clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UFC Fight Night Machida-Dolloway Judo Chop: Rashid Magomedov, Layered Combat

Rashid Magomedov turned in a brilliant performance against Elias Silverio at UFC Barueri. BE's striking specialist Connor Ruebusch breaks down the skills of this dangerous counter-fighter.

Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Taken as a whole, UFC Fight Night: Machida-Dolloway was not a surprising event. Altogether, most of the favorites won, most of the underdogs lost, and the only thing surprising about the main event was the sheer magnitude of the skill gap between Lyoto Machida and his quickly-vanquished foe. Even hardcore Machida aficionados like myself expected it to take longer than a mere minute for the Dragon to catch, roast, and devour his meal.

One fighter, however, stood out. This was Rashid Magomedov, one of the many Dagestani imports to make his way to the UFC in the last year. The former M-1 welterweight champion had already fought--and won--twice in the UFC, but this was the first time that he was slated against proven, UFC-caliber competition--an undefeated Brazilian by the name of Elias Silverio with a record of 3-0 inside the Octagon.

In addition to his M-1 belt, Mogomedov holds a number of sporting titles from his native Russian government, including Master of Sport ranks in both boxing and hand-to-hand combat, and a National Master of Sport rank in Combat SAMBO.

And yet, despite all of these accolades, Magomedov simply failed to make much of an impression in his first two UFC bouts. Some of the reasons for that will be explored in the latter half of this article, but suffice it to say that it took the Dagestani counterstriker a little time to win me over as a fan. After his third round knockout of Silverio last weekend, however, I can firmly place myself in that camp.


Magomedov presented Silverio with a very difficult--and very threatening target. Peppering his opponent with body kicks and long lefts, Magomedov systematically goaded Silverio into attacking only to slide out of the way and strike back, snake-like, with counters. In round two, Magomedov uncorked this beauty.

(Click to enlarge)


1. Silverio leads with a left teep.

2. Magomedov steps back with his right foot, moving his body out of the way, and parries the kick for good measure.

3. With nothing but air in his way, Silverio falls heavily onto his left foot, and Magomedov chops his leg with a kick.

4. Seeing that Magomedov is vulnerable, Silverio attacks with a right hand . . .

5. . . . but because his weight is already loaded onto his left foot, he is forced to lean forward after Magomedov . . .

6. . . . who slips out of range entirely. Now Silverio finds himself, squared up and leaned forward, right in front of Magomedov.

7. The Dagestani pounces with a jab.

8. And follows up with a clean right hand.

This is Magomedov's bread and butter. He loves for opponents to lead, only to slide out of range and jump on them with sharp retorts. The fact that he can do so twice in quick succession speaks to his presence of mind and technical ability. There is a sharp contrast between the balance of Magomedov, whose weight is constantly poised between his two feet, and that of Silverio, who is goaded into chasing the Dagestani and throwing himself into vulnerable positions.

Magomedov showed the same readiness to counter when, with thirty seconds remaining in the third round, he met a Silverio leg kick with a very particular kind of punch: a "soft" left hook.

(Click to enlarge)


1. Magomedov stands in a stable, ready position, and watches Silverio load weight onto his left leg.

2. As the Brazilian hops forward into a low kick, Magomedov raises his left leg to check. His right heel (circled) is raised.

3. Silverio lands out of position, his feet square to Magomedov, whose own body is perfectly positioned to counter. Note that Magomedov's lead foot (indicated by green arrow) intersects the weak plane between Silverio's parallel feet (blue line). As he begins to throw his counter, Magomedov's right heel (circled) begins to drop.

4. Magomedov sits back over his right foot, which is now completely flat on the canvas, and sends the force of that body weight through his arm and into Silverio's jaw. Silverio collapses from the blow.

The soft hook is so called because it is thrown without any loading of body weight prior to the punch. Essentially, it is an unchambered strike, which makes it particularly useful as a quick, immediate counter. In Magomedov's case, the soft hook was perfect for countering Silverio's kick.

Because Magomedov lifts his leg to check the kick before countering, there is no possibility of placing weight on that leg to add to the power of the hook. Instead, Magomedov must recruit body weight in a different way. The result is a punch that almost resembles a dipping jab--Magomedov lowers his weight, dropping his right heel to the canvas and bending his right knee, using gravitational impetus to add some torque to the punch, all while improving his own leverage by lowering his base. By sinking down and pulling back, the Dagestani is able to put enough body weight into the punch to make it count, without having to first bring his weight forward. It's a perfect weapon for a fighter who stands with his weight evenly distributed and prefers to catch opponents on the way in.

I've often used Joe Frazier's knockdown of Muhammad Ali to demonstrate the weight-shifting characteristics of a hard hook, but the movements of a soft hook are considerably more subtle. I searched long and hard for a fighter who threw them consistently, and finally landed on Tony Canzoneri, one of history's finest counter punchers. Here he is taunting and then countering Jimmy McLarnin, another man known for his devastating left hand.

The details are small, but if you look closely you can see Canzoneri using the same movements as Magomedov. Keeping his weight well back, Canzoneri simply takes a small backward step with his right foot, bending his right knee and dropping his upper body into his right hip. Without loading his right leg at all, Canzoneri throws the hook with the exact same body mechanics as a strong jab, differing only in the trajectory of the arm itself.

Notice, also, that Canzoneri throws this long hook with his palm facing down. This lines up the side of his foreknuckle with McLarnin's temple, turning even a soft hook into a sharp, punishing shot. Imagine how devastating Junior Dos Santos' left hook would be if he learned to position his hands properly, rather than slapping with the inside of his palm (GIF).

Future Adjustments

Having just put on something of a breakthrough performance, the question for Magomedov now becomes: where does he go from here? The Dagestani proved immensely difficult to hit and reasonably accurate with his counters, but there was a certain potency lacking throughout his fight, as has also been the case in his previous UFC bouts. Some would be quick to urge Magomedov to bulk up to add power to his frame, but in reality it takes very little force to knock a man out, provided that one can hit him cleanly and at the right time--something of which Magomedov has just proven himself very capable.

The better answer, going forward, is refinement. Throughout the fight Magomedov seemed on the verge of landing that one fight-ending shot, but just couldn't seem to make his counters mean enough until the very end of the bout. In many of the sequences, his own movements were to blame.

(Click to enlarge)


1. Silverio stalks forward, looking to pierce Magomedov's defenses.

2. He leads with a body jab, and Magomedov frames with his left hand . . .

3. . . . before attempting to slip an uppercut under Silverio's outstretched arm.

4. Silverio resets.

5. As he leaps in with another jab, this one to the head, Magomedov is ready. He slips to the inside of this punch . . .

6. . . . and loops a right hand over the top.

7. Unfortunately for Magomedov, Silverio is willing to slug, and clubs him with a crude uppercut.

8. Nonetheless, Magomedov follows up with a left uppercut of his own, and wins the exchange as a result.

Magomedov's problems often stem from overlarge movements. Instead of moving just enough to make a punch miss, he will leap out of range. Instead of throwing straight, efficient blows he will fling himself bodily into counters when his opponent is off-balance. He times these attacks so well that he rarely leaves himself vulnerable, but the exaggerated nature of his striking often renders the strikes themselves impotent.

There are examples of this problem in the exchange above. Magomedov's cross counter in frame 6 stands out. While the punch does land, Magomedov's arm is forced to loop over and around Silverio's, causing it to connect at the very end of its trajectory. Because there is no follow-through, Magomedov fails to hurt Silverio. This is caused by Rashid's exaggerated inside slip. In frame 5, his head has barely moved to the left, and already avoided Silverio's punch. At this point there is no need for further movement. And yet, in frame 6, Magomedov has leaned dramatically to his left, actually increasing the distance between himself and his target. And because the punch doesn't carry enough sting to hurt Silverio, the Brazilian is able to capitalize on Magomedov's compromised position, catching him with a clean counter.

Rashid Magomedov is certainly a fighter to watch. His counters are precise, and his style is, as a whole, quite beautiful to watch. However, for a fighter who excels at capitalizing on his opponent's mistakes, Magomedov will need to clean up some of his own if he hopes to become a top contender in the UFC's dangerous lightweight division.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bloody Elbow Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your MMA and UFC news from Bloody Elbow