UFC 219 was an average event, lacking star power for the what was to be the last card of the year. However the event delivered in terms of brutal violence by Khabib Nurmagomedov and the Holm-Cyborg fight was a display of technical striking and an exhibition of heart and determination.
As you probably know by now, the focus of this series is to discover combat-tested examples of technical display in MMA fights, even in losing efforts so please do not expect spectacular highlights or knockouts. We will examine some interesting moves from the event, in order to expand our understanding of the art as we try to determine a blueprint for success in the most complicated combat sport in the world.
That being said here is a breakdown of memorable techniques from UFC pros in action:
Fight: Matheus Nicolau vs. Louis Smolka
Description: This is an impressive move by Matheus Nicolau. Notice how initially the move looks like he is attacking with a left hook that Louis Smolka actually tries to block. Instead Nicolau pushes his left leg behind Smolka’s front leg and trips him for the takedown.
Description: A classic Muay Thai leg sweep. Louis Smolka attacks with a left kick, Matheus Nicolau catches the leg under his armpit and uses his right foot to sweep Smolka’s supporting leg. As this is MMA and not Muay Thai, the fighter has to secure a superior position so Nicolau keeps control of the leg and lands in Smolka’s open guard.
Description: This is a rarely seen application of boxing in MMA. Louis Smolka attacks with a left hook, Matheus Nicolau rolls under and attacks with a left hook to the body to a left hook. A classic boxing combo by Nicolau, who was able to catch Smolka with combos several times.
Fight: Myles Jury vs. Rick Glenn
Description: Myles Jury attacks with a right kick to the body, Rick Glenn catches the leg and goes for a takedown. Jury grabs a front headlock. Taking advantage of both the takedown momentum and the fact that Glenn does not land to the side as he should, Myles uses his right leg hook to reverse the position and come on top. Jury secures the position with an open cradle hold.
Fight: Neil Magny vs. Carlos Condit
Description:“Master of chaos” Carlos Condit extends his jab and southpaw Neil Magny pushes the hand to his left as is common when fighting opponents in an opposite stance. The arm extension was just a distance controlling move and Condit delivers a spinning back kick that could do damage if it had landed a bit higher to the liver. The problem with spinning moves is that your back gets exposed and you get out of position. Condit corrects this by attacking with a backfist and comes back with a right cross.
Description: Condit pressures Neil Magny against the cage and mixes things up with a beautiful combination: left hook, liver punch, right head grab to left upwards elbow, right elbow. This is why Condit is so unpredictable.
Description: This is a classic outside trip takedown performed by Neil Magny. Notice how Magny moves his head and weight to his right while blocking Condit’s right hand to prevent him from posting it on the way down.
Here is one version of this technique:
And here is a nice counter by using an inside trip:
Fight: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Edson Barboza
Description: Khabib Nurmagomedov is beatable, in my humble opinion. A good wrestler-boxer can catch him in standing exchanges. However if the fight goes to the ground, Khabib can generate unbelievable striking power from wrestling control positions and that makes him a tough match-up for anyone in the division. I believe he beats both McGregor and Ferguson. Maybe a fighter like Kevin Lee or Justin Gaethje can give him problems if they ever get to fight. That being said, fighting from their back is not the way for fighters to beat him.
In both instances above you can see how Khabib uses a leg triangle to wrap both Edson Barboza’s legs making it very difficult for him to use the cage in order to stand up. This is a move often used by Japanese MMA fighters and is very effective. You can also notice how Nurmagomedov pushes his head on his opponents chin making it impossible for him to defend strikes and push back. This is leverage-based control, letting gravity and frames do all the heavy work. Here is an excelent breakdown of Khabib’s tactics by BJJ Scout:
Fight: Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm
Description: Let’s face it. If Holly Holm is a good MMA boxer it does not show in her UFC performances. Her Jackson-Wink style of striking is unorthodox and only works for taller fighters like Condit or Jon Jones. Although she showed great heart, fighting spirit and a solid chin, she does not have the tools to beat Cyborg. Cris may not be a boxer herself but has a better jab than her opponent. In the photos above you can see how she properly uses her reach to connect with a jab and avoid a counter jab/hook by Holm.
Description: During the fight Holm tried to apply the technique shown above. That is, from her southpaw stance, to slip an incoming jab, pivot right and catch Cyborg with a right hook over the top. See was successful a couple of time but she did not follow up with other punches. I would recommend a left uppercut and a left high kick.
Description: A common Jackson-Wink combo is a lead back hand to a front uppercut to a straight back hand followed by a kick. In Holly’s southpaw stance that translates to a lead left, right uppercut, left cross and a left high kick. Although she semi-connected several times with Cyborg’s nose and making her bleed, the combination left her exposed to vicious counters as there was no exit strategy like rolling under or cliching to avoid counters. This combination works only if your opponent retreats. Cyborg does not do that. In the photos above, as Holly goes for the lead left cross, Cyborg pushes her head away with her left palm and attacks with a right cross and a left hook.
Description: Here is another attempt by Holly to attack with this combination that results in her getting hit by Cyborg’s vicious right hand.
Description: I really liked Cyborg’s superman punches. Here she lands one and follows up with a series of left hooks and right hands. Unlike Holm, Cyborg manages to keep her composure when she gets hit.
Description: Cyborg uses her Muay Thai very effectively. Here is one of the best ways to get the Thai plum clinch. Cris lands a right hand and her left hand moves in a slap-like fashion and ties the neck. Once she establishes the double neck tie control she delivers a hard right knee to the body.
Description: This is a technique I have shared in the past. Although this kick counter usually happens by chance there is a way to time and land it on purpose. As Holm goes for a left kick from her southpaw stance, Cyborg initiates a right kick of her own landing on Holly’s supporting leg.
Tip: I really do not like roundhouse kicks with the back leg against fighters in an opposite stance being launched without set-up strikes. Opponents can see the kick coming and it is very easy for them to counter. Hide your kicks behind feints or punches.
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).