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UFC Fight Night Bader vs Saint Preux Judo Chop: Boxing Tricks with Gray Maynard and Ross Pearson

Gray Maynard and Ross Pearson put on a thoroughly entertaining display of boxing in their co-main event slot on the UFC's 47th Fight Night event in Bangor, Maine. BE's striking specialist Connor Ruebusch breaks it down.

Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

I'm going to ask you to do something difficult.

Forget that this was Gray Maynard's fourth loss by KO in his last five outings. Forget that Maynard was among the top three lightweights in the world just three years ago. Basically, forget everything I wrote about Maynard in my pre-fight article, and just focus on this one fight.

Okay, so maybe I'm asking too much. Yes, Gray Maynard has had, to put it bluntly, a depressing run of late. Not only has he failed to regain the dominance of his early career, but he has fallen off the rails in a profoundly upsetting way. One knockout after another can't be doing Maynard's health any good, and it is disheartening to see such a talented fighter crumbling under the weight of his own insecurities on national TV.

But even as you remember that, give the man his due. Maynard stepped into the Octagon last weekend equipped to put on one of the most technical performances of his career. Not only had he seemed to have found his missing wrestling game, but the boxing that had become a hallmark of Maynard's fights was sharper than ever. As far as striking has come in MMA, it's still rare to see two fighters comfortable and capable enough on the feet to consistently employ head movement, throw combinations of punches, and intelligently set up their strikes.

In Ross Pearson, Maynard found an opponent perfectly willing to stand and box with him, and the resultant fight was the highlight of the entire UFC Fight Night card (it was certainly more enjoyable than the main event). Let's take a look at some of the tricks these two pugilists employed in their technical battle.


Gray Maynard has always had a great left hook. It was the punch that first dropped Frankie Edgar in their first title fight, and it was in rare form against Ross Pearson. The best thing about Maynard's hook isn't really the power of the punch. Granted, Maynard's left can certainly crack, but it's the sneaky path the punch travels that makes it so effective. Rather than loading up his left hip and pivoting his entire body into the shot, Maynard throws his hook very much like an up-jab, whipping the arm up from beneath the opponent's field of vision before slightly flaring his elbow and pulling his fist violently through the target. When thrown in conjunction with his actual jab, it makes for a decidedly deceptive strike.

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1. Pearson stalks Maynard, looking to move forward and counter.

2. Maynard snakes out an up-jab, which Pearson parries with his right hand.

3. Maynard resets, still circling left as if looking to land his jab down the center.

4. Maynard feints the jab this time; Pearson parries at air, his hand leaving his chin.

5. Maynard fires a beautiful long left hook through the resultant hole in Pearson's defense.

Pearson may not have dropped the way Edgar did, but the set-up for this shot was just perfect. Maynard simply flicks his arm out to draw the parry from Pearson before launching himself forward even as he pulls his weight back and yanks his foreknuckle directly into Pearson's temple. Pearson paid the price for using too much arm movement on his parry, leaving his hand out of position to block Maynard's hook.


It seemed, however, that Pearson was simply getting a bead on Maynard. He ate more shots than his opponent in the first few minutes of the fight, but it all seemed part of the process of finding his range, and learning Maynard's timing. Credit to Pearson who, after eating two or three hooks early, avoided Maynard's sneaky left for the remainder of the fight. In fact, it was Pearson whose left hand began to control the fight from the start of the second round.

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1. Pearson stands momentarily square after faking a switch kick.

2. Pearson returns to his stance by stepping to Maynard's right and throwing out a soft right hand.

3. Pearson follows up with a straight left, thrown with a hop-step to cover range.

4. Pearson's hop-step leaves him in good position at an angle to Maynard.

This tricky little maneuver is what the great Archie Moore called a "left cross." Pearson is well known for his left hook--his go-to counter is to slip inside his opponent's jab and counter with a hook as they fall into range--but the same mechanics can be applied to launch strikes along a straight trajectory from the outside. With his faked right hand Pearson loaded up his left leg and squared his torso, pulling his left shoulder back to better drive his left hand forward--much like a typical cross.

The interesting thing about this sequence is that Maynard seems not to have fallen for the throwaway right hand at all. This indicates that he is not expecting any strike from Pearson's loaded left arm, probably because Pearson is well out of range for a left hook, a punch Maynard probably prepared for extensively in training. Pearson's left cross makes his left a powerful and dangerous weapon in positions and ranges from which it would normally be ineffective. To add to the deception, Pearson closes the distance mid-strike with his hop-step. This motion transfers the weight from front to back while moving the body forward and, aside from a brief moment of vulnerability, allowing the fighter to maintain his stance.

I don't know how many times I've posted the following GIF, but Joe Frazier's footwork is a nice exaggerated example of the concept.


This step allowed Pearson to drive weight from left to right while going forward, without having to switch his feet or pull away from the target.


Of course, asking you to ignore the tragedy of Maynard's recent career was a tall order, because the ending of this fight was a stark reminder of just how far the man has fallen, even if his striking was better than ever. After some scuffles in the clinch, Pearson returned to long range to start countering Maynard. Pearson was not only perceptive enough to negate Maynard's left hook, but to counter it as well. By the mid-point of round two, Pearson had become confident enough in his timing to see Maynard's left coming and, instead of backpedaling, remain steadfast in the pocket to land a fight-ending right hand.

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1. Maynard and Pearson stand outside one another's range.

2. Maynard lowers his stance and moves forward. At the same time, Pearson takes a step to his left, lining up his right hand.

3. Maynard runs face-first into a sturdy right hand from Pearson.

4. Because of Pearson's diagonal-forward movement, Maynard's intended left hook misses around the back of the Englishman's head.

Before, I mentioned that Maynard throws his left hook without loading up the left hip. Not only does this mean that his weight stays mostly over the back foot throughout the punch, but his head stays over that foot as well. This can make the punch difficult to read, but if the opponent is able to time the strike, Maynard's stationary head is a sitting duck for a right straight down the pipe. In this case, Maynard's expectation that Pearson would go leaping out of range added to the force of Pearson's punch: Maynard leapt eagerly forward into Pearson's compact cross, the collision turning an already powerful punch into a devastating one.

Unfortunately, American TV's fascination with the close-up means that great sequences such as this are often hard to appreciate--the framing of Pearson's counter denies us a clear look at his feet, which were responsible for the effectiveness of the strike. Since it's possible to infer foot position from the fighters' movements, however, I have laid out the movements of the two men in this overhead diagram.

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This gives you a better idea of the footwork at play in the above sequence. Pearson is in the red gloves, while Maynard wears the blue. Note that, as Maynard moves forward, Pearson takes a forward step of his own, moving diagonally across Maynard's path and shortening the distance between his right hand and Maynard's jaw. From this position Pearson cannot put all of his weight into the punch, but the distance the punch travels is substantially reduced. Essentially, there is no way for a circular strike, like a left hook, to beat such a straight and direct blow. Watching the GIF in slow motion, the time between the impact of Pearson's right hand and the eventual completion of Maynard's hook is truly vast.

So there you have it. Gray Maynard was knocked out. Again. But at least he made a good show of it, and somewhat justified his decision to return to the Octagon. In the meantime, Ross Pearson proved that he is becoming more and more comfortable with his game in the always-deep lightweight division, and just might have solidified his status as a top fifteen 155-er with the win.

Be sure to stay tuned to BE in the coming week, as we've got a rich card in store with UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs Dos Anjos. And I guess Cung Le and Bisping are fighting as well, or something. In any case, there's lots more technique to break down in the world of mixed martial arts.

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