Though this problem hasn't been cleared up, I was reassured to hear Mike Winkeljohn discussing distance control directly in Condit's corner during his last fight. Though it's certainly unlikely for a veteran of 35 fights to change in any dramatic way, it does appear that Condit is continuing to improve the technical aspects of his game, all while continuing to possess that special quality that sets him apart from the rest.
Carlos Condit, despite his flaws, is an excellent fighter. Something sets him apart from Kampmann, despite their many similarities, and the few areas in which Kampmann is technically superior. Is it Condit's chin? Is it his will to fight to the bitter end? Is it his killer instinct? Or is it some combination of these things, and all the other intangibles that make a fighter a fighter? It's impossible to say. What is clear, however, is that Carlos Condit, despite being one of only three fighters on this card riding a two fight skid, is still firmly situated at the very top of the welterweight division, and likely will be for years to come.
More from Bloody Elbow:
- Update: Details revealed from Millers court appearance
- Asian MMA: Eddie Ng vs. Peter Davis among 3 fights added to ONE FC 11
- UFC Fight Night 27: Court McGee vs. Robert Whittaker Dissection
- UFC Fight Night 27: Condit vs. Kampmann betting lines
- Daily MMA 8/26: Chandler vs. Alvarez 2 promo by MachineMen, Episode 17 of 'The MMA Beat'