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UFC 221: Romero vs. Rockhold technique breakdown: Moves to Remember

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For those training in the sport of MMA here are ten technical moves from UFC 221. Learn from the pros in action.

UFC 221 is in the books and the main event showcased the defensive deficiencies of a talented fighter in Luke Rockhold, and Yoel Romero’s ability to combine his athleticism with solid technique. Rockhold had a significant height advantage and although he was very dominant when he was using his jab, he stopped using it for some reason and seemed hesitant. Luke comes from the American Kickboxing Academy and is a great fighter when he is the hammer, but he is not as efficient in surviving when it is his time to be the nail.

Everybody on Twitter was insisting that Luke has no chin and that may be the case. However, it is more than obvious that Romero hits hard and as you will see below ,his fight-finishing move was flawless in execution. Yoel is fast, powerful and unpredictable.

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. All these techniques can be trained in an MMA gym in the same manner as they were applied in action.

Technique #1

Fight: José Alberto Quiñónez vs. Teruto Ishihara

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Description: Teruto Ishihara goes for a left kick to the body as José Alberto Quiñónez attacks with a right low kick. As their feet get entangled, Quiñónez is able to grab his opponents foot with his right hand and hand it over to his left (photo 3). This enables him to shoot forward for a takedown. Notice in photos 3 and 4 how his right arm grabs a hold of Ishihara’s waist. All that is left is for José is to lift Teruto’s right foot up and go for an outside trip with his own right foot to finish the takedown.

Technique #2

Fight: Israel Adesanya vs. Rob Wilkinson

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Description: Extremely talented prospect Israel Adesanya attacks with a left teep to the body and Rob Wilkinson is able to grab the foot and go for a takedown, attempting to control Israel’s waist with his left hand. In photo 2 you can see Adesanya preventing him from doing so by pushing Rob’s head away. Wilkinson keeps pushing forward and is able to get hip control with his right hand. In order to escape from the takedown attempt, Israel turns his back and dives in for for a somersault which enables him to reverse the position and come on top. This is an impressive move by Adesanya, but keep in mind this is a very risky technique to train in the gym so please be extremely cautious.

Technique #3

Fight: Jussier Formiga vs. Ben Nguyen

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Description: Ben Nguyen attacks with a beautiful high kick to the head and Jussier Formiga blocks with his left hand, twists his hips and catches Nguyen with a spinning backfist/forehand to the head. This is a great counter and depending on the distance, you can alternatively use an elbow or a back kick.

Technique #4

Fight: Jake Matthews vs. Li Jingliang

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Description: Jake Matthews successfully used this counter on Li Jingliang several times throughout their fight. The set-up for this combo is a shooting-style right hand as if Jake is going for a takedown. Li tries to attack with a left hook that misses as Matthews’ head is already down. Jingliang goes for a right uppercut but he uses the punch in a way that leaves him open for several counters. Let’s examine photo 4. Li’s left hand is down, so he is open for an overhand right. He goes for an uppercut without pivoting to his left and this leaves himself open for a left hook. Matthews is able to capitalize on this and catches him with one (photo 5).

Tip: The proper counter to a shooting right punch where the opponent’s head is moving to our right is to keep our left hand up, chin down, pivot left (and slightly backwards) and attack with a right uppercut. We can also preemptively pull back and jab-out in order to prevent counters.

Technique #5

Fight: Tyson Pedro vs. Saparbek Safarov

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Description: Tyson Pedro attacks with right low kick and Saparbek Safarov is able to grab the foot, change levels and attack with a double leg takedown. Notice how Safarov cuts the corner and lifts Pedro’s right foot up to in order to finish the takedown.

Technique #6

Fight: Tyson Pedro vs. Saparbek Safarov

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Description: Saparbek Safarov goes for a takedown and Pedro, with his back against the fence, is able to secure a double wrist-lock (kimura) grip on Safarov’s left hand. Tyson drops down using the momentum to reverse his opponent, but the cage prevents him from doing so. Although Safarov lands on top (photo 5), Pedro keeps the kimura control and is able to reverse him again. He lands on top and moves his right thigh (ph. 8) close to Saparbek’s head. This enables Tyson to lift his left foot and place it on top of his opponent’s head securing the position.

Technique #7

Fight: Curtis Blaydes vs. Mark Hunt

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Curtis Blaydes attacks with a jab-right cross combo and Mark Hunt ducks under, landing a beautiful overhand right that stuns Blaydes. Hunt tries to attack with a left hook and misses. A wrestler would be able to finish the move with a takedown, as shoot-under punches like these are a great way to close the distance and shoot for the hip or legs.


Technique #8

Fight: Israel Adesanya vs. Rob Wilkinson

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Description: I had to place this move here as it is similar to the one used by Luke Rockhold below. Israel Adesanya fakes a right hand or a right kick (photo 1) with his hip and attacks with a jab that blocks his opponent’s vision, and a right cross to the solar plexus. If you use this combo, in order to finish it correctly either clinch or pull back as a left hook is probably coming your way.

Technique #9

Fight: Yoel Romero vs. Luke Rockhold

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Description: Yoel Romero in a southpaw stance uses his left hand to grab the right hand of Luke Rockhold, who is also in a southpaw stance. Luke pulls his hand back to disengage and feints with a right jab only to change levels and attack with a left straight to the body.

Technique #10

Fight: Yoel Romero vs. Luke Rockhold

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Description: In the finishing move of the fight, Romero attacks with a right jab and uses his footwork to close the distance (photos 2-3) in order to feint with a second right jab. Luke tries to block with his left and attack with a right hook, but Yoel’s head is already moving to the right and is able to duck under the incoming punch as his left hand connects and drops Rockhold. A great move by Romero, who is pretty savvy when it comes to striking for a fighter that comes from a wrestling background.

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).

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