At UFC 149 this weekend, Renan Barao faces Urijah Faber for the UFC Interim Bantamweight Championship. It's a huge moment for Barao, who has put together an impressive resume, but still remains a relative unknown to many UFC fans. To prepare for Barao's big moment, in this Judo Chop, we'll take a look at his highest profile fight to date - the UFC 138 co-main event fight against Brad Pickett.
Before we dive in, for our long-time Judo Chop followers, we are pleased to present a slightly new format this time. To start, I'll break down the technique. Then, at the end of the article, check out a playlist featuring the relevant segments from the fight so that you can see the technique in action. Cool? OK, back to Barao.
In the Pickett fight, Barao managed to get the first round win with a combination of stand-up skills, lethal finishing ability on the ground, and a flawless transition between the two. Here, we'll focus on the stand-up side of things and, specifically, the Muay Thai style knee Barao used to rock Pickett and set up the finish. Let's see just why Barao's knee was so effective.
There are two real keys to Barao's knee bring so effective here - Barao's own footwork, and Pickett's defense. We'll start with how Barao uses his legs to get the most out of the knee.
Much of Barao's power on this strike comes from the footwork on his left foot as he throws the right knee. Just before throwing the knee, he takes a slight step in with the left, helping bring his momentum forward, which is very common in Muay Thai knee strikes. Then, as he throws, he puts his weight forward onto the ball of his left foot, then pivots slightly on his foot. That adds to the rotation of his hips, adding more momentum to the knee. Typically, this pivot on the lead foot is used by Muay Thai strikers when they throw kicks, but it is not as often associated with knee strikes. But there's no reason not to use it with the knee, as it allows Barao to swing his hips and get more power behind the knee. Essentially, he's taking a footwork technique most often used in kicks and applying it to the knee, with obviously excellent results.
With increased momentum coming forward into Pickett, and rotating around his hips, Barao greatly increases his power. That's a very Muay Thai way to throw the knee, and Barao does it superbly here.
More, including video, in the full entry.
The other reason the knee gets in is because Pickett moves his left hand away from his face a bit as Barao throws. It's subtle, but it gives just a minor extra opening for the knee to land clean. This comes from Pickett being too predictable. Throughout the fight, he begins almost all of his combos with a left hand, either a jab or a hook. Below, we have a segment of the fight where Pickett begins every attack with a left hand, while Barao mixes it up with hands and kicks.
Because he repeatedly uses that left to counter or attack, Barao knows that when he comes in, Pickett will move that left hand to strike. That leaves Pickett's head slightly exposed, and Barao capitalizes by perfectly placing the knee.
Overall, it's an excellent offensive technique by Barao, made more effective by his ability to read and capitalize on his opponent's defensive mistake (which is, all things considered, a very minor mistake). That's high level striking, and if he shows it off against Faber, he'll walk away with UFC gold Saturday night.
Segment 1 - Watch how Pickett keeps leading with his left hand, while Barao mixes up his lead strikes.
Segment 2 - The knee. Again, check out Barao's left foot for the step and rotation, plus the way Pickett slightly moves his left hand away.
Segment 3 - The knee in slo-mo replay.