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On Condit, Fitch, and GSP....
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on July 11, 2011, 4:01 AM

While Tito Ortiz was shocking everyone by beating Ryan Bader and Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz were putting the Bantamweight division firmly on the map with their own great fight, Carlos Condit was also making some noise at UFC 132. Some really loud noise, in fact. By stopping the undefeated Dong Hyun Kim with a flying knee and some vicious punches, Condit put together his fourth UFC win in a row and his twelfth in his last thirteen fights, with the only loss coming to Martin Kampmann in a fight that couldíve gone either way (I actually thought Condit deserved the nod, but such is MMA). Post-fight saw Joe Rogan ask Condit about the possibility of him fighting for the Welterweight Title in his next fight, a prospect that he certainly seemed enthusiastic about. Of course, the only problem there is that the champion, GSP, is already booked in a fight Ė against Nick Diaz in October. If Condit were to wait for a shot at the title, heís probably looking at Februaryís Superbowl show at the earliest, and thatís assuming GSP-Diaz goes down without controversy and the winner escapes unscathed.

Now personally, if I were advising Condit and we assume heís definitely, 100% certain next in line, then Iíd tell him to sit out. After all, while July to February is a long layoff, itís no longer than the layoff Condit had between his fights with Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald (nine months) and again between Dan Hardy and the Kim fight (nine months again). But honestly, whether Carlos chooses to fight again in between a possible title shot is between him and Joe Silva. Itís been done before with mixed results Ė Chuck Liddell battered both Babalu Sobral (2002) and Vernon White (2004) while waiting for a guaranteed title shot, while more recently we saw Junior Dos Santos beat up Shane Carwin while waiting for Cain Velasquez to get healthy. On the flip side of course, Anthony Pettis missed his opportunity to fight for the gold when he lost to Clay Guida. Itís a double-edged sword Ė do you wait and wait for a shot that eventually might not come (see Rashad Evans)? Or do you put it on the line in order to keep yourself sharp? But thatís actually an article all of its own. Iím not really dealing with that issue. What I am looking at and taking issue with is this idea that Condit may not have ďprovenĒ that heís worthy of a title fight, and he ought to fight Jon Fitch or Josh Koscheck before he faces the champion. Quite frankly, thatís bullshit.

The two major goals of the UFC are obviously to 1) put on fights that will draw the interest of the viewer and thus make money for the company and 2) put on fights that pit the best fighters against the best fighters in the best matchups. Thatís the easy part. Sometimes the hard part is reconciling those two goals, and sometimes Dana and the boys have to make a decision to go with one over the other. Perhaps the best example of that was giving Brock Lesnar a shot at Randy Coutureís Heavyweight Title in 2008 over and above the more deserving Fabricio Werdum, basically because Lesnarís a big star and Werdum wasnít. In the case of the Welterweight division though, things get a little more difficult. The champion, Georges St-Pierre, is such a star now that practically any fight heís involved in will complete that first goal. Joe Silva could probably book him to fight me next week and a certain amount of people would buy the PPV. Number two though becomes a problem because GSP beats everyone, including the fighters perceived as the best in the world. Who then, after losing to GSP, keep on winning and beating everyone else that they face.

The argument for Condit having to fight Jon Fitch, for instance, goes something like this: Fitch fought GSP in August 2008 and although he got the shit kicked out of him for five straight rounds (including TWO 10-8s on many scorecards) since then heís won five fights and probably shouldíve won six had the judges not been kind to BJ Penn back in February. He is probably the second-best 170lber in the world. Condit meanwhile has beaten four guys who, while all tough, arenít necessarily proven top ten/five contenders, and so if he wants the title shot, he should have to beat a proven top contender like Fitch. Some would argue outright that Fitch deserves the title shot before Condit anyway. But why?

Fitch *already had* his opportunity, and it wasnít like he came close to dethroning GSP. That fight was a one-sided beating and the most surprising thing was that Fitch actually managed to survive the full twenty-five minutes. And since then while he has beaten five guys, it isnít like heís improved dramatically. Save for a horribly flat Thiago Alves, none of Fitchís wins since the GSP loss have been over proven contenders, and in those fights he hasnít shown any sign that he could be more competitive with GSP in a second fight. If anything you could argue that heís regressed as he hasnít finished any of his recent opponents while pre-GSP he reeled off three submissions and a TKO. This isnít a case like GSP himself, where he lost to Hughes in their first fight, but had clearly made a quantum leap in his fighting abilities between that one and their second meeting. So in all honesty, unless GSP were to have an off-night or come into the fight injured, we can basically see how a GSP-Fitch fight would go by looking at their first fight. So how do you sell GSP-Fitch II? The answer is that you donít.

Carlos Condit meanwhile might not be as good as Jon Fitch, but the one thing we definitely donít know is how a fight between him and GSP would go, because it hasnít happened yet. Therefore Condit is a fresh challenge to the champion, and Zuffa can sell the fight as such. They managed to do that pretty well with Dan Hardy and Jake Shields, and the majority of fans saw that those two guys were painfully overmatched going in, moreso I would argue than Condit would be. So why risk Conditís winning streak in a fight with Jon Fitch Ė or Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, or BJ Penn, the other guys whoíve already fought and lost to GSP? If Condit loses then not only does *he* lose momentum, but the UFC loses a fresh challenger to GSP. And at this point, they donít want to be doing that. I said earlier that Zuffa can sell a fight between GSP and practically anyone, but who actually wants to see Jon Fitch take another beating? Not me. I said goal #2 for the UFC was to put on the best fights between the best fighters. Maybe GSP and Fitch are the best fighters, but right now that wouldnít be the best fight that the UFC could make, given weíve seen it all before.

So if Carlos Condit must fight before he faces the Welterweight Champion, letís put him against a guy who hasnít already lost to GSP, so that if Condit does slip up and lose, you have a fresh contender ready to use that momentum to provide GSP with a new challenge. Thatís why the UFC ought to match Condit with Charlie Brenneman. Heís coming off a big win over Rick Story in what was one of the few feel-good stories in MMA in recent months. Granted the fight itself wasnít all that, but Brenneman won, heís only got one loss to his name, and heís already stolen the momentum of Rick Story Ė could he possibly steal the momentum of Carlos Condit and ride that train all the way to a title shot? The story basically sells itself. At least, it sells itself a lot more than GSP-Fitch II would. You know it makes sense.

Scott Newman:

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