Carlos Condit: Contender Or Pretender?

Carlos Condit UFC 120

Which Carlos Condit Will We See in London at UFC 120?

The last welterweight champion in WEC history, a lot was expected of Carlos Condit when he was brought into the UFC fold back in April 2009. While he’s delivered a trio of entertaining encounters, this meeting with Dan Hardy at UFC 120 will be his most difficult challenge yet and a litmus test to prove whether or not “The Natural Born Killer” is a true contender.

There was a time when questioning whether Condit was a legitimate threat in the 170-pound ranks would have been considered absurd. Before becoming a member of the premier division in the UFC, Condit was a one-man wrecking crew under the WEC banner, earning the welterweight strap in his second bout with the company. From there, the young star dominated everyone set before him, earning impressive stoppages of veterans John Alessio, Brock Larsen and Carlo Prater before engaging in one of the best fights of 2008 with Hiromitsu Miura.

At that point, Condit was a 24-year-old world champion with a 23-4 record, a dynamic offensive arsenal and a sure spot in the upper echelon of the welterweight rankings all but assured. The New Mexico native was a Top 10 staple, garnering pound-for-pound recognition from some and being earmarked for greater success by many.

Since entering the shark-infested waters of the UFC welterweight division, the swimming hasn’t been as easy for the New Mexico native.

He took part in the main event of UFC Fight Night 18 against Martin Kampmann in his organizational debut. Not many fighters debut in the organization with their name at the top of the marquee, Fight Night or otherwise, and while Condit battled Kampmann for fifteen grueling minutes, he came out on the wrong side of the scorecards, dropping a close split decision to the Danish fighter.

Five months later, Condit engaged in another battle, this time squaring off with feisty Jake Ellenberger, who looked to have Condit dead to rights on two different occasions early in the fight. But the former champion endured and battled back, showing incredible heart. For the second time in as many fights, Condit went the distance, this time earning the favorable side of the split from the judges, evening his UFC record at 1-1.

No fight is more indicative of the Jekyll and Hyde fighting personas of Condit than his meeting with Rory MacDonald at UFC 115.

Regarded as one of the brightest prospects in the sport, the young Canadian fed off the raucous partisan crowd in Vancouver to put in on the former WEC champion through the opening two rounds. Where Condit looked flat and cautious, MacDonald was poised and aggressive, dominating with a blend of striking and well-timed takedowns that had him poised to claim the biggest victory of his career.

Sitting in his corner between rounds two and three, something switched with Condit, and the passive fighter who couldn’t get off for the first two rounds was replaced by a completely different character. Sensing he needed a finish to earn the victory, Condit became the aggressor, stalking MacDonald and landing more shots in the opening minute of the final frame than he had up to that point in total.

The offensive dynamo who had earned five-straight finishes in the WEC was back and he smelled blood. After dropping MacDonald late in the last round, Condit pounced and pounded, dropping a series of unanswered and undefended punches and elbows to the battered youngster, forcing referee Kevin Dornan to stop the fight with just seven seconds remaining.

But which of those two fighters from that fight with MacDonald is the real Carlos Condit?

While the UFC evidence might suggest otherwise, I believe the fighter who emerged from the corner to finish MacDonald in the final frame is the Condit we will see in London, and that fighter is definitely a contender in the welterweight division.

Making the transition from any organization into the UFC is difficult and doing so with a bullseye on your back as a highly-regarded former world champion ups the ante. While countless fighters get welcomed to the company by opponents grasping at the bottom rung of the UFC ladder, Condit was thrown in with Kampmann, a former middleweight contender who earned a spot in a title eliminator bout with the win.

Additionally, Ellenberger has since proven he too belongs in amongst the elite at 170, having reeled off a pair of impressive finishes since dropping the split to Condit in his debut.Carlos Condit UFC Pre Fight

Slow starts have plagued Condit since coming over from the WEC.

When many fighters look like they could rip through a straight jacket waiting for the opening bell to sound, Condit appears to have just been awakened from an extended nap, and his opponents have taken advantage of that. There are solutions to that problem, and working with Greg Jackson and his team of MMA problem solvers is as good a place as any to look for the answer.

While a fix to his slow starts can be taught, what makes Condit a contender in my eyes are the things that can’t be taught.

You can’t teach heart or killer instinct, and Condit has both in spades.

Plenty of fighters have covered up and lived to fight another day when being beaten down as he was against Ellenberger and MacDonald, but not Condit. Each time, he took his lumps and kept coming back, somehow pulling out victories on both occasions.

The combination “Don’t die / Finish him” characteristic Condit displays isn’t something that comes over time by hitting focus mitts, and it is a characteristic that lives within champions.

While the wins haven’t come as easily and the endings haven’t been as impressive, Condit has actually shown more championship traits through three fights with the UFC than he did during his reign as WEC champion.

This pairing with Hardy is a chance for Condit to show that he belongs in the upper tier of the welterweight division.

Don’t be surprised if Dr. Jekyll takes a backseat to Mr. Hyde right out of the gate in this one.