UFC 158 Preview – Condit vs. Hendricks
In a reshuffling of the match-ups before the long-awaited GSP and Nick Diaz showdown, we will see a battle between two of the top guys in the welterweight division who have danced around each other without ever meeting in the Octagon. Carlos Condit, who was originally set to rematch Rory MacDonald before he pulled out with an injury, now faces self-proclaimed (and the UFC rankings agree with him) #1 contender Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks. Ironically, GSP is fighting who he believes to be the #1 contender in Diaz and what’s more, before Rory Mac’s injury Hendricks wasn’t even in the co-main event.
Fight Breakdown – The similarities between these guys will make for a good fight: they are both dangerous and aggressive strikers with knock-out power and good cardio. That’s always a recipe for success. However, it’s the clash of styles between them that will make this fight so interesting and entertaining. Hendricks is now famous for his Dan Henderson/JDS-like punching power, while Condit is one of the most dynamic strikers in the UFC. But while Hendricks looks to throw his hands and use his wrestling if necessary, Condit is an active leg guy – he might be the most active kicker in the welterweight division.
Condit trains with Jackson/Winkeljohn and those gurus in New Mexico will undoubtedly prepare him for Hendricks’ greatest strength: those hands of doom. Condit has stood and traded with other accomplished strikers and emerged victorious (think Dan Hardy and Rory MacDonald), but many pundits and fans have argued he has become more cautious and shelved that recklessness that made him so dangerous. Coming off of a disappointing title loss is not easy, but Condit is still one of the smartest and most capable fighters in the WW division. He’s going to have a height and reach advantage over the shorter Hendricks, and he should use that to keep the devastating power of Hendricks out of reach. Look for him to use his entire bag of tricks, especially leg kicks, against Hendricks to keep his timing and balance off. Condit showed in the Diaz fight he knows how to avoid dangerous situations, so look for him to employ a similar plan and keep away from Hendricks’ money-makers, while staying active and picking his shots.
Hendricks must have boatloads of confidence considering how he’s been finishing top fighters so quickly. That could be a boon for him, but getting overconfident and charging after a guy like Condit could spell his doom. Hendricks has the advantage in the wrestling department, something that should concern Condit considering that’s a significant part of what beat him in the title fight. He will probably look to test Condit’s chin (and it will be tested at some point), while remaining very aware of Condit’s prowess as a striker. If Condit continuously peppers him from the outside, look for Bigg Rigg to utilize his powerful take-downs and slams. Hendricks’ power is right up there with the strongest guys in the division. That’s where Hendricks has an advantage; Condit is dangerous standing up and in the clinch, but he won’t be able to take Hendricks to the ground that easily. Condit is no stranger to submitting guys of course, but that’s easier said than done when Hendricks is postured over you, throwing elbows and hammer fists at your face.
This fight may very well boil down to who beats the other guy to the punch, literally. Condit has been the winner whenever he decides to play that game, but he probably hasn’t seen a guy with the combination of quickness and power that Hendricks has. They’re both durable and tough, but if they decide to make this a stand-up contest, more likely than not one of these guys is going down for the count.
Why It Matters – This is essentially a title eliminator for Johny Hendricks…but not so much for The Natural Born Killer. Regardless of who wins the main event at UFC 158, if Hendricks wins this fight in any fashion, it’s assured he will challenge for the title next. Whether GSP happens to be the champion at that time is another story, but it’s clear Hendricks is next in line – if he wins.
Condit, on the other hand, just lost in rather dominant fashion against the champ, aside from that beautiful third round head kick. His standing may not change that much with a win or a loss, either way he will be one of the top three or four guys in the division. If GSP is still sitting at the top of the mountain, Condit will likely take another fight or two before hearing any rematch talk. Rory MacDonald’s return from injury will also throw another cog into the machine.
The real question is what GSP will do if he gets by Nick Diaz. If GSP leaves the division for the Anderson Silva superfight, all bets are off and we could be looking at the next welterweight champion emerging from this fight. If GSP stays at welterweight however, it’s a bit of a Michael Bisping/Vitor Belfort situation where it’s a title eliminator for one guy, while the other guy already lost to the champ decisively. We know how that turned out, and a similar outcome might be expected here. Hendricks already put the division on alert with his KO of Fitch. His finish of Kampmann moved it up to DEFCON 1 status. Those hands of Hendricks are something to be feared and Condit is both smart enough to recognize that and able enough to avoid getting caught. Look for him to keep the fight standing and chip away at Hendricks with his arsenal of strikes.
Prediction – Condit via decision