I know you usually visit WLH to read my ramblings on pro wrestling. Not today. Today I’m rambling about my other favourite pastime/hobby/sport. Mixed Martial Arts. So if you’re not a MMA fan or you don’t want to read my opinion Saturday’s UFC 143, and in particular the fallout from the fight for the interim Welterweight Title between Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz, then the following ramble probably isn’t going to interest you. Fear not loyal WLH readers, normal service will be resumed next week. For the rest of you still with me, let’s do this!
For those of you who only know me through my writing here or the Marks for Xcellence Wrestling Podcast (www.mfxpodcast.com) allow me to give you some background. I’ve been a fan of MMA since around 2005/6. I, like millions of others, became aware of the UFC thanks to the first few seasons of the Ultimate Fighter TV show. I had obviously known of the promotion before this but I didn’t really understand what MMA was. It wasn’t until TUF opened my eyes to the sport and I discovered it wasn’t actually the barely legal human cockfight that the media portrayed it to be.
I followed UFC but I wasn’t really much more than a fan of the big name guys and the guys from TUF. I was a casual fans. I was still predominantly a wrestling fan. My interest in the sport really picked up when Brock Lesnar joined the ranks of the UFC. I guess that’s not an usual story. UFC has claimed a large chunk of the wrestling fan base who are aged between 18-35 and are no longer interested by the product that WWE or TNA produce. No matter what Vince tells you, they’re in competition and the UFC are winning.
So, due to my borderline obsessive/compulsive mindset, just like with wrestling or any other sport I follow, as soon as I became a full time fan of MMA I had to find out as much as I could about the sport. I studied hours of old fights. I bought as many DVDs of PRIDE, UFC and other less well known promotions as I could. I devoured articles, books, podcasts and any other MMA media I could get my hands on. I haven’t missed a UFC show in years. I educated myself on what MMA was, who was important to the sport and also learned as much as I could about different styles of fighting.
Over time I was able to get a grasp on the finer points of the sport and in turn my enjoyment of what was going on in the cage increased tenfold. I don’t class myself as an expert by any means but I wouldn’t call myself a casual fan either. I feel confident enough to speak on the subject in a public forum but just don’t expect me to step into the octagon any time soon! So, hopefully that little explanation buys me enough goodwill from those of you still reading to comment on Condit vs. Diaz and to look at the reaction of MMA fans to the outcome of this closely contested fight.
At UFC 143 Carlos Condit defeated Nick Diaz by a unanimous points decision(48-47, 49-46 and 49-46) to become the interim Welterweight Champion and put himself in line for a PPV main event fight against current long time Welterweight Champion and all around UFC superstar – Georges St-Pierre. GSP is currently out with a knee injury and therefore the UFC moved this top contenders fight to an interim Title fight. The thinking behind this fight was simple from a marketing point of view – the fans want to see Nick Diaz against GSP for the Title. This was the fight the enigmatic Diaz would need to win to get his original fight with GSP back on the cards. He famously screwed up the first one by failing to appear for contracted media appearances and was pulled from the fight by Dana White.
While a lot of people inside MMA believed Condit had all the skills necessary to beat Diaz, the majority of those fans who idolise Diaz (and believe me, they really love the guy), saw this as a fight Diaz would dominate and win just as he had against BJ Penn in his last UFC fight. I had my doubts given the difference in age and size between Penn and Condit. BJ is still a tremendous fighter but he’s not in his prime and he’s nowhere near as big as Diaz/Condit. Plus Condit has a whole different style to BJ and he’s coached by Greg Jackson, one of the best in the business.
Still, most pundits and fans predicted a Diaz win and the match they all wanted against GSP later in the year. I predicted the same. That didn’t happen. Diaz was on the end of a defeat that many of his fans (and he personally) felt was unfair. I’ve now watched the fight three times and I feel those who are claiming Diaz was ‘robbed’ or that Condit spent the fight ‘on the run’ aren’t being objective or looking at this fight from the perspective of anyone else apart from Nick Diaz. Which is understandable, they are his fans after all. Still, it feels like no one out there is putting across an alternative point of view. That’s what I’m going to do.
I understand the appeal of Nick Diaz. He looks like a real street fighter. He talks like one. He doesn’t play the political or promotional game. He pisses Dana White off all the time. You have to respect him because he goes into the cage, he smashes people and he gets the hell out. There’s a lot to admire about Nick Diaz. He’s extremely talented, extremely marketable but he’s also extremely unpredictable and volatile. A promoters worst nightmare and dream come true, all wrapped up in one enigmatic dude from the mean streets of Stockton, California.
If there’s anyone the hardcore UFC fan base would love to see kick the hell out of the pretty boy, corporate good guy GSP, then it would be Nick Diaz. Many people see Diaz as a true fighter and a guy like GSP as an athlete turned fighter. A guy who has great skills and athletic ability but not a true warrior like Diaz. I can see why some people feel that way. There’s just something about Diaz that makes you want to watch. He’s an entertainer even when he doesn’t try. A true one of a kind.
Which seems to be the reason why so many fans are crying foul of the decision and calling for Carlos Condit to be kicked out of MMA for being a coward who wouldn’t stand and trade with a street fighting brawler. This is where my annoyance with the whole reaction to the fight comes to a head. I just don’t understand the pig headed and utterly ridiculous comments that Condit ‘ran’ for the entire fight and that he should have fought the kind of Diaz likes and wanted. THAT is what people are saying. They’ve been saying it for days. I’ll just let that logic fart linger under your nose for a moment or two. Give you time to truly appreciate the scent.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t agree with the scoring of the fight. I had Condit winning 3-2 (for anyone interested I thought Diaz took rounds 1 and 5 and Condit the rest) and the two people I watched the fight with also had Condit winning – one of them had him winning 4-1 which is how two of the judges in Las Vegas scored it. Then again I’ve spoken to friends and acquaintances online who had Diaz winning the fight by the same kind of margins. It was that kind of fight – a close, close decision between two high level fighters.
That’s why the claim Diaz was ‘robbed’ doesn’t sit well with me. I could understand if Diaz had entered a dominant performance. If he’d scored take downs, landed combinations of strikes, maybe a few submissions attempts throughout. If he had Condit in trouble during the fight then perhaps, perhaps you could claim Diaz was robbed. He didn’t do much of any of that on Saturday. He didn’t do much of anything.
In fact Diaz spent more time yelling at Condit to stand still so he could hit him than he did implementing any other kind of attack other than his bog standard march forward and swing a lot of punches. When that plan failed Diaz had nothing else to bring to the fight. Something his fans have failed to acknowledge in any way. To them it’s all Condit’s fault, or Greg Jackson’s fault, or even Dana White’s fault. If they could find a way to blame GSP I’m sure they would. Anyone but Nick Diaz. A similar reaction from Diaz himself was evident when he ‘retired’ from MMA after the decision. One of the most high profile examples of toys being thrown from a pram that I’ve seen in the UFC.
As for Condit? The man has been labelled a coward, a fake, someone who ran away during a fight. All complete and utter bullshit. Condit came into the biggest fight of his career to win. He didn’t come to put on an entertaining show for Diaz and his fans. To coin a wrestling phrase, he wasn’t there to put Diaz over. This is a sport. You win first. Which is exactly what he did. Condit and his team did things their way. He didn’t get dragged into the kind of fight Diaz wanted – he was smarter than that. Condit implemented the kind of game plan that has received praise when used by the likes of Frankie Edgar or Dominic Cruz – namely great footwork, combinations of strikes, constant movement, never backing straight up and always keeping his back off the cage.
Most importantly of all, and the stats from the fight back this up - bar one round, Condit landed more significant strikes than Diaz. Think about that for a moment. The guy who ‘ran’ hit the guy he was ‘running’ from more often over 25 minutes. In a sport like MMA the stats don’t always tell the true story but in this case they do more than support Condit’s win. They reinforce my belief that over the course of the fight his striking was more effective and he controlled the octagon far more than Diaz was able to. It’s important to remember that aggression and take downs aren’t the only criteria by which a MMA fight is judged.
I know fans get emotional but the reaction to Diaz losing has been nothing short of staggering. So many people complaining that they didn’t get the stand up war Diaz wanted. So many people labelling Condit as something he’s not, simply because he fought a much smarter fight than anyone else who has fought Diaz before. If this fury was directed at the judges and their scoring then maybe they would have a point. While I feel Condit winning was the right decision, I’m not convinced by how the judges got to that verdict. It was a razor close fight and unfortunately the scoring of the judges did not reflect that.
This was a close fight. A really close fight. To say anyone was ‘robbed’ is to fail to understand any of the finer points of fighting and especially a failure to understand just what a close fight this was. Just because one guy walks forward swinging punches doesn’t mean he wins the fight. Conversely just because one guy circles away and sticks and moves doesn’t mean he loses the fight.
But let’s just all take a breath and think for a moment. Why on earth should Carlos Condit fight in a style that is suited to his opponent? I don’t remember anyone who follows football complaining that a team man marked their best players. Or a cricket fan complaining that the other team used spinners on a pitch that took spin. If a full back in Rugby is weak under the high ball then you can damn well expect a barrage of high balls to be coming his way from the start. This is how sport works. This is how you win.
Call them game plans, tactics, whatever you want. The fact remains that in professional sport it’s not about who is the coolest, or the toughest, or the most exciting. It all comes down to winning. Nothing else matters. When the stakes are as high as they are at the elite level (and Diaz and Condit are certainly the elite) you need to accept that the entertainment factor and what the fans want is going to go out the window. Carlos Condit came to win at UFC 143 and win he did. He might not have made any new friends but he showed that a good game plan, a focused mind and a high level of skill can beat anyone on any given day.
I just hope some of the fans who are calling this the end of the UFC as they know it will have taken the last few days to get things in to perspective. This is not about entertaining us. If you truly believe all the crap fighters talk before a fight about ‘standing and banging’ or any other empty bravado then you’re being worked better than all the John Cena fans who are worried he might ‘embrace the hate.’ Promos are for promotion, they don’t mean that’s how the fight is going to play out.
At the end of the day I can see arguments for either man winning the fight. I still believe Condit won a very close decision. I just can’t get behind the idea that fighting smart is somehow wrong and an insult to everyone associated with the sport. Nick Diaz is an awesome fighter, a legend of the sport and one hell of a cool guy but just because he’s exciting and charismatic doesn’t mean he automatically wins every fight he’s in. Just because he moves forward doesn’t mean he’s controlling the octagon.
Still, that’s the great thing about sport – there’s always something to discuss, dissect or dismiss on Monday morning! Personally I’d love to see a rematch between them before GSP is back in November. There’s a readymade story there for Diaz and his fans. Plus it might just finally put all this anti-Condit sentiment to bed once and for all. I hope so because a talented fighter like Carlos Condit deserves much more respect than he’s currently getting. I’m sure even Nick Diaz and his loyal fans would agree with that…maybe!
Thanks for reading. Remember you can follow me on Twitter @WLHDuckman
Until next time…