Monday, February 6, 2012

KELLER: Diaz was not robbed, but give him a rematch against Condit this spring anyway

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By Wade Keller, MMATorch Supervising Editor

PREAMBLE

Carlos Condit believes he won four rounds against Nick Diaz. Nick Diaz believes he was robbed. Dana White said Condit deserved to win. Dan Henderson posted on Twitter he had it even after four and gave the fifth to Diaz. Brian Stann said Condit won. Tim Kennedy simply wrote "I HATE judges!" Joe Lauzon said "I thought Diaz won that all night long." Jon Fitch said he thought Condit won. Pat Miletich said the decision was a joke and Condit won two rounds "at best." Jens Pulver gave it to Diaz because of "ring generalship," citing that Diaz moved forward and Condit moved backward. Josh Neer said Diaz got robbed and Condit was "doing the Forrest Gump." Jake Ellenberger responded, "You got to be kidding me." Tito Ortiz had it a draw.

DIAZ WAS NOT ROBBED, CONDIT DID NOT RUN AWAY

Whether you think Nick Diaz deserved to get the judges' decision or not, Carlos Condit did not "spend the fight running from Nick." Condit used a smart strategy of spinning out of Diaz's path, out of the zone where Diaz is most comfortable - pelting his opponents against the cage. Condit did what great smart fighters do; scout their opponents and stick to a gameplan if it's working. He circled away from Diaz's offense. That's not running away the whole fight. That's avoiding getting punched.

Condit did what MIchael Bisping should have done against Dan Henderson. He did what Cain Velasquez should have done against Junior dos Santos. Avoid getting punched by any means necessary, while finding a way to ultimately land more punches that cumulatively do more damage. Condit did that, and that gameplan included backing up, spinning away from the cage, and finding a way to score more points and deliver more punishment over the course of 25 minutes.

You can't judge fights solely on who looked worse afterward, but in this case the evidence on the faces of Diaz and Condit can at least be used to counter pretty definitively the argument that Diaz did more damage or that Condit spent the fighting running away from Diaz.

Diaz didn't punch himself and kick himself in the face while Condit was running from him for 25 minutes. (Although, technically speaking, Diaz did punch himself in the face two or three times before the fight started.)

The statistics back this up. FightMetric tallied Condit landing 159 out of 329 strkes, Diaz landing 117 out of 258 strikes.

I get that some people really badly wanted to see Diaz vs. GSP. Back in 1998, the Atlanta Falcons beat the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game in overtime, ruining a dream Super Bowl XXXIII match-up against the 14-2 Denver Broncos that fans had spent months anticipating. But the Falcons won, and Viking fans and the NFL had to deal with it, not claim they were robbed. The Broncos went on to beat the Falcons by 15 points.

I wonder how much the "controversy" of the judges' decision is a result of wishful thinking being spoiled because they really badly wanted to see the elusive Diaz-GSP match-up while both fighters are in their primes, when the fight still means something? Could that have clouded the perception of what happened, at least in some cases?

This wasn't a blow-out. I'm not saying that Condit destroyed Diaz, that no case can be made for Diaz. Reasonable people can debate the judges' decision. My issue is with those who are arguing Diaz was robbed. If you scored the fight for Diaz, I don't see how you can feel so strongly about three of the rounds in that fight to consider it a travesty of a decision by the judges.

Maybe some people are Diaz fans and love his style and were as blinded as a team sports fan is to ref calls, only seeing the bad calls that went against them and not the bad calls that went against their opponent.

As Mike Goldberg pointed out early in the fight, this was the first time Nick Diaz fought someone taller than him with the same reach as him. That was a big factor here. Diaz couldn't punch without being counter punched this time. His style, his approach, his strategy didn't work as well as it has in the past against smaller opponents.

And maybe some fans just bought into Diaz's showmanship. Since Diaz acted like he was outclassing Condit by dropping his hands, trash-talking him, and being the "aggressor" in a birds-eye-view pattern type of way, they believed he must've actually been that much better. Diaz's mind games are not a substitution for actually looking at who was scoring with punches and kicks. Nor is movement around the cage. It's not as if Condit was passive. He was aggressive, but he picked his spots strategically and didn't see moving backward and spinning out of Diaz's sweet spots as a frightened retreat. He saw it as a smart, sensible, effective strategy.

As for another Diaz argument - that he was on his way to a tapout win as the horn sounded - if Diaz could have finished Condit with an armbar at the end, he should have gone for a takedown sooner. There are a lot of fights that would have ended differently if they went 30 seconds longer or 30 seconds shorter or one round longer or whatever, but that's just a stupid argument Diaz made. If Werdum took Roy Nelson down near the very end of round three like he did early in round one, people would be saying he was seconds away from finishing Nelson. But what actually happened? Nelson escaped and got back to his feet and fought a full three rounds. Diaz woulda-coulda finished Condit on the mat with 30 more seconds? Irrelevant. It didn't happen.

There have been controversial decisions before. There have been disappointed fighters before. But has anyone reacted with such disrespect for his opponent as Diaz, or the sport itself? Everyone knows the rules and plays by the same set of rules. Finish your opponent in 15 or 25 minutes, or else accept the judges' decision and fight another day. Diaz's hissy-fit was a revealing display of the immaturity and unpredictability that has made him a popular oddball enigma with many, but also at times his own worst enemy. If athletes are ultimately judged on how they handle both wins and losses, Diaz comes up short.

Condit didn't buy into his mindgames. He fought a smart strategy. He didn't walk into his punches. He backed up and then counter punched or spun out of Diaz's path. Those who wanted Condit to take a Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonner swing for the fences approach were disappointed, but it doesn't mean Condit wasn't the smarter fighter who landed more punches and kicks that ultimately did the most damage.

Maybe you can make a case that Diaz won. Maybe. You can't make a case he was robbed. This wasn't an injustice. It was a reasonable unanimous judges' decision. Diaz (and his fans) knew the rules going in. Don't take out the disappointment in not seeing Diaz vs. GSP on the judges' by overreacting to a reasonable scorecard.

THE CASE FOR A DIAZ VS. CONDIT REMATCH BEFORE GSP

On another note, unlike when the Falcons beat the Vikings and then went on to face the Broncos two weeks later, GSP can't fight Condit in two weeks or even two months. He's about 10 months away from fighting. There is time for a Diaz vs. Condit rematch in the mean time. Why not - despite his unsportsmanlike display after the fight - give Diaz a rematch against Condit? If Condit wins, he gets GSP in the fall. If Diaz wins, he gets GSP first, but Condit is guaranteed a shot against the winner of that fight - either his previously scheduled and delayed title shot against GSP that was postponed through no fault of his own, or a rubber match against Diaz.

From a business standpoint, it makes the most sense. You either get the GSP-Diaz fight that from a personality standpoint is the most marketable, or you get Condit - who by then would be 2-0 against Diaz - against GSP without the resentment from Diaz supporters that they were robbed of their dream fight.

From a fan standpoint, it also makes the most sense. Making fans wait ten months to see Condit fight again isn't ideal. Making Diaz wait until 2013 at the earliest to have any chance at all at a title shot despite a strong showing against Condit tonight also isn't ideal for Diaz fans.

From GSP's standpoint, it makes the most sense. He can scout whoever his opponent is one more time.

From Condit's standpoint, it's not bad. He's still officially a champion in UFC. He will get a big payday either way, whether it's Diaz or GSP. An argument can be made he'd make more money in a rematch against Diaz in a few months than against GSP in ten months. And he's still promised a match against the Diaz-GSP winner anyway.

From Diaz's standpoint, it's obviously the ideal scenario, unless he's scared of definitely losing to Condit and wants to preserve the "unfairly cheated uncrowned champion" image he can market from the sidelines for years to come.

From a fairness standpoint, Diaz at the very least lasted five rounds against Condit, won a round or two, was in control when the horn sounded, and lost a close fight. He's as deserving of a title shot as anyone, given Jon Fitch's recent loss and Josh Koscheck's unimpressive win (with the possible exception of Jake Ellenberger).

END NOTES

-In very early results of our online poll regarding the judges' decision, the most popular vote by a wide margin is Condit Won Clearly, followed by Diaz Won Barely. So among those who felt Diaz won, so far they say barely. Among those who think Condit won, they think it was clearly. By a two-to-one margin, MMATorch readers believe Condit won, and most of them think it was decisive.

-In our fight prediction poll, it was exactly 50/50. Voters were split on who would win. Only 9 percent, though, thought Condit would win via decision, while 18 percent predicted Diaz would win by decision. The most popular outcome chosen was Condit via TKO early, the second most common was Diaz via TKO late.

-In our poll regarding who has the better chance to best GSP - a poll taken before UFC 143 - 45 percent said Diaz, 27 percent said Carlos, and 28 percent GSP will beat either easily.

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Wade Keller is supervising editor of MMATorch. He has covered MMA since before UFC 1 for the Torch Newsletter, and is among the longest tenured reporters covering the sport. He is a double-black-stripe belt in tae kwon do and has practiced judo and jiu jitsu at the North Star Martial Arts Academy under Michelle Holtze and Tom Crone in the mid-'90s. He founded MMATorch.com as a dedicated MMA website in 2006 and launched the MMATorch App in 2008. MMATorch is among the top five most read MMA-dedicated brands in the world.

Source: http://www.mmatorch.com/artman2/publish/Keller_s_Take_33/article_12412.shtml

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