The term "great striker" seems to be applied to any athlete in mixed martial arts capable of throwing a jab and a leg kick. However when I consider the label, the first fighter that comes to mind is Carlos Condit. He unleashes elbows like jabs or short hooks and knees come swiftly through an opponent’s defense like the perfect uppercut. There's fluidity in his striking arsenal and the way he moves when engaging the opponent that's a joy to watch. I seem to be in the MMA minority in that I don't watch the sport for knockouts, blood and broken limbs; I favor the technical aspect and the strategy for a particular opponent’s style. The gore aspect that's a direct byproduct actually turns me off. While I agree that Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald was one of the best fights in the history of the sport, witnessing them take years off their careers wasn't riveting. I don't have a weak stomach or anything like that; I just have no interest in athletes breaking physically especially when most in mixed martial arts are underpaid. Well, they're all underpaid but that's a different piece that others have written for over a decade.
Condit is a whirlwind of technical wizardry combined with a soundtrack of breathtaking body control and accuracy. His combinations can feature kicks to the head, a spinning back fist and then a backwards, slicing, elbow while his spine still faces the opponent...all in perfect symmetry. He never wastes an opportunity to force you into bad positions. I'll be clear: He's probably my favorite, active, fighter to watch and that list is short.
Demian Maia's path to success is one the MMA world is aware of: grappling and jiu-jitsu. Period. It's like Mariano Rivera's cut-fastball. Everyone knows it's coming but locating it with the sweet spot of the bat is another issue altogether. Maia isn't out to fool anyone, he aims to stand on the feet for as long has he has to until he can work a single leg, leg sweep, trip or any other technique to get the fight where the scales tip overwhelmingly in his favor. He's a bad matchup for anyone in the welterweight division. Much to his credit, Matt Brown took the fight with Maia clearly stating that it was a "bad" style for him; he was forced to submit in the third round.
Once Maia succeeds at getting opponents on the mat, the chess match begins. His opponent makes a move, boom, there's a counter. A second move, there's another counter or a trap to that. After three or four moves and no submission attempt the opponent may think, "Ok this isn't so bad, he hasn't attacked yet, I'm in this." At that point though the traps have already been set; based on wrist position, knee placement, the positioning of your chin in regards to whether it's tucked into your chest or out in open space...time slowly drains away, and in most cases, your consciousness. Maia is human glue, or for comic book fans he's the human representation of the alien symbiote that overtook Peter Parker which led to his original black costume. Wake up, this is about MMA!
Sorry for that...
Condit wins if he can somehow keep the contest on the feet. Defending takedowns has to be the main focus of his preparation as Maia completes two successful takedowns every fight. Maia is a good defensive fighter but I don't favor anyone in a fight with Condit if the battle remains upright. (One of the reasons I felt he beat Lawler for the welterweight title.) His abilities, angles, volume, precision and power will be too much for Maia if his takedown defense is the best it’s ever been. Dealing with the leg sweeps, trips and body locks will be crucial in order to escape this fight with a win.
Maia wins if he gets the fight on the mat with enough time remaining in the round to lure Condit into his symphony of submissions. Condit has a great guard and can fight off his back but his chances of winning evaporate exponentially for every moment he spends dealing with Maia who seems to grow four arms and legs when hunting for a submission. Maia will have to end this in the first three rounds as this is a five-round affair since it's the headliner and staring across the cage at Condit for the championship rounds is courting disaster.
As for the rest of the fight card...
The short-term memory of the mixed martial arts community is insane. Had Anthony Pettis retained against Rafael dos Anjos he would've been the guy the promotion pushed to the stars. We all know what happened and now the obligatory weight change because that's the remedy for everything it seems.
I don't think that Anthony Pettis is "washed up" or "broken" like fans - which is short for fanatics and by definition are beyond basic reason - and media want to make sure everyone else believes. The title loss to RDA was decisive but there's no shame in that. He then dropped a close decision to current lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez but I was most alarmed by his loss to Edson Barboza. He was hesitant, he didn't look like he was moving well - and he may have been thinking too much in the octagon. In fact if you pay close attention to his face, he's clearly calculating his responses but he doesn't fire. There were clear opportunities to strike and he...didn't. Charles Oliveira could help him take home bonus checks for the evening, easily. Well, I'm sure Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon might have a say in the matter.
Oliveira's submission game is slick, diverse and quick-striking. He'll jump on your back, transition from taking your back to hooking you into a guillotine. He has a calf-slicer, several anaconda chokes and triangle chokes in his repertoire so Pettis will need to be calculated once they're battling in the clinch.
Bec Rawlings is going to have to come out and preserve her energy as she seems to burst out of the gate and empty her gas tank at the first sight of a possible finish. If the finish fails to materialize, she does an exceptional job making adjustments but I think her cardio can be exploited. She got out to a great start in her last win versus Seo Hee Ham but her pace slowed to a crawl in the third round as Ham turned up the volume in the striking category. Paige VanZant is still on the rise; she's talented, tough and has the cardio to stay in a fight even when the skill deficit is too large to overcome. (The clash with Rose Namajunas proved that.)
It's about that time, huh? I don't want to make picks....i'm hurting from bombing out on my 202 selections. I only got Pennington, Lobov, Garbrandt and Means correct; I was so bad at the rest of the card that I laughed. I have a difficult time with selections because my heart tends to clash with my head - and it makes me want to scream because I like getting these things correct. I went with a heart pick in last week's main event - and it almost came to pass.
Deep breath...I'll take Condit, Pettis, Lauzon and Rawlings. Oh yeah, I can't forget Benson Henderson at Bellator 160. The heart wants what it wants.
(This article can also be viewed here.)
Published by Sthe writer