Last week we were treated to the familiar bizarre spectacle of B.J. Penn trying to fight a tall man's fight against another opponent who had a height advantage on him. Jabbing at range with a taller opponent without lateral movement to a minor or major angle is never going to work unless your opponent has some serious basic striking deficiencies. Last night Ross Pearson showed how to contend with a taller man head to head, no angles needed in his head movement driven knockout victory over George Sotiropoulos.
The story of this fight was that one man took the jab to be the be all and end all of boxing because that was what he had been taught, and the other man saw every jab thrown as an opening through which to counter. G-Sot has become known for his boxing when in fact he simply has a good, stiff jab and once Pearson shut down this weapon and indeed began capitalizing on it G-Sot had nowhere to go.
Throughout the fight Pearson followed the traditional gameplan for a shorter puncher - moving to inside position. Traditional inside position is a slip to the inside of the opponent's jab so that ones head may be placed level with or even on his sternum and short blows may be delivered. Obviously in MMA placing the head on the sternum is asking to be double collar tied and kneed into a bloody mess but with good timing and a mixed assault this technique may be used masterfully as Pearson showed. Notice below that Pearson lowers his level and moves his head to the inside of Sotiropoulos' lead hand, rather than the outside. This puts him in position to throw the left hook counter which he loves so much.
On this particular occasion Sotiropoulos barreled in and the two collided but Pearson's tactic can be clearly seen.
Pearson's game throughout the fight was to take advantage of G-Sot's liberal use of the jab with little following it. This he did in one of two ways:
- Letting the jab fall short and launching a long right straight over the top, following G-Sot's own left hand back to his chin.
- Slipping to inside position and using the momentum of stepping in to launch a right hook over the top - the dangerous Cross Counter which I reference so often.
1. G-Sot and Pearson face each other.
2. G-Sot jabs and Pearson steps back with his right foot to let the punch fall short - keeping his right hand up to parry the blow.
3. As Sotiropoulos is drawing his left hand back, Pearson follows it and connects a hard right hand.
The second method, the Cross Counter, was also used throughout the fight - used as an aid to get to the inside position as well as being a dangerous counter punch.
2. As Sotiropoulos launches a jab, Pearson moves his head to the inside position, swinging in a hard right hook.
3. The cross counter connects.
The Cross Counter has a long history of effectiveness and I and many other traditional writers and coaches rate it as the most dangerous counter punch in the book. Made famous by the Old Master, Joe Gans, the Cross Counter is criminally underused in modern boxing and combat sports, and learning it doubled the effectiveness of Alistair Overeem's striking game.
An illustration of Gans performing his terrific counter from K. V. Gradapolov's Tactics of the Foreign Masters.
Once Pearson had Sotiropoulos hurt he showed patience and good sense - working to land free body shots while G-Sot was concerned about staying in the fight by guarding his head. This time Pearson coupled his slip to an inside position with a hard right hook to the body.
1. G-Sot is covering.
2. Sotiropoulos sqaures his hips to throw a left hook. Pearson immediately slips inside.
3. Pearson lands a right hook to the body while Sotiropoulos' hook swings over Pearson's back.
In the second round G-Sot found success with his jab, throwing off Pearson's timing and this success may well have worked to his disadvantage - convincing him to keep the fight standing rather than dragging it to the ground as he should have been trying to. Late in the second round Sotiropoulos began to try to follow up on his jab which was a mistake and allowed Pearson into his counter fighting range without making him work for it.
1. Pearson slips a Sotiropoulos right hand.
2. And comes up with a hard left hook.
While Pearson was slipping to the outside of G-Sot's right hand rather than to the inside of a jab, I would still liked to have seen him keep his left hand up or his right elbow across his face to avoid being tricked into diving face first into a kick (a la Babalu against Chuck Liddell), but it's tough to argue with the results as Pearson sent Sotiropoulos to the floor.
The fight came to a conclusion as a result of the same counter being landed straight off the bat in the third round. As Sotiropoulos went to his predictable bread and butter jab, Pearson slipped inside and came up with a leaping left uppercut / hook hybrid so fast that it caused screen tear in the third frame below.
The finish came as Pearson swarmed on a covering Sotiropoulos, but the counter punches were the real table setter for the knockout. It's certainly worth reviewing this gif a few hundred times though.
The inside slip is a beautiful technique and very much underused in MMA, particularly by shorter men who should learn it. If you wish to learn more about the inside slip I highly recommend watching Archie Moore or Jersey Joe Walcott's bouts, as they were both masters of the technique. Or better yet, check out Zombie Prophet and I collaborating on the Greatest Knockouts of the 1950s.