The namesake of tonight's UFC Fight Night: Condit vs. Kampmann 2 show from the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, is a five-round do-over between consummate welterweight contenders Carlos Condit and Martin Kampmann. The ever-game duo square off atop the six-fight featured card (8:00 p.m. ET) for the UFC's sophomore run on the Fox Sports 1 channel, which will also broadcast a four-piece preliminary lineup (6:00 p.m. ET) after Facebook sets the show in motion with a pair of undercard bouts (est. 4:30 p.m. ET).
There are endless reasons why this rematch is both sensible and almost necessary. When Carlos "The Natural Born Killer" Condit (28-7) and Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann (20-6) initially met, both were in the embryonic stages of a new and exciting opportunity. Following in the footsteps of respected standouts like Nick Diaz, Karo Parisyan and Mike Pyle, Condit capitalized on Zuffa's (the UFC's parent company) acquisition of the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) promotion by snaring the vacant welterweight championship in just his second turn in the fight league, and remained unbeaten in the blue cage throughout his five-fight tenure.
When the UFC absorbed the WEC's heavier weight classes, Condit joined the motley legion of hungry welterweights endeavoring to scratch and claw their way up the UFC contender ladder and into mainstream relevance. Welcoming him to the Octagon was recently converted welterweight Martin Kampmann, a scrappy Danish kickboxer out of Xtreme Couture who was seeking new life at 170-pounds after a highly admirable tour (8-2) through the middleweight division.
I remember being intrigued by the match up with one catch: the big selling point was that the pairing would serve as a litmus test for the WEC champion's potential in the UFC welterweight class but, with only one outing under his belt in the division himself, the same questions applied to Kampmann. In plain terms, regardless of the fight's outcome, it was somewhat inadequate as a baseline from which to measure their longevity as both represented new welterweight blood.
Concurrently, the complexion of the entire division was changing. Having long been dominated by welterweight great Matt Hughes, the title picture and hierarchy of contenders shifted when Georges St. Pierre assumed the throne and scratched names like Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn, Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck and Sean Sherk off the list. The shockwave seemed to foster a new wave of potential titlists in the likes of Condit and Kampmann along with other fresh faces such as Johny Hendricks, Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger. Nowadays, the latter echelon comprises the who's who of the UFC welterweight class.
Kampmman ended up earning a split nod over Condit in an action-packed battle that was accented by see-saw spurts of momentum and the whole gamut of MMA techniques. Though their missions began from a similar point, their paths would meander in divergent directions. Kampmann would go on to drop three of his next five turns (Paul Daley, Diego Sanchez, Jake Shields), whereas Condit shot skyward with an electric five-fight win streak that elevated him to a crack at GSP's belt.
However, many influential disclaimers apply to the journeys of both competitors. Condit escaped the first two wins in his defining surge -- Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald -- by the skin of his teeth, eking out a razor-thin split decision over Ellenberger and erupting into a hulk-like rage to mount a 3rd-round comeback over MacDonald, who'd dominated the first two frames. Though akin to cracking the lid on Pandora's Box, it's worth mentioning that Condit's decision win over Nick Diaz was also hotly debated and rife with controversy.
The same could be said for half of Kampmann's four losses since then: he was on the wrong end of decisions against Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez that many fans disputed and penned in his favor -- especially the Sanchez fight. On the flip side, Kampmann was less than a minute shy of losing to Thiago Alves when he laced up a guillotine and finished the Brazilian in a Condit-MacDonaldesque turnaround.
Condit and Kampmann's footprints in the division are all over the board because they're both unafraid to go out on their shields, they're willing to take risks, and they fight with a sense of focused urgency when they're down on the cards. In other words, they're both the type of fighters that fans want to see and the epitome of fearless and aggressive mixed martial artists. That's right ... cue the slow clap.
For those who haven't seen or re-watched their first encounter, the UFC has released it for free viewing via their Youtube page:
Despite feeling like I had a good grasp of it, taking another look at this fight was extremely worthwhile. I didn't recall how similar this was to a striker vs. grappler match up, as Kampmann relied almost solely on his under-rated wrestling and submission grappling to steal the momentum -- and ultimately the decision -- in the 1st and 3rd rounds.
Kampmann was always billed as a Danish kickboxing specialist and that never seemed fitting. His hard-nosed wrestling and technical sub-grappling propelled him to the bulk of his marquee wins and his only definitive defeats transpired on the feet. Though not a landmark win for him, Kampmann's collision with the heavy-handed Drew McFedries exemplified this: McFedries, a quicker and more powerful boxer, was straight-up bombing on the Dane's chin with thunderous straight lefts -- which cemented some of his defensive shortcomings -- but Kampmann changed gears, took the Miletich-trained slugger down and tapped him out with a beautiful arm-triangle -- which in turn isolated his instincts, natural toughness and diversity and his best assets.
Kampmann is laudably technical on the feet with excellent timing, fundamentals and accuracy, but his fairly porous defense and lack of power often relegate him to the task of out-hustling his adversary for the full 15 minutes. Though he boasts eight TKO's on his record, only two have transpired in the UFC (Ellenberger, Alexandre Barros) while five of his seven career submissions were accrued in the Octagon. Nowadays, it's only fitting to deem Kampmann as a complete martial artist with three-dimensional capabilities (striking, wrestling, submissions).
The only piece of the puzzle in question for Condit is wrestling. He's been a dual-pronged Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu marauder for his entire career, and those core competencies have undoubtedly been fine-tuned, but the jury is still out on his wrestling savvy. On one hand, we can point to the way GSP and Hendricks man-handled him en route to victory but, on the other, the legacy of those two is rooted deeply in their wrestling and they're arguably the best wrestlers the division has ever seen.
Considering that point and the fact that Kampmann employed his wrestling to surpass Condit in their first go, and the control/takedown factor takes precedence over all other elements. Many feel that Condit will enjoy the striking edge but, while that may end up being the case, he has to stay upright and moving of his own accord to prove it. Kampmann is an excellent wrestler but not on par with apex candidates like St. Pierre and Hendricks -- however, the success of MMA wrestling is dictated more by timing and circumstance than takedown technique, and Kampmann thrives in that area.
Regardless of those comparisons, Kampmann was a pristine five for five in takedowns against Condit the first time, and has no better chance of repeating his victory than by re-enacting that takedown dominance. Condit has proven to be amongst MMA feistiest to hold down and mount offense against due to his ultra-slippery sweeps and scrambling ability, but he's yet to out-wrestle a single opponent in the UFC and is often drowned out by the takedown ratio (GSP: 7-0, Hendricks: 12-0, MacDonald: 3-0). This is an integral factor in this fight and every other for Condit -- his phenomenal transitions and complex grappling are overtaxed because of his suspect defensive wrestling.
But that's why fans love Carlos Condit. Rather than worry about takedowns and fling out cautious, half-power strikes, Condit bravely uncorks one of the most vast and legitimately effective Muay Thai toolboxes in MMA. Low kicks, long and spearing front kicks, spinning back kicks, flying knees and cleaving elbows all punctuate his arsenal and are chambered off with furious intent. The advantage is that his opponent has to be concerned with a virtual library of potential attacks; the disadvantage is that his complex menu requires him to cover a ton of crazy angles, manage an ever-changing semblance of balance with each technique and also be prepared to halt his rhythm at any time to defend counterstrikes or takedowns.
Condit excels with everything but the latter, and his rubbery chin has such epic resiliency that it's forgiven him of defensive striking flaws. Seriously, for a guy who's spent his entire career going toe-to-toe with dangerous opponents, his absence of a single KO/TKO loss speaks volumes about the durability of his chin. It's the takedown defense that always gets him, as it's hard enough to adjust from throwing strikes to defending a double leg in a split second when you're throwing an on-balance punch, yet Condit is broad-sided when wheeling into a spinning attack or in mid-air while soaring for a flying knee.
It will be interesting to see what changes are made for the rematch. Will Kampmann rely on his takedowns and grappling prowess just as heavily? Will Condit temper his volatile and dynamic Muay Thai whirlwind in order to retain the composure and stance to ward off Kampmann's takedowns? Or will they both just lace up the gloves and tear into one another they've commonly done in the past?
My opinion: Condit will adopt a touch of the more calculating strategy he used against Nick Diaz, which was to circle fanatically into open space and refuse to allow himself to be cornered and constrained. Again, most of Condit's trouble with takedown defense is not technique, but his greater focus on striking voracity, which is not conducive to squaring off and digging underhooks to repel takedowns. Because that represents a slight tweak in mentality, it's something quite easily adjusted -- at least compared to improving one's skill in an entirely different facet of combat.
The key to Condit staying afoot is his motion and his mental ability to slightly decrease his striking focus while increasing his defensive awareness. Kampmann has a few options himself -- such as alternating between takedown attempts and combinations, or significantly amplifying his striking blitzes to leave more of an impression -- but Condit's option seems much more achievable, and that's why he gets my vote.
My Prediction: Carlos Condit by decision.