UFC 220 is finally in the books and Stipe Miocic became the most decorated heavyweight in UFC history, taking Francis Ngannou to class in a five-round contest to successfully defend his heavyweight championship for a record breaking third time.
I picked Miocic to win but was nervous in the first round as Ngannou is a dangerous, explosive fighter. I was going back and forth on who would win, but then I noticed that Ngannou has never fought past the second-round and Stipe is a wrestler. Wrestle-boxing makes a difference in MMA striking.
After the loss, everybody seems to be dismissing Ngannou’s talent, but in my opinion he still beats 90% of the current heavyweight roster. Learning to pace yourself is important in fighting and it takes experience to do that. Ngannou will be back. In his losing effort he was still able to connect on Miocic several times.
Before the fight, Dana White kept noting that Ngannou hits as hard as a car and tests at the UFC’s Performance Institute indicated that he can generate punching power just over 129,000 units. Personally I was never fond of punching power tests, fighting is not about punching stationary targets, and to modify a famous Bruce Lee quote, “Testing Equipment does not strike back and does not wrestle.”
In the co-main event, Daniel Cormier retained the 205lbs belt against Switzerland’s Volkan Oezdemir. I was especially nervous about this fight as I noticed in the second Jon Jones fight that Cormier has lost a step in his striking. He has embraced his toughness and his ability to absorb a punch and that is never a good thing. Volkan connected several times but his inexperience and his inability to fight at range was obvious. Unlike Jon Jones, he could not keep DC at the end of his punches and did not have the wrestling acumen to stop DC from taking him down.
That being said it is time to analyze some interesting techniques that took place this past weekend. Keep in mind this is not a fight breakdown of the card but an analysis of specific techniques. These techniques were successful because they rely on solid concepts of the MMA game and as such can be trained and incorporated in a fighter’s arsenal. Such moves can also help MMA fans appreciate the science behind our exciting sport.
So, let’s go to class with 11 techniques from UFC 220
Description: From a southpaw stance, Francimar Barroso attacks with a right inside low kick to the thigh. Gian Villante tries to catch it with his hand (never a good idea as the opponent can feint and go high) and attacks Barroso’s leg with a leg kick of his own before Francimar is able to retract it.
Tip: If you follow my work you know that I do not recommend inside low kicks against an opponent in an opposite stance as it is easy to see them coming and use the knee to block them (ask Anderson Silva). That being said, these are powerful low kicks due to the generated momentum.
Fight: Rob Font vs. Thomas Almeida
Description: Rob Font goes headhunting as Thomas Almeida tries to use his head movement to stay safe. The best option to counter head movement is to use the Vasyl Lomachenko “search and destroy” jab. This is an busy, extended jab moving in a piston-like motion combined with an occasional left hook. This jab can help a fighter “feel” the distance and set the opponent up for a right hand. Here, Font uses this jab and is finally able to connect with a right cross of his own.
Description: Rob Font pushes Thomas Almeida with his back against the cage. Font extends his left hand in a trapping motion (photo 3) in order to touch Almeida’s right hand and rolls under an incoming left hook. Rob attacks with a beautiful right hook to the body from a crouching stance and goes upstairs for a left hook and a right hand. The reason I analyze this technique is due to the fact that trapping, although common in traditional martial arts is underutilized in MMA.
Fight: Julio Arce vs. Dan Ige
Description: This is a simple but underutilized move. Julio Arce, from a southpaw stance, attacks with a right jab and as Dan Ige crouches under follows up with a left elbow. Spear and upwards elbows are a great alternative to uppercuts unless you are fighting a wrestler. Uppercuts work better against wrestlers as they can help you go for underhooks. Although illegal in boxing, boxers often use “disguised” elbows and headbutts to avoid or force clinches.
Fight: Calvin Kattar vs. Shane Burgos
Description: Speaking of uppercut,s here is a great example of proper footwork to land the uppercut from a distance and how to use the jab/cross combo effectively. Due to Calvin Kattar’s stance, his weight is not entirely on his front foot. When the weight is distributed 60-40 on the back foot, fighters can jab while stepping in covering a lot of distance and can just follow-up turning their hips to land a right cross without wasted movement and telegraphing. In the photos above Calvin launches a jab and misses but connects with a right cross. As Shane Burgos gets rocked and is on rubber legs trying to clinch, Kattar moves backwards keeping proper distance and lands a devastating right uppercut followed by a right hook, left hook and an excellent second right uppercut. Fighters are often lazy with their footwork and miss with uppercuts as these punches are precision punches. This is not the case with Calvin Kattar who delivered a great performance.
Description: Shane Burgos attacks with a jab and Calvin Kattar pulls back and comes back landing a right cross which is a classic ”pull counter.” This is an effective move and an essential part of my mittwork sessions. However if the opponent moves his head out of distance after the jab, a right cross is not advisable as it will leave you open for a left hook counter. In that case one should preemptively duck under and pivot or counter with a jab instead.
Here is Floyd Mayweather:
Description: Calvin Kattar attacks with a jab, right cross, while Shane Burgos parries the jab and attacks with a right cross of his own. Their hands get tangled (photo 3) in a manner that I call the “anchor.” This x-like tangle is common in boxing. As their hands disengage, Calvin lands a left hook to the body. One of my coaches used to say that body shots are the salt of the earth. I could not agree more.
Description: Daniel Cormier goes for a single leg against Volkan Oezdemir and transitions to an inside leg trip. Here is a great video of Cormier’s common finishes from a single leg:
This is another option to finish the takedown and also a common way wrestlers use to escape the single leg:
Description: This is the technique Daniel used to finish the fight, a mounted crucifix. It is essential for fighters to both practice and learn how to escape this move (which is easier said than done against a game opponent).
Here is Big Country with an instructional:
And a common triangle choke finish:
Fight: Stipe Miocic vs.Francis Ngannou
Description: Stipe is a fast boxer with knockout power, but his head movement skills are lacking. That being said he landed on Ngannou with some solid shots. Here Francis attacks with a jab, Stipe parries and goes for a jab from a sideways crouching stance in order to close the distance and land a right hand over the top.
Description: In the photos above, Francis goes for a left slap-like punch and a right cross. Stipe pulls back and starts attacking with a number of punches. For this sequence it is essential to watch the gif above. When you are rushing forward, following an opponent for the finish NEVER go in a straight line. A rule in boxing is that the head moves with ALL punches. As you can see in the clip although Stipe’s punches find their target, Ngannou starts connecting in the end, landing a couple of right crosses and Miocic is forced to back down.
Description: This is a great punch and proof that Ngannou has a great chin. Francis goes for a jab and Stipe slips right and lands a solid right hand. Great counter. Stipe is unexpectedly fast for a heavyweight. Watch the gif as the punch is not visible in the photos.
Miocic’s boxing may not be perfect, but he often displays remarkable outbursts of greatness and that is why he should not be underestimated. He is a great champion, and to all those critics complaining that he is not marketable, I have to note that before promoters start complaining about a fighter’s popularity they should do their job and start promoting for a change. The UFC is owned by a powerful media company, they have significant leverage. When was the last time you watched Stipe as a guest in a mainstream show? He stole the show in the Embedded series, he is a prankster, overall funny guy and an American hero who has a day job as a firefighter. On top of that he is a great fighter. I believe that the McGregor phenomenon made the UFC lazy in their promoting efforts and this shows in their PPV performances. They seem to expect the fighters to promote themselves. Hopefully they will learn from their mistakes, stop picking sides and putting all their eggs in the same basket.
That will be all for now. 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).