5 YRS AGO: Greg Jackson responds to criticism of Diaz-Condit excitement level (w/Penick’s Analysis)

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch editor-in-chief

Carlos Condit (photo credit Joshua Dahl © USA Today Sports)

Five years ago today, MMATorch published an article featuring Greg Jackson responding to critics of the excitement level of the Carlos Condit vs. Nick Diaz fight with some pointed reaction by MMATorch editor-in-chief Jamie Penick…

Greg Jackson often gets criticized for his fighters having “safe” game plans, as many times they are looking to do the most damage while avoiding much of their own. It’s a criticism that doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny and really is on a fight by fight basis, but with Carlos Condit’s performance on Saturday night it came to the forefront again.

Condit avoided getting trapped by Nick Diaz, landing leg kicks and combinations while circling away when he was backed down, and he ultimately out-struck Diaz in four of the five rounds of the fight at UFC 143. But critics of Condit’s performance would say he didn’t do much damage with his kicks or strikes. In an interview with USAToday.com, Jackson took great exception to that claim.

“If you need evidence of the proof [that Condit’s strikes hurt], you can see Nick’s output and his pace [were] much slower than he usually is, especially by that third round,” Jackson said. “Leg kicks, the way Carlos was throwing them, hurt. Head kicks, the way he would kick him in the head, hurt. Punches and spinning elbows hurt.”

“If you don’t believe Carlos hits hard, you can look at all the knockouts that he’s done. Or you could come over and allow him to kick you in the leg and see how much of it you can take. If it’s actually an argument that Carlos doesn’t hit hard, I would have to say that the record would clearly negate that, if that indeed is a legitimate argument.”

Jackson then delved into the gameplan for Condit on Saturday night, breaking down what they saw in Nick’s game and why they approached the fight as they did.

“Nick’s thing is this: he moves forward very well and iIf he gets you where your back is to the cage, man, he starts opening up and just landing these beautiful combinations,” Jackson said. “I love watching him work. He goes high and low and switches. Even his subtle head movements and stuff. He’s very, very good when your back is to the cage. It’s just like in boxing too. Some boxers will kind of throw you up against the ropes and really start rocking and rolling on you. So when you’re fighting a guy like that, you’ve got to get off of the ropes, so to speak, and then run back to the middle of the cage.”

“So that’s what Carlos would do. Every time he would get there, we’d have him bail, exit out, get in the middle of the cage, and then get off first and start the process all over again. Meanwhile, in that process, the FightMetric numbers clearly show that during that time, when Carlos would control where and when the engagement would happen, Carlos had the significant striking advantage there. So the game plan worked very well.”

There were still those that didn’t appreciate the gameplan, accusing Condit of running away the entire fight because he refused to stand in the pocket and trade with Diaz. Jackson scoffed at those criticisms, and for those that believe the current MMA rules lead to “less interesting” action in the cage, Jackson said there are other options for them.

“There are sports for you, that if you just want two men to stand in front of you and (hit) each other and basically just punch each other in the face,” Jackson said. “Man, there’s all these great Toughman competitions and there’s a lot of lower level and stuff like that where you just toe the line. Just stand in front of you, you just one-two, and one guy goes down. If that’s what you enjoy, then by all means, that’s a sport; there’s a legitimate sport for that.”

“If you want to see people hit, do very good damage, and not get hit; and control the subtleties of the fight, like where the fight takes place; and do things on their terms and not play their opponents’ games; if you do want to see that, then you can watch MMA. Because in MMA, if you land more power shots than your opponent – regardless of whether your opponent is walking forward, backward, side-to-side or on his hands – you’re probably going to win that fight.”

“But again, the sport’s not for everybody,” Jackson continued. “There’s still a large contingent of people, that they just want to see these guys almost die, or the other guy almost die and come back, and sometimes fights are like that. Certainly they are. But sometimes you get technical masterpieces too, and to hate a beautiful, technical fight – you’re not really a fight fan. You’re just there to watch the car wrecks, you know what I mean? You’re not watching the cars pass each other; you’re just waiting for a car wreck. And there’s those fans, that’s fine.

“But we do try to finish fights. We do try to do tons of damage. My record of fighters clearly shows that. It’s just one of those things where I’m sorry that somebody had to lose, because I like both guys a lot. But it was just our night.”

Penick’s Analysis: I don’t agree with the notion that you have to enjoy all of the subtleties of the game to be a “real” fight fan. That’s such a disingenuous argument. You can be a diehard NFL fan and still find yourself bored with grinding, methodical games. You can be a diehard baseball fan and still be disappointed in pitcher’s duels. Not every fan is going to enjoy a performance like Condit put forth on Saturday night, but that doesn’t make them any less of a fight fan. That said, I was immensely intrigued by Condit’s performance on Saturday myself, and I found it fascinating to watch his strategy unfold when it became clear what he was doing. The way he was able to get into his rhythm in the third and fourth rounds, slowing Diaz down and not allowing Diaz to fight the way he likes to fight, was masterful, intelligent, and really great for those that do appreciate the subtleties of what he accomplished. But again, that doesn’t mean that someone who was simply bored by it isn’t a fight fan. Sometimes the car wrecks are fantastic to watch. Sometimes technical masterpieces aren’t all that entertaining, even if you have an appreciation for what’s happening in the cage. Condit fought a brilliant fight that just wasn’t for everyone, but Jackson errs in saying detractors of the fight aren’t fight fans.

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