LAS VEGAS -- Nick Diaz is brilliant at playing mind games with his opponents, but it didn't work on any level tonight.
Carlos Condit never took the bait before or during the fight, stuck to the gameplan and outsmarted Diaz to get himself a share of the UFC welterweight title.
Condit moved beautifully all night and landed 60-plus kicks. He never stood in front of Diaz for more than a few seconds. It all added up to a unanimous decision victory, 48-47, 49-46 and 49-46, in the main event of UFC 143 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
It was a difficult fight to score. Judge Cecil Peoples scored it 49-46 (Condit 1, 2, 4, 5), Patricia Morse Jarman had 49-46 (Condit 1, 2, 4, 5) and Junichiro Kamijo 49-46 (Condit 1, 3, 4). Aside the from the fourth round, each round was razor thin.
When the decision was read, Diaz was shocked. His behavior is nearly impossible to predict, but he threw everyone for a loop during his postfight discussion with UFC analyst Joe Rogan. He complained about the decision and then said he's had it with the sport.
"I'm not going to accept the fact that was a loss.That ain't right. I pushed him back all fight. I walked him down. Carlos is a great guy. I'm happy for him and his family, but I think I'm done with this MMA," said Diaz.
Diaz (26-8, 7-5 UFC) appeared to be the aggressor all night, but was it "effective aggression" as the unified rules state in detailing how to score a fight? Condit's constant move stymied Diaz, who was outlanded outlanded 159-117 according to Fight Metric. Compustrike had total strikes 146- 110 in favor of Condit. It also said kicks landed were 104-19 for Condit.
The loss ended an 11-fight, four-year win streak. Diaz is just 28 years old and one of the rising stars of the sport. He's got a bright future with massive earning potential.
"You guys pay me way too much, but I don't think I'm going to get enough to keep going in this. I don't need this [expletive]," Diaz said. "I pushed him backwards the whole time. I landed the harder shots. He ran the whole time. He kicked me in my leg with little baby leg kicks. I don't want to play this game no more. I'm out of this [expletive]."
Condit (28-5, 5-1 UFC) picks up the UFC's interim welterweight belt. After undergoing surgery for a torn ACL, The champion Georges St-Pierre is sidelined until late 2012. Before the fight, UFC president Dana White couldn't say for certain if the winner tonight would sit out 8-9 months until GSP is ready.
Coming into tonight's tilt, Condit was sizable underdog at plus-185. A possible Diaz-GSP fight was expected to be one of the biggest UFC fights of 2012. A St-Pierre-Condit fight won't have the same sizzle, but it should be a helluva brawl based on what the new interim champ showed tonight.
The judges made the right call. The first round was tough to call with Condit starting out strong and Diaz closing well. Condit ran a little too much in the second and lost the round. He corrected his mistake from there and was simply brilliant over the final three rounds. Diaz stalked him for 15 more minutes eating kick after kick. In most cases, when Diaz tried to settle and throw punches, Condit was nowhere to be found. He scooted out of the way in when it looked like a classic Diaz 10-12 punch flurry was coming. The early work to Diaz's legs really sapped him late. He looked a step slow in the final round.
The fight didn't end without drama and that's where Diaz backers may have their biggest complaint. With 1:23 left, Diaz got standing back control, immediately dropped to the ground and quickly got his hooks in.
With 1:02 left, Diaz changed his legs to a body lock. He work for the choke, but never got his hands in position. Diaz had his right arm across the face, but Condit did a good job of tucking his chin. With around eight seconds left, Diaz threatened with an armbar attempt, but Condit was too slick and slipped out instantly. Some thought that was enough to take the round. It's hard call after watching Condit make Diaz look desperate and slow for the first three and half minutes of the round.