It’s been over 18 months since we’ve seen the man many consider to be the best fighter in the world at this point inside the cage because of injury. Georges “Rush” St. Pierre has been on the shelf, mending and rehabbing an injured knee, and now the man has returned. However the UFC welterweight division has changed drastically since he left; the next generation of contenders has arrived and now his dance card is back to being loaded after appearing to have been cleaned off. And for his big return, coming off of ACL repair, is an incredibly dangerous fighter.
Fight Breakdown – It’s odd to think of GSP vs. Condit as a great wrestler vs. a great striker with the Canadian as the former and the American as the latter. But that’s what this matchup breaks down to on a primal level; GSP’s arguably best in MMA wrestling game against Carlos Condit’s first rate striking. It’s in their training camps, and the guys they brought in, that we see where each fighter is looking to go.
GSP brought in Trainer Yod and Lamsomgkram from Thailand to Tri-Star for his training camp. GSP is bringing in Muay Thai legends for one reason: he needs the very best to deal with the striking caliber of Condit. Condit is a finisher with some serious power; all you have to do is watch the Rory MacDonald fight to see that even after 15 minutes Condit still has that one-shot power. He fights out of MT base, Condit, and GSP is bringing them in to understand how to use his wrestling-based style around it. It’s similar to the reason why he brought in Roger Gracie for the Shields fight; when you have the absolute best in a particular skill set working with you to get you ready for a fight you’re going to have an easier time against someone who’s merely really f’n good at it. Working out of Gracie’s guard is like throwing hands with Lamsomgkram; you’re bound to learn TONS in a short time because he’s so good at that particular aspect of the game. Look for GSP to work his double leg off of Condit’s leg kick game. Everything GSP does, actually, is going to come off of setting up takedowns off the striking game. GSP’s camp was working under the assumption that he will have to stand and trade for portions of the fight to get that takedown.
Carlos Condit brought in Caio, a BJJ legend and world champion, into Jackson’s for his training camp. Caio has a “little man” type game and Condit is probably working under the assumption at some point he’s going to be on bottom in guard against GSP. Sweeping someone like GSP will be tough, with GSP’s size and smothering style, but he needs to be active on bottom against GSP. GSP’s top game works so well because he doesn’t give you a chance to do anything; many guys go defensive and fight not to lose as opposed to fighting to win. Look for Condit to set up scrambles and attack heavily from the bottom. He may have been underneath Rory MacDonald for a large chunk of their fight but it’s in that one where Condit can duplicate it against someone with a similar skillet. He’s going to be the smaller fighter, as GSP is thicker than the lankier Condit, and he needs to make GSP work on top. He can’t sit on his back and let GSP work him over; he has to constantly attack from bottom position if and when he lands there and set up scrambles to get back to his feet. He’s not equal to GSP in his boxing game but arguable his kick boxing game and movement can neutralize GSP’s takedowns. He will lose rounds, though, if he’s on his back for any significant portion of the fight and his takedown defense and setting up scrambles to get away are going to be a key factor.
GSP vs. Condit boils down to a handful of factors, most importantly how GSP’s knee is. If he has that same explosiveness he had before the injury it’ll be a much different fight than it will if he’s 70-90% the fighter he used to be.
Why it matters – It’s for the UFC welterweight title, which normally is more than enough to be important, but it matters in massive amounts for both fighters.
Condit has slowly but surely been building his way up the division since he came over as the WEC’s last champion. A win here and it validates everything he’s done; he’d be the best WW in the world with a win. An interim title isn’t really a championship as far as I’m concerned; beating GSP makes him an actual champion.
For GSP it’s a chance to cement his claim as the best welterweight (and one of the three best fighters) in the world. Eighteen months is a long time and he’s still #2 ranked on people’s P4P lists right now out of legacy as opposed to accomplishment. I took him out of mine after the ACL injury was announced a year ago because he wouldn’t be fighting again until now. It’s hard to call him among the best in the world because he’s been inactive since April 2011. GSP is also coming back from an ACL injury well after he’s become successful in MMA; he doesn’t need to fight anymore if he doesn’t want to.
He could’ve walked away from the sport a rich man and Canadian hero 18 months ago and he’d have his legacy secure. He’s the greatest welterweight in the sport and beat everyone that mattered; coming back tells us a lot in the same way Lesnar came back a year ago this time. You don’t come back from an injury like an ACL tear and take someone like Condit in your first fight back if you don’t think you’re as good as you used to be. And nearly two years off have rejuvenated him as well; GSP fighting because he loves it, and not because it’s his job, could mean a more exciting fight too.
The other thing is that Anderson Silva is going to be front row, cageside, and has alluded to challenging GSP if the current champion wins. Anderson Silva may be talking like he’s just there to hang out while shooting a movie with Steven “You can tell when I’m lying because my lips will be moving” Seagal but you don’t leave the confines of your home to watch a fight cageside, especially one of this magnitude, without people expecting you to challeneg GSP if he wins. He’s trolling everyone hard if he’s going to wait an entire year before fighting, et al, and his presence alone says volumes.
While GSP has always been one to go about business the biggest fight in both men’s lives could be at stake.
Prediction – GSP by UD
Fight Breakdown – Martin Kampmann has found himself one fight away from a UFC title because of one thing: the dude doesn’t know to stay finished as of late. Thiago Alves had clearly and cleanly won their fight until the final moments to grab a fight clinch takedown … and then Kampmann choked him out as the fight ended. Jake Ellenberger thrashed him in the opening round … and then Kampmann decided that was it and finished the American wrestler with knees in the second. Throw in two incredibly close decisions that many people scored for him against Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, as well, and Kampmann could be on a seven fight win streak. His record against high level competition is remarkable in a way; take out a loss to Carlos Condit, again another very close fight that many scored for him, and Kampmann’s only undisputed loss was a knockout to Paul Daley at UFC 103. He’s always in fights and the Dane takes on yet another American wrestler in Oklahoma schoolboy wrestling legend Johny Hendricks.
Kampmann brings to the game some wicked striking and a deceptively good BJJ game off his back. He’s effective in the clinch and works for a fairly clinical game, effective in the clinch, and never out of a fight. If there was the nickname “The Danish Zombie” he’d probably have it; the guy’s never done in a fight unless you know him out cold, it seems.
Hendricks is kind of good at knocking guys out cold, though, with a bomb for a left hand capable of going off anywhere. Just ask Jon Fitch, who went out like a light when he got tapped on the chin by it. Hendricks has a fairly simple game: throw power shots with his fists and go for takedowns. He was an elite level college wrestler who went into MMA when many felt he should’ve gone to the international game. He would’ve had a very good chance at being on the World Freestyle team; he’s one of the names wrestling aficionados point to in their dislike of MMA because many high level wrestlers walk away to fight for a living instead of going for Olympic gold. In terms of wrestling credentials Hendricks has one of the best resumes in the sport on a pure collegiate level.
Kampmann’s game boils down to two things: circling away from that left hand and staying on his feet. Hendricks is the best wrestler Kampmann will have faced and he doesn’t want to be on his back against him. Hendricks in top control is stifling. Kampmann needs to stick and move and not get into an extended firefight with Hendricks.
Hendricks needs this to be a brawl so he can land that big left. If he can get Kampmann to drop his hands a little he can wing threw that big left and end this fight in one fell swoop, potentially. Whereas Kampmann needs to gauge distance Hendricks needs to get up close and personal; he’s better in the clinch and can work his takedown game from there as well.
Why it matters – A win here and a title shot will be sooner than later, especially if it’s by finish.
Prediction - Kampmann
Fight Breakdown – Lawlor may be known for his antics at weigh-ins but when the cage door closes the heavy handed wrestler is all business. Carmont comes out of Tri-Star in Canada with heavy hands of his own and a competent ground game to match. Whoever gets off first with strikes will take the win.
Why it matters – The winner moves up and can potentially get a Top 10 middleweight or be the Strikeforce MW champion’s first fight with a win. Victory here and the road to Anderson Silva gets shorter and shorter.
Prediction - Lawlor
Fight Breakdown – Griggs is an undersized heavyweight making his first cut to light heavyweight. He’s known for having heavy hands and for being the guy that stopped Bobby Lashley’s ascent. Diabate is a French kickboxer without much of a serious ground threat. One of these guys is probably getting knocked out.
Why it matters – Big dudes slinging leather is never a bad thing. Griggs needs to prove he can hang with guys in the UFC; Diabate is the Mendoza line of LHW UFC fighters.
Prediction – Diabate by TKO
Fight Breakdown – Two featherweights with their jobs potentially on the line and it’s striker vs. grappler. Garza is a lanky submission artist. Hominick is known for being able to stand and trade. Garza will look to go to the ground, Hominick to keep it standing. Whomever imposes their will can take the fight.
Why it matters – The winner lives to fight another day. The loser … might not.
Prediction – Hominick by UD