In the picture below, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is in the Philly Shell Defense against an aggressive Oscar de la Hoya.
What if you could defend against punches without using your arms or hands? Think about how much faster you would be able to counter-punch without your hands being busy blocking? The shoulder roll is a defensive maneuver to deflect punches off of your shoulder. The shoulder roll is mainly seen in the sport of boxing but has made it's way slowly into MMA with stars such as Anderson Silva favoring it.
The whole concept of the philly shell is to create a barrier of protection around the jawline which is the most important area to cover. The lead shoulder is raised high to cover one side of the jaw while the other hand protects the other side. The position should be almost completely perpendicular to the opponent to use the whole shoulder to cover. This allows you to use your shoulder to roll around punches and counter. From an orthodox position, the trick is to bait the opponent with a right because the low lead hand. Their right hand will inevitably graze or deflect off of the shoulder allowing you to capitalize for a powerful counter right cross or hook.
One of my all time favorite shoulder rollers has got to be James Toney. No, not the James Toney that Randy Couture squeezed the life out of. I'm talking middleweight machine James Toney! Watch any young James Toney fight and expect to see many slips and shoulder rolls. Here's a great highlight below
Combined with advanced slipping and parrying, the shoulder roll can stop and even block most combinations! Another great boxer with defense is Floyd Mayweather Jr. Below is an awesome gif of the shoulder rolling taking place. Watch how Mayweather seems to just turn his shoulders and hands to deflect all of the oncoming strikes. Training the roll to become almost instincts allows a fighter to became much harder to hit.
Throughout this fight, Mayweather covered up in the philly shell and remained safe. With the fighters starting to sweat, most punches start to just slide right off the shoulder causing no harm. Here is another sequence of the fight, where Floyd seems to just stare at strikes passing him.
Floyd recognizes his opponent going for a left hook so he covers with his right gloves then switches to his shoulder roll for the right cross. The philly shell position is great for cover as you are completely covering your jawline and loading up for a counter. This is the very highlight of Floyd's career as he is able to use his superior defense to find opening to counter and land shots.
Here's another gif of Floyd Mayweather absorbing a flurry with ease. Mayweather turns and rotates with each punch to deflect the power of the straights and hooks.
The shoulder roll is almost rarely seen in MMA with the exception of Anderson Silva. It's really silly to see even the most talented MMA stars lack the most basic defense which would help the longevity of their career. The standup defense in MMA seems to just consist of blocking with the forearm and parrying. While these defensive tactic technically works, the 4 oz. gloves are much smaller than boxing's 12 oz. competitive gloves. The smaller gloves means a smaller defensive area, which means a higher chance of a punch getting through.
Why not slip, shoulder roll and divert the direction of the force? Why take unnecessary punishment to your arms and head? The whole philosophy around combat sports is to, hit without being hit.
The shoulder roller of MMA is Anderson "The Spider" Silva. He demonstrated his matrix like rolling in his fight with Forrest Griffin as he made him look like a novice striker. Watch below how Anderson Silva shoulder rolls into Griffin's combo to counter beautifully.
If you notice, Anderson Silva landed a counter left straight through Forrest Griffin's right hand/forearm defense. Again, the gloves are way too small to rely on blocking shots. A smarter fighter would prefer not to take the damage by slipping and rolling with the punches.
Thanks for reading and until next time you creeps!