When we last left our heroes...Condit has experienced a quiet revolution over the last fear years. When he was fighting in smaller shows, he was known as whirling dervish of mayhem. Even once he broke into the WEC, he still fought with a raw intensity that gained him the kind of fans who fetishize hackneyed principles over what constitutes "samurai spirit". Those same fans turned on him when he refused to fight Nick Diaz' fight.
I would argue that Woodley is experiencing the subtle inverse. Except for his bout with Jake Shields, Woodley has been massively more entertaining lately. Here's a guy who fans absolutely loathed in Strikeforce at times for his bouts with Nathan Coy, Paul Daley, and Jordan Mein. Those fans are suddenly a little quieter, and less vocal.
This fight may be billed as a "exciting brawler vs. lay and pray wrestler" in some fans' minds, but nothing could be further from the truth. So if I may...
But first here's Kid Nate, Dallas Winston & Connor Ruebusch and their take on the bout:
What both men can do: The first thing to note about why there's still hope to this fight being entertaining instead of simply relevant is that Condit is a guy who manages activity from his back that is able to frustrate even the heaviest of top control wrestlers. I don't know that he sweeps Dong Hyun Kim like that nine times out of ten, but I know that he's capable. Even guys like Jake Shields, Rory MacDonald, and GSP were only able to contain him rather than outright neutralize him.
I'd call this asset, self-awareness. Condit, whether consciously or not, knows his wrestling will never be great so he makes sure he's racking up points on the ground at every opportunity. I'd list this as one of the reasons why Condit will never lose a fight in a questionable decision from being merely put on his back and taken down. He's highly active not just throwing his legs up, and looking for submissions, but lobbing punches and elbows in tight.
He's also getting better at getting back to his feet. And once there, he's good at pretty much everything; punches, knees, kicks, two punch combinations that can be chained into kick combinations...you name it.
Woodley is obviously a strong wrestler. With a pedigree involving everything from the Big 12, to the NCAA, we're all well aware of his ability to scoop you up and put you on your back. I think what we're seeing now is his confidence in his hands. If you think about it, he essentially only had six pro fights before being sent to the wolves. Galvao had just as many fights as Tyron before their bout, and seemed like an awful matchup for him on paper (Woodley had yet to record an official knockout at the time). Then Tarec Saffiedine and Paul Daley?
MMA likes to eat its young, and Woodley is a good example of a prospect getting rushed into development. Here again, MMA would do well to take cues from actual sports. Why not require a certain amount of professional fights before challenging for a title perhaps? I don't know. Seems better than rushing guys just because they win impressively against mediocre competition.
Anyway, Woodley has a blazing right hand. The shot that put Koscheck away (hell, the shot that didn't) was picture perfect execution. He can throw that right backing up, or moving forward. His striking is slowly becoming a full arsenal.
What both men can't do: The knock on Woodley is that when he does fight safe, he loses himself and his opponent in his own inertia. He doesn't look to inflict damage. He's just looking to coast safely to a decision. However, if I could disagree with my hat-obsessed peers doing fine video work with their own analysis...sure that's true of Woodley...but when was the last time he went full blanket? The beginning of 2012?
Woodley's real problem is that he doesn't phase shift like the experts do.
I'm kind of tempted to pick Woodley though. He has face melting power, and is getting much more comfortable using it (not counting Shields, who has an uncanny ability to drag everyone into his grind and jab fests). Conduit is still a human, prone to being hurt, and having his last name mispronounced and misspelled like anyone else.
Fans are prone to inattentional blindness. We see Carlos take one heavy punch and keep coming, and never stop to think about whether or not he's capable of walking through the next one. Woodley's power is absolutely a factor. The only reason I'll follow the cool kids thinking all logically is that as mentioned above, I think Condit has slowly evolved in very subtle and nuanced ways. There's a reason he ran away with the Kampmann fight. Woodley smokes the Condit that fought Hardy, and MacDonald in my opinion. Nowadays...perhaps not.
With top control not doing him any favors, I like Condit to fluster Woodley on the feet with his kicks and knees.
X-Factor: This is exactly the kind of fight the judges can screw up. However, I'll make a bold statement and say I can also see Woodley being potentially jobbed. If he lands the harder strikes on the feet, but doesn't do much on the ground while Condit pecks away at him, I can see how the judges might feel Condit's activity from his back could offset Woodley's production on the feet. For once, it's a reasonable x-factor involving the frenetic, subjective nature of mixed martial arts.
In-Fight Soundtrack: I have no clue what song could be thematically relevant so we might as well go with Carlos' favorite band. I'd like to see Condit come out to one of Rage's most underrated gems. The John Carpenter inspired (it's not just me who hears Halloween in the chorus is it?)...Ashes in the Fall.
Prediction: Carlos Condit by Decision.