UFC 215 featured several interesting match-ups and was an overall entertaining event. As usual, there were some excellent techniques on display over the course of the event.
Please keep in mind that the main focus of this post is to educate rather than entertain. This is not your usual list of highlight reel knockouts or submissions. Coaches, fighters and educated fans who train in MMA or in the individual disciplines which comprise mixed martial arts will be able to examine below some effective and/or alternative techniques which can be added to their arsenal.
What readers will find here are techniques that can be incorporated both in a training and a fighting situation. Of course chance, fatigue or a bad day in a fighter’s life can influence the successful application of a technique, but nevertheless, all techniques examined in this series are based on solid concepts or fundamental principles.
That said, here is UFC 215’s contribution to the library of MMA techniques and combinations:
Kajan Johnson attacks with a left high kick, which misses its target. Adriano Martins, fighting in a southpaw stance, makes him pay for missing by attacking with a right hook and follows with a second right hook. It would be preferable for him to continue chasing Johnson and go for a right high kick following a trajectory towards his opponent’s armpit or shoulder.
Generally when an opponent’s kick misses or gets blocked, the Dutch Muay Thai rule of thumb is the fighter should counter-attack with the hand or foot from the opposite side, due to the fact that the foot on the same side as their opponent’s kick is loaded with power in order to block the kick.
This is a kung fu movie style kick from Johnson. He attacks with a right roundhouse kick (probably a low kick), which misses and then transitions to a right sidekick to the ribs of Martins. This is especially effective against a fighter in an opposite stance.
Gavin Tucker goes for the Thai plum against Rick Glenn. Glenn defends by placing his right arm on top of his opponent’s arms. He escapes from the clinch by landing an elbow from the top. This works better for a taller fighter with a reach advantage. Generally, the Thai-plum works better for the taller opponent, unless there is a significant disparity in skill.
It’s Gavin Tucker’s turn to deliver an elbow from the clinch. In photo 1, Rick Glenn has an underhook and goes for a second one. Tucker goes for a right single neck tie (photo 2). As Glenn pummels through with his left to counter inside with his own neck tie, Tucker grabs the wrist with his right hand and delivers a nice upward left elbow. He then disengages from the clinch. Upward elbows are great attacks against a crouching opponent as they can slip though the high guard defense.
Keep in mind that, in Thailand, if you attack with an elbow you will get attacked with an elbow yourself so your opposite hand should be in place, preferably your forehead to absorb the blow. Also in Thai boxing, elbows are considered to be blades, and knees are hammers. Elbows are useful in cutting opponents, not delivering knockouts. Knees on the other hand are great knockout tools. In self defense, elbows are not very effective for smaller individuals.
Here is an example of bad footwork. Rule of thumb in boxing is: if your opponent can get a full clear view of your ear, he can easily punch you because your defense is compromised. During mittwork I tell my students “I can see your ear” and they immediately improve their position by standing straight. In the photos above, Tucker steps back with his right foot then pivots to his right exposing the side of his head and gets clipped with a vicious left hand by Rick Glenn. You can also see that Glenn used a right hook to make him move towards his left hand. Using proper footwork you should never let an opponent attack you from your side. This is also a basic rule for avoiding takedowns.
Sarah Moras put her skills on display by applying an excellent armbar against Ashlee Evans-Smith. This is the end of the attack and Sarah was able to get her opponent away from the cage, in order to finish the armbar. The focus of the sequence above is to illustrate how she was able to drag her opponent to the ground in order to finish the armbar. As Ashlee stood up, Sarah moved her head under her opponent’s hips and used her locked legs to drag her in the direction of the arrow in photo 2, in a target area located in front and between her standing opponent’s legs. This resembles an Aikido style throw and works by pulling/lowering an opponent’s head to the front and between their legs. Great control by Moras!
Sara McMann’s wrestling doesn’t translate well in pressure fighting against the cage. Here, Vieira is able to expose this weakness. Although Sara has a dominant underhook, her right foot is placed right in the middle of Vieira’s feet without head pressure allowing Ketlen to go for an uppercut-like underhook (photo 2) while using her left leg to sweep McMann’s foot. In the gif below, notice that Vieira lifts her leg to the side and comes back hard to gain momentum for the sweep. Great option to add to a fighter’s arsenal when fighting with their back against the cage.
In this fight, Jeremy Stephens utilized a low kick to the calf that has become common in MMA. Photo 1 above highlights the target area of the kick: under the knee, on the outside top of the calf. This kick is delivered like an inside low kick. Meaning, instead of moving to the left to avoid counterattacks, fighters will just lean back and utilize their hips in a manner that resembles a front kick; not fully rotating the hip, as in a standard low kick to the thigh. The good thing with this low kick is that the calf is a weaker target than the thigh and it is impossible to block it with the knee. This low kick is safer and faster. On the other hand it is weaker than the low kick to the thigh, which can be a devastating attack.
Here is an application of this low kick. Stephens pulls back to defend from a jab, launches a right low kick to Melendez’s calf and quickly moves back to escape from an overhand right. This kick is as fast as an inside low kick if used correctly. It is a touch-and-go-move, very effective in MMA as wrestle-boxers put a lot of weight on the front foot making it an easy target.
In the sequence above, Melendez goes for a lead right hand. Stephens slips to his right and delivers a great five punch combination (one which reminds me of the great late Ramon Dekkers). This punching combination is a right uppercut to the belly, a left hook to the body, a right cross, a left hook and an overhand right. All these punches launched from a lead right hand slip; great combination. This is what is called a ‘single breath’ attack, delivered in a relentless manner without hesitation.
Here Stephens goes for a left feint to a right hook to the body. When going for body shots, a fighter needs to be able to roll under punches as his punching hand is down leaving his head exposed. In photo 4 above, Melendez attacks with a left hook and Stephens rolls under to safety and moves to the right.
Stephens was obviously having lots of fun in this fight. In the sequence above Melendez attacks with a jab, Stephens slips right and takes advantage of the momentum to go for a spinning backfist. Although the punch failed to land, this is still a great move by Stephens. A fighter can also use a spinning back kick or an elbow in a similar manner, depending on the distance of the opponent.
Another great counter punch by Stephens. Melendez attacks with a jab, Stephens slips right and counterattacks with a right uppercut to left hook combo. Notice in the gif below, how Stephens uses jabs to close the distance and get into the right counter-punching rhythm.
This attack by Stephens is a classic Dutch Muay Thai style combo. It reminds me of the trademark combinations by Dutch kickboxing legend Ernesto Hoost. The combination: step to the left (ph. 2), overhand right to close the distance (ph. 3), left hook to the body, right kick to the body. The combination is difficult to defend as the attack goes from high to low, right to left, punch to kick and from a long to a short attack.
This is also an attack that must be applied in a relentless manner. And the kick must land with urgency, right after the hook to the body, for the combination to be effective. Usually the liver punch does most of the damage.
Wilson Reis goes for a takedown after catching a knee. Henry Cejudo sprawls and goes for a front head lock to a wrestling style go behind. As Reis posts his left foot, notice how Cejudo transitions from grip to grip : armpit, foot, right hip and finally go behind. Wrestling controls like these work very well in MMA.
I really liked how Cejudo was able to use his right hand in this fight. This is a karate style punch. Notice how his head changes levels like a runner exploding in the start of a race. And examine the trajectory of the punch, which goes under and between Reis’ hands. Cejudo delivers the punch and pulls back out of danger in an Olympic fencing style pull back. As a coach I use this technique during mittwork to catch students off-guard landing right hands under their blocks.
Cejudo was also able to combine right kicks with right punches, as in the sequence above. To do this, as he pulls his foot back after the kick, he needs to launch his punch in a manner similar to a superman punch in order to gain momentum. The punch is not a follow-up punch, it is part of a two-move combination attack. This very effective technique is also largely a karate based move.
Great top control from Dos Anjos during this fight. Here Neil Magny has Rafael in his half guard and tries to posture-up with an underhook. Dos Anjos used the “Matt Hughes” elbow from top control. He posts his hand on Magny’s head, putting weight on it, lets his palm slip from the head and lands with an elbow. A great attack and Dos Anjos, which saves energy, letting gravity do all the hard work. Magny decides to hide his head in photo 3, giving Rafael headlock control instead.
Here Dos Anjos uses the same tactic from the mount. As Magny covers up and extends his left arm, Rafael posts both hands on his opponent’s right wrist and lets go in order to land with a right elbow. Again gravity does all the work.
In the ending move of this fight, Dos Anjos goes for a standard arm triangle choke from top mount. Important points above are how Rafael retracts his foot in photo 2 when Magny gives his back. This helps Rafael avoid the half guard. Also notice how in photo 6, both Dos Anjos’ head and hips sink low to apply pressure. The belly has to almost touch the floor. Brazilians call this concept ‘sinking the car.’
This move is a GSP classic: a left superman punch to a right low kick. What’s interesting in this application is how Valentina uses her right hand to trap Nunes’ left hand before going for the move. This technique is a great way to close the distance against a taller opponent.
Below is Kru Phil Nurse, one of GSP’s coaches, teaching this move from an orthodox stance and also analyzing how to finish with takedowns, St-Pierre style.
In the sequence above, Valentina uses the same move, this time attacking with a left cross and not a superman punch. In photo 2 she traps the hand, goes for a left hand and a right low kick. She’s able to get out of danger in time, as Nunes attacks with a left kick of her own. This is how to press the action against taller opponents. The trapping tactic is also indicative of a southpaw fighter’s game against an orthodox opponent: to neutralize and dominate the jab, pushing it down and to the inside as they move their own front foot to the outside.
Here, Valentina attacks with a right jab from her southpaw stance and follows with a left cross. As the two fighters almost clash heads, Shevchenko uses her right arm to wrap the back of Nunes’ neck, and attacks with a left knee. It is easier for Valentina than it is for Amanda to attack with a knee because (as can be seen in photo 4) her right foot is placed on the outside of Nunes’ left foot, providing the correct angle for the knee.
In the photos above, Nunes attacks with a feint and a right hand. From her southpaw stance, Valentina slips left and comes back with a right hook to the body, a left hook and a right hand. Excellent combo. However, although Valentina is a good striker, she ‘muscles’ her punches a bit, and does not extend her arms enough. This causes her to compromise her reach and explosiveness. Nunes, on the other hand, uses her reach very effectively by fully extending her arms. The only way to fix problems with reach is through proper mittwork. Generally, during mittwork sessions, if a coach can step on his student’s front foot, the striker is not fully extending their punches. It takes time and effort to get rid of bad habits like these.
See you next week with some boxing moves from the GGG-Canelo fight, which will take place on September 16th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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).