It was so close Carlos Condit could almost taste it.
After two hard-grinding rounds facing UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, Condit finally saw an opening and launched a head kick that landed flush sending the Canadian legend flailing backwards towards the mat. Condit pounced like a leopard on its prey and he immediately began to rain down shots on St-Pierre looking for the finish.
Punch after punch came flying, but Condit couldn't quite find the right combination of strikes to put an end to the fight, and a few moments later St-Pierre regained composure and two rounds later the bout was over.
Condit lost to St-Pierre by unanimous decision, but he came as close as any fighter has in the last few years to wrestling the title away from the UFC's most dominant welterweight.
Now just a few months later, Condit finds himself right back in the title picture with a chance to gain another shot at St-Pierre if he can get past top contender Johny Hendricks at UFC 158 in Montreal.
"The reward could be pretty sweet," Condit told Bleacher Report about what happens should he beat Hendricks on Saturday night. "He's real high profile, he's pretty much cleared out the division, and he's definitely the No. 1 contender. A win over him would put me right back in the No. 1 contender's spot."
Condit has no plans of only reaching the top of the UFC once in his career, and this fight against Hendricks is a chance to launch right back to the No. 1 position he held for virtually all of 2012.
It was actually a strange turn of events that took place to put Condit in the fight with Hendricks to begin with after he was originally scheduled to face Rory MacDonald on the card instead. Unfortunately, MacDonald suffered a neck injury that forced him out of the fight and as soon as that news broke, Hendricks called the UFC to ask and face Condit on the card.
Hendricks was already scheduled to face Jake Ellenberger at UFC 158, but when the chance came to face Condit, he couldn't refuse that kind of opportunity. Hendricks knows the fastest path to the title is to beat the guy who was just there in front of him, and Condit was that very person.
Condit understands why Hendricks asked to fight him because it's no different than when he requested a bout against Dan Hardy when he was fresh off of his loss to Georges St-Pierre in 2010. Things went well for Condit because he ended up knocking out Hardy in the first round, but he doesn't expect Hendricks to find the same kind of fortune.
"Good move on their part (asking to fight me)," said Condit. "But I have plans on spoiling their party."
During his quick rise to the top of the welterweight rankings, Hendricks has managed to flatten two former contenders with first-round knockouts (Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann) despite the fact that he's supposed to be a wrestler with NCAA championship credentials.
Hendricks' left hand has made both Fitch and Kampmann wake up wondering what just happened, and it's easy to find a comparison between the UFC's top welterweight contender and former Pride and Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson.
Just like Hendricks, Henderson came from a decorated wrestling past, but in the last few years he's become most known for the knockout power in his right hand aptly nicknamed "The H-Bomb". Condit can see the similarities as well, but thinks it is Hendricks who is actually the far more dangerous opponent on paper.
"There are some similarities there but I think the difference is Hendo is towards the end of his career, he's not as versatile as he used to be. Ultimately he kind of is a one-trick pony," Condit said about Henderson. "Hendricks, he does have that in his arsenal, but he has a lot of other things. He's still athletic, he still moves really well. He's a more dangerous version of the one-punch, KO wrestler that Hendo is."
Who Wins at UFC 158?
Condit is clearly aware of the ability that Hendricks has to put anybody's lights out with one, lone punch, but he doesn't plan on being another highlight on his opponent's growing resume.
Instead, Condit plans on beating Hendricks soundly, stealing his thunder and riding it all the way back to a rematch against St-Pierre.
"It's a huge fight for me, it keeps me right there in the title picture," said Condit. "Johny is the man to beat right now in the division other than GSP. I'm looking to go in there, fight a great fight, come away with the win and get another title shot."
Beating Hendricks at UFC 158 would certainly go a long way to proving Condit has earned that opportunity.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.