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Pound for Pound – UFC 143

Condit, Diaz vie for interim gold at UFC 143

Nick Diaz

Couldn’t blame Carlos Condit if he felt a little disrespected right now.

Just a couple of days before he’s slated to fight Nick Diaz for the UFC’s interim welterweight title at UFC 143, most of the attention is being lavished on his opponent.

No mystery there: Diaz has the better story in this contest. After practically begging the fight company to send him packing last September when his failure to show up to a pair of prefight press conferences got him booted from his original title shot at UFC 137, the Stockton native’s career turnaround has been nothing short of miraculous.

At least, it’s on the verge of being that way. If Diaz beats Condit this weekend to claim interim gold, it’ll set him up for a big money grudge match against returning champion Georges St. Pierre later this year. For a guy who was doing nothing but making the UFC’s life miserable as recently as six months ago, that’s a pretty remarkable about face.

Oddsmakers think it will happen, too, as they see Diaz as something approaching a 2-to-1 favorite over Condit this week. Even the UFC focused some of its three-part “Primetime” special last week – a show ostensibly promoting UFC 143 – on how badly St. Pierre wants a piece of Diaz just as soon as his blown ACL is healed properly.

The way some of the talk has gone, you’d think Daiz already had the interim title wrapped around his waist.

That’s where Condit comes into the equation, naturally. There is no escaping the fact that the former WEC champion is one of the more likable figures in MMA. Against Diaz however, he really has no choice but to play the role of spoiler, looking squelch the UFC’s plans for the much more  lucrative Diaz-GSP and upset fans who are just as hungry to see it.

On paper, it’s almost impossible to see how the boys in Vegas think Condit is such a long shot. His all-around skill set and overall fighting spirit will likely matchup well with the tenacious Diaz. The outcome may well come down to Condit’s ability to cope with Diaz’s unorthodox striking attack en route to inflicting his power on the Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu product.

Diaz has looked borderline unstoppable in recent efforts, defending his Strikeforce title three times before relinquishing it for another crack inside the Octagon. In his first fight back, he put such a beating on former champion B.J. Penn that Penn announced his retirement in the cage after it was over.

As good as Diaz has been, however, there should be some cause for concern in a matchup with Condit. Specifically, the Greg Jackson trained fighter possesses fearsome power (just ask Dan Hardy) and Diaz has seemed almost happy to take a lot of punishment in his latest fights, especially in the early rounds.

If Diaz can weather the storm of Condit’s attack during the opening minutes and then try to wear him down with his breakneck pace and seemingly exhaustible cardio, it may well tell the tale this weekend.

Early on though, Diaz may find himself in an unenviable position, especially against a Condit who may come to the cage with a healthy chip on his shoulder.

 

Photo credit –  Dave Mandel, Sherdog