MMA: Carlos Condit

Woodley dismisses critics, wants title shot

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
3:19
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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video Tyron Woodley didn’t take off for any resort to celebrate his win at UFC 171.

The welterweight contender was at his American Top Team-affiliated gym in St. Louis on Monday morning working. Not working out, but working.

Following the biggest win of his career, a second-round TKO over Carlos Condit last weekend, Woodley (13-2) is not content to sit around and hope for a UFC title shot. He made full media rounds, voluntarily, on Monday to plead his case.
[+] EnlargeCondit/Woodley
Ed Mulholland for ESPNTyron Woodley, right, feels his fight with Carlos Condit was for a shot at the welterweight title.

He felt inclined to do so, partially because it seems as though many observers aren’t willing to give him full credit for the win. The fight ended when Condit suffered a knee injury, which appeared to initially occur during a Woodley takedown.

Woodley can’t comprehend why the victory is being tagged with an asterisk.

“I went out there and took the fight to him,” Woodley told ESPN.com. “I beat him up.

“I went back and watched film and was like, ‘What are people talking about?’ He was coming back? Where? Show me where he had me in a bad position. Show me where he had me on the ropes or hurt. He was on his back, remember that?”

Woodley said he was guaranteed a title shot with a win over Condit. If need be, he is willing to sit and wait for it against newly crowned Johny Hendricks.

Asked how he would feel about an official No. 1 contender’s fight, Woodley responded, “That’s the fight I was just in.”

“I want the people to hear why I believe I’m next in line,” Woodley said. “I think once fans and media hear everybody’s story and lay them out across the table, mine should stick out more than the rest.”

Woodley on Robbie Lawler: There was no controversy. One of the judges scored it like an idiot, but everybody, including Robbie, thought it was 2-2 going into the final round. I think he eased up on the gas in the last 90 seconds. I’m bummed for the kid, but it was clear cut. No controversy. Maybe he wins one fight and he’s right back there.

On Hector Lombard: He had a great performance over Jake Shields. Granted, he beat Nate Marquardt, but I think Nate Marquardt was softened up for him by Tarec Saffiedine and Jake Ellenberger. I think he’s on his way out. He got a victory over Shields, but Shields is ranked No. 6. I think Carlos Condit was ranked No. 2. Based on merit and marketability, I’m ahead of Hector.

On Rory MacDonald: He lost to Robbie Lawler. He lost to Carlos Condit, who I just beat. He had the opportunity to fight for the world title against Georges St-Pierre and didn’t take it. I was prepared to fly out and meet with Robbie Lawler [had he won the title], have lunch with him and talk about it. I was prepared to fight not just my training partner, but my friend. I wanted to see him win the title. The willingness to honor my contract as a fighter in the fight business and be willing to fight a teammate under world title circumstances puts me in a better position than him.

On Nick Diaz: He’s never beat a wrestler. If he does get a title shot, I think Johny Hendricks will own him. He hasn’t won a fight since 2011. He had the opportunity to fight Carlos Condit, and thank God he didn’t because I got a chance to go in and do what he couldn’t do, which was beat Carlos Condit. He wants to sit back and watch the drama and then jump back in. This is not like a girl jumping double Dutch rope, step in when you feel like it. This is the fight business. You’re either in it or you’re not, and he’s been out of it.

Dallas notes: Title shots, Carano's return

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
6:56
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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DALLAS -- Is the UFC 171 co-main event between Carlos Condit and Tyron Woodley a No. 1 contender bout in the welterweight division? That depends on whom you ask.

During a media function on Thursday, Condit and Woodley both said they've been guaranteed a title shot with a win over the other on Saturday. The vacant belt is up for grabs in the night’s headliner between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler.
[+] EnlargeJosh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley
Al Powers for ESPNWith a win, Tyron Woodley could be in line for a UFC title shot.

Moments after Condit and Woodley left the American Airlines Center, however, UFC president Dana White said nothing is ever a guarantee -- especially UFC title shots.

“There are no guarantees anywhere in life,” White said. “They’re going to have to come out and perform -- and we’ll see what happens.”

The UFC 171 main card is stacked with elite welterweight talent. Hendricks, Lawler, Condit, Woodley, Hector Lombard and Jake Shields are all potential titleholders at 170 pounds.

Condit (29-7) lost back-to-back fights to Georges St-Pierre and Hendricks but rebounded in August with a finish over Martin Kampmann. His primary focus in the past year has been shoring up the wrestling deficiency that led to those two losses.

“I was in tune with the lack of wrestling ability on my part before those fights, but I feel like the guys I’ve brought in now, the particular coaches, just fit me and my personality better,” Condit told ESPN.com.

“I’ve been told I get a title shot, and I plan on putting on a phenomenal show against Tyron Woodley. I deserve the title shot.”

Woodley (12-2) would essentially jump the line at 170 pounds should he get an opportunity to fight for the belt. A member of American Top Team, Woodley is just 2-1 in the UFC and 2-2 in his past four fights.

That hasn’t dampened his outlook on the situation, however. Woodley campaigned hard for the Condit fight and believes he’s ready to carry the welterweight torch.

“I don’t care who is ranked higher or who is next in line,” Woodley said. “Nobody will be a better champion than me. I think I’m the full package -- a combination of good, hood and Hollywood. I’m marketable, punch hard and well-spoken.”

White, however, apparently hasn’t forgotten another fight on the UFC 171 main card between Hector Lombard (33-4-1) and Jake Shields (29-6-1). Shields has a strong case for a title shot with career wins over Condit, Woodley and Lawler.

“I think pretty much anybody on this card who comes out looking great and exciting can get a shot,” White said.

As for the man who gave up the belt late last year, White said he “knows for a fact” that St-Pierre will eventually return from retirement and fight whoever has the belt.

“I haven’t talked to him, but we’ve texted,” White said.

“Is it fun for Georges St-Pierre to be gone? I wouldn’t say it’s fun, but the welterweight division is exciting now ... and when Georges does come back, whoever is standing there, it will be a fun fight.”

White on Rousey, Carano, Holm



A fantasy fight between UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and former featherweight-turned-actress Gina Carano remains just that for now -- a fantasy.
[+] EnlargeGina Carano
Jon Kopaloff/Getty ImagesDon't expect to see Gina Carano make a return to the cage.

Carano (7-1) has not fought since August 2009 and spent the majority of her career above 135 pounds, but that hasn’t stamped out rumors of a potential comeback.

White maintains there is nothing currently in the works regarding an upcoming opponent for Rousey (9-0), who recently vacationed out of the country.

“There’s absolutely nothing going on,” White said.

White did say that any fight involving Rousey would be done at 135 pounds and not a catchweight, including a bout against Carano. He also confirmed reports of a split between Rousey with her management team, Fight Tribe Management.

The two sides are reportedly involved in a dispute regarding her contract. White said he was aware of it and it would not affect her ability to compete.

“It doesn’t affect it in that way at all,” White said. “That’s between them and has nothing to do with [the UFC].”

White also confirmed he’s scheduled to meet with undefeated female bantamweight Holly Holm (6-0) for the first time this weekend in Texas. Holm has fought for Bellator MMA and Legacy Fighting Championships.

“I’m meeting with her this week,” White said. “I’ve never met them. We’ll see what happens.”

Montreal camp has Story's confidence high

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
10:06
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Rick Story, Johny HendricksJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesRick Story's experience having defeated Johny Hendricks drew the attention of Georges St-Pierre.
UFC welterweight Rick Story has spent the past eight weeks of his life living out of a suitcase in a hotel located in the west end of Montreal.

If that sounds unpleasant, it's probably because it most likely is. The best thing Story could think of when it comes to staying in a hotel for that long?

"It's kind of nice," he mumbled unconvincingly. "All the accommodations are here as far as toilet paper and shampoo -- and stuff."

Got it. And at the top of the many general reasons one might want to avoid this situation, Story doesn't speak French. Meaning, a large fraction of the French Canadian television channels available in his room are completely worthless to him.

"I've been killing time watching Netflix," Story said. "I've been watching a lot of Netflix."

Pause. "A lot of Netflix."

In addition to streaming online movies, Story spent his time in Montreal developing his craft at Tristar Gym alongside UFC champion Georges St-Pierre. It's the first time Story (15-7), who meets Brian Ebersole at UFC 167 on Saturday in Las Vegas, has held a fight camp outside his home state of Washington.

The idea of Story temporarily joining the Tristar team was first broached in March, in a locker room the two fighters shared at UFC 158 at Bell Centre.

St-Pierre was headlining the card in a welterweight title fight against Nick Diaz. In the co-main event, Johny Hendricks was set to take on Carlos Condit. Everyone in the building knew if St-Pierre and Hendricks won, they'd fight each other next.

And as fate would have it, there was Story -- the only man with a win over Hendricks -- scheduled to fight Quinn Mulhern on the preliminary card, sharing a locker room with the Canadian champ.

"[Tristar coach] Firas Zahabi was very persistent in getting us to come," Story said. "Pat White is my coach and he and Pat talked that night in Montreal.

"Originally, we thought it would be better if Johny beat Georges, because I'm the only one to ever beat him so it would make it easier to get a title shot sooner. Firas was so persistent, though. He kept emailing Pat, calling Pat, calling the gym."

Eventually, the deal Tristar offered was too good to pass up. In addition to the benefit of high-level sparring partners including St-Pierre, Zahabi worked a deal that covered the cost of Story's entire eight-week stay.

"I don't know exactly how the deal was worked out, but we had our hotel paid," Story said. "Pat and I have separate rooms, he's been here with me the whole time. Our food is paid for. It was like, a great deal."

As much as St-Pierre obviously wanted Story in his camp, the timing of this experience probably couldn't be better for Story as well.

That signature win over Hendricks in December 2010 is a fairly distant memory. A six-fight winning streak had him cracking top-10 lists in early 2011, but Story has endured a 2-4 skid in his past six fights. He suffered a split-decision loss to Mike Pyle in his previous performance at UFC 160 in May.

Physically, Story says, he has been fine during this stretch. It's been a mental issue. Every fighter handles a loss differently. In Story's case, for whatever reason, it was difficult to get going again once the winning streak was broken.

"I don't want this to sound the wrong way, but you walk the walk for a long time, you get knocked off course and then it's kind of hard to get back on the horse," Story said.

"I lost to [Charlie] Brenneman and then there were some fights that I wasn't completely focused on. I wasn't doing the things I needed to be doing to go into the fight with confidence. It was really cool being able to come here and do that for this training camp, with no distractions. My confidence is through the roof right now."

Confidence, a few new techniques, and all of the free travel-size shampoo bottles he can handle -- maybe Montreal wasn't so bad to Story after all.

Harris: Top 10 moments in WEC history

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
12:06
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Miguel TorresJosh Hedges/Zuffa/UFC/WECMiguel Torres defended his bantamweight title at WEC 40 in a 2009 thriller against Takeya Mizugaki.
From World Extreme Cagefighting's launch in 2001 to its eventual merger with UFC in 2010, the WEC produced a number of memorable bouts, typically in the lower weight classes.

With a number of former WEC fighters competing Saturday at UFC 164 and one of its most infamous fights set to headline the card in Milwaukee, we took a look back at the best fights from the WEC's 10-year history through the eyes of founder and current UFC vice president of community relations Reed Harris.

So where exactly does the "Showtime kick" from Anthony Pettis rank among his favorite moments? Let's take a look back at Harris' top 10, including his personal memories of each one:

10. WEC 9: Olaf Alfonso SD John Polakowski, Jan. 16, 2004

Harris: Both guys broke their noses in the first 45 seconds of the fight. It was a war. In fact, [UFC president] Dana White was at the fight and HDNet was at the fight. And HDNet reported back to [channel owner] Mark Cuban, "We have to get this on our network." Polakowski took the fight on like two days. Really good striker but not very good on the ground. But Olaf was such a stud back then, he was like, "You know what? I'll stand with him." He just stood there for three rounds and they threw bombs.

9. WEC 29: Carlos Condit SUB1 Brock Larson, Aug. 5, 2007

Harris: It wasn't a fantastic fight, but what happened was Brock Larson was one of the strongest dudes I have ever seen. Like when that guy shook your hand, you were like, "Holy s---." He threw a punch at Condit, and Condit armbarred him, and it was so fast that I've never forgotten that moment. Larson was throwing bombs at him, he timed it perfectly and put that armbar on him and it was just, "Wow."

Henderson/Cerrone
Dave Mandel for Sherdog.comBenson Henderson won the first of two battles against Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone by unanimous decision in an exciting 2009 tilt at WEC 43.
8. WEC 43: Ben Henderson UD Donald Cerrone, Oct. 10, 2009

Harris: A lot of my memories about "Cowboy" are tied to Charles ["Mask" Lewis, Tapout co-founder]. Charles had gone and seen Donald, and he came to me and begged me to sign him -- and Charles was a guy who if he asked you to do something, he would call you every day until you did it. I remember how proud Charles was of [Cerrone]. He loved him.

7. WEC 44: Jose Aldo TKO2 Mike Brown, Nov. 18, 2009

Harris: It was the kind of moment where I really knew how good [Aldo] was. I remember the first time he jumped out of the cage [after knocking out Rolando Perez at WEC 38], I ran him back and I had never yelled at a fighter before. Poor Andre [Pederneiras] was interpreting it and it was basically, "If you ever do that again, I'll cut you." His next fight he won, I walked into the cage and he was running towards the door. He looked at me and smiled, then sat down.

6. WEC 38 and WEC 51: Donald Cerrone vs. Jamie Varner, Jan. 25, 2009 and Sept. 30, 2010

Harris: The fights between Varner and Cowboy [a technical-decision win for Varner followed by a unanimous-decision win for Cerrone] were epic. Those guys hated each other. There was so much going on behind the scenes. Biggest rivalry the WEC saw, by far. When Varner was fighting a year ago [in the UFC], he got sick, and I got a text from Donald saying something like, "You tell Varner to pull up his bootstraps and fight." I thought, "This is still going on and they haven't fought in [almost] two years."

5. WEC 53: Anthony Pettis UD Ben Henderson, Dec. 16, 2010

Harris: The fight itself was great, even without the kick. I'll tell you, when Pettis did that, I literally said, "What the hell just happened?" I didn't process it. I was watching live, and the angle I had wasn't good. I saw what happened, but I didn't know what he had done -- how he had gotten from where he was standing to all of a sudden, Ben was down. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen someone do in MMA.

4. WEC 34: Urijah Faber UD Jens Pulver, June 1, 2008

Harris: I think we did about 1.5 million viewers, which for a company like WEC -- it's hard to be in that UFC space and command viewers. It was kind of a passing of the torch for Jens. I saw a lot of respect between the two but also a determination with Faber, like he was going to get through this. And I remember him dominating.

[+] EnlargeJose Aldo and Urijah Faber
Jon Kopaloff/Getty ImagesJose Aldo's WEC featherweight title defense against Urijah Faber was an emotional ride for the future UFC champion.
3. WEC 48: Jose Aldo UD Urijah Faber, April 24, 2010

Harris: I remember [afterward] Faber being hurt. I gave him a hug and asked how he was. His leg was a mess. Aldo cried in the back. He was so emotional. It was like all the work he had done in his life -- that moment was life-changing to him. I remember when he was standing in that cage before the fight and "California Love" came on, Jose's look was like, "Wow. This guy's got a lot of fans."

2. WEC 40: Miguel Torres UD Takeya Mizugaki, April 5, 2009

Harris: It was such a war. I just remember how excited the crowd was and how brutal the fight was. There's nothing like seeing two guys in the dressing room who have given it everything they got. They had gone to battle. And when Miguel Torres was on, he really was like Anderson Silva. He had this aura about him.

1. WEC 48: Leonard Garcia SD Chan Sung Jung, April 24, 2010

Harris: To have those two guys step up and fight the way they did leading into our pay-per-view -- I know it completely bumped our numbers. Part of the story people don't know is after the fight, I went to the dressing rooms and "Korean Zombie" was crying because he really thought he had won the fight. I was able to tell him he won the fight of the night bonus, which was $65,000, and just the elation on his face was something I'll never forget.

Condit still a major player at 170 pounds

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
8:35
AM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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There are only two welterweights who can claim to be better than Carlos Condit and neither is named Martin Kampmann. Condit not only exacted revenge Wednesday night at Bankers Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, he dominated Kampmann en route to a fourth-round knockout win.

The victory avenged a split-decision setback Condit suffered to Kampmann in April 2009. Their first fight was closely contested; not so the second time around.

Condit punched Kampmann in the face repeatedly throughout the bout, eventually leaving it bloody and puffy; he connected with kicks to the body, which slowed Kampmann’s attack and evaporated his confidence.

The performance was impressive, but more important it strengthened Condit’s case to get the winner of Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks -- those two are set to meet Nov. 16 at UFC 167 in Las Vegas. Normally it would be unthinkable to suggest that a fighter who lost his two previous bouts to the men slated to compete for the belt deserves to be next in line for the title shot.

Both ESPN.com and UFC.com, however, rate Condit the No. 2 welterweight contender behind Hendricks. Even UFC president Dana White can’t take issue with those rankings.

“It was an absolutely great fight. Carlos Condit just proved why he is the No. 2 [welterweight contender] in the world,” White said after Condit improved to 29-7.
[+] EnlargeCarlos Condit
Ross Dettman for ESPNBy pushing a blistering pace and keeping the fight standing, Carlos Condit was able to exact revenge over Martin Kampmann.

Who deserves the St-Pierre-Hendricks winner more? The guy with the strongest counter is Rory MacDonald. But it’s not clear that MacDonald will step in against friend and teammate St-Pierre, if he is still champion after 167.

Besides, MacDonald needs to prove he has surpassed Condit before his case of being next in line to get a title shot is taken seriously. Condit has a victory over MacDonald -- a third-round knockout in June 2010.

MacDonald can claim that he is a vastly improved fighter since the loss to Condit -- there is no doubting that argument. But he should have to prove it, just as Condit did Wednesday night against Kampmann.

The only way MacDonald moves ahead of Condit in the title-shot pecking order is to prove it. Exact revenge on Condit and the debate ends. Until then, it should be all about Condit. Other than coming up short against St-Pierre and Hendricks, Condit did nothing to diminish his reputation as a top-rated welterweight.

“There are a lot of intriguing matches in the division, but of course, I’d like to get that title shot, possibly Johny Hendricks or Georges St-Pierre, whoever wins,” Condit said. “But there are other fights out here that are interesting also. We will see what happens.”

It sounds as though Condit wouldn’t mind further cementing his position as the No. 2 welterweight contender with a win over MacDonald. That fight, however, only makes sense if MacDonald is successful against Robbie Lawler at UFC 176.

As for Kampmann, he has some soul-searching to do. The loss was his second in a row -- to Condit and Hendricks. Losing to those guys doesn’t place Kampmann (20-7) in the steppingstone category. But the manner in which he went down, getting knocked out in each of those setbacks, will make it difficult for Kampmann to get a sniff at a title shot anytime soon.

Kampmann is now forced to play the waiting game. He entered Wednesday’s rematch ranked seventh by ESPN.com among 170-pound fighters, and sixth by UFC.com. Kampmann must now keep a close eye on where he falls when those polls are next released. Expect him to remain in the top 10 -- but barely.

Condit can't afford another loss

August, 27, 2013
8/27/13
2:35
PM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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Call it a sense of urgency, a must-win, maybe even the most important fight of his career. Any one of these phrases would adequately describe how welterweight contender Carlos Condit feels heading into his rematch Wednesday night with Martin Kampmann.

For nearly 11 years as a professional mixed martial artist, Condit has been driven to become champion. He’s sought ways to improve his skills while seeking to develop new ones to increase his fighting arsenal.

This approach has served Condit well, earning him WEC lineal and UFC interim welterweight titles. Even after a loss, including a split-decision setback to Kampmann in his UFC debut on April 1, 2009, Condit went into his next bout with the same level of determination.

But this rematch with Kampmann at UFC Fight Night 27 in Indianapolis feels different. Despite a two-fight skid -- losses to champion Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks -- he remains ranked among the division’s top contenders. ESPN.com ranks Condit third overall, while UFC.com has him second among the contenders.

But for the first time in his pro career, Condit openly admits feeling that he can’t afford to drop another fight. He, especially, can’t lose a rematch to Kampmann, who is ranked seventh and sixth by ESPN.com and UFC.com, respectively.

“Absolutely, it is [a must-win situation],” the 29-year-old Condit told ESPN.com. “I hate to lose. I’m a competitive person; I’m here to win. It would not be good to lose this fight.

“A win puts me right back in the title picture. This is a great opportunity to get me back in [title] contention. I look forward to getting another shot at one of the top five guys.”

Reflecting on losses to St-Pierre and Hendricks, who are currently the top two 170-pound fighters, does not diminish Condit’s sense of urgency, though he performed admirably against both. He went into those bouts expecting to win, and now he wants a chance to even the score with each fighter.

But he prefers to exact revenge in a title fight. And for the record, Condit believes that when he does get another welterweight title shot, it will be against St-Pierre. The reigning welterweight champion and Hendricks will meet Nov. 16 at UFC 167 in Las Vegas.

“Hendricks has the ability to win,” Condit said. “He’s got a puncher’s chance. But GSP is just too technical. I think he’s going to go out there and do what he’s been doing for the last couple of years and get a decision over Hendricks.”

But to keep his hopes of another title fight alive, Condit must first get by Kampmann. And this time around, Condit believes the outcome will be different.

He is a much better fighter now than the guy Kampmann faced four years ago. His ground game is better, as is his takedown defense. Condit also has better control of himself inside the cage; he’s a lot more poised. Mistakes from Condit inside the cage have become very rare.

“I was a little bit raw [in the first fight],” Condit said. “I had the skill, but I wasn’t as polished as I am now. And I’m definitely a smarter, more experienced fighter.”

Experience, maturity and a greater understanding of MMA have turned Condit into one of the best welterweights in the world. But he won’t be the only improved fighter in the cage Wednesday night.

Kampmann, too, has developed into a more skilled, more intelligent mixed martial artist over the past four years. Striking has been Kampmann’s primary weapon of late, but he hasn’t abandoned his submission skills -- as demonstrated during his come-from-behind victory over Thiago Alves in March 2012.

That knockout loss in November to Hendricks notwithstanding, Condit knows that Kampmann is eager to return to the win column.

“I see a lot of improvement,” Condit said. “In his last fight [against Hendricks] he got caught and knocked out. But that aside, I’ve seen a lot of improvement. I know that he’s been working his striking with Ray Sefo over there at Xtreme Couture. I see a lot of improvement in Kampmann’s striking.

“He’s always been so tough as a fighter. And he’s hungry; he’s coming off that loss. He was climbing up the ranks. He had that win over Alves, that win over [Jake] Ellenberger -- a second-round TKO in June 2012 -- then the loss to Hendricks. I’m sure he’s looking to get back in the mix like I am.”

Punches and kicks are expected to fly when these two begin their main-event showdown Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. On a number of occasions recently, Kampmann has stated his intent to finish Condit early.

Condit, however, isn’t insulted by Kampmann’s remarks. He views it as Kampmann just answering questions honestly. That’s Kampmann’s belief, and he isn’t alone: Condit also thinks this fight won’t last five rounds, only it will be his hand the referee raises.

“Whether he said it or he didn’t, that’s obviously his intention,” Condit said. “We’re not out there playing patty-cake. We’re there to put each other’s lights out -- to send someone home with a loss and a concussion. We have to do these interviews, but no matter what we say, we know the intention of our opponent.”

Kampmann: Still one of the guys at the top

August, 23, 2013
8/23/13
8:40
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Martin Kampmann celebrated his seven-year anniversary as a UFC fighter this month. Seven years, man. Wow. What is that exactly -- 13, 14 fights?

“Sixteen,” Kampmann interrupts. “Sixteen fights.”

If Kampmann and Michael Bisping ever go out for beers, it’s easy to picture them hugging it out at least once over one brutal similarity. These two have fought consistently well for years in the Octagon but have yet to fight for the title.

How many times has Kampmann pictured a fight against reigning welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre? He can’t give an exact number. But bring it up and he stares at the ground like a kid describing what he’s wanted for the past five Christmases -- and is still waiting.

“I’d love to fight GSP. I’d ... “ He breaks sentence and shakes his head. “I know it wouldn’t be an easy fight, but I feel I could beat him. I’d love to get the chance to fight him -- very much.”

Despite a first-round knockout loss to Johny Hendricks in his last bout, Kampmann (20-6) feels that fight is within his grasp.

To an extent, the UFC must agree. It booked Kampmann to a main event fight against highly ranked Carlos Condit on Wednesday, at UFC Fight Night 27 in Indianapolis.

“I think a loss always sets you back, but I think I’m still one of the guys at the top,” Kampmann told ESPN.com. “I was calling out [Nick] Diaz and Condit. I want to fight those guys coming off losses who are still ranked real high.”

It’s not as though Kampmann gives off a sense of desperation to get to the title, but the veteran understands he’s not an up-and-coming prospect anymore.

Whereas he used to consistently travel to different gyms for different looks when living in Denmark -- including Sweden, Brazil and Thailand -- these days he remains relatively grounded thanks to his wife and two sons.

While younger fighters typically return to the gym quickly following a tough loss or a rough sparring session, Kampmann has been cognizant of the need to let his body heal in between fights.

Even though he’s still confident in his chin, Kampmann knows he’s now suffered four knockout losses in his career.

“Of course I’m worried [about that],” Kampmann said. “It’s not going to make me any smarter getting punched in the head, but that’s the sport. That’s the risk. I think after the [Jake] Ellenberger fight I took a long break. It’s definitely something I’ve gotten more aware of in my career.

“I feel I have a good chin. I’ve had a good chin my whole career. If you get rocked too many times, though, and don’t respect it, I think that’s the problem.”

This week’s bout against Condit (28-7) is a rematch of a bout that took place in April 2009 that resulted in a split decision victory for Kampmann.

Kampmann doesn’t have a long history of fighting opponents multiple times. It’s happened once, against British welterweight Matt Ewin. It went well for him.

“In the first fight, I got on top, elbowed him, and I think I broke his orbital bone,” Kampmann said. “He didn’t come out in the second round. The second fight, he shot in, I sprawled and started elbowing him again, and he tapped out.”

If Kampmann can be as successful in the second rematch of his career, he’ll be once again in striking distance of that Christmas he’s spent seven years working toward.

Fight of the midyear: Grice-Bermudez

June, 24, 2013
6/24/13
12:43
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
Archive
video

The first adjective Matt Grice uses to describe that grueling, split-decision loss to Dennis Bermudez on Feb. 23 at UFC 157 in Anaheim, Calif., is “fun.” Awesome time.

“One of the most fun fights I’ve ever been in,” Grice said. “Just competing with a person of that caliber. We’re all there to test ourselves, and I feel that fight tested me a lot -- my willingness to continue and keep going. To me, that’s fun.”

ESPN.com’s fight of the midyear was a landslide win for Grice and Bermudez. It’s a funny thing, “Fight of the nights.” Sometimes, stylistically, you can predict them. Oftentimes, however, they appear totally random -- as was the case with Grice and Bermudez.
[+] EnlargeDennis Bermudez
Ed Mulholland for ESPNDennis Bermudez, right, and Matt Grice took turns testing each other's chin for three full rounds.

Grice, for one, has no idea how to describe exactly what happens between two fighters that can turn a technical martial arts contest into a spirited brawl. He does know, however, that physical and mental endurance are involved.

“That definitely wasn’t in the game plan, you know?” Grice said. “Take a bunch of punches and give a bunch of punches. You just get in the zone."

Bermudez got full mount on Grice in the first minute of the fight. The two exhausted one another against the fence throughout, fighting for underhooks and throwing knees and punches to the body. It continued like that for the next 14 minutes.

One of the most incredible things about the fight was that both had enough left to stand and trade punches in the final minute. The pace of this featherweight bout was insane from the beginning.

Grice dropped Bermudez with a perfect left hook in the first round.

Bermudez’s corner told him, “We need this round, you’ve got to go for it,” as he came off his stool for the final round. Across the Octagon, Grice’s corner’s last words were, “Don’t stop. Don’t relax.”

“I think more than anything in that third round, it was survival tactic, Grice said. He hurt me right off the bat in that third round. Every time I would recover a little bit, he’d hit me with another one that would put me out. He was in great shape, too, because he threw a lot of punches in that last round.”

Grice appeared out on his feet at least three times in the final round.

“I looked up at the clock with 47 seconds left and thought, ‘Man, where did the rest of this round go?’” Grice said. “I came off the cage and hit him with a left hand and for the last 30 seconds or so we flurried.”

According to FightMetric.com, Bermudez landed 120 total strikes to Grice’s 82. It was, by far, the most times either had been hit in a UFC bout.

No. 2: Johny Hendricks UD3 Carlos Condit, UFC 158 (March 16). This was an angry Hendricks. The kind of Hendricks you get when you give away his title shot to a recently suspended welterweight, coming off a loss. Condit wasn’t backing down, though. Amazing fight.

No. 3: Wanderlei Silva KO2 Brian Stann, UFC on Fuel 8 (March 2). Stann may have been able to play this safe and gone after Silva late -- but we’ll never know because he chose to do the opposite. One would have thought Stann’s chin would have held up better than Silva’s, but that wasn’t the case, as it was the Axe Murderer left standing after a firefight.

No. 4: Cat Zingano vs. Miesha Tate, TUF 16 Finale (April 13). Tate will give you a fight. She’s relentless and for two rounds, it worked against Cat Zingano. In the third, with a reality show and title shot on the line, Zingano delivered a highlight TKO.

No. 5: Mark Hunt vs. Stefan Struve, UFC on Fuel 8 (March 2). The weigh-in photo of these two ranks among the most comical in UFC history. The actual fight ranks among the best of the year. For Hunt to get inside that reach, chances were he’d have to absorb a little punishment along the way. That’s pretty much what happened, until Hunt delivered the walk-off home run shot.

Diaz's retirement always subject to change

March, 18, 2013
3/18/13
7:16
AM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
Archive

If we learned anything about Nick Diaz from the epic oratory performance he put on at UFC 158, it’s that he’s not going to lie to us.

Diaz can be called a lot of things, but "liar" certainly isn’t one of them. If anything, the American ambassador to the 209 was painstakingly honest last week before, during and after his lopsided loss to Georges St-Pierre on Saturday night.

As things progressed he was lobbed numerous queries -- about steroids or marijuana or whether he thought the UFC wanted him to lose -- which probably would’ve best been handled with a simple “no comment.” Diaz, the guy who theoretically hates doing media so much he sometimes doesn’t bother to show up, never once demurred. By the end, one thing was clear: Ask him a question and you will absolutely not get a straight answer, but the extended jumble-jamble of words that tumble out of his mouth won’t be sugarcoated or politically correct or -- for that matter -- filtered in any way.

So, if the question we’re asking ourselves on Monday morning is whether to believe Diaz when he tells us he’s retired from MMA, the simple answer is “yes." Yes, we can believe he was telling us the truth about that ... at the very moment the words left his lips.

Thing is, Diaz has a more complicated relationship with the truth than most people. He’s what literature buffs might call an unreliable narrator. That is, a guy who can’t be trusted to see the world the same way the rest of us do.

Keep in mind that this is a fighter who on Saturday night announced his retirement for the second time amid a fairly rambling response that also intimated he thinks the rules of MMA are set up for him to fail and stopped just barely short of blaming his loss to St-Pierre on some kind of spygate conspiracy within his own camp.

“To be honest, I don’t know if I really got it anymore," he said, during one of his more self-reflective moments. "I don’t make excuses. I think I’m done with mixed martial arts. I’m tired of getting banged up like this. ... Hopefully I made enough money to invest in something.”

At that second, it was the truth according to Nick Diaz, and we couldn’t help but notice it sounded eerily similar to a truth he voiced 13 months ago, on the heels of an only slightly less definitive loss to Carlos Condit: "I think I'm done with this MMA stuff,” Diaz said at the time. “I don't think they can pay me enough to do this again.”

We all know that particular truth changed a few months later, when rumors first circulated that Diaz would consider coming out of “retirement” for a superfight against middleweight king Anderson Silva. By November, he’d somehow talked his way into a shot at St-Pierre’s welterweight crown. Now that fight has (finally) come and gone and Diaz is retired anew, though this truth, too, had begun to morph into something different by the time he wandered into the postfight news conference some 30 minutes late.

"I just feel like I fought everybody that I set out to fight ...,” he said, taking the stage at the event only after UFC president Dana White announced Diaz wouldn’t be there at all. “But I want a rematch. I think I could beat [St-Pierre]. I think I may be a better matchup for Anderson Silva, as well, but we'll see what happens.”

So there you have it. Diaz wants to retire. Or he wants a rematch. Or he wants to fight Silva. Or something. He wants them all simultaneously and at once manages to give the impression he wants none of them at all.

If he does walk away from MMA forever, seemingly in his prime at the age of 29, it’ll be far from the strangest thing he’s done in his career. Or even last week.

For now the truth is, Diaz is retired, until he decides he’s not.

As always, the truth will continue to be whatever he wants it to be.

State of the welters post-UFC 158

March, 17, 2013
3/17/13
3:30
AM ET
Gross By Josh Gross
ESPN.com
Archive
Georges St-Pierre is the most dominant 170-pound mixed martial artist the sport has produced.

His supreme class was on display Saturday in Montreal during yet another shutout of an experienced fighter inside the Octagon. And so it has reached the point with St-Pierre and the welterweights that clean-slate title defenses are expected, and therefore dismissed as if they aren't incredibly impressive. Thus the division itself, long residing beside light heavyweight as the UFC's money class, is perceived to be less than interesting because no one can seem to touch the man at the top.

Well, stop all that.

Welterweight has never been better, and St-Pierre is lined up to face the most difficult challenges of his career. An emerging contingent of contenders appear capable of beating the French-Canadian fighter. And not just in the maybe-he'll-win-a-round-or-make-it-competitive sort of of way. Like actually stopping St-Pierre from doing what he wants, and maybe, just maybe, stopping him outright.

There are, in my estimation, three fighters at 170 right now that can do this: Johny Hendricks, Demian Maia, and Jake Ellenberger. And others appear to be legitimate threats. Carlos Condit is young enough and dangerous enough to pull something off if he gets another shot.

Tyron Woodley looks specially built to test GSP. You’d be a fool to sleep on Tarec Saffiedine, even if wrestling isn’t in his blood.

First up, according to UFC president Dana White, comes a deserving Hendricks, whose fight of the night brawl with Condit stacks up just fine against anything 2013 has produced thus far.


Hendricks comes off like a smaller, left-handed version of Dan Henderson. He believes he's the best. He simply has no fear. He can punch with anyone. And if a fighter is going to wrestle with St-Pierre, the physical two-time national champion wrestler from Oklahoma State would be the guy.

Hendricks is so dangerous that St-Pierre could come to the conclusion it's finally time to fight Anderson Silva. Don’t be surprised if that's how it went down, presuming Silva handles Chris Weidman in July. Both bouts provide the UFC and its fans everything they could ever want, though at this stage, crazy as it sounds, I'd rather see St-Pierre against Hendricks. To me it’s the best intra-divisional fight the UFC can make.

Ellenberger's first-round destruction of Nathan Marquardt signaled that "The Juggernaut" won't go away before all the hard work he's put in over the years pays off in a title shot. Should it come against St-Pierre, the champ will have to contend with a heavy hitter who can wrestle and scramble and do so for a high pace over a long stretch. Bottom line: No one wants to be hit by Ellenberger.

Then there's Maia, the Brazilian grappling master who made it look too easy against Fitch in February. Maia's entry into the class has been a delight. If he can own Dong Hyun Kim, Rick Story and Fitch on the canvas, doesn't he at least seem like a fighter who can hang with St-Pierre? Sure does to me. At a minimum, he's not a contender the current champion will want to spend much time on the floor with, because Maia is that good at jiu-jitsu.

Since regaining the belt in 2007, St-Pierre has lost only seven of the 43 rounds he's fought in the Octagon -- that includes duplicates based on three judges scoring a contest. He's essentially been perfect. But what's done is done. There are new threats on the horizon, a beckoning group eager for a chance.

As that gets sorted out, UFC welterweights will jockey for their spot. UFC 158, which featured 12 170-pounders, offered a revealing showcase for what's to come. A warhorse like Rick Story looked great. A kid like Jordan Mein made a statement in his UFC debut. A veteran seeking new life like Patrick Cote squeezed by, while his opponent, Bobby Voelker, looked good too. Rory MacDonald, who was originally scheduled to fight on Saturday but fell off the card with an injury, has all the tools. And on and on.

The division that produced Pat Miletich and Matt Hughes has never been better, and that seems indisputable.

Hendricks, St-Pierre on collision course

March, 17, 2013
3/17/13
2:43
AM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive

MONTREAL -- For everything the Georges St-Pierre-Nick Diaz bout wasn’t -- enthralling, competitive, an out-and-out war -- Georges St-Pierre versus Johny Hendricks just might be. And that’s the silver lining after UFC 158, where wolf tickets and dark places finally converged.

Hendricks was victorious over former No. 1 contender Carlos Condit on Saturday in Montreal, and made his case (yet again) for a fight with St-Pierre. Unlike when he defeated Josh Koscheck and Martin Kampmann, this time everybody -- including UFC president Dana White -- seems to be on board with the idea.

“There’s no doubt, as far as the welterweight division is concerned, Johny Hendricks is next in line,” White told ESPN.com moments after UFC 158 wrapped up. “As for a superfight with Anderson Silva, that’s up to Georges St-Pierre. If Georges came out today and said he wanted to fight Anderson Silva, I won’t be upset about it.”

With Silva booked to fight Chris Weidman in July at UFC 161, Hendricks is finally the guy. He and Condit went toe-to-toe for three back and forth rounds, with Hendricks using his All-American wrestling in spots throughout to control the action. Other times he pursued Condit across the cage winging huge left hands, some of which found their mark. Each time Condit truly pressed the action, he was dumped on his back. When they stood, the exchanges were fierce.

It was good enough for "fight of the night" honors. More important, it really pushed Hendricks (15-1) over the edge as a legitimate contender for St-Pierre.
[+] EnlargeCarlos Condit and Johny Hendricks
Ross Dettman for ESPNJohny Hendricks' showing against Carlos Condit proved he's worthy of challenging for the welterweight title.

Suddenly, Hendricks’ punching power, combined with his ability to dictate the fight, looks very interesting against the champion. It feels like a battle of strong nullifying wrestlers who can throw hands. Hendricks feels like an actual threat to the throne.

“I think [Hendricks] is fantastic, and he’s a great athlete and he deserves a shot,” said St-Pierre’s coach Firas Zahabi. “I don’t make those decisions, though -- it’s the UFC, it’s the management. I’m pretty confident it’s going to happen. I think it’s going to be a great fight.”

“He’s a great wrestler, good power,” added St-Pierre, who was eating a slice of pizza and feeling good after so many weeks of animosity toward Diaz. “We’ll see what’s going to happen. Obviously I want to fight the best.”

After his eighth title defense (50-45 on all scorecards over Diaz), St-Pierre is finding himself almost too far ahead of the competition. Carlos Condit was hoping for a rematch with St-Pierre, but it never felt like the UFC was behind the idea 100 percent, even if Condit had won. Diaz, who has been the bane of St-Pierre’s existence for the last year-and-a-half, promptly ended his retirement talk by telling MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani, “I want a rematch!”

That’s also highly unlikely to happen anytime soon. If ever.

The problem is, St-Pierre has handled everybody he’s faced over the last few years to the point that no rematch is ever truly coveted. Not a rematch with Condit, not with Diaz, not with anybody. St-Pierre wins too convincingly. These days you get one shot, and you had better make the most of it.

“If you look, he’s fighting all the best welterweights in the world, and continues to win,” White said. “I think Georges had a really great game plan. He went in there, and he stood up [with Diaz]. He went to the ground. The fight went everywhere, and he won again. I don’t know what else to say. It was a great fight.”

One might say, too great. So great that it looked lopsided. Did it feel that way to St-Pierre?
[+] EnlargeGeorges St. Pierre and Nick Diaz
Ross Dettman for ESPNIt's highly unlikely Nick Diaz gets a rematch with Georges St-Pierre -- at least any time soon.

“Yeah, but he was dangerous the whole time,” he said. “It was one-sided but he put me in danger sometimes. So I always had to be aware of the danger.”

It didn’t appear that way. It was the same old dominant Georges St-Pierre. It turns out he fights the same when somebody is in his head as he does when they’re not.

“It was huge because it was such an emotional thing,” Zahabi said. “I’ve never seen Georges so emotional. He really wanted this fight. He wanted to fight Diaz before anybody else does, and I think he got his fill tonight. I don’t think he’s going to want to fight Diaz again. It’s over.”

It’s over for Diaz. It’s on for Hendricks.

Nick Diaz showed up and talked

March, 14, 2013
3/14/13
6:31
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive

MONTREAL -- The big news was that Nick Diaz showed up. Believe it or not, this was a concern after the challenger skipped Wednesday’s open workouts in Montreal. And after, you know, his history of sort of not showing up.

“Well it was either I miss that, or I miss this, but I was going to have to catch up on some sleep,” he explained right off the bat at the press conference to promote his title fight against Georges St-Pierre. His flight from Northern California touched down in Quebec at midnight Tuesday evening. Wednesday was no good for him, but by Thursday, he was at last refreshed and ready to talk.

And talk he did. Diaz careened off into subject matter that ranged from sweating out toxic water, to his outdated likeness on the UFC 158 promo posters, to point deductions being handed out for stalling and holding guys down (some psychology aimed at St-Pierre), to the UFC selling wolf tickets (“they’re selling you all wolf tickets and you people are eating them right up”).
Snake oil was never mentioned. But had it have been, it would have fit right in. “Diazisms” were a dime a dozen. St-Pierre, whose own distaste for press conferences and the redundancy of the questions was barely contained, fired back once in a while. But most questions were directed at Diaz and Dana White, who was looking down at him with a red, muted face as if to interject (or destroy him via telepathy).

Meanwhile, Carlos Condit, Jake Ellenberger and Nate Marquardt, all on the card and present, never said a word. Marquardt smiled and chuckled along with the media. Ellenberger might as well have had laryngitis. As for Condit, he did roll his eyes at one point when Diaz went off on yet another tangent.

Actually, hey, let me get out the way and post a couple of those tangential highlights. My thoughts follow in italics.


“I would like to put out the best image I could. To be honest with you I think a lot of times they make me out to be the evil guy. I fit the description of the evil villain. I think Georges fits the description of a good guy. I mean, look at my poster. No offense, but [the UFC] has had plenty of time to switch my poster. That picture of me is from years ago. Can I get one buttered up, photoshop picture on a poster?”

It’s true. The poster features a younger Nick Diaz, who is mean-mugging more than entirely necessary. Come to think of it, he has a legitimate beef here.

–- “Georges likes to say I remind him of the bullies that picked on him growing up. How many times did you have a gun to your head, Georges? How many times has somebody put a gun to your head? How many of your best friends have been shot through the chest with a .45? How many of your friends have been stomped and put to sleep in a coma? How many kids put gum in your hair?”

He reiterated a form of this in an ESPN interview. The guess here is GSP can count on one hand how many times he’s had gum put in his hair.

–- “Georges here is selling wolf tickets. Dana here is selling wolf tickets. The UFC is selling you some wolf tickets. You guys are eating them right up.”

Wolf tickets are now out-hashtagging GSP’s dark place on Twitter.

Meanwhile, White, who curtailed some of the “antagonism” headed Diaz’s way and had a semi-heated moment with MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani, did a good job of reminding everyone of why we were here.

“All the stuff that leads up to this thing, all the selling of wolf tickets, all the things that happen leads up to this fight -- there is going to be a fight Saturday night.”

Condit done with being cautious


There was a moment at UFC 154 when it looked like Condit was going to break the heart of Montreal when he rocked St-Pierre. It was only for about 90 seconds or so of a 25-minute fight, but it was enough to bring him to a realization: Should he get that rematch with St-Pierre, he’ll go for broke.

“In [the St-Pierre fight], I think I hesitated,” he told ESPN.com. “Sometimes I was a little bit gun shy. I just need to go back to letting it all hang out, leaving everything in the cage, and really just focusing on what I bring to the table as opposed to training for the other guy’s strengths.”

When asked if he can let it all hang out against a smasher like Johny Hendricks, who has an anvil for a left hand, Condit thought about it for a quick second before answering.

“I can, but I just have to be smart,” he said.

Potluck

ESPN’s Brett Okamoto asked Diaz if he changed anything in his use of medical marijuana after what happened last time (when he tested positive for metabolites in Nevada, and was suspended for a year).

“I think I tested for metabolite, or nanogram, or something,” he said. “I just did a little more than I did last time, so sorry if I don’t pass the test -- but I think it should work out. I’ve passed plenty of them before, unless they just weren’t testing me. I wonder how much they test people around here.”

Then he shot St-Pierre a strong, insinuating glance. What does it all mean? Not even remotely sure. But “it should work out” didn’t exactly come off like reassurance to the boss who was standing right next to him.

(White mentioned later in the media scrum that, should Diaz test positive for marijuana again, he would “probably” be cut).

Brotherly gloves

Diaz’s younger brother Nate, who will be in Nick’s corner on Saturday night, was at the press conference and speaking to media. Somebody brought up the incestuous matchmaking methods of the Canadian promotion MFC, which recently booked a fight between brothers Thomas and Mike Treadwell.

Since we all know Nate Diaz is a “Diaz brother” and not just Nick’s brother, he was asked about his thoughts on that.

“That kind of makes me sick, when you think about it. Guys fighting each other, and they’re brothers? They’re a bunch of idiots as far as I’m concerned. It’s ridiculous. Do they even know each other?”

GSP's mindset, Ellenberger's chances, more

March, 14, 2013
3/14/13
5:55
AM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive
What exactly is Georges St-Pierre's "dark place"? It has become a hashtag on Twitter for one thing -- an unlit place where St-Pierre himself never goes. Leading up to this weekend's fight with Nick Diaz at UFC 158 in Montreal, the UFC ran a slick promo package with St-Pierre cautioning Diaz about an unfathomable self within. This would have passed off as normal PPV shtick if emotions didn't turn so raw in the media call last week.

Then it became actual theater.

Diaz alternately complimented St-Pierre and spat on him, often in the same breath. St-Pierre, who is usually a picture of intense cool, came unmoored a little bit. He had trouble getting a word in edgewise as Diaz rambled on about being pampered and St-Pierre's tight shorts. By the time St-Pierre called Diaz an "uneducated fool," his dark place seemed like more than "putting American quarters in vending machines," as MMA Junkie's Dann Stupp joked on Twitter. His personal torment bubbled up to the surface for a minute for everyone to glimpse.

All of this begs the question: Is Diaz in St-Pierre's head a little bit? The answer is: of course! He can't not be. But this is all just fun with intangibles. When you think about the fight itself, it's easier to imagine St-Pierre's wrestling nullifying that "Stockton Slap" than vice versa. If Saturday night's main event goes to the ground, and St-Pierre puts the hurt on Diaz (for five rounds, or for one explosive one), the sound you'll hear might be laughter emanating from St-Pierre's dark place.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW/STORYLINES

Jake Ellenberger as dark horse contender

The third welterweight fight on the card pairs up Jake Ellenberger with Nate Marquardt. No, a win over Marquardt won't be the same as if he had beat his original opponent, Johny Hendricks. But an emphatic victory still might launch Ellenberger into title consideration if (A) Hendricks loses to Carlos Condit, (B) St-Pierre handles Diaz and (C) the UFC thinks it's too soon to roll out Condit-St-Pierre II.

The rise of Darren Elkins

[+] EnlargeDarren Elkins
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comWith a 4-0 mark since making the move to featherweight, Darren Elkins is in search of an exclamation mark against Antonio Carvalho.
Darren Elkins wasn't a slouch as a lightweight, going 1-1 before dropping down to 145 pounds -- but he has been gangbusters since losing that weight. Elkins is 4-0 as a feather (even if you eye the Michihiro Omigawa decision somewhat suspiciously). If there's a knock, it's that all of his wins have come via decision. An exclamation point finish over Antonio Carvalho would do wonders.

The rise of Chris Camozzi

The middleweight division has gone on a long time without a Chris Camozzi to come along and mess things up. But guess what? If Camozzi gets by Nick Ring on Saturday night, he's suddenly riding a four-fight winning streak and begins to encroach on top-10 radars.

St-Pierre, Diaz as rivals

Rivalries consist of more than heated arguments and rising dander, don't they? The headlining fight between Diaz and St-Pierre is being loosely dubbed a "rivalry," even though this is their first meeting. Yes, they were booked to fight each other in 2011 before Diaz's insubordination became a thing. But a rivalry? If Diaz pulls off the upset Saturday night, then we've got a rivalry. Forget rematch -- that would open the floodgates to a trilogy.

Diaz's long layoff

Diaz will have gone 405 days between fights, which is the longest layoff of his career. Just how this will affect him remains to be seen. The longest he went before that was 314 days between his first pro MMA bout and his second, back in 2001-02. How did he respond to that gulf? By decisioning Chris Lytle. Of course, that was eons ago, when he was barely 18 years old and things like metabolites were still tucked away in their lexicons.

FIVE QUESTIONS

Can Diaz get back up?

[+] EnlargeNick Diaz
AP Photo/Eric JamisonIt's not secret that Nick Diaz, right, is comfortable trading punches on his feet. But how will Diaz fare once Georges St-Pierre takes him to the ground?
We've seen optimism from everybody St-Pierre has faced going back to Jon Fitch. They all talk about staying off their backs, and then end up staring at the Octagon lights for five rounds (except for Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields, who couldn't see anything past the jabs crashing into their sockets). Diaz isn't known for thwarting bull rushes. But he is known to be crafty on the ground and in scrambles. Can he get back up? Aha! That's the question. Crazier, can he reverse St-Pierre and submit him on the ground?

Can St-Pierre get a finish?

It has been four years since St-Pierre finished a fight, and that was at UFC 94 against B.J. Penn. Even in that one, it wasn't overly dramatic -- Penn simply didn't answer the fifth-round bell after a steady mauling. A statistic such as that can lead to "pressure," and St-Pierre can't help but feel it. Chances are, when the fight feels comfortable enough, he'll look for the finish.

Is Hendricks next with a win?

We've been asking this same question since last year when the tulips came up in the spring and Hendricks was fighting Koscheck -- does a win get Hendricks a title shot? The answer is, of course -- maybe. Hendricks not only beat Koscheck, he salted Martin Kampmann next for good measure -- and yet here he is again opening for St-Pierre's big act. Unless the roof falls in on the Bell Centre, a win over Condit should get him that evasive title shot.

Can Diaz win a decision in Montreal?

Diaz doesn't particularly like judges, because he suspects they don't like him (see: UFC 143). But let's make something clear: If his fight with St-Pierre, a native son of Quebec, goes to the gavels, his chances of victory share a percentage with the world's most popular milk (2%). Not necessarily because of hometown favoritism (though there's that), but because can you imagine St-Pierre getting outpointed?

If Marquardt-Ellenberger goes past the first round, then what?

Your guess is good as mine. As Brett Okamoto pointed out, Ellenberger likes to throw punches with such all-or-nothing force early in fights that he's running on fumes toward the end. Then again, Marquardt has had some trouble with determined wrestlers (such as Yushin Okami and Chael Sonnen), and if patient dictation of the will is Ellenberger's tact, this thing becomes a crapshoot.

WHO’S ON THE HOT SEAT

[+] EnlargeGeorge Roop
Mark J. Rebilas for ESPN.comGeorge Roop, right, enters his UFC 158 bout against Reuben Duran hoping to ensure job security by avoiding a third straight loss.
George Roop -- Granted, losing to Hatsu Hioki (narrowly) and Cub Swanson (definitively) isn't all that bad. But a third loss in a row, against Reuben Duran (1-2 in the UFC), just as the UFC is tidying up its roster? Not good.

Reuben Duran -- See above, only reversed.

Rick Story -- Remember when he dominated Thiago Alves and was calling out Fitch and Koscheck? Distant memory. Losing to Strikeforce immigrant Quinn Mulhern would make it four losses in five fights, which is a roundabout way of saying "curtains."

Patrick Cote -- Since coming back to the UFC, he lost very unspectacularly to Cung Le and then was the victim of a series of illegal back-of-the-head blows from Alessio Sakara last time the UFC visited Montreal (remember that inexplicable brainlock?). Play the dramatic doom music: Cote is walking the plank against Bobby Voelker this weekend.

Mike Ricci -- That knockout of Neil Magny during TUF 16 was fun, but if he drops to 0-2 in the UFC by losing to Colin Fletcher, it's hard to justify his roster spot.

Colin Fletcher -- The mask. Won't. Save him.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Because it's a welterweight bonanza that features the best 170-pound fighter ever (St-Pierre) ... because St-Pierre has good reason to abandon "safe" in his attempt to punish Diaz ... because Diaz doesn't do "safe," and fights off his back like a fire hose that got away from its handler ... because with Hendricks, the word "southpaw" barely describes the brute force in that left hand … because Ellenberger leaves behind his aura each time he throws a first-round punch … because that's Marquardt's chin he's aiming at … because Carlos Condit is due for a finish after going 0-for-2 in 2012 in that department … because St-Pierre's dark place becomes, for one night only, a popular destination.

UFC 158 rife with welterweight intrigue

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
6:57
AM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
Archive

In Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz, the welterweight division has found its odd couple.

They despise each other, and we love it.

Headed into their clash for St-Pierre’s 170-pound title at UFC 158, we quite simply can’t get enough of it, thrilling in that singular way the fight business can at each and every cross word between them. They are perfect together, a headline-stealing machine, as GSP’s straight-laced French Canadian patience slowly unravels in front of the hypnotic skew of Planet Diaz.

It’s no wonder the other four fighters involved in last week’s prefight conference call couldn’t get a word in edgewise. This is a beef for the ages.

Yet even as the great Diaz-St-Pierre feud of 2013 gobbles up all the attention, two of UFC 158’s additional welterweight bouts -- Carlos Condit versus Johny Hendricks and Nate Marquardt versus Jake Ellenberger -- will arguably do just as much on Saturday night to plot the course of the division.

One need look no further than the show’s co-main event, where, as long as Hendricks can take care of business against Condit, it will be difficult to deny him the next available crack at the gold. Of course, that’s exactly what we all thought after Hendricks starched Martin Kampmann in 46 seconds in November and what we thought when he edged Josh Koscheck by split decision six months before that, too.

The story of Hendricks’ UFC career to date has certainly been one of delayed expectations. The guy is so overqualified to be the No. 1 contender, it’s astonishing to behold his 11-1 combined UFC/WEC record, his five straight wins, his nine stoppages in 15 career fights and realize he’s still waiting for his chance. By all rights it should probably be Hendricks fighting for title this weekend, were Diaz-GSP not worth its weight in pay-per-view gold.

The very fact that Hendricks is already so deserving of a championship opportunity is the most nerve-wracking thing about his upcoming fight with Condit. MMA can be a fickle mistress, after all, and if a guy is going to get the rug pulled out from under him in this sport it typically happens just as his fingers are about to close around the brass ring. Long story short: A Condit victory is certainly very possible here, and a loss by Hendricks could potentially be the most chaotic outcome of all.
[+] EnlargeJohny Hendricks
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesJohny Hendricks has about as much to gain as he stands to lose against Carlos Condit.

It would certainly put guys like Demian Maia, Martin Kampmann and Rory MacDonald back in play for No. 1 contender status.

It would also probably do good things for the fortunes of Ellenberger, who could scrawl his own name near the top of the queue if he comes out on top against Marquardt. Ellenberger’s solid wrestling and heavy hands make him nearly as compelling a matchup for St-Pierre as Hendricks, if -- and this is a big one -- he came into their fight prepared to go five full rounds without slowing down.

Perhaps the biggest wild card of all is St-Pierre himself. Assuming he beats Diaz, will he stick around in the welterweight division long enough to fight Hendricks or Ellenberger or anybody else? Or will the champ finally concede to the pressure to head up to middleweight for a big-money superfight against Anderson Silva, leaving this fresh crop of challengers to fight it out among themselves?

Whatever happens, we should at least have a better idea where we’re headed after Saturday.

Unless Diaz wins, in which case all bets are off.

Ellenberger: Hendricks not hard to solve

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
6:22
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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When the UFC first announced the next challenger to Georges St-Pierre’s title would be Nick Diaz -- Nick Diaz, the guy coming off a drug suspension, not to mention a loss -- plenty of people had a problem with it.

Jake Ellenberger wasn’t one of them.

As a rising welterweight contender, one would think Ellenberger (28-6) wouldn’t be too happy to see Diaz (26-8) jump him in line. But Ellenberger, who is set to face Nate Marquardt this weekend at UFC 158, didn’t mind at all, actually. He got it.

“I really didn’t have a problem with it,” Ellenberger told ESPN.com. “Nick’s been one of the top guys in the division for years. As a fan, I want to see that fight. Nick is dangerous. You’ve got a guy who is good at getting takedowns, and Nick is good off his back.

“How could you not be excited to see that fight? It’s a ticket-seller.”

One matchup Ellenberger doesn’t get, however, is the UFC 158 co-main event between Johny Hendricks (14-1) and Carlos Condit (28-6).

Ellenberger was originally scheduled to face Hendricks, but the fight was canceled when Condit’s opponent, Rory MacDonald, withdrew due to injury. Hendricks agreed to replace MacDonald shortly after.

To Ellenberger, it felt like a “duck” -- like, maybe Hendricks opted for an easier fight.

“I was p---ed,” Ellenberger said. “I spent 10 weeks training for one guy. He’s not a hard guy to figure out. He throws hard punches and he’s good in a scramble. That’s it.

He's not a hard guy to figure out. He throws hard punches and he's good in a scramble. That's it

-- Jake Ellenberger, on Johny Hendricks

“I have him figured out and I will beat him. He knows I have the potential to beat him, so he takes a less dangerous fight.”

In addition to the frustration he has over lost time preparing for Hendricks, Ellenberger questions the logic of the move. Condit, after all, is coming off a loss to St-Pierre in November.
[+] EnlargeJake Ellenberger, Diego Sanchez
Ross Dettman for ESPN.comJake Ellenberger, left, feels he has the chops to take out Johny Hendricks.

Should he end Hendricks’ five-fight win streak, the welterweight division will be absent a No. 1 contender.

“I’m not disrespecting Carlos Condit, but are they going to give him another fight with St-Pierre if he beats Hendricks? I don’t think so,” Ellenberger said.

“Carlos is a really dangerous guy at a certain range. If he fights at his range, he’ll do really well. I wouldn’t be surprised if Carlos won. I really wouldn’t.”

As he discusses Hendricks, Ellenberger’s tone quickly changes, and suddenly, as if he’s reminding himself of something, he dismisses the opponent change. It is what it is. He’s over it and focused on Marquardt (32-11-2).

For the record, though, next time Diaz complains he isn’t getting the respect a No. 1 contender deserves, he should know Ellenberger agrees with the main event -- just not the fight that will precede it.

“There’s not an anger feeling. It just doesn’t make sense to me,” Ellenberger said. “It’s out of my control. That’s on [the UFC].

“I forgot about it. I’m still fighting. I’ll be ready to fight on Saturday.”

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