Ask any adult male yet to reach middle age to rattle off 10 current fighters off the top of their head and odds are 70 to 80 per cent of the professional ass kickers they namedrop will be denizens of the UFC. Just a decade ago squared-ring brawlers would dominate that list but mixed martial arts is this tweenaged century’s favourite form of fisticuffs. After Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather and Wladimir Klitschko, the sweet science’s file folder of active big name knockout artists is as thin as silk boxer shorts — while in the UFC a dossier of notables in the welterweight division alone is as thick as Josh Koscheck’s bleach-blond fro. Besides in the era of ADD and cells stocked with dozens of apps, why be confined to jabs, crosses, hooks and uppercuts when you can add grappling, muay thai and jiu jitsu.
So when Harley Davidson rolled out the red carpet for a crew of sports scribe all-stars to scope some banging bikes, gorge on prime cuts of red meat, and catch UFC 143 in Vegas we guillotine choked the
competition to make the cut. The Milwaukee purveyor of fine hogs awarded the top of the fight card winner the brand new Softail Slim ($17,599.00), a stripped down motorcycle reminiscent of custom 1940s and 1950s era bobbers that like LMFAO is not only sexy… but also knows it. The bike and the Interim Welterweight championship (a belt denoting the honour of a tussle-tango date in the octagon with injured French Canadian superstar Georges St. Pierre, when he’s all healed up) went to Carlos Condit.
Condit’s opponent Nick Diaz came out of the gate fiery and ready to go while Carlos appeared more reticent and patient, counterstriking when opportunities presented themselves and constantly shuffling around, very cognizant of his positioning to avoid being pinned against the cage fencing. A swagger-hound, Diaz spouted out trash at regular intervals in an attempt to provoke Condit into losing his cool and engaging in a full throttle slugfest. Condit refused to take the bait and didn’t deviate from his tortoise vs. hare Aesopian fight strategy.
While my lip reading abilities aren’t exactly foolproof, and a mouth-guard certainly complicates matters, after a flashy Mortal Kombat style combo that failed to connect with its intended target — Diaz’s noggin — Nick seemed to retort something to the effect of: “spinning back fists, is that all you got hombre, I can dodge your Liu Kang imitations all night.” While Diaz showboated, Condit was getting in strikes. The hijo of former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s chief of staff succeeded in pulling off a tactical masterpiece. At the end of the fifth round he was rewarded with a unanimous decision by the three judges.
After the announcement, the majority of the crowd appeared shell-shocked. Livid spectators broke into a raucous chorus of boos. Not only was Diaz the favourite, but also well before the fight fans were clamouring for him to be next on GSP’s dance card. Besides, to untrained eyes it appeared Diaz had the upper hand for the majority of the rounds and he had scored the bout’s lone takedown, albeit one that didn’t lead to anything.
MMA fights are scored qualitatively not quantitatively with striking damage and octagon control being two of the most important factors. Even if you do look solely at the numbers of punches and kicks that connected though, Condit also out-struck Diaz 151-105.
“There has been a lot of griping throughout the MMA community about the decision and Condit winning the fight,” Heavy MMA’s feature writer Duane Finley told TORO the next day. “Typically the fighter who is the aggressor is favoured by the judges, but Condit outstruck him in the fight and landed the bigger power shots. I had Carlos winning rounds 2, 3, 4 so I agree with the decision”
When Diaz got his turn at the mic he was spewing sour merlot.
“I’m not going to accept that this was a loss,” he moaned to Fear Factor host and longtime UFC colour commentator Joe Rogan. “I don’t need this sh**, I pushed the guy backwards he ran from me the whole fight. I landed the harder shots, he landed ittie bittie leg kicks the whole fight so you know if that’s the way you have to win in here I don’t think I want to play this game no more.”
He then announced right then and there that he’s retiring from the sport but methinks Diaz will reconsider that rash outburst.
Meanwhile, Condit remained cucumber cool from his entrance to Rage Against the Machine’s agro-rock cover of Springsteen’s "Ghost of Tom Joad" to long after the crowd had left the Mandalay Bay Event Center.
“From my standpoint, being in the cage, I didn’t think it was all that close,” he quipped during the post-fight press conference. “I felt I dominated almost every round.”