An aging and slow Fabricio Werdum lost to Russian heavyweight Alexander ‘Drago’ Volkov on Saturday night. Volkov is not a very technical fighter. He cannot properly use his jab despite his 81 inch reach but he is nevertheless a big, tough fighter and can attack using combinations. Werdum on the other hand has been in many wars during his career and although he had his moments in the grappling department, ended up on the receiving end of a brutal punching combo that sealed the deal in favor of the Russian.
There were several interesting grappling techniques on display by Werdum and we will get to analyze two of them in this post.
Most modern coaches study tape in order to keep up with the technical development of MMA. Our great sport is a diverse melting pot where different disciplines engage in fierce competition, thus constantly redefining what works and what doesn’t. That being said, there is no need to study tape yourself, as we do it for you in this series. Here is a breakdown of interesting moves from UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs. Volkov (also known as UFC Fight Night 127)
Fight: Kajan Johnson vs. Stevie Ray
Description: Kajan Johnson is with his back against the cage and Stevie Ray, in a southpaw stance, launches a left spinning back kick at the same time as his opponent attacks with a right roundhouse kick to the midsection. Ray is able to catch his opponent midair and although he is not able to inflict significant damage with the kick, which is a common counter in Taekwondo competition, the move can be effective if a fighter manages to connect on the right spot (liver, solar plexus).
Description: It is Kajan Johnson’s turn to deliver and he is able to connect with a right high kick and follow up with a right cross. Stevie Ray reacts and tries to connect with punches but Johnson just shoots under and goes for a takedown.
Generally, when you attack with a kick, it is a good tactic to follow up with a punch from the same side. You need to be able to land your foot correctly after the kick, in order to get the proper leverage to punch. This is done in a manner similar to that of a superman punch.
Description: This is a good way to control opponents against the cage in order to deliver ground n’ pound strikes. Stevie Ray controls Kajan Johnson’s wrist from the top butterfly guard position, under his opponent’s body, and traps it in a hammerlock grip. Johnson attempts to go to the turtle and gets punched in the face. This control makes it difficult for the fighter on the bottom to defend strikes with one free hand as his other hand is trapped. Also punches delivered from a trajectory that goes under the armpit, often do a lot of damage as fighters cannot see them coming. Khabib Nurmagomedov is an expert in using similar control tactics.
Description: This is the best way to deal with a Jon Jones-style low sidekick to the knee or the thigh. Danny Roberts is in a southpaw stance and Oliver Enkamp tries to attack with a sidekick and follow up with a left hook. Roberts just moves forward, changes levels, and connects with a right cross as Enkamp’s sidekick slips on his thigh and the left hook misses its target.
Description: Leon Edwards and Peter Sobotta are in a southpaw stance and Leon has his back against the cage. Sobotta tries to land a right jab/hook hybrid while crouching towards his left. Edwards slips the punch and attacks with a right jab, left cross and seals the deal with a right hook that drops his opponent. Fighters should avoid throwing jabs (or hooks) with the head positioned to the side like Sobotta. It is preferable to keep the chin down and use your forehead as the first point of contact if the opponent connects.
Description: This is a great triangle from the bottom by Paul Craig. As you can see in photo two above, Magomed Ankalaev tries to land a right punch from within Graig’s open guard. In order to gain momentum, Ankalaev pulls his arm way back and this enables Graig to pass his left foot on top of his opponent’s hand and land it on his back. In order to cut the angle needed, (photo 4) Paul uses his right knee to connect with Magomed’s left trapezius muscle. This helps him keep the proper angle. Craig follows up by scissoring his legs in order to compromise his opponent’s posture and is finally able to lock the triangle as you can see in photo six and get the tap.
Description: The best way to land low kicks is to set them up with punches. Tom Duquesnoy utilized a relentless mix of punches combined with low kicks on his way to win a decision against Terrion Ware. In the photos above he closes the distance with a double jab, an overhand right, a left hook and finally lands a right low kick on the retreating Ware. The left jab is the best punch to throw before launching a right low kick.
Description: Here is another example of how punches can be used to set-up kicks. Tom Duquesnoy feints a jab, throws a right cross and connects with a left inside low kick. Generally, a right cross is used before attacking with a left low kick to the back leg while moving to the right in order to avoid incoming punches. in regards to inside low kicks, It is better for fighters to jab, then attack with a left inside low kick from a distance and finally get out of the way.
Description: As Terrion Ware goes for a single leg takedown, Duquesnoy pushes him away and counters with a nice rolling, somersault/like escape. Notice, in photo three, how he pushes himself to the side by pushing his left hand on Ware’s shoulder and touches the ground with his right palm before completing the roll. To his credit, Ware is able to follow him to the ground and get top turtle position. Here is another famous rolling escape by “El Cucuy” Tony Ferguson.
Fight: Alexander Volkov vs. Fabrício Werdum
Description: In recent years there has been considerable debate over the effectiveness of deep half guard in MMA. Indeed, there is the risk of getting punched in the face from this bottom position, but as you can see, a great grappler like Werdum is still able to use it effectively.
Volkov attacks with punches and Fabricio ducks under for a single leg takedown. As Volkov sprawls, Werdum sits on the ground under his leg and goes for deep half guard control, sweeps his opponent and lands on top open guard. Notice in photo four how Werdum pushes his opponent’s chin up to keep his posture high. In order to avoid a lengthy description here is a detailed variation of this sweep from Jeff Glover:
Description: Here is another deep half guard sweep, this time used to get an opponent’s back. Werdum goes again for a single leg and sits down. He underhooks a leg and gets under his opponent to secure the deep half guard. In photo 4 above, he uses his left hook (instep) under his opponent’s calf to elevate and push the foot over in order to go under his hip and get the back. Here is a detailed instructional of a similar sweep:
It is important to study how Fabricio is able to get the deep half guard from a failed single leg takedown. This is a unique way to establish this position in an MMA fight.
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).