Condit-MacDonald 2 Will Gauge Both Fighters’ Improvements
The recent rematch announced between Carlos Condit and Rory MacDonald is a perfect stroke by the UFC. Both fighters are in awkward places in the division right now, as Condit is coming off of a defeat to Georges St-Pierre and unlikely to receive another title shot in the very near future. MacDonald is in the old Robbie Lawler position, where his training partner is the champion and it clearly caps his ceiling for the time being.
This fight will serve one of two purposes; a Condit victory will succeed in expediting his rise back up the Welterweight ranks. On the other hand, a MacDonald win may help push St-Pierre away from 170 and into a super fight with Anderson Silva, to clear the way for the youngster to take up the Welterweight mantle. No matter the result, the UFC wins. That’s intelligent match-making, and to make it even better, Joe Silva didn’t even have to do anything since MacDonald and Condit made this fight themselves.
Aside from the positives from a divisional perspective, the fight itself also figures to be very entertaining and right off the bat there are some interesting questions to be asked.
In their first fight, MacDonald held a clear wrestling edge, while Condit controlled the majority of the stand-up. In the end, conditioning decided the fight, but I don’t see that repeating as MacDonald’s experience in the Octagon and training with Tristar should eliminate that factor almost entirely.
There are three factors that make the rematch so interesting, and while I haven’t come to a conclusion about how I expect the fight will play out yet, I can guarantee these three factors will be at the core of my final decision.
1. The perception of their first fight
It seems to have become generally accepted that Rory MacDonald was dominant in the first two rounds of their June 2010 encounter. This is, quite simply, wrong. Rewatching the fight, the first two rounds were quite competitive, with Condit landing more strikes on the feet only to be taken down so he could land more strikes and be more active from his back. Some of MacDonald’s takedowns were impressive, and his aggression on the feet did allow him to land several hard shots to Condit, but at best the striking came out a wash.
The third round was an obvious 10-8 round for Condit had it not been stopped (a stoppage which created the myth that Rory got ‘screwed’). So even if the judges scored the first two rounds in MacDonald’s favour due to crowd influence or their individual biases, the bout should have ended as a draw.
As so often happens to our perception of fights, it seemed this bout was coloured by the commentary we were listening to while watching. With MacDonald being so young, and competing with a top Welterweight, it was more an issue of shock at how quickly he’d come along as a fighter rather than him actually beating Condit.
Although BJ Penn is obviously well past his expiry date and was essentially a tanned punching bag, it was obvious that MacDonald has become a more predictable, powerful and varied striker. His use of long, straight punches, body shots and a variety of kicks was impressive to watch, and far more advanced than when he fought Condit the first time around.
In their first bout, MacDonald relied on stalking forward aggressively, rarely using angles, and throwing primarily looping punches as his striking attack, and while it netted him some success, it also got him tagged with big shots. This is the one area of his striking game that still remains a concern, as even against Penn he was getting hit with shots, albeit nothing powerful enough to really threaten him. A more game fighter and a better overall striker in Condit could still exploit Rory’s defence in their rematch.
3. Carlos Condit’s wrestling improvement
The final, and perhaps biggest, factor in breaking down this rematch is the difference in Condit’s wrestling game from the fight at UFC 115 until now. In the first fight, Condit was content to fight from his back and outwork MacDonald from his guard. Perhaps this was part of his strategy to tire his opponent, or perhaps he thought he could sway Canadian judges that he had won with his opponent in top position.
Since that fight, he has become better at not only stopping takedowns — which, to be fair, he wasn’t bad at in the first fight, stuffing five of MacDonald’s attempts; all four after the first round, and hitting a switch on an attempt in the third round — and standing back up after being taken down. As mentioned, these skills were on display against MacDonald, but the change in philosophy saw better results when he faced the likes of Dong Hyun Kim and Georges St-Pierre, where in both cases he showed his ability to initiate and win scrambles through takedown defence and guard work.
If Condit is able to use his grappling ability to get on top of MacDonald, as he was able to do in their decisive third round, he will once again hold a vast advantage in not only the damage he can do from that position, but also his ability to keep the fight on the ground.
This fight hits the mark from every perspective, and while it may even be considered the third best Welterweight fight at UFC 158 — after St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz and Johny Hendricks vs. Jake Ellenberger — that says more about the other two fights and the UFC’s recent commitment to putting on quality cards than anything bad about a rematch that wasn’t necessarily at the front of many minds. Even still, in a climate that has resulted in a great deal of rehashed fights (did we really NEED Stout/Fisher 3 to happen), it’s nice to see one develop so interestingly and organically… minus MacDonald’s robotic post-fight callout, of course.