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Combat Course: Lessons from the Cage #14

Featuring the 10 best moves from UFC Fight Night 116 and UFC Fight Night 117.

UFC Fight Night 116 and 117 are both in the books and it’s time to examine some interesting ways to polish our skills and keep developing both as students of the art and fans alike. Here are ten techniques from these two events:

Fight: Gilbert Burns vs. Jason Saggo

Technique #1

Gilbert "Durinho" Burns, a three-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion goes from a southpaw stance to a double leg takedown against Jason Saggo. In order to get the takedown, Burns drops to one knee and climbs up to get control of the hip by standing again on both feet. To finalize the takedown Glibert starts driving towards the cage. Just before the two opponents reach the cage, Durinho cuts the corner to prevent Saggo’s back from landing on it, positioning his own back against the cage and lifts Jason. He finalizes the takedown with a slam, landing inside his opponent’s guard.

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Technique #2

Burns was able to finish the fight when Saggo attacked with a lead left hook. Gilbert rolled under the hook and clipped Saggo with an overhand right. This is a classic counter in boxing, although most of the times, a straight right is used instead of an overhand right. In the sequence above you can see this counter from two angles, photos 1-3 and 4-6.

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Fight: Daniel Spitz vs Anthony Hamilton

Technique #3

Both Daniel Spitz and Anthony Hamilton go for a right cross. Spitz’s hand connects and lands on the left side of Hamilton’s head allowing Daniel to get the head and arm clinch. Spitz ducks under his opponent’s armpit and continues with a go-behind while simultaneously pulling Hamilton’s head towards the ground forcing him to drop to the turtle position. Daniel seizes the opportunity and TKO’s his opponent with strikes from top turtle position.

Whenever hands get tangled from simultaneous left hooks or right hands, fighters can get the opportunity to establish this head and arm clinch, which opens up a number of attacks both in wrestling and striking aspects of the game. Jon Jones used this clinch in his fight against Shogun Rua. Actually these two techniques (Jones’ and Spitz’s) can work in combination: when one fails you can go for the other.

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Fight: Jessica Andrade vs Claudia Gadelha

Technique #4

in the sequence above Jessica Andrade is going for a takedown and Claudia Gadelha defends by attempting a guillotine. To counter the attack Andrade grabs Claudia’s right leg with both hands and lifts her up going for a takedown. Notice in photo 3 how she changes the grip, and switches to pushing Jessica’s thigh up with the left hand while still grabbing the foot with her right arm. She uses a steering wheel motion to lift Gadelha’s hip higher than her head and drops her down on her back. This same move was applied on Kazushi Sakuraba by Wanderlei Silva back in the day. It is a solid counter against a front headlock/guillotine grip but requires physical strength in order to make it work.

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Technique #5

It is Claudia Gadelha’s turn to get the takedown by ducking under as Jessica Andrade attacks with a lead left hook. Notice in photo 4 how Claudia keeps pulling Andrade’s right leg up as she keeps driving forward to get the takedown.

Rolling under punches is the best way to get a takedown. Boxers do it all the time to get the clinch. Sometimes fighters do it instinctively as ducking under punches and grabbing an attacker is a natural human reaction against aggression.

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Fight: Gregor Gillespie vs. Jason Gonzalez

Technique #6

Gregor Gillespie is mounted on Jason Gonzalez. Notice in photo 1 how Gregor is not going for the standard BJJ high mount but instead controls his opponent with a Grapevine Mount.

The grapevine control is a good way to neutralize your opponent’s bridging attempts. The interesting part of this technique is how he gets the arm triangle by using a head and arm wrap while his opponent is defending by pushing his elbow against Gillespie’s throat. In photo 4 Gregor pushes his bicep in Jason’s triceps, thus tightening the wrap. Then he slides his chin towards the triceps and gets a palm to palm grip to secure the arm triangle. Excellent control and impressive choke as it is difficult to finish an arm triangle from the mount. Usually fighters will move to side control for the finish. Watch this clip/gif for the full sequence and tap.

Also, here is an interesting way to remove grapevines from bottom mount:

Fight: Ovince Saint Preux vs. Yushin Okami

Technique #7

The fact that MMA fighters in 2017 do not know about the Von Flue choke is incomprehensible to me.

Ovince Saint Preux has won three fights with this choke and his two last fights in a row.

In the photos above Ovince Saint Preux is on top half guard against Yushin Okami. He goes for setup that is usually used to get an arm triangle. When Okami chooses to grab the head as you can see in photo 2, Ovince connects his arms palm to palm, trapping Okami’s right arm and lifts his hips up to put pressure on the neck. He passes the guard by freeing his right foot and finishes the Von Flue choke. Keep in mind that the Von Flue choke is a triangle choke. In all triangle chokes the common denominator is that one side of the neck is pressured by the opponents own shoulder and this choke is no exception. Okami’s neck is trapped between his own shoulder and Saint Preux’s shoulder. This is an interesting setup which can be used as a top half guard attack in combination with the arm triangle.

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Fight: Daichi Abe vs. Hyun Gyu Lim

Technique #8

This is a beautifully executed throw. I call this the “Tai Chi” throw as you can find variations of this in multiple Kung Fu and Karate based styles. As a matter of fact I was teaching this two weeks ago in class and was looking for a clip of a MMA application. So here it is. Daichi Abe goes for a fake right cross which is only used to close the distance so that he can cross his feet and place his right foot right behind Lim’s left foot. Daichi’s right hand stays extended and starts pushing his opponent to the right tripping him on his foot. A nice tweak applied by Abe here is that he uses his left hand to grab and lift Lim’s left thigh (photo 3) making the throw more efficient. Watch this clip/gif to appreciate this great technique in motion.

Technique #9

Hyun Gyu Lim goes for a right cross which Daichi Abe escapes with a pull-back and counter-attacks by breaking Lim’s nose with a right cross. This is what happens when you over-commit to punches: it is very difficult to get your balance back in order to defend counterattacks. The only option is to keep moving forward for a takedown or go for a duck under. You can tell that Lim is out of balance by examining photo 3: Lim’s head is in front of his left knee. Your head should never go beyond your front knee when punching.

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Fight: Gokhan Saki vs. Henrique da Silva

Technique #10

Gokhan Saki fought on his UFC debut against Henrique da Silva and although he was able to get the knockout, this was an unimpressive performance. In the photos above, you can see the final exchange of the fight. Da Silva had Saki with his back against the cage and went for a right hook, left middle kick to right cross combo. Saki slipped the right cross and landed a right cross to left hook combo of his own which ended the fight.

Gokhan is a puncher and being too aggressive against him is not a good idea. Especially if you go for combinations without moving your head with each attack. Henrique da Silva has 11 wins by KO or TKO but he is no Gokhan Saki who is one of the best kickboxers in the world. Nevertheless Saki struggled against him as he gassed out after defending a takedown and fighting with his back against the cage. However he is one of my favorite kickboxers and I was happy to see him get the win.

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See you next week. Here is a list of my previous technique breakdowns on BloodyElbow:

#13 Canelo vs Golovkin Breakdown: Moves to remember

#12 UFC 215: Nunes vs. Shevchenko - Moves to Remember, Sep 15, 2017

#11 UFC Fight Night: Struve vs. Volkov - Moves to Remember, Sep 8, 2017

#10 Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor: Moves to Remember, Sep 2, 2017

#09 Game Changer: Conor McGregor’s Left Hand, Aug 25, 2017

#08 Floyd Mayweather: Fighting Southpaws, Part 2, Aug 22, 2017

#07 Floyd Mayweather: Fighting Southpaws, Part 1, Aug 20, 2017

#06 Moves to remember - UFC Fight Night: Pettis vs. Moreno, Aug 10, 2017

#05 UFC 214: Jones vs. Cormier - Moves to Remember, Aug 2, 2017

#04 Combat Course: Breaking down Daniel Cormier’s striking game, Jul 27, 2017

#03 Defeating the G.O.A.T: How to beat Jon Jones, Part 2, Jul 20, 2017

#02 Defeating the G.O.A.T: How to beat Jon Jones pt. 1, Jul 11, 2017

#01 Combat Course: Lessons from the Cage #1 Jun 27, 2017

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).

Follow Kostas on Twitter: and search #fantmoves for more techniques.