LAS VEGAS – Carlos Condit performed brilliantly under pressure, stuck to his game plan even under the most extreme conditions, connected at a higher percentage than Nick Diaz and then proceeded to get denounced for his extraordinary effort.
Fans howled their displeasure after Condit's brilliant tactics – to circle away from Diaz's punches and use kicks to chop his legs – led him to a unanimous decision victory Saturday in the main event of UFC 143 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. The win gave Condit the interim welterweight championship and earned him a motorcycle as a bonus.
Judges Patricia Morse Jarman and Cecil Peoples had it 49-46 for Condit, each giving him all but the third round. Judge Junichiro Kamijo had it 48-47 for Condit, giving him Rounds 1, 3 and 4. Yahoo! Sports had it 48-47 for Condit.
It was a flawless performance in a high-pressure situation, yet fans protested it because was Diaz moving forward the whole fight.
Condit said he had no doubt as he was awaiting ring announcer Bruce Buffer to read the scores that he had won the fight and was shocked at a suggestion he might not have done so.
"From my standpoint, being in the cage, I didn't think it was all that close," Condit said at the post-fight news conference. "I felt I dominated almost every round."
Part of the reason for the dissatisfaction with the decision was the appearance that Condit somehow avoided a battle. Diaz, who said in the cage he might retire, stalked Condit through the fight, moving ahead relentlessly and looking to turn the bout into a toe-to-toe slugfest.
Condit, though, didn't run to avoid punishment. He moved laterally in order to set up his kicks, which he used early and often, to great effectiveness.
Condit threw more strikes – kicks and punches – and was more efficient than Diaz. Condit hit on 146 of 273, according to CompuStrike, while Diaz hit 110 of 223. Condit had a 53-49 edge in connect percentage.
Even UFC president Dana White, who, though he wouldn't admit it, had to have been hoping for a Diaz win to set up what would have been a massive fall showdown with champion Georges St. Pierre, recognized the effectiveness of Condit's plan. But he also knew it would create controversy.
"This is going to be one of those fights that people are going to score differently," said White, who said he gave Diaz the first two rounds and Condit the final three. "Because of the style that Condit fought tonight, not the normal style he fights, I think that made it a tough one to score.
"There is no doubt, and this is my opinion and there is going to be 50 million other opinions, but there is no doubt that Nick won the first two rounds by moving forward and being the aggressor. The difference is, he was being the aggressor and throwing tons of punches that were landing. In the third and fourth, I'm pretty sure I remember in the fourth him not throwing anything and he looked frustrated in the fourth."
St. Pierre, who conceded he was rooting for Diaz, scored it a draw. He gave the first two rounds to Diaz, the third and fourth to Condit and had the fifth round even, thus coming up with a 48-48 verdict.
[ Related: Diaz talks of quitting after losing to Condit ]
Condit was largely overlooked in the fight's build-up, as fans, media and promoters worked themselves into a frenzy over the possibility of a grudge fight between St. Pierre and Diaz.
A columnist in the Las Vegas Review-Journal went so far Saturday as to openly root for Condit to lose in order to ensure the St. Pierre-Diaz match.
Condit, however, showed the poise of a grizzled veteran who had been in several similar battles. And, indeed, Condit's record is one of the best in the sport. He raised his mark to 28-5 and now has victories over elite fighters such as Diaz, Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger, among others.
Though Diaz was having success early, Condit never considered switching from the strategy that he and his coaches at Jackson's MMA spent weeks perfecting.
"If I would have fought Diaz's fight and brawled, I probably wouldn't have won the fight," Condit said. "I did what my coaches told me to do and I walked away with a win."
Condit frustrated Diaz with his movement and his refusal to stand flat-footed and swap punches. At one point, after Condit had thrown a spinning back fist, Diaz put his hands down, snarled, and shouted at Condit.
Condit beamed as he recounted the brief conversation.
"When I threw the spinning back fist, he goes, 'We're throwing spinning [expletive] now?' " Condit said, chuckling. "I had to smile at that one. I told him, 'Yep. Yes I am.' I planned for that. I knew I had to be mentally prepared, as well as physically prepared, to fight Nick Diaz. He's a tough guy."
The fact that Condit prepared for any eventuality, devised a brilliant plan, and pulled it off, should be highly praised.
Yet, Condit is taking all sorts of criticism for his winning effort.
No matter what, though, Condit got to go to sleep with the championship belt on Saturday and he's the one with a lucrative bout against St. Pierre looming.
I'm just guessing, but I suspect he'd take that rather than to have lost and been universally praised.
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