UFC 216: Ferguson vs. Lee took place this past weekend, and this is a great opportunity for us to examine the most effective moves our favorite fighters employed in order to dominate their opponents.
This series focuses on competition tested techniques which can be used by trainers and athletes alike in order to raise their technical level. The following analysis can also help fans appreciate diverse approaches to the fighting game and enjoy fights more by identifying probable moves and what each fighter brings to the table.
That being said, let’s start analyzing...
John Moraga is backing up Magomed Bibulatov towards the cage and attacks with a right high kick. Bibulatov ducks under the kick and tries to counterattack with a right uppercut but his opponent is too far away for him to connect. Moraga misses with a right cross which forces his opponent to lift his chin up and John knocks him down with a vicious left hook.
Like Moraga in the sequence above, punching with the same side hand after kicking can open up striking opportunities and compromise your opponent’s defense.
Bobby Green goes for a takedown against Lando Vannata and the latter grabs him in a head-and-arm guillotine. Green lifts him up, throws him down and lands on the correct side of defending a guillotine: his feet are on the opposite side of his trapped neck in top side control. Please note that the Von Flue choke is not available to Green as Vannata is still controlling his right hand with the guillotine grip. This also means that as you can see in photo 3, Green does not have the option to post his trapped hand in the direction of the arrow. Lando capitalizes on this by bridging and using a wrestling-style reversal to land on top.
To make this work you need to throw your opponents over your right shoulder, not towards your ribs where they can post their left arm in order to defend. Great move by Vannata!
Fight: Lando Vannata vs. Bobby Green
Lando Vannata has Bobby Green with his back against the cage and rolls under a right cross landing a beautiful right hook to the body. Vannata follows up with a right cross-jab-right cross. Green goes for an underhook and Lando stops him with by pushing his forearm on his face, thus not allowing his opponent to come closer. Vannata finally drops Green with a right hand.
I call this forearm check “The Hitman check” in honor of boxing great Thomas "Hitman" Hearns as he used a similar check to set opponents up in order to deliver crushing right hand punches.
Fight: Lando Vannata vs. Bobby Green
If you read my posts you know by now that I love wrestling scrambles. Here Green goes for a single leg takedown. Vannata tries to free his foot by turning his back and using a kneeing style motion towards the opposite direction. Green grabs the second foot and in order to cunter the takedown, Lando posts his right hand on the floor which enables him to roll forward and free himself. Although Bobby momentarily lands on top, Vannata escapes under him and takes him down using head and leg control in a cradle-like takedown. Vannata is a very impressive fighter, although unfortunately he gets hit a lot in his fights and may be too tough for his own good.
Online sources say that Dariush began training Brazilian jiu-jitsu in 2007, earning his black belt in just five years. He was a highly decorated competitor, becoming a no gi world champion as a blue, purple and brown belt. This shows in this clip.
Beneil Dariush has Evan Dunham in the turtle position and is able to get his right hook in to get the back. To escape the backtake, Dunham rolls forward which would cause other fighters to lose control of the grappling exchange. However Dariush posts both arms on the mat, follows Dunham’s motion and lands on top half guard. This is a great example of BJJ-style grappling control. You should watch the clip/gif to appreciate the move as the referee was standing in-front of the fighters and the screencaps don’t tell the full story.
Fight: Fabrício Werdum vs. Walt Harris
Fabrício Werdum is an outstanding BJJ specialist. In the sequence above he takes Walt Harris’ back and as expected it is just a matter of time for Fabricio to get the tap. As you can see, Harris is in the turtle position and Werdum is able to get his two hooks in and take the back. He attacks with a common arm-bar attack from the back as he controls Harris’ left hand with both hands and uses the right elbow to create some distance between their heads. This allows Werdum to slide his right foot through, extend and get a tight armbar to finish the fight. This is an excellent display of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for MMA.
Ray Borg grabs Demetrious Johnson’s left foot and tries to go for a takedown. Demetrious pushes Borg’s head down and lowers his weight turning his back and sliding his left foot in order to escape. This enables him to reverse the position and land on top turtle control. This is a standard wrestling escape and another great scramble.
Fight: Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg
Demetrious Johnson has control of Ray Borg’s back and goes for a belly-to-back-suplex takedown. Instead of landing Borg on his back, Johnson pushes him towards the side. As Borg falls down, Demetrious slides his left arm under Ray’s left armpit grabbing the arm as he lands on the mat. Johnson falls on the floor landing his right foot on top of his opponent’s face and then his right foot on the belly, connects his feet and gets an armbar.
This is a professional wrestling type of move and only a great fighter like DJ can pull this off in an MMA fight against a legit contender. It is an honor to watch Johnson fight as he is a great role model and a representative for our great sport.
Here is a belly-to-back-suplex takedown tutorial:
Fight: Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee
Tony Ferguson goes for a right inside low kick against Kevin Lee who is in a southpaw stance. As a coach, I do not recommend inside low kicks with the back foot against a fighter in an opposite stance. Opponents can counter with a knee block and make you pay by breaking your shin (Anderson Silva style). Another reason can be seen in the sequence above as Kevin Lee is able to reach Ferguson with a right hook and barely miss with a left high kick as Ferguson drops to the mat. It is easy to counter this kick as it launches from the back foot, covers a lot of distance and gives opponents time to counter.
Fight: Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee
Tony Ferguson has Kevin Lee in his open guard and is able to get wrist control in photo 2. He pushes the wrist towards Lee’s face and this enables him to push his right foot up (photo 3) isolating Kevin’s right arm. In photo 5, Tony grabs his right shin and finally closes the triangle. What is interesting is that Ferguson does not go for a standard triangle choke as he does not pull Lee’s hand to the right but instead drags it to his left side. This opens up omoplatas and armbars but is not a great option when trying to finish the triangle. Especially when in photo 8 you can see Lee’s full shoulder. Rule-of-thumb is the less visible the shoulder the less tight the triangle is. Nevertheless, Ferguson is long and has a tight squeeze and as Lee tries to stand up Ferguson pulls his head down and is able to get the submission win.
Personally, although I am a big fan of Ferguson and he was able to get the win, this was not a great performance. He has poor takedown defense and his willingness to fight of his back is not a good tactic in modern MMA. Lee was exhausted and this in my opinion cost him the fight.
That being said Ferguson is a bad matchup for Conor McGregor. He has a solid chin, is tall and long, has great submissions and a gas tank for five rounds. Hopefully this fight will happen and we will get to see a great war.
See you next week. For a list of my previous technique breakdowns on Bloody Elbow, check out this link.
About the Author: Kostas Fantaousakis is a researcher of fighting concepts, tactics, and techniques, and a state-certified MMA, grappling, and wrestling coach in Greece. He teaches his unique Speedforce MMA mittwork system © which combines strikes, takedowns, knees, and elbows applied in the Continuous Feedback © mittwork system of the Mayweather family. Kostas is a brown belt in BJJ under MMA veteran and BJJ world champion Wander Braga (the teacher of Gabriel Napao Gonzaga).