The main-event of Saturday's UFC 143 card sees Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit vying for the interim UFC welterweight title. Both men have been scheduled to face Georges St. Pierre for the proper welterweight strap, twice so for Diaz, but injuries to the champ have left the belt on the sideline and brought about the interim belt, with St. Pierre even going so far as to say he is no longer the true champion and that no man can be until he fights the interim holder to unify.
Diaz is one of the most uniquely entertaining personalities in the sport. A fighter with admitted anxiety problems, Diaz is prone to all kinds of interesting foibles, ranging from skipping out on pressers, to taking part in post fight brawls to talking about respect for his opponent and a complete lack of respect for his opponent all within the same paragraph. Inside the cage, Diaz lives up to his entertaining out-of-cage antics, having won titles in multiple second tier organizations.
Diaz is on an eleven fight winning streak, with the majority of those victories coming in Strikeforce. Diaz knocked out Marius Zaromskis to win the Strikeforce welterweight title, and after a one-fight detour in Dream, decisioned KJ Noons to avenge his last defeat, then earned consecutive stoppages over Cyborg Santos and Paul Daley. With GSP having run short of challengers in the UFC, Diaz's belt was vacated and he was slotted to fight GSP to find the world's true #1. Then Diaz decided a mandatory press conference was optional. Then he did so again. That proved one too many times, and Condit was moved up to take his place, while Diaz was then pegged to replace Condit in the co-main event against BJ Penn. When St. Pierre was then injured, Diaz and Penn became the main event, and Diaz dominated Penn in the last two rounds to take a unanimous decision.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Diaz is one of the most versatile fighters in the sport, capable of overwhelming his opponents on the feet or on the ground with a constant-attack style. On the mat, Diaz is a black belt in Cesar Gracie jiu jitsu, having most-famously used his skills to submit Takanori Gomi with a gogoplata. Primarily Diaz's jiu jitsu often serves as a deterrent to going to the ground for his opponent, allowing Diaz to stay upright despite not having great takedown defense. On the feet Diaz is tough as nails, allowing him to stay in the pocket and keep throwing punches at an incredibly high rate. Rather than digging hard into his blows, Diaz prefers to constantly pepper his opponent with less-tiring blows while picking and choosing the occasional hard dig, wearing down his opponent while remaining fresh to keep throwing for the entire fight.
Despite his top-level grappling skills, Diaz is unlikely to be looking to take this fight to the ground. Instead, look for Diaz to remain on the feet and keep peppering Condit with punches in an effort of wearing his opponent down to a TKO victory. Diaz is at a power disadvantage, but if he can drag the fight into the late rounds, his accumulation should do its job with a fourth round TKO. Diaz's odds of -170 are getting a bit on the high side to be finding big money value on, but if you are going for the high-risk parlay of Starks-Pierce-Safe then Diaz is an excellent safe pick, and can also be used for a lower-risk parlay with a couple other fighters from the close fights if you already have a large fantasy bankroll and are looking to simply steadily increase it.
Carlos Condit analysis after the jump.
Condit is the former WEC welterweight champion, and is far and away the most successful convert from the division. All-told Condit has amassed an impressive 9-1 record while fighting under the Zuffa banner with his lone loss coming by way of a split decision.
As previously noted, Condit was caught up in the same shuffle that Diaz was. Why did Condit, who did not fail to meet his press requirements, not simply get slotted back in against Penn when Diaz was hurt? Because Diaz would sell more, silly, and the UFC had already made their point with Diaz when they yanked the GSP fight, so sucks for Condit. For his part, Condit found himself in title contention as a result of a 12-1 run, including four straight wins prior to the Penn booking. Condit's last three fights have ended with the ref pulling Condit off a battered foe, first scoring a dramatic come-from-behind TKO with just seven seconds left in a fight with Rory McDonald after losing the first two rounds (though likely headed for a draw after an easy 10-8 for Condit in the third) then following up with first round KO's of Dan Hardy and Don Hyun Kim.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Although only listed as a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, Condit has shown an extremely dangerous and well-rounded attack on the ground during his time in the WEC and UFC, including starting his WEC career off with four consecutive submission victories. Against Diaz, however, the ground is likely a place best avoided for Condit, so he will be looking to keep the fight on his feet and tee off on the Stockton native. Although Condit does not throw with the same overwhelming volume of Diaz, when he lands on an opponent he lands hard. The three straight knockout wins are no mistake and he is more than capable of putting Diaz out as well. While Condit has gone the distance in a five rounder before, and won his fight with McDonald on endurance, fighting Diaz has a tendency to sap guys with the sheer volume of strikes absorbed, so it will be interesting to see how Condit handles the punishment if the fight stretches into the later rounds.
Although Vegas disagrees and sees Diaz as more of a favorite than Playground is offering, I really like Condit in this match-up. Although Diaz has shown a great ability to fight back, he has been hurt on the feet before, and Condit has proven to be an excellent swarmer when he puts an opponent in trouble. If the fight drags into the late rounds it may become a rough outing for Condit, but I don't think he lets it happen as he stops Diaz with a Round 2 TKO. At +160 Condit won't make you rich, but he is worth a play straight up as well as in a big risk parlay.