Carlos Condit ruined the welterweight fight the world wanted to see, and might have just retired MMA bad boy Nick Diaz in the process.
Condit scored a unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 49-46) over Diaz on Saturday night for the interim 170-pound championship in the main event of UFC 143.
"It's pretty surreal," Condit told announcer Joe Rogan as a large segment of the crowd of 10,040 in the Mandalay Bay Events Center booed the decision.
"I couldn't have done this without my coaches and teammates. I did what they told me to do and walked away with a victory."
The win means Condit will likely get a fight against Montreal superstar Georges St-Pierre when he returns to action, scuttling an anticipated matchup between St-Pierre and Diaz.
But UFC President Dana White did announce another superfight had been made Saturday, saying middleweight champ Anderson Silva will meet Chael Sonnen in Brazil some time in June.
Condit (28-5) – who pulled out nearly every trick in the bag with spinning backfists, flying knees and snap kicks – came on strong in the third through fifth rounds, connecting with a series of kicks and punches that staggered the outspoken fighter from Stockton, Calif.
Diaz (27-8), who verbally taunted Condit throughout the match, and seemed to have won the first two rounds with his forward-moving punches, said "I think I'm done with this MMA" immediately after hearing the judges decision.
"I'm not going to accept the fact that this is a loss," Diaz said. "I don't need this. I pushed him backwards, he ran from me this whole fight. Little baby kicks. I don't want to play this game anymore."
White didn't see anything wrong with the judges' scoring, saying he thought Diaz took the first two rounds with his aggressiveness, but that Condit won the last three rounds.
"That's how I had it scored. I'm not a judge though," White said. "I didn't expect it to be as technical as it was. I thought it would be more (Marvin) Haggler-(Sugar Ray) Leonard like."
In the post-fight press conference Condit, who was awarded new Harley Davidson for the victory, said as he waited the judges' decision, he had no doubt he won the fight.
"I didn't think it was all that close. I think I dominated that fight for the most part," said Condit, before White interrupted saying "I don't know man, that's crazy."
"I did what I went in there to do," Condit continued. "If I sat there and fought Nick Diaz's fight it would probably be him sitting here instead of me."
White said that he did not talk to Diaz after the bout and wasn't sure of his future plans.
"Nick is upset, he 100-per-cent thought he won the fight," White said. "Once he goes home and relaxes ... Nick Diaz is a fighter, I don't see him retiring, but who knows."
Condit, who has won 13 of his last 14 fights, said it would be an honour if he got to fight St-Pierre after the champ is fully recovered from his ACL injury.
"George is a guy I've looked up to since I was a young guy," he said. "It's an honour to come on this stage against guys like Nick Diaz and Georges St-Pierre."
But Condit said if he were to fight St-Pierre, like he was scheduled to do a few months ago, he wouldn't completely revise his game plan.
"It would kind of be back to training the way we were training. Seeing if skills I have acquired would fit in that game plan," he said.
"I like to create chaos, George is a very technical fighter. Likes to keep things pretty cut and dry. I liked to mix it up. Throw from weird angles, throw some different strikes. Try to break you mentally as well as physically."
Brazilian Fabricio Werdum made his return to the UFC in a big way, but couldn't quite figure out a way to finish off Las Vegas heavyweight and fan favourite Roy (Big Country) Nelson – despite nearly knocking him out with brutal knees in the first round.
"I know Roy is a tough guy, I did everything I could (to finish him)," said Werdum (15-5-1), who took the unanimous decision by the score of 30-27 across the board.
"This fight was important to me. I had a good strategy going into the fight, but the main thing for me was to come out with a victory. I want to fight in Brazil next."
Werdum, who hadn't fought in the UFC since suffering a knockout loss to current champ Junior Dos Santos in October of 2008, started the bout with a leg sweep that dropped Nelson.
Werdum tried to sink in a choke, but Nelson escaped. From there, Werdum landed a series of punches and knees in the clinch that bloodied Nelson. But the American recovered and actually dropped Werdum with a big right hand near the end of the first.
After Nelson was checked by the doctor for his cuts, the bout continued and both men, who weighed in at 246 on Friday, closed out the second round with a series of punches to the fans' delight.
Nelson secured a standing guillotine at the start of the third round, but Werdum escaped and the two traded blows with the Brazilian landing the more effective strikes down the stretch.
"I never really dwell on losses. I think it makes you a better fighter depending on how you look at it," Nelson said. "Yeah it sucks, but I'll get back in the gym and get better."
A loud chorus of boos rang out after welterweight Josh Koscheck (19-5) survived a close bout with Mike Pierce (13-5), winning by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28).
"I'm the most hated man in MMA, but guess what deal with it. I find a way to win," said Koscheck, who offered an obscene gesture to fans who continued to roar their displeasure as he talked Rogan afterwards Koscheck – who has won five of his last six bouts, with his lone defeat coming to St-Pierre – lost the first round on all three judges scorecards. But the standout wreslter from Pennsylvania came back with strong takedowns in the second and third rounds to pull out the close decision.
"I may talk a lot but I can back it up," Koscheck said. "I knew he was a tough kid going into the fight. It wasn't my best performance, but it wasn't my worst. I'm ready for my next challenge now."
Brazilian Renan Barao (30-1 1 NC) picked up his 29th straight win – the longest current streak in MMA – with a unanimous decision victory (30-27 on all three scorecards) over American Scott Jorgensen (13-5).
Ed Herman (20-7) survived a couple big blows to hand Clifford Starks (8-1) his first loss in the main card's opening bout.
Louisiana's Dustin Poirier (12-1) put a quick ending to the preliminary bouts as he submitted Max Holloway 3:23 in the first round of their featherweight bout.
Texan Edwin Figueroa (9-1) scored a split decision victory (28-27, 28-27, 27-28) over Alex (Bruce Leroy) Caceres (6-5) in a weird bantamweight bout that featured a two-point deduction for a second-round low kick by Caceres, who was coached by GSP on The Ultimate Fighter Season 12.
Welterweight Matt (The Immortal) Brown (15-11) floored Chris Cope (5-4) with a big left in the second round and then jumping on top for the finish.
Matthew Riddle (6-3) bounced back from two straight losses with a split decision victory over Henry Martinez (8-2), who was making his UFC debut.
New York's Rafael Natal (14-3-1) nearly choked out Michael Kuiper (11-1) with an arm triangle in the final round but had to settle for a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) victory over the previously unbeaten fighter.
Stephen (Wonderboy) Thompson (6-0) got the night and crowd going with his karate kick knockout of Dan Stittgen (7-2) in the first round of the event's first fight.