UFC 158 Montreal Road Diary: Why Condit vs. Hendricks Shouldn't Be Overlooked
By Josh Nason
If there was an Observer Award for 'Most Under-Promoted Fight With Major Importance' (long name, I know), Carlos Condit vs. Johny Hendricks would be my 2013 front runner.
Other than Nick Diaz's continued assault of awesomeness on his media tour, the co-main event for Saturday's UFC 158 has been the talk of media members this week. Why? Because it's a damn hard fight to pick a winner for.
A key indicator of how much Diaz has stolen attention away was Thursday's pre-fight press conference that featured both Condit and Hendricks on the dais with only Hendricks getting a question directed his way. Even when Dana White was asked about the fight, Diaz interrupted him to verbally go after Georges St. Pierre again.
Think about that for a second. The former UFC interim welterweight champion -- the same guy that had St. Pierre on the ropes in their November 2012 clash -- was an afterthought Thursday, deemed unworthy of a single question by the assembled press.
More an indicator of Diaz's wackiness taking over, Hendricks/Condit could be Fight Of The Night if both men come to play like they truly can. There are also major stakes for both men, which I'll get to.
Prior to the GSP loss, the 28-year-old Condit had ripped off five wins in a row, defeating Rory MacDonald, Jake Ellenberger and Diaz himself along the way. Like it or not, he's still a top contender but does find himself in the "Vitor Belfort position" as White referred to Thursday.
(The definition: because he recently lost to the champion, no one is clamoring for a rematch. I'd argue that Belfort's defeat to Anderson Silva and Condit's defeat to GSP were much, much different but there's still something to that analogy.)
Can we talk about Hendricks for a minute? People love knockouts and the Oklahoman has been doing that in spectacular fashion with standout wins over Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann in the last 18 months, powering his current five fight win streak. He's a fun, no frills fighter with a great look and great attitude.
But he's where he could be in trouble: Condit has never been knocked out or beaten by TKO in 34 fights. It's not an anomaly -- it just hasn't happened. On the flip side, Hendricks has a recent history of not winning "clean" decisions with split wins over Josh Koscheck and Mike Pierce in his Octagon history.
If Condit (himself prey to split decisions) can avoid the big shot and use the same offensive attack he unloaded on Diaz, he can easily win this fight. It may not be endearing to the fans, but Greg Jackson's charges have shown that doesn't matter.
Hendricks has two opportunities to dominate: landing the big shot and/or wrestling. A multiple time NCAA Division I champion at Oklahoma State, has his MMA translation of that skill become championship quality? How's his submission game? Is he ready for GSP in that sense? There is also the question of whether he'll feel any of the pressure from getting a win that will ensure he gets the next 170-pound title shot. Seeing his demeanor however, that seems doubtful.
And remember that earlier statement about Condit's chin? There was another welterweight Hendricks once faced that had a history of not being knocked out (once in 29 fights). That was Fitch who was looking up at the lights in 12 seconds.
Go ahead, pick a winner. There's a good chance we'll be wrong.- Dana White Media Scrum: TRT, Helwani rage, tons of news
- Thursday Column: Hipsters, Diaz's Final Stand, GSP x 3
Josh Nason is in Montreal all week, covering UFC 158 for Wrestling Observer. Follow him on Twitter for updates from the road, daily columns and videos.
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