UFC on Fox: Poirier vs. Gaethje (also known as UFC on FOX 29) was held on April 14, 2018, at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The event was headlined by a lightweight bout between Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje who according to his Wikipedia page is “known for his crazy throw down style and ability to take damage”. Dustin Poirier def. Justin Gaethje via fourth-round TKO
Here are my notes from fight night:
- This was a pretty entertaining event that featured the return of Carlos Condit. I kinda miss the chaos that is caused in all Condit’s fights. They always feel like witnessing a streetfight.
- Justin Gaethje is not a great kickboxer in my book but he can be a great MMA fighter. He needs to take the American Kickboxing Academy’s approach to MMA fighting & use his wrestling. Justin was a NCAA Division I All-American wrestler during his time at the University of Northern Colorado but you really cannot tell by the way he fights. MMA striking is way more effective when you mix in takedowns. Is he exciting? Yes, fans think so. But once you lose two in a row by KO there goes your fan base.
- The narrative pushed by UFC is that Gaethje is the only fighter in history to land 100+ significant strikes in his first 3 UFC fights. Unfortunately, he got rocked in all three fights & was KO’d in two. He landed 341 strikes, aprox. 40% being leg kicks but was on the receiving end of 420 significant strikes, aprox. 80% on the head. These are not great stats.
- In regards to the Adesanya vs Vettori fight, the commentators, especially Dominick Cruz who is the most knowledgeable of the three, kept saying that Vettori needs to fake more. The thing is that is not his style. Feinting is not something that all fighters can do effectively.
- Adesanya is a great prospect but he is not the new Jon Jones yet. He needs to keep his chin down a bit. And he needs to work on wrestling.
- The commentary was very biased against Vettori who had a competitive fight against a more technical fighter in Adesanya. And Herb Dean breaking the clinch like that was not great refereeing. Adesanya clearly won the fight and obviously the UFC tries to push him as the next big thing but it does not hurt to give his opponent some credit!
- I did not agree with Waterson getting the win against Casey. Significant strikes is a misleading term. Casey landed bombs and Waterson was point fighting. But for some bureaucratic reason, Waterson out-struck Casey and got the win.
- As far as this fight was concerned it is unfortunate that fighting from your back and almost getting submissions, thus forcing your opponent to defend and struggle in order to escape, is not considered effective aggression in modern MMA. I strongly believe that a blue belt in BJJ should be a requirement for all judges.
Keep in mind this article is not a fight breakdown of the card, but an analysis of specific techniques. 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: Lauren Mueller vs Shana Dobson
Description: Shana Dobson throws a right roundhouse kick and Lauren Mueller steps back and makes her miss. Dobson lands the foot on the ground momentarily and launches a right sidekick pushing her opponent away. This is a great way to keep opponents away after a failed kick.
Fight: Gilbert Burns vs. Dan Moret
Description: If you are one of the select few that follow my work you know I do not recommend going for inside low kicks with the back foot against an opponent in an opposite stance. Especially without set-up punches. Fighters can see the kick coming and there are several counters (ask Anderson Silva). One of the best counters for such a kick is demonstrated above. Dan Moret goes for a left inside low kick from a southpaw stance and although the kick lands, Gilbert Burns catches him with a vicious right cross that was the beginning of the end for Moret. In relation to the famous boxing saying “make them pay for missing,” I call this “make them pay for landing a shot.”
Fight: Antônio Carlos Júnior vs. Tim Boetsch
Description: If you have read this article on BloodyElbow you also know that I love trapping techniques. Here, Antônio Carlos Júnior uses his left hand to trap Tim Boetsch’s right hand and lands a right low kick. The trapping move has many functions: it sets the distance, it is used to distract Boetsch and finally checks the whereabouts of a possible right hand counter.
Fight: John Moraga vs. Wilson Reis
Description: John Moraga caught Wilson Reis in a pretty tight guillotine and Reis had to go through several positions in order to escape. He finally escaped as you can see above with a double leg lifting takedown. In order to escape, notice in photo 3 how Wilson lifts his left elbow up while holding the leg as his right hand pushes Moraga’s left knee to the left and upwards. The best escape position against a guillotine is top side control with your legs on the near side and your trapped head on the far side. In photo 6, Reis controls the hips to avoid guard recovery.
Here are some tips on how to avoid the guillotine when going for the double leg takedown (at the 9:30 minute mark):
Description: In a classic Karate (and Bruce Lee) move, Cortney Casey attacks with a jab and Michelle Waterson pulls back and as her head is out of range, lands a left roundhouse kick. Karate fighters often combine this counter with follow-up straight right hands.
Description: Cortney Casey jabs and both fighters go for a right cross, resulting in a common arms entanglement that I call “the anchor” (photo 3). As the two fighters disengage Casey lands a left hook on Waterson.
Fight: Israel Adesanya vs. Marvin Vettori
Description: A solution to the Anderson Silva-style bobbing and weaving stance is to avoid focusing on catching the head but instead to look for compromised underhook openings and go for a takedown. Here, Israel Adesanya is able to slip a couple of Marvin Vettori’s left and right punches and extends his left arm. Vettori ducks under the arm and gets the takedown.
Description: This is a typical Taekwondo move, rarely seen in MMA. Marvin Vettori feints a jab and goes for a right low kick as Israel Adesanya spins backwards and attacks with a back kick. Although the move failed to do damage it was still beautiful to watch.
Fight: Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje
Description: This is a nice right low kick counter against an incoming lead right cross to the body by Justin Gaethje. Dustin Poirier in as southpaw stance cannot block the kick because his weight is on his right foot. Here are the results of Gaethje’s kicks:
Description: Dustin Poirier is in a southpaw stance and Justin Gaethje attacks with a right low kick. This time Poirier makes him pay with a series of punches starting with a left cross. Punches can be used to counter low kicks but you need to possess KO power and be the longer fighter or at least have the same reach for them to work effectively.
Description: Punches in bunches coming from all directions was the key strategy that Poirier employed in order to defeat Gaethje. Unfortunately for Justin the high guard (where both fists are placed on the forehead) works in K-1/Glory style kickboxing due to the padding of the gloves, but MMA gloves do not offer the same protection. Here, Poirier in a southpaw stance attacks with a left cross, a right hook,a left uppercut, a right cross, and moves a bit to the side to land a left uppercut under Gaethje’s guard.
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).