Every so often, when we are very lucky and when the gods and goddesses who created fighting decide we all need a little bit of light in our lives, they send us something that warms our hardened hearts and reminds us why we fell in love with the mixing of martial arts in the first place.
In 2015, those moments came along more than we probably deserved. They came in the form of Conor McGregor and in the form of Holly Holm and Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler—the fight that changed two men permanently over the course of 25 minutes in Las Vegas. And for having witnessed it, we were all changed—some for the better and some for the worse.
Those gods and goddesses, despite working overtime last year, decided to kick off the year of our Lord 2016 by sending us another gift. This time, it was in the form of Lawler—the incredibly regenerated man—stepping back in the Octagon with Carlos Condit.
On paper, it was as technical of a welterweight title fight as there has ever been: two men with a deep penchant for violence who were both at the top of their game in a championship fight for the ages.
I'm sure you're of the same mind as I am: When the fight actually happened, there was relief. Nobody was injured. Nobody was concussed. Nobody failed a drug test. What was announced came to fruition.
And what came to fruition was exactly what we expected: pure, glorious welterweight fighting between two athletes at their peak. On the second day of 2016, Condit and Lawler put on one of the all-time great title fights—one of the craziest fifth rounds of fighting and what will surely be remembered as the fight of the year when we roll into 2017.
Lawler edged Condit by split decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48) in a fight that, once it was over, felt much more like a major win for both men than a loss for Condit. Much of that was due to a fifth round where, with both men exhausted, they simply threw caution to the wind and attempted to punch and kick each other in the face. Blood flew across the cage as both men connected and nearly fell multiple times.
There was a sense in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where things had been mostly dead for a night of what felt like a hangover after last month's UFC 194 card, that we were seeing something special. There was a buzz, and the buzz grew into a roar, and by the last minute of the fight, everyone in the arena was standing alongside Condit and Lawler, willing them onward, pushing them forward.
And when the bell came, it felt a little bit like a letdown, but it also felt like mercy. That's how the best fights are. You don't want them to keep going because you hate the toll it's taking on the men involved. But at the same time, you don't know when you're going to see something like it again. And in the case of Lawler vs. Condit, we may never see anything like it again.
Official sig. strikes: 176 to 92. Lawler's -84 sig. strike differential is new single-fight UFC record worst for a decision winner. #UFC195— Michael Carroll (@MJCflipdascript) January 3, 2016
Lawler noted he knew Condit was a warrior, and the New Mexico native continues to prove people wrong with his mettle and his heart and his skill.
"I'm blessed to get to do what I do for a living," Condit said. "I love performing like this. Thank you so much."
Who did you have winning?
We stopped doubting Lawler's mettle eons ago. It did not surprise us when he pounced up off the canvas after Condit dropped him in the first round. Lawler thrives in those moments where his vision grows blurry, when he starts losing pieces of himself. For whatever reason, those are the moments that make him smile, and we love him for it.
After Saturday night, there's no doubt Condit is right up there on that same shelf, alongside Lawler and the other greatest, toughest, most courageous warriors we've ever seen. They transcend athletics, fighting and art. They transcend martial arts and the UFC.
They create moments that will never be forgotten, like Saturday night in Las Vegas, when they fought and bled and gave us one of the greatest spectacles we've ever seen. They made sure that no matter where they go or where we go from here, they will never be forgotten.