One of the most impressive performances of last night was Tyron Woodley's beatdown of Josh Koscheck. Very little time elapsed on the feet between consistent massive right hands from Woodley. His ability to land them centered around two things: feints on offense and distance control on defense.
From the start of the fight, Woodley was level changing over and over. He would use these level changes to disguise his rushes.
Above, you can see that within the first 10 seconds, Woodley has already dropped down twice. He even landed a glancing right hand within the first 5 seconds by bending his knees then springing forward. His constant repetition of this movement, which is the precursor to his charges, numbs Koscheck to what would otherwise be an obvious telegraph. Furthermore, this gives Koscheck the impression that Woodley may be looking to shoot--creating a very basic double threat. Using that, he is able to run forward and land an uppercut, followed immediately by a right hand that drops Koscheck:
This is a very smart approach. Leading with the uppercut, while normally considered risky, works out perfectly because Koscheck is wary of the big right hand over the top or possible a shot. Woodley takes his head offline as he moves in, minimizing the risk of a counter. Choosing to throw an uppercut at the beginning of a combination can be very beneficial if it is set up properly. The beauty of uppercuts is that they force the opponent to stand up tall when they land, which compromises defense and offense from other punches. For someone like Koscheck who doesn't have any solid tools to defend the uppercut, attempting to retreat from it ensures that he has no ability to counter with either a punch or a shot. His leverage is taken away and he is on the run, meaning Woodley is free to follow his right uppercut with a straight right over the top and Koscheck is in no position to absorb it so he goes down.
Kos manages to hold Woodley against the cage and stall for a full minute before Herb breaks them up. This time, after a bit of circling, Woodley level changes with a body jab. Immediately after, he fakes the body jab and connects with another big right hand to the head, though the power is greatly reduced by Koscheck moving away and turning his head.
Things get interesting a few seconds later, when Koscheck and Woodley trade right hands. Woodley stops his level changing and starts backing up after. But what he's doing as he retreats is what actually inspired me to write this. Woodley, like anyone who has seen Koscheck, knows that he really only has one punch. Especially at this point in his career, Koscheck has his big right hand and nothing else. His set up for it essentially consists of either just throwing it, or pawing with a jab (eye poke) then throwing it when the opponent is blinded or distracted. With that in mind, Woodley starts backing up a step out of range waiting for that right hand to come.
Seen above, Woodley is extending his rear hand to check the pawing jab of Koscheck. This fucks up Koscheck's distance, because he's making contact from far out of range to land a punch. Koscheck has no way to cover that distance except with his jab. By taking that away and screwing up the distance on it, Woodley leaves Koscheck with very little hope of throwing a right hand that he can't see. In the bottom stills, Koscheck tries to jab his way in but the rear hand of Woodley is ready. He parries it with very little movement and is easily able to duck the obvious right hand following it. Part of the reason he was able to do this is because he could tell by the change in intensity. Koscheck uses no feints or erratic movement, so any time he moves quickly you can pretty much count on a punch coming. This contrasts to Woodley, who was feinting and level changing all fight.
Soon after that exchange, a very similar one occurs.
This time, Koscheck only barely feints the jab. Regardless, Woodley is still able to easy sense the change in intensity and see the poorly disguised right hand. Woodley ducks it again, but this time returns fire with a right to the body followed by one to the head. The second punch clips Koscheck on the temple and wobbles him a little. Koscheck then comes in with a very bad left hook where his weight stays forward and his head stays in the path of Woodley's power, thus he gets dropped by a right hand for his trouble.
Following an aggressive ground assault and more stalling from the guard by Koscheck, the two restart on the feet. Woodley resumes his retreating while continuing to extend his hands. Koscheck, still with no means to get past those hands or cover the distance, wisely decides to direct his right hand to the body. Just after that, he tries to attack the head again and Woodley puts him to sleep.
This starts the same as the past few exchanges. Woodley against the fence with his rear hand ready to parry and eyes watching for the right, Koscheck a step out of range waiting to explode. When Koscheck comes in with his disgustingly predictable punch at the top right, Woodley deflects it with his forearm and loads up his right hand at the bottom left. Those of you wondering how Woodley was able to generate such frightening power, look at his stance in the third still. His back is relatively straight and his shoulders are relaxed. Good posture means he is able to keep his eyes right on Koscheck and he is in a stable, balanced position to throw from. More importantly, look at his legs. His knees are significantly bent, connecting him to the ground and putting him in a powerful position. Furthermore, his legs are externally rotated; his knees are pointing away from each other. This is very important before throwing a hook. Pointing the knees apart like that JUST before punching makes the hook tremendously powerful and balanced. The only small flaws in his starting position are that his stance is a little too wide and his weight is centered when it would be better to start distributed slightly more on the right foot. Also, look at how poorly positioned Koscheck is. His weight is extremely far over his front foot, his chin is in the air and his hands are busy recovering from the deflected punch. He has no balance and poses absolutely no threat. All he is able to do is stand there with his head in range as the murderous hook comes around. In the final frame, Woodley delivers the knockout blow. Pay attention to the fact that his elbow stays tight on the hook and his weight transfers forward, but not to the point of leaning off balance. All this comes together for a knockout of the night worthy right hook.
I'm pretty impressed by Woodley. He was able to stay composed in the face of a big puncher and counter with heavy shots, on top of having smart set ups for his offense. Koscheck looked about as bad as he ever has but Woodley still deserves praise for capitalizing on the mistakes instead of just retreating from the right hand. That was an intelligent and well set up knockout, despite Joe Rogan's constant reminders that Woodley was backing up. The lesson here is that controlling the range is controlling the fight. An opponent who does not have some tools--whether they be feints, level changes, head movement, footwork or jabs--to close the distance intelligently will almost never beat the fighter who is able to dictate the range.