My favorite fight of 2016

Hello folks. I’m sure you’re aware by now that the holidays are washing over us with full force, and you’re probably here for a…

By: Tim Burke | 6 years ago
My favorite fight of 2016
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Hello folks. I’m sure you’re aware by now that the holidays are washing over us with full force, and you’re probably here for a little break from weird Uncle Steve and the gaggle of children making a mess of your house. Well, that’s where I come in. I’ve worked for this fine website for a long time now, and every year they graciously allow me some front page time on Christmas Day to over-dramatize my favorite fight of the year.

Except for last year. I was in Monterrey, Mexico, and there were gunshots outside my hotel, and the WiFi went out for some reason, and I basically just hid under my bed on Christmas Eve (with a case of Dos Equis) and hoped for the best. I’m still here, so I guess that worked. But I couldn’t write anything. If you care though, here’s my version of this post from 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Just a heads up – this isn’t like our usual stuff. Bloody Elbow has a ton of amazing writers here that write amazing stuff. I think they’re all awesome. What I’m doing here isn’t journalism though, at least in a traditional sense. This is just me drinking a few Christmas beers and waxing (sometimes overly) poetic about a fight that absolutely blew me away. So take it for what it is.

Okay, enough intro bullshit. While Cub Swanson and Doo Ho Choi stole my goddamned heart with their epic war at UFC 206, I gotta go allll the way back to January for my fight of the year. MMA fans have super short memories, but this fight will be stuck in my brain forever.

Robbie Lawler. Carlos Condit. UFC 195.

Let’s set the scene here first. January 2nd, Las Vegas. Carlos Condit is my favorite non-Japanese fighter of all time. I legitimately named my dog after him. But a lot of fans (and media alike) didn’t believe Condit deserved a title shot at that point. He blew out his knee against Tyron Woodley, and after 14 months on the sidelines, beat Thiago Alves in his comeback. Cool and all, but it didn’t seem like enough.


First off, it amazes me that Lawler’s only 33 going into this, and Condit’s only 31. I remember being shocked by Pete Spratt cutting down Lawler with leg kicks in 2003, and Lawler had already been in the UFC for a year by then. I was a huge WEC fan (anyone who knows me knows that), but I had watched the Rumble on the Rock tournament in 2006 where Condit lost to Jake Shields (another of my favorites) in the finals. That was 10 years ago! WTF!

So on one side of the cage, we have this predator stalking back and forth, growling at the world like an animal ready to eat some his opponent’s young or something. A man with a nickname that makes sense – The Natural Born Killer.

On the other side, you have a guy who is exuding calm at first. Trying to center himself. But when the spotlight gets focused on him and Bruce Buffer starts extolling his virtues, it all changes. He’s ready to commit a homicide himself if necessary. Ruthless Robbie Lawler is ready for war.

Don’t call him Bob. It’s dumb when you call him Bob.

The first little bit of round one was pretty pedestrian by their standards. Lawler taking the center. Condit throwing inside leg kicks. Lawler presses the action once, but Condit deals. Then out of nowhere, Condit connects with a straight right and Iron Chin is staggering around like Jonathan Goulet! Holy shit! But you can never count out Lawler. He may have gone down ugly, but he popped right up, clinched, and weathered the storm.

And here I thought my dog’s namesake was the new welterweight champion two minutes in. Not so much. Joe Rogan talked about guys smiling to mask the cobwebs they’re actually still feeling.

Naw, son, this is Robbie Lawler. He’s actually just laughing at getting dropped.

How badass is that?

So the second round rolls around. Again, kinda dull. Condit was mixing it up well and was arguably winning the first half of the stanza. Till he wasn’t. Lawler glancingly connected with a right hook, but a straight left put Condit on his ass. Lawler jumped on him and opened up, but Carlos got up quick.

Condit finished the round with a lot of volume. The stats they put up on the screen even said that. But come on son – when a guy gets dropped in round one, and the other guy gets dropped in round two, Stevie Wonder can deduce the score of this fight after 10 minutes. 19-19.

Round three is so much fun, at least for the first half. Condit tries to stay on the outside throwing kicks, but his own innate aggression takes over. Lawler sees it and just cracks him a ton of shots on the inside. Condit ain’t no punk though. Kicks aplenty. NBK outlands Robbie like 3-1 in the round, and I have Condit up 2-1. I’m biased, but it seemed kind of like a consensus at the time among me and my Carlos Condit-loving friends.

Screw you, it seemed legit at the time. This is the round that decides the fight though.

Round four may have been the least eventful round in the fight, and that’s saying a lot because it was still pretty good. Condit kicked out Lawler’s lead leg and sent him to the canvas. Lawler tagged Condit with two straight rights that clearly got his attention. Condit hurt Lawler to the body late and had him retreating. Lawler fired back with a late left hook, but I can’t see how that wasn’t a Condit round.

John McCarthy calls the men to the center before the final round. They do it, but there’s no hand-holding. No hugs, no glad-handing. No bullshit. This is war. This is what fighting in a cage is all about. Let’s get to it, we have five more minutes.

And then the fifth round.

Oh, the fifth.

Lawler immediately presses forward. Condit is on the back foot, but he’s not shy about firing back. Lawler with a big right, and a left. Condit circles out. Condit presses forward with a 172-strike combination, 153 of them elbows. That’s how Natural Born Killers roll. This is a legitimate stat – with 2:43 to go in round five, Condit was 140 for 394(!?!) in strikes. Lawler was 43 for 106.

2:43 left though.

The next minute is honestly all Condit. He probably threw another 40 strikes in 60 seconds and landed 25. But Lawler cracked him with a right hook with two minutes to go. DRAMA! Left! Left! Condit fires back! Lawler sends him reeling with another left! Holy shit!

Condit clinches, but Lawler’s left has found the target. Another one to the dome. Another. A knee up the middle. The left scores three more times. Condit fires back though! It’s a brawl for the ages. Joe Rogan just keeps saying “What a fight!” I can’t help but remember watching this live, oblivious to the world around me and shadowboxing along with the fight, believing my hero was seconds from winning the UFC welterweight title if he just…held…on.

Condit did more than that though. He fired back. He clubbered Lawler with some sick combos. Lawler responded. It was insanity. Condit with a spinning elbow. Lawler with a head kick. I watched it back for the purposes of this article and it’s been almost a year, but I still started giggling like a schoolgirl at the end of the fight while Rogan yelled “OH MY GOD!” It was an absolute war.

The second the fight ended, both men put their arms on the top of the cage, right beside each other, and just took a few gasps of oxygen. It was poetic. It was perfect. The most fitting end to the most fitting war. It was beautiful, if cage fighting has the ability to be beautiful.

It was also an absolute war that I was absolutely sure Carlos Condit absolutely won. I was 134% sure that he finally did it. Fuck interim titles. World Extreme Cagefighting’s posterchild (sorry Urijah) finally did it!

Unfortunately, two judges gave Lawler the third, and that let him keep his title.

I don’t often write with emotion. I used to, I guess – I babbled more like a fanboy than a journalist in my early days here. But I couldn’t help myself when Lawler won that decision. I was on post-fight analysis duty that night, and I marked the fuck out as a disappointed Condit fan. I don’t regret it for a second, even if it was unprofessional. I was devastated. I still am.

I found some solace in the fact that a lot of media members agreed with me. But whatever. It is what is.

Either way, I guess I should be happy that I got to witness such an amazing fight. But how different would the UFC be if Condit got what he rightly deserved? Would Demian Maia be the champ? I watched Maia choke Condit out in August in person in Vancouver. Would that have even happened if Condit was given the W? Would it have been a Condit/Woodley rematch instead? How would that have gone?

That’s the beauty of this sport though. I’ve written almost 1600 words and you’re still right with me wondering about what if’s. Yeah boy. MMA is the best! I’ll see you next year, peeps. Thanks for reading.

Share this story

About the author
Related Stories