In the coming weeks I want to take the opportunity to thank the Bloody Elbow community for all of it's support and encouragement by writing about as many of the most requested fighters for analysis as I can fit in. While I may be forced to focus on one fight for some of them, as I am today, I hope that I can satisfy some desire to learn more about these fighters and whet the appetites of my readers as I continue my work on other platforms. Today we will be looking at a fighter whom I reference rather often and whom I believe to be one of the finest technical strikers ever, let alone of the currently active crop, Giorgio Petrosyan.
Petrosyan is rather disliked by many fans because he is a decision fighter, much like Masato, and while he does attempt to finish his opponents he is more often than not unable to. Giorgio's left straight is venomous and thrown with momentum rather than a push, but he will rarely swarm on his opponents when they are not fighting back. Now this is not a bad thing, I like punching to hurt and to finish as much as anyone but more good fighters have been knocked out in trying to finish their opponent than have been sticking to an intelligent, controlling game plan.
The key word there was controlling - Giorgio Petrosyan is one of those amazing fighters who doesn't seem to rely on any one trick too heavily but can still make elite kickboxers look very average and he does it through strategy alone. This is one of the reasons that I examined his techniques in my first ebook, Advanced Striking. We spoke about this phenomenon briefly when talking about Prince Naseem Hamed - there is a lot more going on than can be seen in this kind of fighter's technical unorthodoxy when they are fighting opponents who average 70-80 strikes a round and reduce them to less than 30. Petrosyan more than anyone else in the kickboxing world is in to controlling the fight. I will demonstrate my meaning by focusing today on his bout with Dutch kickboxing great and K-1 Max's first champion, Albert Kraus.
Giorgio Petrosyan - Albert Kraus (via Владимир Пак)
The first thing which might not jump out but is integral to Petrosyan's success is his use of the teep or push kick. K-1 was dominated by kickboxers who were far more inclined to using the so called "Dutch style" of kickboxing. A style which came to prominence under many of the Dutch kickboxing pioneers such as Ramon Dekkers, Rob Kaman, Ernesto Hoost and indeed Albert Kraus, it focuses on throwing a flurry of punches in order to force the opponent into covering and then landing a hard low kick or knee. Petrosyan and Buakaw Por Pramuk are perhaps the only fighters at the top level of K-1 who commit to the teep with any success. The teep is a fight winner, plain and simple and is a ridiculously under-rated technique. Saenchai Sor Kingstar is perhaps the finest Muay Thai fighter on the planet today and his fights are a clinic in using the teep to frustrate and wind the opponent without letting him get any offense going.
Here is a little collage of Petrosyan's teeping during the bout with Kraus, there were quite a few more than these but these six are more than Kraus has thrown in any fight in his storied career.
The teep is not only a good winding weapon and an excellent method of jamming an opponent's offense in a pure stand up bout, it is a means to control the fight. If you want an opponent against the ropes, hit him with a hard push kick - this is how Bas Rutten was able to swarm on much better technical strikers such as Guy Mezger and Maurice Smith in Pancrase - if you want to stay ahead on the scorecards and limit the number of exchanges, teep him. Through effective use of the teep Petrosyan makes men who are known as combination strikers struggle to get in range to throw punches unless Petrosyan allows them to rush in, then he normally has a counter punch or knee waiting.
The major difference between the Dutch kickboxing style and Petrosyan's is that where the Dutch flurry to set up kicks, Petrosyan uses his light lead leg, teep led style of traditional Muay Thai to get into position to land punches. He is almost the reverse of the Dutch tradition in that regard but in fact is a much better boxer than most of the kickboxers the Netherlands has ever produced. Landing a southpaw jab is typically a hard thing to do, it's just so easy to stop with your lead hand (as Rashad Evans demonstrated almost a hundred times and then did nothing to follow up against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156). Petrosyan's teeps serve wonderfully to irritate his opponent and take their mind off of the boxing game however.
From the first engagement in the second round against Kraus, Petrosyan used his light lead foot from his traditional Thai stance to feint a teep then land with it far in front of him to land a traditional boxing style jab between Kraus' hands.
Here Giorgio does the exact same thing.
You will notice that his lead foot is slightly inside of Kraus', this is a brilliant way to shorten the path of a southpaw jab, placing one's lead shoulder inside of the opponent's, but it does give the opponent a great opportunity to throw the jabber over his lead leg should they end up close. Joe Calzaghe and Petrosyan both routinely use the southpaw jab with their lead leg inside, and both have been tripped off of it, fortunately with no consequences as they are not MMA fighters but it is worth noting that this angle has a good degree of danger for mixed martial artists.
Another excellent technique which is almost counter-Dutch in it's usage is Petrosyan's focus on his opponent's rear leg with his low kicks. Most fighters learn to fight with one side forward and that leg naturally becomes conditioned to taking kicks far better than their rear leg which is aimed for much less often. Men like Kraus, big punching Dutch kickboxers, are often quite happy to take a low kick to their lead leg and then come back with a left hook or a combination. Attacking the back leg is much more popular in Muay Thai than it is / was in K-1 and other kickboxing rules organisations, so many pure kickboxers are also not as practiced in lifting their rear leg to check kicks as they are in lifting their lead leg.
Obviously I only intended to give a brief overview of the techniques which Giorgio used in this single match today but I am already getting carried away in writing this. While I don't want to go into too much detail today the most important part of Petrosyan's mastery of striking is that he has found a place for head movement in kickboxing. The risk with head movement in kickboxing is that it is so easy to duck onto a kick or knee, which has made the striking much more upright and two dimensional in movement (forward and back, left and right - never on a vertical plane). What Petrosyan does so well is to enter with a combination and either allow his opponent to swing back, whilst pre-emptively ducking under their attack as soon as he stops firing, taking an angle, or to pull straight back and allow them to miss before leaning in with a counter punch.
Here is an example of Giorgio's pull back countering. Pulling straight back from Open Guard (southpaw vs orthodox) is far safer than from Closed Guard (orthodox vs orthodox or southpaw vs southpaw) because of the distance the opponent's rear hand will have to cover to land and the relative ineffectiveness of his lead hand from this position. Of course you can still get knocked out and Giorgio's anticipation is excellent.
1-2. Giorgio opens with his usual right hook to left straight gambit. The right hook forces Kraus to cover and turns him slightly to place the gap in his guard directly in front of Giorgio's left straight.
3. Petrosyan leans back as he gives Kraus the chance to fire back.
4. As Kraus' punch drops, Petrosyan counters with a left hook over Kraus' right shoulder.
A lot of fans who only know Petrosyan through his record and are uninterested by his lack of knockouts should definitely consider better acquainting themselves with his work. He has beaten a whose who in kickboxing and his lack of knockouts his more to do with his outclassed opponents shelling up more than his lack of power. Here is just another little example of some of the beauty that you can see in action in a Petrosyan fight.
1. Petrosyan lands his right hook against Kraus' forearm to begin his work.
2. Petrosyan slips to the outside of Kraus' lead shoulder, "looking out the window".
3. And comes up the middle with a lead right uppercut.
4. Followed by a left straight.
I've already prattled on for 1500 words about just a few moments in one of Petrosyan's fights so you can gather just how highly I rate his striking, but should my word and examples not be enough just take a moment how, in a sporting culture full of fighters nicknamed "The Pitbull" or something equally machismo, one would go about earning the moniker 'The Doctor'. Petrosyan is not infallible, he gets hit in all of his fights, but he has made the greatest opponents in the kickboxing world look as average as the journeymen that he has met. Finisher or not, he is a dominating presence in the ring.
Watch this Still Will highlight and look out for the brilliant boxing. There is so much more to be said about Petrosyan but there's plenty of time as the man has not yet turned 30!
Jack can be found on Twitter,Facebook and at his blog; Fights Gone By.
Learn the techniques and strategies of effective striking in Jack Slack's ebook:Elementary Striking.
20 of the world's top strikers from boxing, kickboxing and MMA have their techniques dissected in Jack Slack's first ebook, Advanced Striking.