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UFC 116 Preview: Bloody Elbow Judo Chop: Shane Carwin Unleashes Brutal Dirty Boxing on Frank Mir at UFC 111

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I've already done a couple of Judo Chops about Brock Lesnar so I would be remarkably remiss if I didn't cover his opponent as well. BE reader BlackLesnar has done a great job of breaking down Carwin's strengths and weaknesses and also analyzing almost all of his UFC fights in his Art of War: Shane Carwin post.

But one thing he didn't really focus on in detal is Shane Carwin's most devastating weapon: the dirty boxing onslaught he unleashed against Frank Mir at UFC 111.

Dirty boxing has a long and honorable pedigree in MMA.  I would give the credit for pioneering the approach to multiple UFC tournament winner Don Frye who used what wrestlers call a collar tie to trap Gary Goodridge, his opponent in the UFC 8 tournament finale, while he battered him with a merciless series of uppercuts and hooks from the clinch.

Randy Couture really perfected the formula in his epochal win over Vitor Belfort at UFC 15. I did a Judo Chop on that fight that also has a lot of background info on dirty boxing in MMA. As Sergio Non wrote about that fight:

Their clash at UFC 15 followed the pattern that characterized Couture's fights for the rest of his career, as he used his Greco-Roman mastery to control a younger foe and chip away at him. Couture mauled Belfort standing in the clinch until the young Brazilian simply crumpled to the canvas and quit at the 8:17 mark.

Let's break down Carwin's vicious dirty boxing artistry in the full entry with animated gifs. 


Gifs by Chris Nelson.

Carwin1_mediumOn the right we see Carwin respond to a flurry of punches from Mir by ducking under a fairly slow right hand to shoot in and drive Mir back against the cage. But he shot in from a neutral position, meaning that although his hips are facing Mir, which is essential to an attack, Mir's hips are also pointed at him, meaning he can sprawl his hips back and block with his hands.

The key thing when watching the standing wresting aspect of MMA is the arm positions. Here we see Carwin shoot in and Mir immediately hooks his right arm over Carwin's left. This pulls Carwin's arm up off Mir's hips and foils an immediate take down. Mir almost simultaneously pummels his left arm under Carwin's right, establishing the position wrestlers call an over-under.

Over-under is considered a neutral position which is a big improvement for Mir compared to being flat on his ass from a double leg take down. But he's been bulled back into the cage all the same. I highly recommend Randy Couture's Wrestling for Fighting if you're looking for a basic tutorial on wrestling in MMA. I knew literally nothing about even the most basic positions after 13 years of intense MMA  fandom when I picked up the book. Now I know enough to get into trouble.

Carwin2_mediumOn the left we can see Carwin establishing a dominant angle. He's stepped his right leg back a bit, which moves him away from Mir's hips but keeps his own hips pointing at Mir. More importantly he's driving his head into what Matt Lindland calls "the pocket" -- the area between Mir's head and shoulder. This makes it much harder for Mir to square up his hips and regain a neutral angle on Carwin.

Mir is maintaining the overhook he has on Carwin's left arm but he's lost his underhook on Carwin's right and is futilely trying to grab Carwin's bicep to control the arm. You can see from the hook to the face and the uppercut to the gut that Carwin lands how well that works for Mir. 

Carwin3_mediumOn the right we see Carwin mixing knees to Mir's left leg into his attack, alternating with a hard and nasty overhand right to the face. Note how Carwin immediately puts his head back into "the pocket" immediately after tagging Mir's face. This allows him to continue controlling Mir's position.

Here's BlackLesnar describing the action that proceeds from this point:

Carwin tags Mir with some short rights in the clinch. Mir has a tight overhook on Carwin's left arm, but is doing nothing to control the right arm of Carwin, no wrist or arm control nor any attempt to gain a hook. For some reason, Carwin grabs a single leg to try and take Mir down. Why? I don't know. He was doing well with the short punches to the face and body. Mir stops the attempt and Carwin goes back to striking with knees to the front leg which distract Mir enough to allow Carwin to hit him in the face some more. We all know Frank Mir HATES to get hit. He turns his head away from the punches and you can see his lip starting to swell, so you know those short punches of Carwin's are hurting him. I'm screaming wondering why Mir isn't trying to grab a hook in and control that right arm of Carwin's and to establish some sort of defensive maneuvering to get off the cage. Does Frank Mir not know what to do? Luckily for Mir, Big Dan is the ref and since the crowd booed, he breaks them off the cage. Joe Rogan is as mystified as I am. Carwin was doing damage to the front leg and face of Mir. It's a five round fight, let the man wear him down.

Carwin4_mediumAfter the stand up, they exchanged at range briefly, with Mir holding his own. But Carwin pulled a clinch with his back to the cage and Mir foolishly clinched up instead of backing off. Carwin reversed him easily enough and that leads to what we see on the left.

Mir has established an overhook with his left arm and he's vainly trying to control Carwin's wrist or pointlessly going for a collar tie by putting his right hand on the back of Carwin's head. Meanwhile our boy is TEEING OFF on Mir. Carwin is mixing an overhand left with a series of three brutal uppercuts. But note his head pushing into the pocket between Mir's head and shoulders to start the attack. Also note how he uses that to get the dominant angle before opening up on Mir. Mir is able to square up his hips fairly quickly once the barrage begins but by then it's irrelevant as he's eating massive damage from Carwin's ham hock fists.

Carwin5_mediumOn the right we see the grisly conclusion as Shane beats Mir down and his knees just buckle. The left uppercuts drop Mir to his knees then Carwin switches to the right then follows him down.

Big Dan of course allowed the beating on the ground to go on far too long, but this is the sequence that finished the fight.

Don't get me wrong, Shane Carwin has shown no signs of being a Randy Couture caliber technician of dirty boxing.  But frankly, he hasn't needed to with the amount of power he brings. 

The Mir fight was the first fight where he really had to tie up his opponent to finish him. Carwin will have to show a lot more technique to beat Brock Lesnar, presumably. But the thing is, with the kind of power Shane Carwin brings it doesn't much matter. If he puts his hand on Brock's chin. It's over.

Anyone who wants to learn more about the art of dirty boxing in MMA is strongly strongly strongly encouraged to check out Matt Lindland's Dirty Boxing for Mixed Martial Arts. Randy Couture's Wrestling for MMA is the best introductory book for wrestling in MMA, but Lindland's book is a complete system. Here's something from my review of it:

Matt Lindland's Dirty Boxing for Mixed Martial Art details a complete MMA system for the standup game. Where Randy Couture's Wrestling for Fighting is a primer that outlines the basic techniques of getting and defending takedowns, Lindland's book provides a complete system. The closest comparison I've read would be Eddie Bravo's two books.

Like Bravo's books, this one provides the diligent student with a series of options from every key position. Lindland outlines the key standing control positions and shows how to transition back and forth between them so you can take advantage of your opponent's mistakes and avoid his strengths. The structure of the book is also logical and builds a strong foundation at the beginning that allows him to build a complex but sold system by the end.

Reading this book really reinforced by respect for wrestling as a martial art. It's as much built on skill, science and strategy as jiu jitsu, Muay Thai, Judo or boxing. Lindland's moves are fundamentally predicated on misdirection and deception. He shows how to bait your opponent into moving and then how to use that energy against him. In that, Lindland's approach to takedowns reminds me of nothing so much as Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's approach to the sweep.

It's only once he's established the foundation and shown the reader how to use the techniques of Greco-Roman wrestling to thoroughly control your opponent's body that he elaborates on how to take advantage of that control with strikes, throws and submissions.

As always, I know next to nothing about any martial art or other athletic endeavor so please pipe up and correct my mistakes and share you knowledge in the comments.