UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre knows that his opponent, interim champ Carlos Condit, will be a dangerous challenger when they face off at Saturday's UFC 154 in Montreal.
"The Natural Born Killer" earned his moniker while amassing 26 finishes—13 by way of knockout and 13 by way of submission—out of his 28 career victories, an impressive display of his dangerous skill set that the St-Pierre camp will definitely need to be in tip-top shape for. Owning wins over some of the welterweight division's top fighters, Condit will look to spoil St-Pierre's return to the Octagon, unless the champ can systematically pick him apart.
While we won't know exactly what St-Pierre and his team will have in store for Condit until the cage doors close on Nov. 17, here are five keys to victory that the Canadian will likely need to keep in mind in order to reclaim the undisputed welterweight belt.
One of Condit's biggest strengths is his ability to pick his opponents apart from the outside before he goes in for the kill.
After watching and rewatching his UFC 143 interim title fight against Nick Diaz, I've slowly started to side with the Stockton contigent—but I can see how the judges thought Condit won.
"The Natural Born Killer" definitely didn't land as many power shots as Diaz, but did in fact accumulate more total strikes, mostly due to the high volume of kicks he executed from the outside. Utilizing a number of leg-body kick combinations and lead-leg side kicks, Condit was able to land a number of strikes from the outside before circling away from many of Diaz's blows.
St-Pierre can't fight this type of fight. While the Canadian's kickboxing game is at a world-class level, taking a chance by battling on the outside with Condit is a dangerous game.
To maximize the champ's potential for victory, he must rough Condit up on the inside.
Since fighting Condit on the outside isn't the best of game plans, trying to rough him up on the inside has to be done with caution.
St-Pierre's TriStar protegee Rory MacDonald executed the proper way to face Condit on the inside for the majority of their UFC 115 bout, which you can see in the video embedded in the slide. Despite the final frame proving to be a disastrous one for MacDonald, his earlier rounds showed that a tight boxing exchange inside the pocket is the best way to face Condit standing up—unless you leave your hands down like Dan Hardy.
Getting inside will also require cutting off "The Natural Born Killer's" quick footwork, meaning St-Pierre will have to keep pressing forward with his jab and clinch up against the fence at his earliest opportunity. Mixing up some dirty boxing and clinch work with forceful takedowns should do the job in roughing up the interim champ.
One area St-Pierre will have a distinct advantage over Condit will be in the wrestling department.
GSP has some of the most explosive and powerful takedowns, not only in the welterweight division, but probably in the entire sport. Condit has improved his takedown defense over the years, but even in his wins over Diaz, MacDonald and Dong Hyun Kim, all three opponents were able to take the interim champ down at some point in the fight.
St-Pierre should have no problem getting the fight to the ground, but keeping him there will be the real challenge.
"The Natural Born Killer" is slick off his back, owning a stellar guard to go with his wiry escapes. However, "Rush" must do what he does best and smother Condit on the ground, beating him up with his trademark elbows and vicious ground-and-pound.
If he can do that, then the champ should have no problem achieving this next key to victory.
St-Pierre has the uncanny ability to take the energy and heart out of his opponents, forcing them to fight where he's strongest and they are weakest.
In a matchup against Condit, this means the returning champ must bring this bout to the ground at some point during their battle. Condit is slick off his back, but St-Pierre has such great pressure from the top that he should be able to smother and beat up the interim champ, taking his energy and will in the process.
I'm not saying that Condit will roll over and give up if St-Pierre starts putting the pressure on, but his energy will definitely be diminished, forcing the interim champ into survival mode.
If St-Pierre can impose his will and make Condit play his game, he may not only win, but could also potentially pull off a feat inside the Octagon that we haven't seen in a while from the Canadian.
If the returning welterweight king can fulfill the other four keys to victory during his bout with Condit, then he should be able to at least threaten with finishes throughout this fight.
St-Pierre's best shot at finishing Condit will be on the ground as the interim champ has three defeats via submission out of five career losses. While these defeats came earlier in his career, Diaz showed that this is still a weak area for Condit, nearly submitting him in the final seconds of their UFC 143 war.
"Rush" has shown an affinity for meticulous ground-and-pound strikes rather than going for the sub throughout his career. However, as in his bout with Dan Hardy at UFC 111, the submission skills of St-Pierre are poised to play a big role in this fight should they go to the ground.
Finishing Condit would not only bring the champ back to the summit of the welterweight division, but it will also mark the return of GSP's killer instinct and the rebirth of one of MMA's most dominant champions.