This is a collaborative Judo Chop between Fraser Coffeen and Kid Nate. Fraser did the analysis and Nate did the intro. We'll do a second installment covering the grappling in this great fight.
Mixed Martial Arts is a hybrid sport. To win at the very highest levels, a fighter needs to have exceptional skills in at least one range of fighting and a high level of competence at the others. Athletes like Mark Munoz -- a NCAA national champion wrestler -- and Demian Maia -- a many time world jiu jitsu and submission grappling champion -- start with one skill set in excellent shape but have to work hard to fill out their games.
The bout between Maia and Munoz at UFC 131 showed just how far both fighters have come in rounding out their excellent grappling with very effective striking. Munoz had already shown flashes of power in dropping C.B. Dollaway with standing strikes, but Demian Maia surprised everyone by taking it to Munoz in the first round of their bout.
Munoz had to adjust and recover to get the come back win. The fight was largely decided by his ability to control Maia on the ground and survive the submission attempts. Munoz managed to stun Maia standing in the second round and that made a key difference in slowing down Maia's attacks.
In the full entry Fraser Coffeen breaks down the striking techniques of both men with animated gifs.
Gifs by BE member Grappo.
In the stand-up battle, the first round is dominated by Demian Maia. He does a nice job establishing his stand-up game, then mixing it up in order to confuse Munoz and land. The basis of his attack is a pawing right jab followed by a straight left.
Notice how Maia is not using the right as an actual punch, and honestly isn’t even really throwing a jab – he’s more just putting that hand out there to get Munoz reacting and create an opening for the left. For the opening minute he goes back to this combo a few times, establishing that this is going to be his go-to strike for the fight. This work pays off about 90 seconds in when Maia changes his pattern up. Again, he throws that straight left, but this time keeps the punches coming and follows through with a big right hook.
Because Munoz is expecting the left to end the combo, he is caught off guard and his defenses are down, allowing the right to connect cleanly.
While Maia’s striking has absolutely improved in this fight, you still see some real problems, and this punch is a good example. His set-up for it is perfect, and the fact that he connects with Munoz’s completely exposed head shows the good work he did. The trouble is, Maia does not use technique to make that punch really count. When he throws the final right, his feet are moving and he is actually completely off his feet just after it’s thrown. This gives him no base of power behind his punch. He also doesn’t turn his right as it’s coming in to connect properly. For a hook, you need to bring your elbow up and around so that your arm and fist come in perpendicular to your opponent’s body. Maia keeps his hand straight, as you would in a jab. It’s like trying to hammer a nail in using the side of the hammer instead of the face, and as a result, the final blow is not as effective. Big points for the set-up, but the execution needs work.
Halfway through the round, Maia again mixes it up, leading with the same right/left combo, then following it up with a left high kick that catches Munoz unprepared. Here you also see a mistake in Munoz’s footwork, as he is moving straight back instead of circling off to his side. This allows Maia to keep pushing forward and connect, as well as drive Munoz into the cage, which he does on multiple occasions.
Round 1 is decidedly in favor of Maia, and after a careful rewatch, I remain baffled how one judge scored it for Munoz.
In round 2 you immediately see an excellent adjustment Munoz’s corner made between rounds. As mentioned earlier, Maia doesn’t really use his right jab as a punch. He keeps that right hand active, using it to get in Munoz’s face, move his hands away, and create openings. But he doesn’t use it to punch, and he doesn’t keep it tight to his face in order to block. It’s similar to the way Nate Marquardt used his jab in the Yushin Okami fight, in contrast to the stiff jabs Okami was throwing. Munoz and his corner obviously recognize this, and begin using the left to cut through Maia’s weak defense on that side. In the first exchange of the round, Munoz gets Maia moving, brings in the right, but then uses a big left to end the sequence.
Maia leaves a huge opening for this left, both because of the movement in his right hand, and because of the way he loops his hook so far around.
Later in the round, we see an even better example of how Maia’s movement in his right hand hurts him as he again keeps that hand down and Munoz brings in a quick, well executed left hook.
Notice the way Munoz executes the hook here, planting his feet, bringing the fist in sideways, and pivoting his body to add more power. Contrast that punch to the flawed hook Maia used earlier and you can see a real difference. This problem with leaving an opening on the right plagues Maia throughout the round, as he seems to perhaps be a bit arm tired, letting that right continue to drift out of position. Munoz makes him pay more than once, and Maia responds by initiating the ground battle.
Round 2 is more defined by its ground work, but the stand-up here is now won by Munoz, thanks largely to excellent coaching from Munoz’s team who recognize the errors Maia is making and immediately capitalize.
By the 3rd round, Munoz has taken control of the stand-up, while Maia’s confidence in his striking has dropped. You can see just how much control Munoz has in this simple sequence, as Munoz throws a feint that Maia completely buys, leading him to miss wildly with a hook.Once again, for the striking, round 3 goes to Munoz.
Overall, Maia shows good improvements in his tactical striking, but needs to work on perfecting the technique on his punches and his defense. He also could work on his inside game, as he has little answer once Munoz pressures him inside. For Munoz, this is a good stand-up fight, as he makes the needed adjustments to take control as the fight continues. One area he could work on is his movement, to both circle away, and not allow himself to be pushed into the cage by a more aggressive striker.