Carlos Condit is a mixed martial artist for the fans.
He finishes fights, and even when he loses, he does so while looking for the knockout or submission at every opportunity. He faced a great deal of criticism for fighting smart against Nick Diaz, and he has not had a single slow match since.
Perhaps Condit is the best example of the kind of fighter who can pull in fans for the UFC, but more than that he is an example, to every martial artist, of the importance of opportunism.
Take, for instance, his bout with Dong Hyun Kim. Each time Kim stepped in with strikes in order to get to the clinch, Condit nailed him with a counterpunch. On the occasion that Kim took Condit down, "The Natural Born Killer" immediately started working from the bottom and found an opportunity to turn the Korean over.
Condit is known as a striker, but when the fight hits the ground and he's on the bottom, he never looks to hold and get the stand up. He wastes no time getting to work and making stuff happen. Even if he's taken down at every turn on the feet, he is almost always up again in the next 30 seconds.
The moment that Kim displayed a flaw, whether on the feet or the ground, Condit was taking a mile for every inch given to him.
Nowhere was this more obvious than when, for the briefest of moments, Kim's back came near the fence. Condit had thrown a combination and backed Kim up, finishing it with a lazy front kick at head height.
Suddenly he realized that Kim was on the fence, and his pace changed in an instant. From the lazy kick he planted his feet and leapt in with a flying knee. He caught Kim with nowhere to go and starched the Korean.
That is not to say that Condit will always knock an opponent out for his errors. You know as well as I do that the only absolute in sports is that there are no absolute rules. Condit's bout with Johny Hendricks was close, but Condit often threw away his advantages by pressing them too hard.
What do I mean? Well, Hendricks' strategy throughout the bout was to throw combinations, get Condit to the fence and finish takedowns. He did this several times in the first round, and Condit worked his way up each time.
When Condit finally had Hendricks with his back to the fence, he immediately jumped in with a knee (which fell short), ending up trading with Hendricks and being turned onto the fence. This was a great example of grasping an opportunity perhaps too eagerly. Not only did the knee fall short, but Condit gave up the superior cage position and ultimately another takedown attempt.
Even in this example of rushing and throwing away a good opportunity, however, Condit showed his ability to roll with the punches (figuratively) and look for further opportunities. Hendricks turned him onto the fence and went for the high crotch, while Condit immediately locked in a kimura and fell to his back on his own terms. Through trying to finish the hold, he ended up on Hendricks' back and in position to finish the fight.
Condit attempted the same knee along the fence in the second round and sacrificed a takedown immediately.
One of the things that really showed in Condit's most recent bout, a rematch with Martin Kampmann, was his employment of a more rational, pressuring style when he had his man along the fence—not leaping in with the knee and hoping to finish.
Kampmann had been attempting to use his underrated wrestling to get the better of Condit throughout the fight, and he'd been having success in taking down his opponent. In the fourth round, however, Condit managed to manoeuvre Kampmann toward the fence. From there, he applied the pressure without jumping onto a takedown.
Throwing off combinations and making sure to exit with the left hook or that fall-away left high kick that he loves, Condit was able to land hard blows as Kampmann—always the counterpuncher—was attempting to fire back.
Notice that instead of the initial combination, it was almost always the last punch as Condit was retreating back into his guard that wobbled Kampmann.
Kampmann has made a career out of punching second and coming out on top (just as Hendricks did against Condit), but Condit's retreating left hook and left high kick served to punish the Dane for pursuing the counter.
Condit, despite being considered a veteran of the sport and the division, is still learning, growing and looking for ways to improve his exciting, opportunistic but somewhat reckless style.
He meets Tyron Woodley at UFC 171 on Saturday, and we will see how he deals with yet another opponent who will be looking to get him to the fence and put him on his back over and over again.