UFC 218 was an action-packed event that totally delivered both as a an amazing display of technical striking and an exhibition of heart and determination.
Jose Aldo fought like a lion, never taking a step back, but to quote a famous pro-wrestling motto “when planets collide, explosions occur”. Holloway was just too much for him, both in regards to volume and accuracy of strikes.
As you probably know by now, the focus of this series is to discover “gems” of technical display in MMA fights, even in losing efforts so please do not expect spectacular highlights or knockouts. So in continuation of our quest to obtain knowledge, let’s examine some interesting moves from the event, in order to polish our skills and keep developing both as students of the art and fans alike.
That being said here is a breakdown of memorable techniques from UFC pros in action:
Description: Although I love Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, fancy grappling from your back does not help win fights in modern MMA where opponents roll with BJJ black belts all the time. Keep in mind that it is easier to defend from top than attack from the bottom. The opposite is true when roles are reversed. This cost Charles Oliveira the fight but his effort was a rare display of grappling in MMA so I had to analyze his techniques.
In the photos above, Charles Oliveira is in the bottom and Paul Felder is able to stand up. Olivera temporarily controls Felder’s left foot with his right hand. This helps him get a De La Riva hook as Felder gets his foot free from the hand. In order to continue controlling his opponent’s feet, Oliveira connects his feet in a De La Riva X-Guard.
Felder pulls his right foot up to escape the x-hooks. As his foot lands on the side, Oliveira performs an inverted roll and underhooks the leg putting Paul’s foot between his two legs. This is an attempt to get a knee-bar.
Although Oliveira was not able to get the submission itself, the set-up was an exhibition of high level technique. That being said, it is difficult to use De La Riva Guard in MMA, as there are no gi grips to help you control the opponent.
Fight: Paul Felder vs. Charles Oliveira
Description: In the photos above Oliveira controls the foot with his hand and uses his De La Riva hooks to stretch Felder’s legs. As Paul pulls his foot in order to escape, he is forced to turn his back. Oliveira sits up and grabs Felder’s feet in order to get the back. As Felder turns his hips to face him, Oliveira tries to unsuccessfully use his left foot-hook to sweep his opponent. Again, a great set-up in an unsuccessful attempt.
These techniques are difficult to apply in MMA but this does not mean that as students of the sport, we should refrain from studying them for both offensive and defensive purposes.
Description: Now, this is beautiful Muay Thai. Tecia Torres attacks with a right cross and Michelle Waterson comes back with a right overhand. Torres is able to slip her left hand in and grab Waterson’s back of the neck. This helps her establish the Thai clinch. Torres lands a switch knee and goes for a clinch pull. As Waterson now is with the back against the cage, Torres uses the clinch to push her against it and lands two elbows while keeping a single neck-tie. Great display of dominant clinch control.
Description: This is an ideal Muay Thai counter. The trick is to use your inside low kick, which is a faster kick due to the distance it has to cover, to counter an incoming right low kick. So, in this instance Eddie Alvarez goes for a right low kick and Justin Gaethje is able to land his inside left low kick under Eddie’s incoming kick. Notice in the gif above that although Alvarez’s kick is launched first, Gaethje’s kick is still the first to land.
Fight: Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje
Description: Alvarez attacks with a right cross, left hook. Justin Gaethje blocks the left hook and lands a vicious right low kick. This is a great counter because as your opponents land left hooks, their left foot is loaded with weight and is unable to block incoming low kicks.
Fight: Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje
Description: In the finishing move of the fight, Eddie goes for a jab/left hook to a right hook to the body as Justin Gaethje is exhausted from Alvarez’s relentless body punching. Gaethje is in a crouching posture and this enables Alvarez to establish the clinch and land a vicious right knee to the head. In regards to body punching, old school boxing coaches used to say: “You have to make a deposit in body punches early to collect interest during the last rounds”.
Description: Henry Cejudo shoots for a single leg takedown against Sergio Pettis. In order to defend from a “running the pipe” takedown, Pettis pulls his foot from between Cejudo’s legs and places it outside. To finish the takedown Henry pivots left, pulling and then lifting Pettis’ leg high and close to him.
Fight: Francis Ngannou vs. Alistair Overeem
Description: Overeem paid for his sloppy head movement and poor form. As you roll or duck under punches you should not take your eyes from your opponent and hope that looping counter-punches somehow connect.
In this instance Alistair ducks under Ngannou’s punches and when Francis goes for a right uppercut Overeem attacks high with a sloppy left hook trying to catch Ngannou off guard while keeping his head down. Francis kept his composure and clipped Alistair with a vicious left uppercut heard around the world. In photo #3, Alistair’s head positioning is completely wrong and his chin is exposed. His head should be a bit more towards the center, higher and closer to Ngannou’s chest.
Fight: Max Holloway vs. José Aldo
Description: Here Aldo ducks under a right cross, gets the over-under clinch with a left underhook and throws a left knee. He keeps pushing forward without landing his left foot on the floor waiting for Holloway to attack with a left knee of his own. When he does, Aldo sweeps the supporting leg with his left foot.
Fight: Max Holloway vs. José Aldo
Description: This is a textbook Dutch Muay Thai attack and the best way to land low kicks while avoiding blocking counters. Aldo steps his front leg to the left to get out of the centerline and gain momentum, attacks with a left hook and a right low kick. This is a “single breath” combo. The kick should land immediately after the hook. This works due to the fact that in order to correctly block a left hook, your opponents need to put weight on the front leg and this prevents them from blocking in time.
Fight: Joe Soto vs Brett Johns, TUF 26 Finale
Description: This submission analysis was requested by a Bloodyelbow follower on Twitter so here it is.
Joe Soto goes for a single leg takedown. Brett Johns grabs his opponent’s waist and lowers his base. He also places a left leg-hook behind Soto’s left calf. He grabs his hook with his right hand securing Soto’s leg and rolls down to the floor. Soto is still grabbing the foot so he cannot post a hand in order to avoid the takedown. Once on the floor all Johns has to do is grab Soto’s left instep and lock his feet in a triangle to get this rare calf slicer submission. Here is a video with more details:
Please join me next week for another breakdown. 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).