It wasn't long ago that Carlos Condit was one round away from losing to Rory MacDonald and dropping his UFC record to 1-2.
A mere four months ago Condit entered the third round against MacDonald, down two rounds to nothing. Condit needed a stoppage to win his third UFC bout, and he got it with just seven seconds remaining in the fight.
Many questioned the timing of the stoppage, because had the ref let it go for seven more seconds, most likely MacDonald would have walked away with a decision win.
A very different Condit entered the Octagon Saturday in London, England. Condit came in confident in his striking ability and he used it to knockout former top contender Dan Hardy in the first round.
At UFC 115, Condit looked like he may not be ready for the jump up in competition from the WEC to the UFC. MacDonald was getting the best of Condit on their feet and on the ground. Condit was getting hit with combos and looked confused about how stifle MacDonald's attack, experimenting with spinning strikes, jumping strikes and even a crane kick.
Condit's once formidable guard was looking completely ineffective against MacDonald's top attack. However, Condit was able to regain his composure for the third round. A standing elbow rocked MacDonald, then a failed shot gave Condit the opening he needed. He stood above MacDonald, dove into his guard and began unleashing the ground and pound that would eventually stop the fight at 4:53 of the third round.
What a difference four months makes...
Condit climbed the steps to the Octagon Saturday in England with the familiar scowl across his lips. The outcome at UFC 120 would be the same as it was at UFC 115, however, this time around there would be no controversy as he cemented his place in the UFC welterweight title picture.
Condit dispensed of British striker Dan Hardy in the final minute of the opening round with a quick, well-placed left hook. Hardy and Condit were both throwing left hooks at the same time, and they both landed at the same time. Condit's punch, however, landed right under the chin and was a stiffer punch than what Hardy had served up.
Hardy's head snapped back as he went crashing to the canvas. It looked for a moment as if Hardy would be able to defend himself, but Condit took care of that as he jumped on top of Hardy landing two hard punches right on the Brit's chin.
Referee Dan Mirgliotta stepped in as Condit walked away, hands raised in victory. Condit now finds himself in the middle of the title picture in arguably the UFC's deepest division.
Currently, the welterweight division is ruled by champion Georges St-Pierre, who has fought nearly all of the top contenders and is currently making his was back through the gauntlet. He will fight Josh Koscheck for the second time in December, and a second bout with top contender Jon Fitch could be on the horizon if GSP gets past Koscheck.
The UFC has been craving some fresh blood for their welterweight division in order to give their champ some new competition so the matchups do not get stale. UFC president Dana White went out of his way to make sure the UFC signed top welterweight and middleweight fighter Jake Shields from Strikeforce.
St-Pierre's next three matchups are likely mapped out: Koscheck first, then the winner of Jake Shields vs. Martin Kampmann and likely a rematch with Jon Fitch. Obviously, this requires GSP to survive these bouts. It also requires top contender-worthy performances by the aforementioned contenders.
After his fight at UFC 120, Condit has put himself one big win away from a title shot. After defeating top contender Hardy, the UFC will likely match Condit up with another top contender like Fitch, Thiago Alves or Paulo Thiago.
If Condit is able to secure a win against one of these top contenders, he will likely be next in line for a shot at Georges St-Pierre. His quest for the title could be expedited if he is able to win in emphatic fashion like he did against Hardy.
Condit has long possessed very dangerous, well-rounded skills that could make him a contender. It seems now that he is begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and perform up to his ability level.
Training with Greg Jackson's camp will only help Condit get the most out of himself. Condit is still young (26 years old), still improving and could be a force to be reckoned with in the UFC's welterweight division.