UFC 158 is this Saturday on pay-per-view, and the co-main event of the evening will go a long way to determining who the next in line for a shot at the UFC Welterweight Championship is.
Former interim UFC welterweight champion Carlos Condit battles No. 1-ranked Johny Hendricks in the important divisional matchup.
Condit returns to action after losing his bid to become the undisputed champion back in November to Georges St. Pierre. Hendricks rides in on a five-fight win streak that has garnered him the top spot in the official UFC rankings.
Here is a look at how this crucial bout breaks down.
If there is one thing to watch in this fight it is Hendricks' blistering left hand. It has destroyed multiple fighters including the ever-tough Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann.
However, Condit is the better complete striker in this fight.
Hendricks is still evolving as a striker. His extreme power has allowed him to cover up some of his deficiencies in the area.
Condit continues to put together one of the better striking attacks in the division. He utilizes his reach well, and shows good movement. Ask Nick Diaz.
The former interim titleholder has a more complete attack than Hendricks, and his movement allows him to be prepared defensively. That will be important against the powerful, and aggressive, puncher. Condit can slip the predominant boxing attack and mix it up well.
Condit may have the advantage on the mat, but Hendricks has the decided edge in getting the fight there.
Hendricks is a four-time NCAA All-American, and two-time NCAA Champion. He brings in some of the best wrestling credentials in all of MMA. The Team Takedown member has added to his repertoire since working with Marc Laimon.
That should keep him out of trouble from any of Condit's attacks.
Hendricks will not likely be on his back against Condit, and that is where Condit's grappling would mostly come in to play. The Oklahoma State Cowboy can decide where to take this fight. Hendricks will prevent Condit's grappling from being effective. He gets the nod.
Hendricks is an aggressive fighter who tries to finish the fight as quickly as possible.
Condit's aggressiveness is more measured. That is due to entering fights with a well thought out game plan. The Diaz fight is a great example.
That is not to discredit Hendricks' game plans, but he can throw caution to the wind instead a little too much.
Condit not only comes in to fights with fantastic game plans, but he is able to adapt to the situation based on his coaches' advice in between rounds. He has the edge against Hendricks as a fighter who can switch it up at a moments notice.
Condit's X-Factor: Movement
We saw just how good Condit's movement can be against Diaz. He is able to exit off the fence well, and that may be very important against Hendricks.
The wrestler can easily back Condit up, and then the former interim champion will need to circle off the cage to avoid being trapped. His movement will be a big factor to keeping the fight on the feet. Condit has shown great ability to do this in the past, and it will likely be a focus in this bout too.
Hendrick's X-Factor: Using His Wrestling
Condit is the better striker from an all-around perspective, and there is no doubt he has scouted Hendricks' laser left well. Hendricks needs to mix things up against Condit, and going back to his roots is the best option.
The former interim champion has solid takedown defense, but Hendricks is a former champion for a reason. He should be able to put Condit on his back. Once he has Condit thinking about the takedown he will open more opportunities to land his powerful left hand, or he can continue to grind.
Hendricks needs to at least threaten with the takedown on Saturday.
This is a fantastic fight between two top fighters in the division, and Hendricks has a slight overall advantage because of his ability to determine where this fight takes place.
However, I think Condit's all-around abilities will allow him to earn enough points with the judges to nab a narrow decision.
Condit will be able to stay on his feet by keeping Hendricks on the outside, and when he is taken down he can work back to his feet quickly. On the feet, Condit's reach and kicks will be vital. That is where he will score.
As the fight draws on Hendricks will become more desperate, and more predictable. That will allow Condit to take the third and deciding frame.
Prediction: Condit defeats Hendricks by unanimous decision