Martin Kampmann and Carlos Condit provided a wonderful display of all-around mixed martial arts skill last night in the main event of UFC Fight Night 27. It was unfortunate that one man had to come up on the losing end of the bout as both showed a serious improvement in some of the areas which have let their game down.
Martin Kampmann, whom I criticized last week as one of the slowest starters in the business, hid his usual wake up period by moving straight to his severely underappreciated wrestling. From the start of the bout he was on Carlos Condit, weighing him down like a bag of cement. Rushing Condit to the fence with a single leg, Condit pummeled in an underhook and looked to escape his hips from the fence on that side.
Kampmann sucked his hips in close to Condit's and hit an inside trip on the second attempt on the side on which Condit had his underhook.
Condit rose to the occasion and showed once again why he has one of the better guards in MMA. While he didn't come too close to submitting Kampmann, he did effectively eliminate Kampmann's chances to land heavy ground-and-pound. And of course most good guard players will tell you that guard retention is most of the game.
Every time Kampmann took a step forward in passing guard Condit would push off the cage with his feet or invert himself and get underneath Kampmann, causing a scramble which ended with Kampmann achieving little. The next time Kampmann looked to be passing guard, Condit pushed away and turned his back, scrambling back to his feet but ultimately being pulled back down and having back control secured upon him.
Condit's willingness to turn his back to make a scramble is definitely worthy of applause as it's certainly a brave thing to do against one of the division's best opportunists. Condit eventually managed to shake free and get to top position though.
Much of the first round was spent wrestling in similar exchanges but Condit began to do a better job of breaking free from Kampmann's clinch. Every time he did so he would land a few good elbows to the head and make Kampmann regret clinching.
The single leg takedown which Kampmann hit at the end of the first round was absolutely textbook, though. Picking up the leg he ran to the fence and used Condit rebounding from the fence to feed into his running the pipe and dumping Condit on his back.
Kampmann began to have success on the feet with his jab but ultimately became a little one note in his movement as he rushed straight at Condit. Condit sidestepped one such offensive and countered with a thudding right straight which slowed Kampmann a little.
The third round proved, once again, why Team Jackson—Winkeljohn is so successful at the heights of MMA competition, and more importantly the brilliant relationship between the eyes of Mike Winkeljohn and the actions of Carlos Condit.
Between the second and third rounds Mike Winkeljohn pointed out to Condit on film that every time Condit attacked, Kampmann covered with his lead elbow and loaded up his right hand. Winkeljohn implored Condit to fake with his right and instead attack Kampmann's undefended right side with "Hook, elbow or fall off kick. Lunge, fall off, lunge, fall off."
We can assume that this refers to the left high kick which Condit caught Georges St. Pierre with as he immediately went about making it land against Kampmann. The real key in turning the fight in the third round seemed to be Condit's left hook, however, which was noticeably less wide than usual and on the money almost every time.
Condit would flick a jab or fake a right hand and immediately close the door with a left hook or a step out to his right with a left high kick. The high kicks became more effective as the round wore on but none of them had the sort of impact which Condit landed on St. Pierre with. The left hook, however, seemed to paralyze Kampmann.
Usually when Kampmann sees a right hand coming he will raise his left elbow, turn more side on and prepare his own right hand as a counter. Winkeljohn observed that when Kampmann does this (and he does this in pretty much all of his fights, so Condit had plenty of time to prepare) his right side is unguarded.
Of course even when he was loading up, Kampmann's right hand was never more than a couple of inches from his jaw, but it is more that he was clearly not ready in his attitude or mindset to defend himself. When Kampmann catches a right hand, he instinctively comes back with his own. These kind of pinpoint counters help him easily hurt men like Jake Ellenberger and Diego Sanchez, but against a fighter who has a feinting game and a corner like Condit it can be exploited.
Left hooks and high kicks connected more and more frequently, not just when Kampmann was loading up, but after he had thrown his right hand as well. After battering Kampmann through the third round, Condit almost locked in the rare "Ninja Choke" as Kampmann attempted a takedown, but Kampmann spun and gave up his back to escape.
In the final stanza it was the left hook which once again turned the course of the fight. Condit threw a left high kick, followed by a left middle kick, and a right straight. This instigated an exchange and as Condit closed the door with his left hook he found Kampmann's unguarded chin again and put Kampmann on wobbly legs.
Here Kampmann reverted to the flaw I pointed out last week (which he had only shown a few times previous in this fight) as he backed himself onto the cage. Kampmann has nothing from there and wasn't looking to tie up or take Condit down. Instead he covered up, which is never effective in MMA, and was stopped by Condit's flurries.
Both men showed enormous improvement in this bout and as I have said it was the type of bout where you're sad to see one man come out as the loser. Kampmann's recognition that he would need to wrestle early and often was a brilliant one, but once again it was his standup technique which got him into trouble, this time because of a much higher-level opponent and smaller opening than in his previous bouts.
In just a few days the UFC will be hosting another event headlined by Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis and I will be back to talk about that shortly after. If you haven't yet read my preview or my interview with Benson Henderson, please make sure to.
Pick up Jack's eBooks Advanced Striking and Elementary Striking from his blog, Fights Gone By.