WARNING: LOTS 'O GIFS AHEAD.
Welcome to Part 2 of how I hope someone will finally scout Nick Diaz properly and punch him in the head until he falls over instead of vice versa. No, but seriously, this series is partly pointing out the obvious in terms of striking technique so people start to realize how and why Nick always seems to win the striking battle, and maybe someone will finally pull off out-striking Nick (much easier said than done); partly the series is grudging but inescapable and well-earned respect for the serious skill Diaz shows in the cage. Someone in the part 1 post mentioned that such a detailed breakdown was impressive from a non-Diaz fan...it's so detailed because 1. I obsess over technique cause I think it's cool, and 2. I've spent far too much time examining exactly how Nick continues to do the thing I hate to see him doing: win.
So here's our second area of focus: footwork. We focused on defense, breaking down Nick's punching and determining that head movement, without dropping your hands KJ, is the best way to avoid the high-volume punching and open up counter opportunities. However, all the head movement in the world is useless if you can't capitalize on it in hitting on your counters. That's going to be our focus in terms of footwork, and we'll take a look at Nate Diaz's fight with Marcus Davis for how a height (and/or reach) disadvantage makes footwork critical for power generation, and a little more of Paul Daley vs. Nick to see how footwork affects angles, particularly against a rangy southpaw like Nick.2. Footwork
To begin with, let's make an easy link between footwork and head movement. Slipping punches and making your opponent miss is all well and good; it lets you avoid damage and takes energy from your opponent. The problem with just slipping punches against Nick Diaz is that, 1. There is always, always, always another punch already on the way if you slip one of Nick's and don't punch back, and 2. Nick's gas tank is more voluminous than the combined well of tears Shinya Aoki has cried after each of his fights, so make him miss all you want and it's not going to gas him. Point being, important basic principle here, you want your feet underneath you in a balanced stance whenever you strike, and right after you move your head is a fantastic time to strike. As awesomely as Jose Aldo avoided Mark Homnick's punches at UFC 129, much to the oblivion of Joe Rogan, his example is not one you want to follow against Nick Diaz. Observe:
As nicely as he slips all of Hominick's punches, Aldo's feet are stationary and he's leaning back rather than moving sideways or in for a few of these slips. You can see particularly in the example where Aldo's back is to the camera that he wants to come back with a punch but is slightly out of position and decides against it. His back heel also comes up as he considers this counter when he needs to be shuffling his front foot forwards to close the distance. Were Aldo to try and punch at full extension from that range, he'd end up off-balance and overextended, open for counters himself.
For a Diaz-specific example, we look at Nate's fight with Marcus Davis. (NOTE: Look here for the Judo Chop I borrow the following gifs from) Marcus had early success with his punches, knocking Diaz down in the first round. Watch for Marcus' movement as he throws the left overhand and then comes forward with follow-up punches.
Marcus' footwork isn't the best here; he doesn't really keep a stance after the first punch, but having Nate up against the cage means he's able to square his shoulders with less danger. The important thing to pay attention to is that Marcus moves his lower body forward under his punches, allowing him to hit with power. Here's another example of a nice job by Marcus moving forward under his punches, also from the first. This deteriorated in a very serious way as the fight went on.
Here's a harbinger of things to come: Nate starting to establish his range by using his reach and height to stop Davis from working his way inside. It's not a great exchange for Nate yet, but his punches start to add up during the fight.
Now let's move to the second round, where Nate's punches and reach are starting to seriously bother Marcus.
You can see how difficult it is for Davis to defend against the volume of punches that Nate is throwing and still fire back, partly because of the range Nate is able to keep, and in part because (relatedly) he has a fist in his face everywhere he moves. Davis still tries to move forward and keep his feet underneath him as he punches at the end of the gif, but the volume of punches coming his way means that each time he's tagged, his forward momentum is interrupted, with the effect being that the overhand at the end of the exchange is an arm punch that falls short.
Finally, here's the 3rd round, where an accumulation of punches has slowed Davis considerably, and essentially stopped his forward movement.
Even though Nate has never shown the kind of power that Nick possesses, the sheer number of punches he throws, combined with some decent accuracy, means Marcus' face is a mess and moving forward is truly painful because of the punishment he receives each time. The contrast between Marcus' footwork in the first gif and this one is striking (dur hur). Davis is no longer moving forward at all under his punches, meaning they 1. Have no power behind them, and 2. Fall short of the target anyway. We can see this easily in how badly Davis misses with all his punches in the above image, and how little power there is behind each strike. This is why it's so important to merge head movement and footwork together; even a seasoned boxer like Marcus Davis wilted over the course of a fight due to an inability to avoid punches to the head while moving forward, which limited his ability to counter Diaz in the extreme. Though there are differences in the boxing abilities of each Diaz, the style is similar enough that the same lessons apply to striking with Nick, especially because difficulties in dealing with the Diaz range and height become additive over the course of the fight.
<Weird Analogy Time> Essentially, the range Nate kept in the Davis fight made his style into a kind of bizzaro-world anti-Shotokan, baiting his opponent into stepping forward unprotected with an unrelenting barrage of tiny punches from slightly too far away. Our most famous Shotokan stylist, Lyoto Machida, instead forces opponents to step forward unprotected by refusing to initiate strikes in a range where he can be hit back. The similarity is that decisive, technically proficient footwork combined with solid defensive fundamentals is required to land solid strikes on fighters of either style; range must be safely disrupted before a fighter can line up his counterpunch. </Weird Analogy Time>
Finally, more than moving forward and maintaining power while countering, a note on the use of footwork in gaining advantageous angles on Nick. We look to the Paul Daley fight. Here's Daley's first knockdown on Diaz:
It's a long gif, but pay attention to Daley and Diaz's front feet. Immediately at the moment Daley's clubbing left hook lands on a ducking Diaz's temple, we get a great angle that clearly shows Daley's left lead foot outside of Diaz's lead right foot. This is the spot you need to be in while fighting a southpaw, Nick Diaz especially. Anyone who knows boxing at all will tell you that the right hand is a southpaw's kryptonite, which KJ's knockdown on Nick demonstrates. KJ's lead foot, again, is outside of Nick's, opening up a beautious angle for his right hand to travel in on the way to Diaz's jaw. For Daley, a southpaw who stands orthodox, the right hand is less of an option, which actually makes this type of footwork even more of a necessity.
This angle also opens up the left hook to the temple, as demonstrated by the first knockdown, above, and the second knockdown, below:
Daley circles to his left here, working hard to keep a nice angle where he can hit Nick with both hands easily, but Nick can only tag him from one side (Nick's right) without reaching across his own body. This maintains both a punching and defensive advantage, which prevents Nick from countering/punching over Daley's left hand as he did Zaromskis'. It's not a fluke that Daley's biggest successes came while he maintained this punching angle, nor is it by chance that Diaz's success generally came when Daley failed to maintain this angle. Watch in particular for which way Daley circles when he's in trouble and exactly how effective that is in stopping Diaz's attack:
For those of you who notice something weird about how my point holds up specifically on the KO punch, nice catch and keep your mouth shut. For those of you who are wondering what I mean...just wait for the last part of this series. That does it for the footwork portion of our technical breakdown. Last, but far from least, is our look at maybe the biggest advantage Nick Diaz boasts over all his opponents: endurance/conditioning. Specifically, we'll talk about how the Diaz style is perfectly designed to draw opponents into brawls where their conditioning becomes a factor in stark contrast to Diaz's endurance being his greatest virtue. Until then...
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