Nate Marquardt provided the best finish of the night at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs Kennedy last night by knocking out Tyron Woodley. Woodley is far from the premier fighter in terms of excitement, and is the perfect example of a wrestler who uses "lay 'n' pray" tactics to exploit the wrestling based bias in MMA scoring, but both men had their moments on the feet in this match.
Nate Marquardt's striking is very much rough around the edges - as his getting dropped twice by Woodley will indicate, and as was certainly visible against the much more polished Anderson Silva - but he is inventive and violent, and certainly one of the most ruthless finishers in the sport. While he has divided public opinion with his various troubles outside of the ring, there is certainly no way of faulting his spectacular performance last night. It was a great return to form and through the course of the exciting title bout he and Woodley doubtlessly redeemed a great deal of respect from the fans.
In today's Judo Chop we will examine:
- How Woodley dropped Marquardt
- How Marquardt dropped Woodley
- The savage dirty boxing stoppage
The first telling blow of the fight, surprisingly, was landed by Woodley. He has always had power but never polish, and Marquardt should have been above being struck by the smaller, less experienced man. Woodley was able to drop Marquardt by switching stances. As Marquardt rushed in on Woodley - now southpaw - he placed his lead foot inside of Woodley's - giving Woodley a slight angle. As Marquardt continued to rush in Woodley stepped back into an orthodox stance, now with a major angle (top right still) and was able to crack Nate with a right hand that sent him stumbling across the mat. You can see in the top right still that Woodley is able to throw his right hand but Marquardt would have to adjust his footing to throw his own at Woodley.
This was unlikely to have been a tactical move on Woodley's part, the man is not a good boxer, but an error on Marquardt's which demonstrates how stepping inside of a southpaw's lead foot can leave one open - the fact that Woodley stepped back to orthodox and took an even more dominant angle rather than hit Marquardt with his left simply demonstrates how even a wild exchange can be lost in footwork.
Pat Miletich, who I rate as the best commentator in the business, observed later in the fight that Woodley was getting hit every time he changed stances. Likely he picked up on the success he had the first time, and wanted to drag Marquardt into similar wild exchanges where the bigger man's poor footwork would be his undoing and his measured style would disappear.
Here is the sequence later in the round when Marquardt dropped Woodley. Woodley switches to southpaw and this time Nate steps in outside of Woodley's lead foot and leads with his right hand. This is perfect technique against a southpaw, and through the angle was extremely slight (Marquardt's foot is almost on top of Woodley's) he can still get his right hip through quicker than Woodley can get his left hip through to punch - meaning that he scientifically would win the exchange 9 times out of 10. The fact that Woodley opted to swing a wild right hook just meant that Marquardt landed his right with ease as Woodley's bicep softly thudded against his forehead.
The fight was fought fairly evenly on the feet, simply due to Marquardt's below par footwork and overconfidence in his defense (overhand rights continued to trouble him). Where Marquardt's offense really shined was in the clinch. Here is a sequence from the final round that foreshadowed what was to come. Marquardt has an underhook and wrist control in the first frame, and Woodley is leaning over his right leg - a common position along the fence. Marquardt releases his wrist control and in one motion swings an upward elbow into Woodley's face. This is a beautiful application of the elbow which we haven't seen used so effectively in a high profile fight before. I was reminded of Fedor Emelianenko's willingness to give up control for a surprise punch when I saw this, though if the strike lands clean there is often a window of opportunity to regain control - as Marquardt did after landing this elbow.
The finishing sequence was a thing of beauty. For all of Marquardt's weaknesses in footwork and defending right hands, he still puts together flurries with unerring accuracy and menacing intent. Having assumed an underhook and wrist control as in the previous sequence, the first still picks up as Marquardt lands a beautiful left elbow strike. This raises Woodley's head for the right elbow (notice that Nate freed his right arm as he landed the left elbow, yet Woodley's left arm is still down as if he is still overhooking Nate's right arm). From here Marquardt assumes head control with his left hand (middle left still - as we talked about Michael Bisping doing against Jason Miller) and lands Urijah Faber's favourite borderline illegal elbow to the back of Woodley's head (middle right still). Marquardt finishes (in the bottom two stills) with a left hook and a right uppercut as Woodley crumples to the mat.
Not just a brilliant finisher, Marquardt is also a great sportsman. He is always aware of his opponent's safety - which is admirable in a sport where men continue to hit unconscious bodies - and just as in his fight with Demian Maia, he relented before the rather slow referee commanded him to. The most brilliant part of this exchange is that it begins in the clinch, opens up to elbowing range and progresses to punching range. All the while Marquardt's feet are planted and he is able to get more and more hip motion into his strikes - starting with the short elbow and ending with two vicious punches. As a man with two left feet, this sort work definitely suits him, and placing his opponent against the cage also relieves the threat of counter-strikes, as both of Woodley's feet were under him and he could generate no power from his enormous wrestler's legs.
The second excellent use of elbows in a week in a major promotion, and again in a brutally effective and innovative way. When creativity and science meet, it is hard to argue against it being art - and Marquardt's violent stoppage of Tyron Woodley was unquestionably art in my eyes.