I try to make the Judo Chops more timely, but it's not always possible. This fight is worth the wait however as Yushin Okami, a perennial top ten middleweight who's been dogged with a reputation for putting on boring displays of top control and listless striking finally showed some sharp boxing in his obliteration of Lucio Linhares at UFN 21. For the 99% of you who haven't seen this undercard fight, I advise a quick jump to the UFC vault to see a real exhibition of ass whipping, er I mean good boxing technique.
I asked our own Brent Brookhouse to comment on Yushin Okami's surprisingly effective boxing:
Okami has the advantage of working from southpaw and Linhares has the disadvantage of apparently not having a camp that could teach him how to fight a southpaw.
What Okami does right: Okami steps in to his jab very hard which helps him generate a good amount of power. Also, as with most good striking displays there is a lot of good footwork going on. Watch Okami's feet on any good combination or single shot that he lands, his lead foot is basically never on the inside of Linhares' when he fires off his hands. His combination striking is beautiful in this fight, the combination in the 4th and 5th gif is especially nice. The jab blinds Linhares to the left straight coming behind it (hands down the most effective punch for a southpaw) and then the short right hook to the ear to cap it off, all while Okami moves his body into perfect positioning using the aforementioned footwork.
What Linhares does wrong: First off, his form is horrible. He throws wild, winging hooks on a guy who is moving in and out with good speed. A southpaw's jab isn't that hard to take away from him, it just takes discipline. The most effective punch against a southpaw, and your key weapon to getting rid of their jab is a straight right hand. Instead of using a straight right, Linhares falls into the trap of trying to jab a lefty. Okami was likely to bust him up standing regardless, but he made it far too easy on him by using the least effective weapons rather than the simple strategy of straight rights, short hooks and body shots.
Lee Payton of The Boxing Bulletin adds:
The first thing I noticed is that he has a solid grasp of the correct balance for his type of striking. It sort of resembles Lyoto Machida's fighting stance. His style is based on foot speed to maintain distance on defense, and the semi-wide stance on the balls of his feet allows him to evade an opponent. He's a straight-up striker who delivers down the center of the target. Sometimes those kinda guys can be outworked or tricked by head movement and quickness because they can tend to wait for the perfect opportunity to let go.
Defensively Okami is not the most sound technically. 'Chin down' is always good. 'Eyes down' is not. But as long as he has his legs to get in and out of range, he's OK.
On offense, it looks like his right side is strongest. That jab of his is the result of practicing proper form. Everything starts with the feet in boxing and against Linhares, who fights from the conventional stance (well... kinda), he wanted to keep his lead foot (right) inside of the opponent's lead foot (left). This allows him to do what he does best, which is shooting straight punches down the middle. Everything about the lead foot is also true about the lead hand.
Okami's right jab is delivered swiftly with most of his weight on the right foot. He can throw from this position or he can slide or shoot forward to close the distance between himself and the opponent. The jab starts in line with the fighter's shoulder and ends there as well. You'll notice his fist turns in almost a full 90 degrees from beginning to end. This is to get maximum power out of the strike.
I believe he was aiming for the eye right from the beginning. Looking at Okami's technique and obvious strength, it is no wonder his right jab busted Linhares up so quickly.
Astute readers will notice there's a little bit of a disagreement there about Okami's footwork. Both Brent and Lee come back and debate proper foot work in the full entry, plus gifs of the action.
Gifs by themachiavellian
More from Lee Payton of The Boxing Bulletin:
Well, with a target as open and square as Linhares it hardly mattered. There was room to work from both sides. I thought it was good of him to work inside because of Linhares' wide stance and hands. Whenever Linhares moved to his left, he was getting tagged with the right jab.
I think Okami was shooting jabs more through the center than around the defense and in that case stepping up in
side can be very effective. He could shoot forward with the jab to the middle or stuff the opponent's rush with a stiff stick. I thought the first time he hurt Linhares along the cage was the result of some good work up the middle.
Now stepping to the side (or the outside) is more important when it comes to setting up the right hook (as it goes around the defenses) and the straight left, because you want to punch "through" the target.Watching it again though, I can see what Mr Brookhouse is talking about. Okami did set up many of his powershots by stepping outside. I was talking more about delivery of the jab. And against this rather hopeless opponent, who had his hands far apart, he could work to the inside with his lead hand.
Also, the general rule about keeping your foot on the outside is generally meant for the conventional fighter when facing a lefty. Keeps him from sliding or turning to his right while setting up both hands.
But yeah, Okami keeping his foot on the outside is more important for setting up power shots than his jab. He can jab inside or outside. Though jabbing from the out turns the punch into a bit more of a cross than a truly straight shot. Against this guy he could do both. Gif 2 illustrates the inside jab. Gif 1, his foot is outside, but the punch goes inside the hands.
Linhares was switcing stances from time to time in order to find an answer. He was just catching everything on the face at one point. Or he'd get wobbled and just end up southpaw.
The feet are always a very technical subject. Tough to pin down at times because so many things come into play, like which way the opponent is moving, etc.
If you (as a southpaw) let the orthodox fighter get his lead foot outside yours it opens up the right hand. Here's a bit of advice from How-To-Box.com: "NOTE: A huge key to victory is keeping your right foot on the outside of your opponent's left foot." You'll never find anyone telling a southpaw to keep his lead foot inside
Pernell Whitaker is the best left handed boxer ever. Check out the HL video below and watch his foot placement against righties. Always outside.
Okami lands inside a couple of times, but you don't want to do that because that's how you're open to the counter right straight. You should keep on the outside to trap them so that the only movement they have is back to your left...i.e. into your power.
As far as the argument that having your foot on the inside gives you a better line for the jab, I say, that's the point of the jab. Lead foot outside theirs, throw jab, they can either stay still or move right into your power for the left straight. It may give a better line on the jab, but it defeats the advantage of being a southpaw.
It's not just that the punches are coming from a different side that is hard to deal with, it's the footwork preventing your movement. The jab opens everything else up. If you're not trapping them with your lead leg as a southpaw, you're not setting anything else into motion. Also, it's much easier for an orthodox fighter to slip a jab if you don't have him trapped. it's just a slight step, bob to the left and all the counters open up.
All in all, a very impressive display of dramatically improved boxing from Okami. In the past, he's been sluggish with his stand up, other than getting the KO win over Evan Tanner (RIP) with a knee from the clinch. In prior UFC fights, Okami would kind of casually paw with his jab and rarely if ever throw combinations.
And I don't want to give the wrong impression that all Okami did in this fight was box, in fact the first serious strike he landed was a lunging knee to the body that clearly took the wind out of Linhares' sails.
I'd also like to thank Brent and Lee for such an engaging and informative debate. Footwork is one of the topics that I have struggled the most to get any handle on and it's very useful to have such informed and knowledgeable commenters to help guide me through the darkness.
Also a big shout out to themachiavellian who stepped up when technical difficulties stymied not only Chris Nelson but the legendary Smoogy, neither of whom could get their gif makers to work on this fight.
Pernell Whitaker HL Video:
Brent also recommends this video from Joe Lauzon on fighting a southpaw in MMA: