Before we get to the live blogging, I usually like to spend a few paragraphs breaking down the evening's important fights. Tonight, however, I'm having a particularly tough time with the welterweight showdown between Martin Kampmann and Carlos Condit, which headlines the latest UFC Fight Night for the first time from Nashville, Tenn.
Both fighters are entering their physical primes. Their styles are nearly identical. Striking is option No. 1 for both. Neither is a very good wrestler. Each has multiple submission victories, and not just your run-of-the-mill variety. You see where I'm going with this.
Here are the few distinctions I can make:
Condit is long. Against wrestlers that can be a problem, but Kampmann (14-2) isn't prone to taking single- or double-leg shots. (His takedowns have generally comes from throws in the clinch.) Pay attention to whether or not Condit uses his length to effectively punch from the outside. It hasn't been his strong suit, as Condit generally out-kicks opponents, or works them over in the clinch.
Kampmann, a 26-year-old Dane with a 5-1 record inside the UFC, is probably the cleaner striker. It'll be interesting to see how much leaving Tom Vaughn, the only trainer Condit has ever known, for a burgeoning fight factory like Arizona Combat Sports will impact his stand-up game. Trevor and Todd Lally worked with Condit -- a three-time defending WEC champion before Zuffa scrapped the division -- on tightening up his counter right hand, among other things.
Speaking with Trevor Lally Monday, he suggested the 24-year-old Condit started to pick up what they want him towards the end of training camp, and he's found more power in all his strikes. If that's the case, Condit (22-4) will surely be able to match Kampmann, a kickboxer in his native Denmark before moving to Las Vegas where he rounded out his game at Xtreme Couture.
I think in many ways this fight comes down to who owns clinch. Knees to the head and body are often Condit's most effective weapons, but Kampmann is crafty in that position and he can find offense there as well. Kampmann can also do very well with throws and he might be able to use Condit's size against him by getting close to the UFC newcomer's hips.
On the ground, I call it a draw. Kampmann has submitted men larger than Condit, and won't be out of place in any position. If he can pass Condit's active guard -- no easy feat considering the Natural Born Killer's long legs and tight game from his back -- then the quiet Dane has a great shot of coming out on top.
Some have pointed to Kampmann's experience in the UFC as being the deciding factor in his favor. I don't see it as meaning all that much. Condit has fought all over the world. He was brought up the right way, and he understands the pressure of big fights. Assuming Condit clicks with his new corner, this has the makings of one of the best wars of the first half of 2009. And that is my expectation.
For the record, give me Kampmann on points. But that's hardly a sure thing. (And if it sounds like I'm hedging, I am. Guess that's why this fight -- a non-title three-rounder -- intrigues me so.)
9:46 p.m.: One reason both Condit and Kampmann are so fun to watch is their ability to transition from striking to working on the ground to exchanging submissions. Both are my favorite style of fighter to watch.
9:47 p.m.: Bouncing around the cage, each is wearing a smile. More of a scowl, really. But for the moment, there's a hint of joy on each man's face.
9:50 p.m.: Round 1 begins. Condit comes out jabbing. He looks much larger than Kampmann, but he's fighting from a crouch taking away from of his heigh. They clinch for the first time and Kampmann seize double underhooks. As I thought, he works the clinch for a takedown and the Dane immediately passes to side control.
9:51 p.m.: A guillotine from the top is defended nicely by Condit, who reverses to the top. Already these guys are scrambling and exchanging positions.
9:52 p.m.: Condit gives space and Kampmann stands. This time Condit scores a takedown after the two lockup. The former WEC champ works from half-guard, prompting Kampmann to sneak out the backdoor and force Condit to his back.
Midway through the opening round, and neither fighter has established himself as dominant. But it's shaping up nicely for the fans in The Music City.
9:53 p.m.: Kampmann falls back for a heel hook. Dangerous. Condit remains calm and this thing is all back-and-forth. Now it's Condit on top.
9:54 p.m.: Kampmann is wearing a deep cut under on his cheek under his left eye. The latter half of the round has been Condits, who jumps in with a flying knee in the final 30 seconds. As the round closes Kampmann squeezes for a guillotine choke from the guard.
9:56 p.m.: Hard round to score. The pace was frenetic and neither fighter significantly hurt the other. The fact that Kampmann is bleeding might be enough to sway the judges, yet his early submission attempt should surely be worth something. I'll take Condit 10-9 for the more damaging strikes.
9:57 p.m.: Round 2 is underway. An exchange of kicks to the body before they lock up in the clinch. Kampmann, again, cinches Condit in tight and puts him down in the center of the octagon. He needs to score inside Condit's guard, rough up the 24-year-old for a bit.
9:58 p.m.: Nothing major so far. Condit is doing a nice job of playing a defensive guard. Each is keeping busy, but neither has landed a damaging shot. Condit shoots up to his feet and eats a Kampmann right hook.
9:59 p.m.: A right hand off a break from Kampmann meets Condit's face. The UFC newcomer fires back with a push kick to his foe's face. These two are scrambling all over the cage.
10:00 p.m.: Ninety seconds remain in round two, and Kampmann is straining for an arm-in guillotine. Condit appears comfortable, and he escapes to the Dane's back.
Brother. Another scramble and Kampmann is working from the top now. I'm getting tired just typing this.
10:02 p.m.: For all the exchanges, Condit looks to be the fresher fighter. Kampmann has strained hard to finish with a couple chokes, but none were all that close. Round 2 ends, 10-9 Kampmann, making it even heading into the third and final period.
10:03 p.m.: Round 3 begins and Kampmann takes an inadvertent thumb in the right eye. Referee Herb Dean calls time, and the Tennessee Athletic Commission doctor steps into the cage to check on Kampmann. He nods the fighter is fine to continue, and the round resumes.
10:04 p.m.: A nice level drop from Kampmann results in a good takedown. He's working from the guard now, and he can win the round from here. He's had difficulty working through Condit's guard, and hasn't come close to passing. An elbow from the top scores with three and a half minutes to go.
10:05 p.m.: Kampmann scores with two nice punches from the top. He's standing in the guard and unloading lone, heavy punches. Condit is behind now midway through the round.
10:07 p.m.: Condit scrambles, but Kampmann does a nice job of dragging his foe back to the floor. Kampmann has found something here in the third. He's managed to stand and land single shots. They may not be terribly effective, but they look good.
10:08 p.m.: One minute remains, and Kampmann has seized momentum. He may not look it, but Kampmann is the stronger fighter. Condit's skills are keeping it close. With seconds to go, Condit jumps into a guillotine. It won't be enough.
Kampmann takes the third on my card, 10-9, and 29-28 overall.
10:10 p.m.: In a division loaded with good wrestlers, Condit would appear to be in a rough spot. If he can't stop a guy like Martin Kampmann from taking him down, he won't have any luck against the Koschecks, Fitchs and St. Pierres. Kampmann, however, has all the tools. After dropping down from a relatively successful stint middleweight, Kampmann looks like he has the tools to be a threat to anyone at 170.
10:11 p.m.: Judges scores: Douglas Crosby 29-28 Kampmann; Cecil Peoples 29-28 Condit; Nelson Hamilton 29-28 Kampmann.
10:14 p.m.: I don't think it'll measure up as a Fight Of The Year candidate, but Kampmann-Condit was a heck of a bout. Despite the loss, Condit's future remains strong. He's not yet 25, and will improve tremendously with his wrestling as he works with the likes of Ryan Bader, Aaron Simpson and CB Dollaway at Arizona Combat Sports. For Kampmann, it's business as usual. He's going to be a tough fight for anyone in the division.