Big Fight Breakdown

Georges St-Pierre vs. Carlos Condit, UFC 137, Oct. 29

Less than 48 hours after Carlos Condit was given a surprise opportunity to replace Nick Diaz against Georges St-Pierre for the UFC Welterweight Title, I asked Condit point-blank how he planned to win. Condit thought about it for a second. The reality of fighting GSP was still fresh in his mind, even if he had dreamed about it for a few years. In typical Condit style, he was blunt. He said he didn’t know.

While some might read that as a lack of confidence, for Condit, it’s more endemic to his mindset and fight style. Regarding the former, Condit acknowledges that ambiguity of outcome is a common experience for him. When it comes to the latter, it’s his willingness to fight his opponent anywhere—even on his foe’s terms—that defines him.

Condit is a fighter in the truest sense of the word. The way he competes is not so much about following a blueprint but what he feels in the moment. In that way, he diverges from St-Pierre, a master of both strategy and execution who defines himself as an athlete first. Because of the contradicting philosophies, Condit is likely to draw the “fighter” out of St-Pierre in a way that few opponents have. Here’s what each man will have to do to win.

ST-PIERRE’S SCHEME

Let’s get one thing out of the way early: St-Pierre will be able to take Condit down almost every time he wants. The numbers don’t lie. FightMetric numbers show that Condit’s opponents are successful on 55% of takedown tries, and CompuStrike stats show that St-Pierre is successful on 76% of takedown tries. Wrestling has never been Condit’s strength. He knows it, and St-Pierre knows it, too. Now what?

St-Pierre has brutalized most of his opponents on the ground. From Jon Fitch to BJ Penn to Josh Koscheck, none have been able to threaten GSP from the bottom, or do anything other than survive. However, Condit has a much different guard game than anyone from St-Pierre’s recent history. He attacks, he looks for sweeps, and he keeps up an exhausting level of activity. In short, GSP won’t be able to hold him down and coast with positional control.

On the other hand, Condit’s aggression leaves holes. It practically begs for action. St-Pierre used to fight with killer instinct. If any fight should reawaken that instinct, it’s this one. He should be able to pass guard, and there will be openings for submissions. Condit’s not an easy man to finish, but he does put himself in bad positions. For GSP, there will be opportunities to capitalize.

If Condit is able to stay on his feet for any sustained period—or more accurately, if GSP allows him to stay on his feet—it won’t be a pretty kickboxing match. Condit will push the pace. He can get wild, but St-Pierre’s technique should trump him. On the mat, St-Pierre should take his chances, but on the feet, he’ll need more caution, where he’ll want to concentrate on scoring points while limiting Condit’s aggression.

CONDIT’S COURSE

Condit is often underrated in terms of his overall game. He may have a hole in his wrestling, but he does everything else well, and has the perfect approach to face someone like St-Pierre. That is, he’ll fight like hell until the final bell, regardless of what’s come before it. St-Pierre often talks about breaking his opponents, but it won’t happen here.

Condit will probably prefer to fight St-Pierre on his feet. He displays versatile striking, mixing in unorthodox combinations that are impossible to predict. He also uses all his tools. When some fighters get in the heat of battle, they forget about things they’ve been working on and concentrate on throwing their hands. Condit has always been one of the best at mixing punches and kicks at an approximate 1:1 ratio. That is rare, and it is disconcerting to opponents, who continually are forced to change eye level.

In the more recent past, Condit has also shown newfound power. Never known as a one-shot knockout artist, he pulled off the trick with a left-hook knockout of Dan Hardy at UFC 120, then followed it up with a flying knee against Don Hyun Kim at UFC 132. Among St-Pierre’s recent foes, only Thiago Alves had a real pedigree as a KO machine, and it’s just another thing for St-Pierre to think about. When it goes to the ground, Condit should spend more time trying to get to his feet than looking for submissions. His constant activity will offer both possibilities.

Condit’s frenetic energy is the X-factor of this fight. St-Pierre has always shown the ability to control his opponent, but it’s also been a long time since he’s faced someone with the gameness and gas tank of Condit. Regardless of the round, the danger for GSP will never decrease. The scariest trait in an opponent is unpredictability, and with Carlos Condit, St-Pierre will never know quite what he’s about to get next. If Condit can take this from a match to a fight, he’s got a chance to unseat the champ.

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