Mixed martial arts is a game of inches. The slightest space can make all the difference in the world. Welterweight contender Martin Kampmann felt that intimately Saturday night at UFC 154 in Montreal.
Kampmann got knocked clean out in forty six seconds by Johny Hendricks in what should be a number one contender's fight for Georges St. Pierre's welterweight belt. As is often the case with quick, decisive wins, Kampmann wasn't out-classed by Hendricks. The former NCAA wrestling national champion simply won the game of inches.
The left-handed Hendricks led with right jab and threw a straight left right behind it that knocked Kampmann out. The Danish kickboxer wasn't caught flat-footed by the punch - he even managed to get his own right hand up to defend his chin. There was, at best, a hole of just a few inches between Kampmann's defending glove and his own chin.
Like an expert running back, Hendricks hit that small hole hard and put his opponent down. In boxing, where combatants wear much larger gloves, a punch like that would have likely just been a glancing one. In MMA, with four-ounce gloves, it was fight-ender.
St. Pierre vs. Condit Predictable But Not Boring
UFC 154's welterweight title main event between champion Georges St. Pierre and Carlos Condit was the best version possible of the fight most expected to happen. St. Pierre won because of his wrestling and ground control but Condit hung tough, got back to his feet and seriously threatened the hometown champion with his powerful strikes.
We knew that as long as St. Pierre had indeed recovered fully from his ACL injury, he'd probably be able to win that way against Condit. But there was always the chance that, with his conditioning and heart, Condit would keep coming back for more, getting the chance to hurt St. Pierre with the nasty stopping power in his fists, legs and knees.
And he nearly accomplished just that. After getting dominated and bloodied for two rounds, Condit threw a punch combination that he finished with a kick. This particular one landed flush to the right temple of St. Pierre, catching him from a blind angle.
GSP went down and Condit followed with strikes but was unable to put the champ away. That wasn't the only time in the fight "The Natural Born Killer" had St. Pierre in serious trouble. Later in the fight Condit swept St. Pierre and had the Canadian pinned against the cage on his back.
That isn't a position St. Pierre has found himself in much over the years because his wrestling skills usually get him on top, but he was far from overwhelmed. He turned in towards Condit and reversed positions in quick order.
Both St. Pierre and Condit were coming off of long lay offs but we saw both men at their apparent best - demonstrating slick technique, indomitable spirit and incredible conditioning. Condit didn't wilt under pressure from the best fighter he's ever fought and St. Pierre proved that, contrary to conventional wisdom, he does not simply break mentally and give up when he's hurt or faced with adversity.
No Need to Rush St. Pierre into Silva Fight
Middleweight champion and pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva was in the Bell Centre at UFC 154 to generate more buzz for a possible superfight with St. Pierre. After years of fans calling for the two dominate champions to face off, Silva himself is himself now pushing hard for the matchup to happen.
Before UFC 154, UFC president Dana White even said that should GSP beat Condit, he would likely face Silva in May in either Brazil, Dallas or Toronto. However, St. Pierre continued to be cool to the idea immediately after the fight at the post-event presser and White told the assembled media that the world would have to understandably wait for the welterweight champ to heal and consider his options before real talk about a Silva fight could begin.
St. Pierre can take all the time he needs, for all this writer cares. It isn't that we shouldn't still enthusiastically watch an Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre mega fight, it's just that GSP wouldn't have much of a chance in it.
During the presser, St. Pierre talked over and again about how big Silva is. He's right.
Forget that they are "just" one weight class away from one another. Silva might be five to six inches taller than St. Pierre, and has even been dominant when he's fought at two hundred and five pounds, including when he knocked out former light heavyweight champ Forrest Griffin.
If Carlos Condit was able to give St. Pierre problems on the feet with his length and sharp striking, Anderson Silva's long reach and peerless striking accuracy and timing would be a nightmare for the welterweight champ. GSP's takedowns and top pressure on the ground, perhaps the best in MMA, pound for pound, are the attributes that could make a fight with Silva interesting.
But if Silva was able to prevent Chael Sonnen from doing damage from on top of him on the ground and also stuff his take downs at times, what real chance can we expect St. Pierre has to take and keep Silva down?
If they were the same size one could imagine St. Pierre grinding out a win over Silva. Bu size matters in wrestling, the area that St. Pierre would need to have a clear advantage over "Spider" to win. Silva's combination of excellent take down defense and superior size and strength would probably keep him safe against St. Pierre
Make Silva fight the middleweight division's number one contender, Chris Weidman, or pit him against the champion of the division he's been experimenting in -- Jon Jones. As for St. Pierre, let the man heal up. I'd love to see him challenge himself against larger fighters the way Silva has, but if he wants to rack up some wins at middleweight, Anderson Silva probably isn't a great choice as a first opponent.
Elias Cepeda has covered boxing and MMA since 2005 and is a voting member of the Yahoo! Sports MMA Pound for Pound Rankings panel. Follow Elias on twitter @EliasCepeda
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- Carlos Condit
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