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UFC 143 Main Event Breakdown: Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting.

The UFC's annual Super Bowl weekend card has been noticeably short of buzz. Maybe that's because UFC 143 was originally supposed to feature welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre defending his belt, or maybe it's simply because the sports world is all aflutter with the New England Patriots vs. New York Giants matchup. Or maybe, increasingly sophisticated fans are underwhelmed by the injury-racked undercard.

Whatever the case, at least fans who pay big money to watch the event in person or plunk down $55 to view it at home have little chance of being let down by the main event.

Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit are two of the more intense fighters in the division. They're also cut from the same cloth, action fighters who will savagely compete until the final horn. And that should make the interim title fight a sight to behold.

Diaz (26-7, 1 no contest) has seen his fame move to a new level over the last few months. Once cast as a malcontent, he's seen the increased interest in his career give him a new forum to express his views and beliefs. We may still not fully comprehend him, but at least there is an attempt to understand one of the sport's most intriguing personalities.

A win over Condit will increase the spotlight substantially. Georges St-Pierre has repeatedly and passionately voiced a hope of facing Diaz, and the storyline between the two would make for an easy sell.

But to get there, he's got to go through Condit (26-5), a tall and rangy 27-year-old who excels at finding a way to turn the fight's pace and tempo to his liking.

Condit's best attribute is his willingness to be aggressive no matter the situation. Whether he's standing across from his opponent or flat on his back, he can almost always be found attacking. He may not fire off the punch output that Diaz does -- nobody does -- but he throws hard and often. That willingness to exchange has intensified in recent fights, as he's become more trusting of his own striking abilities.

Condit's striking style is more of a kickboxing style than Diaz, who favors straight boxing. That could pay dividends in this fight, especially given Condit's two-inch reach advantage. If he can slow down Diaz's hands by broadening the distance between them with kicks, that will be a major accomplishment. One of the few fighters who slowed Diaz down was Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos, who proactively used kicks for that very reason. Even though he ended up losing, Santos' strategy showed promise.

Diaz doesn't have tremendous reach for his height -- 74 inches -- but he uses it well, especially his jab, which he often pistons out repeatedly. It works simultaneously as a range-finder and as a pressure tool. His opponent is often so busy trying to keep Diaz's hand out of his face that he goes long stretches without firing back anything of value. All the while, Diaz is racking up points and putting dents in his opponent's armor.

His volume is easy to see by numbers. According to FightMetric, Diaz lands 6.22 strikes per minute, a number that would rank him in the top five in UFC history if he'd had the required number of fights.

That said, he does get hit as well, taking 3.19 strikes per minute. Given Condit's newfound power, that could lead to some interesting moments, even though Diaz seemingly never gets hurt. Aside from a doctor stoppage due to cuts that was ruled a KO in 2007, he hasn't been truly KO'd since 2002 when he was 19 years old and in his fifth pro fight.

When it comes to finishes, the numbers would suggest we may not see all five scheduled rounds. Condit has only been to a decision three times in 32 pro fights, and has finished 11 of his last 12 wins. Diaz has gone to decisions far more often, but that was before he came into his own and melded his volume and power. Since then, he's finished nine times during his 11-fight win streak.

Then again, these guys are finished so infrequently -- it's been over four years for Diaz, and that came by the aforementioned doctor stoppage, and over five years for Condit -- that it's hard to imagine either will be put away with so much at stake.

It's also worth noting their respective ground games. Diaz is a Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt and is thought to be the more advanced of the two, but it's interesting to note he has just eight of his 26 wins by tapout. By comparison, Condit has 13 of his 27 wins by tapout. Diaz is probably more technically proficient and positionally dominant while Condit has a more attack-oriented ground game.

That may prove to be a moot point. Neither of the two are particularly big on taking the fight down to the ground. Diaz tries more often (1.62 attempts per 15 minute compared to Condits 1 attempt), but Condit is the better takedown artist of the two (58 percent accuracy compared to Diaz's 33 percent).

I fully expect most of this fight to be fought near the middle of the cage, with spurts around the perimeter. Diaz does his best work when he's backing his opponents up, and Condit doesn't buckle under pressure. He may be willing to let Diaz fire off first and then counterstrike, but he's not going to be spending a lot of time backpedaling.

This is a fight that will be won not by hands and feet, but by heart and conditioning. Diaz and Condit are fairly evenly matched everywhere, so what separates them? It's Diaz's conditioning. His relentless pace never wavers, and so far no one has been able to keep up with his volume. For judges, rounds where one fighter significantly out-lands another are easy to score. Diaz will be the one landing more often. Condit won't outstrike Diaz, so he'll have to finish him. And who finishes Nick Diaz nowadays?

In a fight of the year candidate, Diaz out-points Condit for a unanimous decision, and the Georges St-Pierre watch begins yet again.