Combat Course: Lessons from the Cage presents a technical analysis of memorable moves from UFC Fight Night 114: Pettis vs. Moreno.
UFC Fight Night 114 was a surprisingly fun card. Although the Pettis-Moreno fight was the most entertaining one there were some great applications of technique in some of the other fights. The focus of this post is to educate rather than entertain as the target audience of this series are mostly coaches, fighters, and educated fans who train in MMA or in the individual sports/martial arts which comprise Mixed Martial Arts. Listed here are some great techniques which can be added to a fighter’s arsenal and a great opportunity for students of the game to appreciate different approaches to MMA fighting.
Jordan Rinaldi vs Alvaro Herrera
In the sequence above, Herrera was able to lock his hands for an anaconda choke. Rinaldi countered by standing up, thus making it difficult for Herrera to spin under and put him with his side on the ground. As you can notice in photos 1-2, Rinaldi was also controlling the legs, pulling them towards his right side. This allowed his head to pop out and rest on Herrera’s ribs. In photo 2 you can see that Rinaldi was still holding his opponent’s foot as an anchor. If he had not done so, Herrera would be able to reverse him and probably finish the choke. In photo 3, Rinaldi was able to put both knees on the ground while still controlling the foot to avoid the half guard. Alvaro kept holding on onto the headlock, giving his opponent the opportunity to go for a Von Flue choke. To apply the choke Rinaldi was able to free his left hand and hug the side of the neck all the way to Herrera’s back (photo 4). To finish the choke all he needed to do was to put his hip high standing on his toes, twist his hips, and clasp his hands together with a Gable grip or an S-grip. This helped him apply pressure with his shoulder on his opponent’s neck and get the tap. The Von Flue choke is essentially a triangle choke. In all triangle chokes your opponent’s shoulder presses the side of his/her neck. In this case, by not letting the head go Herrera was trapping his own neck between his shoulder and Rinaldi’s shoulder.
What is amazing is that in modern MMA, grapplers still do not know about the Von Flue choke and keep holding the head. This is an essential move in modern MMA. Here is a quick tutorial:
Joseph Morales vs. Roberto Sanchez
I am a big fan of fighters combining top control wrestling techniques with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In the sequence above we can examine such a case. Sanchez was grabbing both legs in an effort to pass the guard and Morales was grabbing his head in a headlock trying to post his left arm and free his own hips to stand up. To counter this, Sanchez kept controlling Morales’ feet with his left arm while his right hand reached to grab his opponent’s head in a headlock as if he was going for a cradle (photo 3). To finish on top he jumped over, landing on top half guard (photo 4). This was a beautiful scramble and a technique worth trying to apply during grappling sessions.
Jose Quinonez vs Diego Rivas
No-gi Uchi Mata takedowns from a whizzer (overhook) control position are common in modern MMA as it is a great way to counter the underhook. As you can see in photo 1, both opponents were in the clinch and Rivas was countering his opponent’s right underhook with a left overhook. Rivas’ left arm was pushing Quinonez’s head to maintain distance (photo 1). He then twisted his hip to the right which allowed him to hook Jose’s right foot with his left foot. Notice in photo 2 both opponents posted their arms on the floor. Uchi Mata takedowns are hard to finish in a single try and that is why my coach taught me to finish with the second attempt from the knees. As you can see in photo 4 Rivas kept pushing his hips up with his right foot to maintain height while constantly pushing to his left. In photo 5 he used his hook again to push up, finish the takedown and come on top.
When applying a whizzer Uchi Mata, fighters need to put tight pressure on the overhook as opponents can use the ‘limp arm” escape and get the back.
Here is a great instructional video with three great options from whizzer control. No-gi Uchi Mata starts at the 2:20 minute mark:
Alejandro Perez vs Andre Soukhamthath
As a coach, the technique in the sequence above is the main counter attack I teach against an inside low kick. If your opponent does not set-up the kick with a punch or a kick and does not make sure his/her upper body is far enough, an inside low kick can be countered with a jab or a jab/left hook hybrid attack. It is also a good idea to twist your left foot inwards to make sure the kick connects with your knee and not with the inside of your thigh. This is a “stop hit” technique using the concept of attacking at the same time with your opponent as they often do in fencing.
In the sequence above, Soukhamthath was trying to get control from the back by clasping his hands together. Perez was able to disengage his hips and use his hands to control his opponent’s left hand pushing it towards the bone of his pelvis. The hard bone surface makes it easier to break the grip. Notice that in photo 3 Perez is making Soukhamthath carry his weight while pushing the wrist down breaking the grip. He was able to use the momentum and go for a spinning back elbow. The problem with spinning back elbows is that if they do not land they leave you open for counterattacks so you need to keep your hands up, chin down and keep your distance or go for the clinch to avoid getting hit.
This is a classic pull-to-right-cross counter against a left jab. Notice in photo 2 how wide Soukhamthath’s stance is and that he is leaning too much towards his left knee. To counter the jab, Perez just pulled back and was able to catch Andre with a right cross. It is preferable to twist your hips when pulling back against a jab to make sure your shoulder catches the jab and protects your chin. To land on your opponent you need to pull back, load your hips with power like a spring and explode with a right cross without wasted movement.
Perez went for a low kick to the calf/sweep against Soukhamthath. He first closed the distance with a fake jab(photo 2) and then extended his right hand as if he was going for a right cross trapping his opponent’s hands (photo 3) while keeping control of the distance. Notice in the same photo how Perez aggressively landed his supporting leg on the side of Soukhamthath’s front foot in order to gain momentum. This works better for a low kick and not so much for a sweep. In order to take your opponent down it is generally better to move towards his left side while pushing with your right arm. However low kicks to the calf of the leg are very effective and cannot be blocked like low kicks to the thighs. Sometimes your opponent can also lift his left foot to block allowing you to sweep both legs.
Humberto Bandenay vs Martin Bravo
Beautiful left kick to the body to left knee combo by Humberto Bandenay. He landed the first kick and his opponent probably went for a takedown or tried to grab the leg expecting a second roundhouse kick. This time though, it was a well-timed left knee which was able to land. You can see it in different angles in photos 3-6. As a general rule you should never go for the same attack twice but you can take advantage of your opponents’ expectations by going for a second attack which uses a similar set-up to the first one. This way you can mix things up catching your opponents off guard as in the example above.
Niko Price vs Alan Jouban
Alan Jouban went for an outside right kick to the thigh from a southpaw stance. This is generally a good attack if you can make sure your head is far away from your opponent’s hands. In photo 4 you can clearly see this was not the case as Niko Price was able to reach him and land a solid right cross to the face. When practicing low kicks, have your training partners hold a low kick shield on the side of their thigh. As you low kick the shield have them extend their right hand as far away as possible to keep you honest and force you to always kick at a safe angle.
Sergio Pettis vs. Brandon Moreno
In this sequence Pettis landed a left high kick. As it is common with high kicks, if the kick drops on a hand on the way down, opponents can grab it. Moreno grabbed the foot and started pushing to get the takedown. Sergio, following the Pettis family tradition of dazzling fans with moves resembling those seen in a Yuen Woo-ping movie, went for a spinning back kick while his foot was still trapped. Unfortunately the kick landed on the shoulder. It was, however, an amazing move and that is why I had to include it in this post.
Here is another angle:
In order to appreciate the move you need to watch this gif.
Moreno went for a series of punches while pushing forward. In another Matrix-like move, Sergio went for a right jab from a southpaw stance then pulled his hand in as if he was turning his back to Brandon and landed a short elbow knocking him down. This move was so technical and subtle I had to watch in slow motion to notice. This is also a very impressive move.
This is another “stop hit” attacking the opponent at the same time he is launching his own attack. Moreno went for a right roundhouse kick. Pettis, in a southpaw stance, hit him with a right sidekick knocking him down. Having been a long time Bruce Lee fan it was great to watch this technique applied in modern MMA.
Here is Bruce Lee applying this technique in the movie “The Way of the Dragon” (1972) against Bob Wall:
© 1993 Star TV Filmed Entertainment Limited Miramax Films [U.S.]
This is a great way for long and flexible fighters to get the triangle from the guard. From head and shin on bicep control, Pettis pushed Moreno’s left wrist away to get the space needed to trap the arm with his left foot under the bicep (photo 3). This enabled him to isolate Moreno’s right arm and swing his right foot up (p 4-5) to go for a triangle attempt. Moreno was able to posture up and escape but this was a great set-up and certainly worth training in the gym. Here is a more detailed tutorial:
Pettis was with his back against the cage and Moreno attacked with a left roundhouse kick which Sergio was able to grab. In photo 4 you can see Pettis moving away from the cage and pushing his palm on his opponent’s left shoulder to measure distance and protect himself from counterattacks. The arm also blocked Moreno’s vision momentarily. Brandon went for a left hook but Sergio landed on top with a right cross to finish the sequence.
This is a simple combo but a very effective one: jab to left high kick to right cross. To catch opponents off-guard, the left kick should not be a switch kick. As you pull back from the jab just lift your foot up and go for the kick. After two attacks on your opponent’s right side, an attack on the left side is more likely to find its target.
Pettis landed with a left jab. He followed with a second attack but this time he lifted his left hand up, making Moreno believe a second left jab was coming forcing him to duck under. Then Sergio landed a left knee. The best way to land strikes is to set them up with other attacks, fake or real. Actually you should also mix fakes and real attacks to keep you opponent guessing.
Thank you for your time. Next week I will examine how Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather deal with opponents when boxing in an opposite stance.
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: https://twitter.com/kostasfant and search #fantmoves for more techniques.