UFC 158 was billed as a Welterweight extravaganza with so many top tier welterweights highlighting the event on March 16th in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. However, after some breaking news this week of an injury to one of the premier fighters included, it was starting to look like that was falling apart.
As SWFight.com reported, Johny Hendricks (14-1) will step in to replace an injured Rory McDonald in the co-main event of the evening fighting Albuquerque’s Carlos Condit (28-6). News would come in later that Hendricks original opponent Jake Ellenberger (28-6) would find his new opponent in former UFC Middleweight contender and former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nate Marquardt (32-11-2). The two fights will serve as lead in for the night’s main event, a Welterweight Title fight between Champion Georges St. Pierre and Nick Diaz.
The mix up shook the card quite a bit however, it left one common theme. Carlos Condit would still be in a high profile fight and the winner still would be considered by many as the top contender in the division. The difference came on paper as Condit would be facing a whole different type of fighter, going from the dangerous top game of McDonald to the one shot knockout power of Hendricks.
Condit is returning to the cage after a heart breaking loss to Champion Georges St. Pierre this past November. While Condit would be on the wrong side of a unanimous decision, he made the Champion look as vulnerable as he had ever looked when he landed a kick that dropped and hurt St. Pierre and did what many though was impossible by turning a St. Pierre fight into a brawl. The champion showed his fighting spirit as his offense was too much pressure for Condit to handle while setting up his own offense and would lose three to four rounds on most scorecards.
Standing in Condit’s path of redemption is a surging Welterweight juggernaut whose knockout power has become epically dangerous seemingly overnight. Back in December of 2011, Hendricks would face off with Jon Fitch who was thought of too be so durable that the only way to beat him was to our grind his grueling pace to win a decision. Hendricks would need only 12-seconds to send Fitch unconscious to the mat and would follow that up with a 46-seconds knockout over prolific striker Martin Kampmann this past November.
The fight between Hendricks and Condit is unexpected but should be welcomed with open arms by fight fans as the two fighters are both extremely fan friendly in their fighting styles. Condit has had 85% of his fights avoid the fate of a judge’s decision including winning 26 of 28 career victories by way of submission or knockout. Similarly, Hendricks has knocked out his opponent eight times of fourteen career victories in his career.
While both fighters are very successful finishers, they have completely unique styles. Johny Hendricks fights in the southpaw stance and keeps a heavy, planted base to deliver powerful strikes. While he has a very strong base, Hendricks is very agile as he is able to close the distance very quickly and with the power it becomes emphatic. Normally the aggressor, Hendricks calls upon his 4-time All-American wrestling pedigree when his stand up isn’t working. His power transitions into powerful ground and pound, making Hendricks a nightmare match up for anyone.
Jackson-Winklejohn fighter Carlos Condit is the epitome of versatility in the 170-pound division. Switching stances and creating angles is the heart of Condit’s striking game and his wide array of technically sound strikes and combination generally stifle opponents until Condit can land something powerful to impact the course of the fight. The ground game isn’t any safer for opponents; Condit is extremely crafty and unorthodox in his ground game utilizing flexible limbs to execute sweeps and submissions smoothly.
The match up is intriguing because based on past career fights, each fighter has a strength to take advantage of the others past weaknesses. That ideology is what makes the match up that much more compelling.
Hendricks imposes the same issues that Condit had in his loss with Champion St. Pierre in that Hendricks is very aggressive coming forward, heavy in volume striking/takedown combinations and has exceptional wrestling skills from body locks to take away the dangerous kicking ability Condit possesses. In that same regard, Hendricks has very good positional grappling and stifling strength when on top of an opponent. That ability is what helped St. Pierre control Condit in a five round fight.
Condit can counter with his exceptional footwork and ability to create angles on the fly while in a striking exchange. That ability works two fold as defensively it makes Condit a difficult target to hit, best seen in his epic Interim Title fight with Nick Diaz. It also works offensively as angles and fast foot movement open up opportunities to find open spaces in an opponents guard. If there is any counter to an aggressive striker like Hendricks who pushes forward with power, it is someone who can cut an angle quickly and force Hendricks to re-establish his base.
With that in mind, both Condit and Hendricks have different reasons to be hungry for this victory. A win for Condit rights the ship after the loss to St. Pierre and enters once again into the circle of top contenders vying for a chance to win the title. Hendricks is an opposite boat as he has publicly expressed his dissatisfaction that Nick Diaz was awarded a title shot and believed his resume makes him the number one contender. A win over former top contender Condit cements his name atop the division and makes a title shot inevitable.
Stay tuned fight fans, this fight card is shaping up to be an epic night of great fights and as always be sure to check SWFight.com for more event coverage, fight breakdown and analysis and more news and updates as the fight draws closer.