When lightweights Jorge Masvidal and K.J. Noons met at Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum, most fans and oddsmakers expected Noons to dominate the striking and take home the win. After all, Noons has an extensive pro boxing resume and once beat Nick Diaz and went the distance with the champ in the rematch.
While Masvidal came into the fight as a respected fighter, it was thought his best chance to win the fight would be by avoiding Noons' striking game and taking it to the ground. As it happens, Masvidal didn't need to do that. All Masvidal had to do to get the win was capitalize on his superior hand speed and Noons' sloppy defense.
If you don't understand why fight commentators like Joe Rogan, Stephen Quadros and Mauro Ranallo are constantly decrying fighters who drop their hands, this fight is a text book example of bad things happening to a fighter with bad fundamentals.
Fraser Coffeen will break down Noons' mistakes and Masvidal's technical polish in the full entry, with animated gifs.
Gif by BE reader Grappo
From the beginning, we see Noons utilizing a style of body shot not often seen in MMA.
Noons lowers his body and comes in with the jab to Masvidal's body. This is a more common technique in boxing, and less used in MMA - we'll see why as the fight progresses.
Unfortunately, with this punch, Noons leaves some openings in his defense. It's a bit harder to see from this angle, but notice the way his right hand comes away from his head when he throws the left. Also, after throwing the punch, he does not bring his left back up to his head, instead leaving it down for a moment. The combination of these two movements leaves his head open for counters.
Here, KJ looks like he is getting ready to go back to the body, so Masvidal sneaks in a quick right hook to the unprotected head. This punch shows a key for Masvidal in the fight - he's simply faster with his hands and consistently beats Noons to the punch. Take a look at the way he puts together his kick and jabs here.
The punches are coming very fast after the kick, but even with that speed, Masvidal is maintaining proper technique, snapping the jab out, then bringing his hands back to defend. Contrast that with Noons's hands, down by his sides.
This combination of speed and reading Noons comes together perfectly near the end of the round.
KJ again goes for that body punch. Notice the way he dips down to his left and drops that left hand, allowing Masvidal to strike with an excellently timed kick. You can see the kick better on the replay here
Again, we see Masvidal anticipate Noons's movement to set up the body shot, and quickly deliver a strike. This kick is particularly effective since Noons is moving to his own left, towards the kick, which increases the power.
By the end of round 1, Masvidal is using speed, timing, and accuracy to consistently outland the former professional boxer.
At the start of round 2, Noons comes out and makes what I consider a strange choice - he goes back to that same body punch.
Again, we see him making the same mistakes - hands down, head exposed. While this punch may work well in boxing, it's a bad choice here, as it exposes Noons to knees up the center, such as the one we see here.
Notice the positioning of Noons's hands when he defends this knee, somewhat on the sides of his head. If he were wearing larger boxing gloves, he would have absorbed the blow on the gloves, but with the smaller MMA gloves, he leaves an opening straight up the middle that Masvidal uses to connect.
As the round progresses, Noons does begin to use a more varied approach, adding knees, kicks, and a wider variety of punches. Here we see an effective uppercut he lands, and that he sets up using the body shot.
But moments like this do not come often enough for KJ.
One other area to point out is the footwork and cage control. Noons often backs Masvidal up into the cage, but once there, he fails to cut him off, and Masvidal escapes with no trouble. Here is a good example.
With his back to the cage, Masvidal should be in danger, but he simply waits for KJ to throw a left, which he casually ducks and circles away from to escape the position.
Overall, Masvidal uses superior timing, speed, and accuracy to outbox KJ Noons and take advantages of some mistakes in Noons's defense. Very impressive stand up display by Masvidal.