By Ken Pishna, MMAWeekly.com (Photo courtesy of April Pishna)
With fighters like Frank Trigg, Charuto Verissimo, Jake Shields, Dave Menne, and Ron Jhun entered into the Rumble on the Rock 175-pound Grand Prix; there are two combatants that are considered big time underdogs, Japanese fighter Yushin Okami and unknown New Mexico fighter Carlos Condit. Many fans may look upon these two as tomato cans, but looks can be deceiving, especially in the case of Condit.

At 6-foot-2, Condit is a tall, lanky fighter that doesn’t look real threatening, but for the past three-and-a-half years, he has been climbing that ladder, consistently facing tougher and tougher opponents. Early on in his career, he defeated UFC veteran Brad Gumm, he TKO’d Ross “Da Boss” Ebanez in the first round to land in this tournament, and in a recent kickboxing bout he handily won a unanimous decision over UFC and kickboxing veteran Pete Spratt. His only losses have been to a very tough Carlo Prater and Satoru Kitaoka, who is ranked number one in the Pancrase welterweight division and challenging for the title on their next show. In short, Condit is no slouch.

Having a little bit of a rough time in school while growing up, Condit got interested in MMA when one of his wrestling coaches was watching a tape of the UFC. When his wrestling career was cut short due to flunking out he was lucky enough to hook up with Tom and Arlene Vaughn, who train him. He hasn’t looked back since.

Condit has been tearing up the competition, primarily on Sven Bean’s Ring of Fire promotion in Colorado, with his ultra-aggressive style. When he steps into the ring, Condit has a demeanor that lets the other guy know he is not welcome here. With a 13-2 professional record, he has earned that confidence, although some of it probably comes from being young enough – he’s 21 years old – that he doesn’t realize that he just isn’t supposed to be manhandling some of the fighters that he has.

And entering this tournament, his attitude hasn’t changed. “I’m very excited about competing with Athletes of this caliber,” says Condit. “If I want to be considered one of the best, then I have to get in there and throw down with the best.”

His first round opponent is also one of the fan favorites in Hawaii and a very tough fighter in his own right, Renato “Charuto” Verissimo. Condit is not taking him lightly, “He is an amazing grappler. The fight will be tough and I’ll have my hands full for sure, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.” But as an unknown quantity, he knows that could help play into his favor, “In this fight with Verissimo, I don’t have anything to lose and tons to gain.”

With his style, there’s a very good chance that Condit could surprise some folks. Along with the aggressiveness and confidence he brings to the ring is a strong set of skills. Condit has been wrestling since the age of nine and started training with the Vaughns when he was 15. Is he a striker or a grappler? Both really. Condit has a very well-rounded style that has allowed him the ability to both knock out and submit opponents. In fact, in MMA competition, he has never been taken to a decision.

Of course against Verissimo, Condit will most likely be facing the toughest grappler of his career. So, it’s safe to say that he will probably be a striker in this one. The cards are definitely stacked in Verissimo’s favor. He is the one that trains with and coaches BJ Penn, one of the toughest all-around fighters in the world today, and it is Verissimo that has faced more top ten opponents, such as Carlos Newton, Gil Castillo, Frank Trigg and Matt Hughes.

Verissimo will obviously have the advantage on the ground and with his experience. Condit could surprise him with his aggressiveness and striking though. The one other factor that really could play a big part in this fight is Condit’s youth. In only the third kickboxing bout of his career, he defeated Pete Spratt. On paper, he shouldn’t have one that fight. But the arrogance of youth sometimes blinds one to the accepted limitations of others.

If I were to go out on a limb and pick a dark horse favorite in this tournament, it would most definitely be Carlos Condit. This is by far the toughest competition that he has faced in his career, but he matches up well with Verissimo and very well could open some eyes. Like Condit said, “For those who don’t know much about me, know that I bring everything I have, every fight. Whether I win or lose this bout, I’ll come out better and more experienced because of it.”