by Tom Hamliin – MMAWeekly.com
Former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Carlos Condit
makes his dive into the deep end of the UFC welterweight pool Wednesday when he
takes on newly minted welterweight Martin Kampmann at UFC Fight Night 18 in
Condit will try to prove that he belongs with the elite
division, settling the what-if questions of fans who’ve seen him dominate in
his former home as its parent organization looms in the background. It’s a
riskier fight for Kampmann, who could instantly legitimize himself as a welterweight
with a win over Condit, or slide further down the 170-pound ladder.
The fight promises fireworks, with both fighters favoring
the stand-up game. But don’t be surprised if the action goes down and stays
there – the stakes of a win are too high to risk quick defeat.
Kampmann comes from a European kickboxing and Muay Thai
background, and consequently, has a very traditional, upright stance. On the
feet, he’s the type of fighter that creeps in and waits for a mistake, waiting
for an opportunity to return fire. His approach is often in a straight line,
though he makes up for his exposure to punches with good head movement. Still,
fighters that move laterally tend to give him more trouble. To counter, he
often relies on his legs to do damage, firing off a high kick when opponents
move. But it’s a push of momentum: an opponent needs to move straight back to
fall prey. Because he closes the distance so quickly, the clinch is a frequent
position he finds himself in. Whether defending a shot or simply running out of
space, he utilizes it to set up takedowns with double underhooks, or work knees
to the midsection.
Condit approaches the stand-up game in much the same way,
though his posture and movement more closely resemble a traditional Muay Thai
fighter. Like Kampmann, Condit patiently wades in, waiting for an opportunity
to return fire when attacked. His legs are the difference in his striking; they
are the cornerstone of his offensive game. Whether it’s a kick targeted at the
leg, stomach, or flank, Condit keeps opponents at range with the strikes and
baits them into striking exchanges. More importantly, they often set up his
offensive work from a plumb, where his sharp knees do much damage. Lately, his
boxing technique has grown by leaps and bounds; in his last fight against
Hiromitsu Miura, his shoulder rolls and feints, as well as improved footwork,
were on display.
Kampmann excels more often in offensive grappling, using his
takedowns from the clinch to work from top position. But because his bread and
butter is striking, he often finds himself fending off the takedown, which he
does well from his time with the wrestlers at Xtreme Couture. He keys off on
the exposed necks of opponents, using ground transitions to set up guillotine chokes,
and in one instance, an arm triangle choke. Still, his submissions are limited
to those he can execute from a dominant position. His game is more about good
position and offense.
Condit is somewhat different. His ground game is based off
the mistakes of his opponents, especially when they are in dominant positions.
In almost all of his submission victories, Condit relies on over-aggressive
opponents who don’t respect his long, lanky limbs. As a result, most don’t see
the danger coming, and are trapped before they can escape. Like his stand-up
work, his lanky limbs are great assets on the mat. The only problem – and
the reason he high-tailed it to Arizona Combat Sports – is that he is
easily taken down. For those easily caught by submissions, it’s an issue he can
deal with. But for a fighter versed in defensive grappling, it’s a different
Condit is more often the aggressor in his fights, taking the
center of the ring and dictating where the fight goes. He keeps a high pace and
steady pressure on opponents. As previously mentioned, his willingness to give
up a dominant position makes it look like he’s not in control, but that’s part
of the game – he’s constantly looking for submissions. And when he’s on a
roll, particularly with his striking, Condit has dominated those who choose to
stand with him.
Kampmann also doesn’t stay back for long, pressing forward,
little by little, building momentum as a fight goes on. He’s workmanlike in his
approach – not overly aggressive, but not passive, either. In the
cage, he goes with the flow, waiting for breaks in his opponent’s offense to
make a statement of his own. Even more than Condit, he will take every
opportunity to return to his feet where he feels in control of the fight.
Kampmann’s sternest UFC test to date was a three-round
slugfest with Thales Leites in 2006, and though the Dutch fighter was more
flat-footed towards the end of the fight, he never lessened his attack. Because
the majority of his recent fights have not gone the distance, it’s harder to
judge how he’ll hold up against a high-pace fighter like Condit. He has yet to fight
a fight where he spends much of his time on his back against a straight ground
and pound styled opponent. But if the wrestling-based work ethic at his Xtreme
Couture camp is any indication, he should hold up fine in a 15-minute fight,
provided he is not hurt early.
Condit was pushed to his limit in his fight-of-the-year
candidate against Hiromitsu Miura, the first time a WEC competitor had done so.
In the end, Condit toughed it out, but he struggled to catch his breath on his
back as Miura worked on him during later rounds. It was a fast-paced fight from
start to finish, but it raised slight questions of his ability to stay
dangerous against a fighter who kept him pressed against the cage. When things
are going his way, though, there’s no doubt he’ll stay fresh.
Make no mistake – the pressure is on Condit to deliver
for this fight. As the dominant champion of the now defunct WEC welterweight
class, he’s a main event in his UFC debut, stacked against a bigger fighter
with more big-show experience. Though it’s a smaller show in a big
organization, and one that will likely mirror his experiences in the WEC, the
infamous “UFC jitters” can never be counted out as a factor in the fight.
Condit’s wrestling ability is also a question mark for the
fight. He’s been focusing on his mat skills full-time at Arizona Combat Sports since
November, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to contend with Kampmann’s
work in the clinch. Undoubtedly, Condit will use his Muay Thai skills to do
damage in the position, but if he ends up on his back, Kampmann is more
qualified than past opponents to take the lead and hold it.
Condit is also coming off an eight-month layoff with his
weight class shuttered by the WEC. He reports that his training has gone up a
notch, but there can be no substitute for a real fight. In a nearly seven-year
career in the sport, he’s never had a layoff of this length.
Kampmann, on the other hand, is fresher following his recent
victory over Alexandre Barros at UFC 93. He is be slightly bigger than Condit,
but is two inches shorter and will have a four-inch reach disadvantage. His
ability to close the distance and control Condit will be tested.
Kampmann has also shown himself willing to trade punches and
kicks with opponents, and against a technical striker like Condit, it remains
to be seen whether he will adapt his game plan to avoid the strengths of the
–Get inside Condit’s kicking range
–Match Condit’s pace; move laterally
–Keep hands up when moving inside, transitioning out
–Stay on top if the fight goes down, use elbows to do
–Pick Kampmann apart with kicks from range
–Attack at odd angles; use footwork to create counter
–Use elbows and short punches to do damage from clinch
–Watch for takedowns; don’t stay in one place on the