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Carlos Condit, Killer Instinct and the Art of the Third-Round Comeback

<! mediaid=3073117 AP: img vspace="4" hspace="4" border="1" align="right" src="" alt="" />Mixed martial arts is a sport so new that good statistics aren't readily available for many scenarios worth examining. But watching for years gives you the ability to make general observations, and one of them is the conclusion that fighters that lose both of the first two rounds of a bout rarely come back to finish an opponent in the third.

There are multiple reasons for this, but the most simple one is that if Fighter A was good enough to control the action for 10 minutes, the possibility of Fighter B turning it around and finishing him sometime in the last five is probably not good.

And that is part of what makes Carlos Condit's comeback win over Rory MacDonald at UFC 115 so outstanding.

So much has to go right to pull off the late comeback.

1. You have to wipe the proceeding action from your mind -- You may have been dominated or controlled in a way you're not normally used to. That plays mind games with you. You have 60 seconds to forget it and move on.

2. You have to erase any timidity
-- If your opponent has really gotten the better of you, you might have an aversion to engaging. You've already taken your lumps, you're behind two rounds. The thought may strike that it's better to play it defensive and live to fight another day.


3. You have to go to Plan B (or C, or D) -- After you've dealt with issues 1 and 2, you come to the realization that what you've been doing hasn't worked and you need a new course of attack on the fly. Good luck figuring it out as you're getting up from your stool to begin round three.

4. You have to fight fatigue -- If you've lost both rounds, you've probably taken more physical damage than your opponent or spent a lot of time fighting out of bad positions. Most of the time, he's fresher than you. And you know it.

5. You have to go for broke -- It's midway through round three and you land a right cross. Did your opponent slightly wobble afterward, or was it just bad footwork? If you rush in prematurely, you're wide open for a counter, but time is running low. The fighter with killer instinct doesn't spend any time debating this. He knows he's down on the scorecards but doesn't care if a loss is by decision or KO as much as he'd regret bypassing what could have been a golden opportunity at victory. He goes for it.

Fighters like Condit process this stuff instinctively. He went back to his corner after round two knowing he was in a heap of trouble. He didn't feel like he was getting dominated, but since he'd spent considerable amounts of time on his back in both rounds, he knew the judges would probably mark the round in his opponent's favor.

He was almost right. Unbeknowst to him, he was trailing on two of the three judges' cards, so he did indeed need a finish to win. In his corner, trainer Greg Jackson -- usually soft-spoken but direct -- raised his voice to a level rarely heard.

"It's about war. It's about war, you understand?" he yelled as Condit nodded stoically. "You bounce, you move and you punish this kid. This is five minutes of war. Now you go in there and give it to me!"

Condit shot off his stool as the one-minute recovery period ended, staring MacDonald down and slapping his hands together twice as referee Kevin Dornan waited to restart the action. For the next four minutes and 53 seconds, Condit was possessed.

After rocking MacDonald with an overhand right, Condit moved in for the kill. One look at his record shows that it's a situation in which he's comfortable. In his 24 career wins prior to Saturday night, 23 of them came through a finish (10 knockouts, 13 submissions). Condit may not be a household name, but his finishing rate ranks among the best the sport has to offer. In some ways, this was a situation he was made for.

MacDonald, though only 20 years old, was unbeaten, and earned his nickname "The Waterboy," for his ability to charge back with violence after getting angered, much the same way Adam Sandler's character did in the football movie. But on Saturday night, "The Waterboy" didn't have the extra gear that Condit showed.

The round three Compustrike stats tell the story. Condit landed 48 strikes to MacDonald's nine. He had two dominant positions, he grinded away with 41 ground strikes. But the numbers didn't tell the whole story. He fired away with punishing elbows and punches from the top. They weren't just grazing MacDonald, they were game-changers. The kid's face started swelling up, blood leaked from multiple cuts. Condit was relentless.

"I came out guns blazing," Condit said later. "I caught him early and I don't think he ever recovered. I put the pressure on him. I knew I was down two rounds. I took it to him. I wasn't too keen on losing a decision."

Too often, we see a fighter that's lost those first two rounds just try to survive, slow down his attack in an attempt at self-preservation. Their offense suddenly won't fire and they backpedal more often than usual. Condit could have done that Saturday night. The Canadian MacDonald had a two-round lead and a partisan crowd of 17,000 in the Vancouver arena cheering him towards the finish line.

Instead, Condit did what he knows best. He shifted into "Natural Born Killer" mode and ended up stealing a victory that wasn't his. There may have been a small tinge of controversy for the stoppage coming with just seven seconds left, but Condit did what he had to do: he unapologetically and openly went for the finish. Coming from two rounds down is the rarest form of theft in MMA. Many fighters holster their weapons but Condit decided to fire every last bullet, willing to risk the possibility of accidentally shooting himself while attempting the killshot.