LAS VEGAS -- All the attention focused this week on a potential Nick Diaz vs. Georges St-Pierre blockbuster has obscured a simple fact: Diaz vs. Carlos Condit at UFC 143 on Saturday night promises to be one hell of a matchup.
The two fighters couldn't have more different personalities, but when the cage door locks, both have a history of delivering everything a fight fan could ask for when they plunk their money down to watch a pay-per-view.
Diaz and Condit can both get technical on you and win with their well-rounded skill sets. But neither will shy away from a down-and-dirty firefight, and both are capable of digging for something extra when the odds appear against them.
Condit first made waves on the national scene as WEC welterweight champion, winning memorable fights such as his four-round war with Hiromitsu Miura at WEC 35. If that wasn't enough to demonstrate Condit's heart, his reputation was sealed at UFC 115, when he dropped the first two rounds against Rory MacDonald, then, needing, a finish, roared back to finish the British Columbian on his home turf in the fight's closing seconds.
Diaz has taken notice, saying at Thursday's news conference at Mandalay Bay that he considers Condit a bigger threat than GSP.
"He's more of a dangerous fighter," said Diaz. "You're more in danger of losing a decision to GSP and more in danger of losing your teeth fighting Condit."
Diaz's rep for exciting fights is legendary, from his PRIDE battle in Las Vegas against Takanori Gomi, in which he finished Gomi with a gogoplata seconds after Gomi cracked Diaz's orbital bone with a big knee (the win was later changed to a no-contest, since Diaz tested positive for marijuana) to his most recent fight, in which he picked apart B.J. Penn standing.
Throw all those elements together and you've got a fight that, on paper, could end up in the mix for fight of the year.
"No matter who wins, the fans will win," said Condit.
The potential for a memorable bout in Diaz-Condit is the biggest and most obvious thing to keep an eye on at UFC 143. Here are four others:
*Imagine a heavyweight who had the ability to deliver awesome knockouts, had a deceptively strong ground game, and maybe didn't win all his fights, but showed exceptional toughness even in defeat. Sounds like a "UFC job for life" type, right? Well, not when you're Roy Nelson and you don't have "the right look." It's no secret UFC boss Dana White isn't his biggest fan, so Nelson needs to deliver against the returning Fabricio Werdum, who also comes into the fight feeling he has something to prove. A loss would be three out of four for "Big Country," and that could make Nelson a target for the ax in a UFC heavyweight division that's about to become flooded with Strikeforce additions.
*Mike Pierce has hung around the UFC's welterweight division for three years. The Team Quest standout has rung up a 5-2 record since debuting with an upset win over Brock Larson. But his losses have come when he's been given a chance against upper-echelon fighters, and worse, they've come against guys solid in his own strength, wrestling, as he dropped decisions to Jon Fitch and Johny Hendricks. He gets another chance at the elites on Saturday when he meets yet another standout wrestler in Josh Koscheck. UFC 143 should prove whether Pierce will become one to watch in 2012 or just another face on cable TV cards.
*Where does Koscheck stand in the current pecking order? After his last fight, a KO win over Matt Hughes, Koscheck talked about potentially going up to 185 pounds, since he had last twice to Georges St-Pierre and won't fight teammate Jon Fitch. Since then, though, Fitch has stumbled, and the GSP-Diaz-Condit triangle has changed the parameters at the top of the 170-pound ladder. A solid win over Pierce would seem to set up a bout between Kos and the loser of the Diaz-Condit fight.
*Don't sleep on the Renan Barao-Scott Jorgensen bantamweight fight. Barao, the Brazilian submission wiz, has rattled off 27 consecutive wins (minus a no-contest), including all four on these shores under the WEC and UFC banners. Jorgensen, meanwhile, has won seven of eight, with wins over the likes of Takeya Mizugaki and Jeff Curran and only a loss to Dominick Cruz in the bout to crown the first UFC bantamweight titleholder in the span. Whoever takes this one should be well on their way toward earning a title shot after Cruz and Urijah Faber finally settle their business.
Follow Dave Doyle on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/davedoylemma
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