Hey, remember this event? Yeah, yeah, it's been a bit of a slow two weeks for me. Normally no one would notice all that much, but it just so happens that it's also been a very busy two weeks for MMA. We've had four major MMA events in these last few days, and tons upon tons of great strategic and technical moments. In this Tech Recap, I'm taking a look at all the good stuff from UFN 30, and tomorrow we'll go over some of this week's other MMA moments together.
Let's get on with it!
This was an ugly fight, and no bones about it. Rosi Sexton ate about a billion punches over three hellish rounds, and couldn't seem to muster up any meaningful offense of her own. To be fair, Andrade's technique was far from perfect, and Sexton landed punches throughout much of the fight, but as Joe Rogan pointed out several times, she just didn't seem to have the same firepower as Andrade.
Well, it all had to do with the different stances the two fighters adopted. The following still from the opening seconds of round one tells the story of the entire fight that followed.
Andrade has a mini-Overeem thing going on here. Her posture is pretty bad, causing her chin to be completely exposed, especially to upward strikes. But she is quite low in comparison to Sexton, and that made all the difference in this fight. Much like in wrestling, leverage is very important in striking. Standing with her hips below Sexton's, Andrade has a great advantage in both angle and power.
Her lowered position gives her strikes a clear path up into Sexton's chin. Without matching Andrade's elevation, Sexton has very little defense against this angle. Andrade also possessed greater knockout power by virtue of her superior leverage.
1. After a conciliatory glove touch to apologize for the illegal knee of the prior round, Andrade resumes her brawling attack, missing wildly with a punch.
2. Sexton catches Andrade out of position with a downward right hand. Andrade absorbs it.
3. Andrade responds with a combination, and lands a hard right hook on the upright Sexton, deriving evident power from her lowered stance.
4. The shot puts Sexton on skates, and she immediately shells up, trying to recover.
This exchange shows encapsulates the importance of elevation and leverage. On one hand, a lowered stance helps one to absorb damage. On the other, it helps one to deliver it.
Sexton hurt herself in more ways than one by standing tall against a leather-slinging opponent. She couldn't absorb Andrade's power, and she couldn't deliver power of her own. Worst of all, her efforts to get the fight to the ground were thwarted time after time because she had such a long distance to travel from standing tall to dropping for a shot.
One of the first things you'll learn in counter fighting is that a short, straight punch will beat a longer, looping punch to the target. There's a lot more to effective counter striking than that, but the idea is absolutely correct. Short punches beat long ones, nine times out of ten: one of the most reliable counters to a left hook is a jab; one of the best counters to a looping right is a tight left hook, etc.
There are several types of counter, but they can be boiled down into two general methods. A fighter can defend and then counter (GIF), a method which is both simple and effective. The drawback of this approach is that the opponent has time to recover from his blocked or evaded attack and attempt to defend your counter. The second type is riskier, but also more potent. This is the simultaneous counter, in which the opponent's attack is intercepted by the counter strike. Often the opponent, thinking only of offense, will walk full force into such a counter, amplifying the damage done. Any time an attack is thrown, the attacker leaves himself open-and therein lies the risk, the counter fighter stands an increased chance of being caught by the opponent mid-counter, especially if he failed to read the initial attack correctly.
Two fighters at UFN 30 decided that the risks were worth the reward, combining these two principles to great effect. By throwing shorter, tighter strikes inside the looping attacks of their opponents, Luke Barnatt and Al Iaquinta were able to do some serious damage.
Barnatt actually had the greater success, though he's the less talented striker of the two. His performance was not without its speed bumps, however.
1. Early in the fight, Barnatt throws a lead right. His opponent Andrew Craig counters with a hook.
2. Barnatt's punch fails to connect quickly enough, as Craig creates distance with his punch and semi-deflects the right hand with his rotating left shoulder. His left hook pings off of Barnatt's temple.
Craig attempted to land his left hook all night, both as a lead and as a counter to Barnatt's straight right. This worked for two reasons. First, Barnatt tended to overcommit to his right hand, falling forward and giving his head to Craig. Second, Barnatt, like Rosi Sexton above, stood far too tall when throwing to keep from being countered. Craig had difficulty landing cleanly, but early on Barnatt had difficulty landing at all.
That all changed when Craig decided to use a Chael Sonnen standard, setting up his left hook with a left inside leg kick. He first probed Barnatt with the kick, and Barnatt checked, planting himself in place. Craig thought that he had him, but Barnatt was onto the set up, and didn't allow Craig to take advantage. (GIF)
1. Craig has just tested the waters with a half-hearted inside leg kick. He circles Barnatt.
2. He lifts his leg again, this time feinting the kick and preparing to drop down into a forward-moving left hook.
3. Barnatt cleverly reacts to the kick feint differently the second time around. Whereas before he checked, this time he uncorks a powerful straight right. His distance is perfect this time, and he catches Craig before his left hook can land, as his weight is moving forward.
4. Seeing the damage he's willing to put his brain through, Craig's legs decide they want none of it, and attempt to leave in opposite directions.
Next up on the card was Al Iaquinta, who fought Piotr Hallman, basically a slightly better version of his last opponent, Ryan Couture. Like Couture, Hallman didn't do much to hurt Iaquinta, but he did a lot to make him look unimpressive. Despite his spoiler opponent, Iaquinta still had a few successes, including one beautiful counter right hand. (GIF)
1. Hallman shuffles forward behind a jab feint, but Iaquinta doesn't buy it.
2. Instead, Al waits for Hallman to step forward with a left hook.
3. Iaquinta uncorks a short right hand that connects well before Hallman's hook has a chance to.
4. Shifting his weight to his left hip, Iaquinta takes himself out of the path of Hallman's hook, which glances harmlessly off his shoulder.
Whether it's a right hand inside a hook, or a tight left hook inside a looping right, an intercepting strike to the inside of an opponent's attack is one of the most devastating counters available.
It's one of the oldest, most oft-repeated aphorisms in boxing: "body, body, head"-first strike the body, and the head will open up. Body shots are useful for several reasons. One, they are easier to land than punches to the head, because the body is a bigger target. Two, they wear down an opponent's stamina. Three, and most importantly, they hurt, and when something hurts, the opponent will try to stop it from happening.
That's the real beauty of body shots, especially against an opponent with a limited, flawed defense. The hands and arms can't possibly cover every available target on an opponent's body.
When the opponent needs his hands to defend himself you can force him to make a choice, and take advantage of the openings that choice creates.
Thus, I give you John Lineker. Few "flyweights" can sling punches with the same ferocity and power as Lineker, and few mixed martial artists in general attack the body with such frequency.
1. Lineker drops under a desperate right hand from opponent Phil Harris to land a right uppercut to the spleen.
2. He finishes his combination with a left hook to the body, and a right hook over the shoulder that narrowly misses Harris' jaw.
3. Harris tries to circle away along the cage, and as he does Lineker tags him with a wide right hand to the body that forces Harris to tuck his elbows in tight.
4. And again, only this looping right hand is aimed to the head, and it catches Harris on the temple as he attempts to defend his battered ribs.
This type of attack takes some confidence, either in positioning or in durability. Lineker's approach involves a lot of wide strikes, hands far from his face and unable to defend him. In order to find success, he must change elevation, and constantly threaten the opponent with his frightening knockout power. To that end, he rarely finishes a combination to the body, instead choosing to beat up their ribs with a few shots before finishing with a shot to the dome, to convince the opponent to keep his hands at home where they can protect his skull.
Once the fear of his punching power is instilled in his opponents, however, there is actually a distinct tactical advantage to his wild punching style. Those long right uppercuts and wide right hooks are not only capable of winding around his opponent's arms and elbows, but very difficult to see coming, as unlike a straight right to the body or a left hook, very little change in body position is required to throw them. (GIF)
1. Lineker clubs Harris with a wide right to the body, mostly avoiding Harris' left hook.
2. Then, using the method favored by Gilbert Melendez to get inside, he ducks his head and extends his left arm, jabbing to cover his jaw and deflect Harris' right hand, rather than with any real intention of landing.
3. Lineker whiffs on an uppercut, but Harris has stood up tall to avoid it.
4. Harris, to his credit, sees the follow-up left, but must make a choice to avoid it. He guesses wrong, thinking to protect his head, and ducks, leaving his body open for the punch.
5. Another jab, this one landing and taking Lineker's head off line.
6. And now, Harris actually does defend his body, sucking his elbow in tight to his ribs, but Lineker throws an uppercut instead of a right hook, and his punch has a clear path to Harris' solar plexus.
No word yet on whether or not Phil Harris ever stood back up, but that uppercut to the solar plexus was absolutely vicious, thrown with all of Lineker's 125 pounds* behind it.
Finally, Lyoto Machida capped off the night with a succinct knockout, followed by a touching, apologetic moment as he helped his stunned training partner Mark Munoz back to his feet. Once again, the knockout was preceded by a concentrated body attack. (GIF)
1. Lyoto tests Munoz' defenses with a half-committed left straight, which Munoz lifts his right arm to block.
2. The next attack is a hard left kick, taking advantage of Munoz' fear of head strikes and landing on the liver underneath Mark's elbow.
3. Then a straight left, this one with a little more conviction, that lands on Mark's ear.
4. Another left kick, and Mark again fails to block it, but has started to bend over in an attempt to absorb the blow.
5. Another kick to the body, but this one is more or less blocked successfully, though Munoz puts himself in a terrible body position to do so.
6. And the final strike: a left high kick, which Munoz partially blocks, to no avail. Machida's shin skips off his temple like a stone off a pond, except that when skipping stones the pond usually survives.
There are three things I want to point out in this sequence. One, the time difference between the first strike and the last strike. Unlike the final John Lineker barrage, which took place over the course of about six seconds, Machida's finishes are long, patiently prepared affairs. From his first strike at 3:47 (yes, he took over a minute before throwing a single strike) to the final blow at 1:53, Machida was constantly threatening with feints of all varieties: pulling Mark's hands out of position with his own hands, doing his famous shimmying hip feints to suggest the kick, dropping his elevation as if to leap in with a grounded attack, and even lifting his eyebrows and making a "boo!" face to keep Munoz jumpy.
Second, notice that Mark Munoz does block the final strike, but only with one hand. His defense fails in part because he is indecisive about which target to protect, one hand blocking his head while the other attempts to parry a body kick. I'm not sure where they came from, but recently Machida has been throwing some incredibly hard left kicks, and the fingers of one hand are not enough to absorb their impact.
Third, notice that in the final frame Munoz appears to be standing southpaw. This is because, in an attempt to create some space between himself and Lyoto, he has sacrificed his position and stability. At the time the kick lands Mark only has one foot firmly planted on the ground, meaning that any impact absorbed by his head stays there. He would have actually been better served to simply stay in place and take the strike on his glove, rather than sacrificing his ability to take a shot in order to avoid one.
He may not throw many strikes, but at no point is Lyoto Machida ever inactive, and that is why we love him. His approach is patient, and undeniably effective, and I will watch any number of slow, indecisive Machida fights, because I know that this is the result he's working towards.
Check back at BE tomorrow for analysis of the most recent UFC and Bellator events.
For more analysis, be sure to check out Heavy Hands, Connor's combat sports podcast. A new episode tonight covers in-depth the fighting style of welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.