Combat Course: Lessons from the Cage presents a technical analysis of memorable moves from UFC 214.
Before UFC 214 Daniel Cormier kept saying that this time around he would run through Jon Jones and noted again and again that Jon does not have knockout power. Jones on the other hand was saying that he was going to start working on DC’s body early. So much for secret gameplans, as this is what they both did.
As part of my “How to Beat Jon Jones” series I noted that DC is not the man to beat Jon Jones and that “to beat Jones, fighters need to make the center of the cage their base of operations, disengage from his clinches, land wherever they can, consistently, resetting to the center of the cage again and again and frustrate him. Make Jon pay for missing and for trying to grab them. Outwork them in points and work the body and the legs to limit Jones’ mobility. Only then the knockout may come, when they are not trying to force it. Fighters need to do their homework and beat him in all areas, and if need be, win a decision.
“If fighters are trying to counter-punch Jon Jones they are losing the fight. They should not not let him lead the pace. Make him miss, use footwork and initiate attacks. Remember, whenever his foot touches an opponent’s knee, he’s landed a strike. Start fighting for points instead of going for the knockout.”
Against Anthony Johnson, Cormier was elusive as he was aware of Johnson’s power. In his fight against Jones he wanted to prove a point that Jon has no power, letting him land body shot after body shot, walking flatfooted, in a straight line, putting himself at a positional disadvantage against a southpaw stance as I analyze below. It was obvious Cormier was on his way to losing a decision.
Although Cormier had his moments, he was mostly successful with uppercuts while his hooks and right hands barely connected as Jones was moving away from them.
As you can see in the image above courtesy of Fightmetric, Jones was landing more significant strikes. Most important, he was landing body shots and low kicks which would eventually compromise Cormier’s offense in the later rounds. Cormier never used footwork to make Jones miss, sticking to blocking and parrying shots which is never a good idea against a bigger opponent.
In conclusion, Cormier was setting himself up to lose against a cerebral, methodical opponent in Jon Jones.
As I have noted before, Jon is too tall and elusive for dirty boxing to work, and uppercuts are not effective against an opponent whose head is not at least eye-level with your own head. However, in the sequence above, Cormier was able to deflect Jon’s left hand (photo 2) and go for the neck tie. He was able to land solid uppercuts on Jones as Jon was out of balance and was unable to posture up or clinch. This was the most significant punch on DC’s behalf.
As I suggested in “How to Beat Jon Jones pt. 1” one way to deal with Jones’ low sidekicks is to low-kick Jon’s attacking leg as it lands. Landing in a side stance makes fighters unable to block low kicks to the thigh. Cormier was successful in doing this twice. This is the easiest way to land points on Jon Jones. Gif 1 , Gif 2
Cormier started using oblique kicks himself and Jones countered as I have suggested before by kicking towards the side of the kicking foot. Jones is longer than most fighters so he was able to kick higher and hit Cormier’s ribs. This is a good counter to oblique kicks especially for a southpaw against a fighter in orthodox stance. (gif)
Jones, as usual, used his extending arm to touch his opponents’ hand. This time he countered as Cormier extended his arm to meet Jon’s by switching to vicious liver shots again and again. (gif) To deal with extending arms, fighters need to parry from the outside like a jab, not attempt to arm wrestle with a longer fighter. Although this not visible in photos 4-6, Cormier tried to counter with a left hook to a right hook to the body. (see gif) Although it missed, is a pretty good counter combo to a liver punch.
As boxing coaches often say, “you invest early with body punches and cash the profits in later rounds”. Jon landed with straight kicks to the body and liver shots again and again and when this happens this forces a fighter to instinctively lower his hands to defend the body.
Rule of thumb when fighting against an opponent with an opposite stance is to keep moving your front foot to the outside of his front foot and keep parrying his jab towards your back foot. This requires constant movement. As you can see in the lines of photos 1 and 3, Jones kept using correct footwork while Cormier was centering himself towards Jon’s left hand and foot. This provided Jon with the opportunity to land left hands to the head and left hands to the body. Cormier kept dropping the hands to defend the body and Jones capitalized with a left high kick that rocked DC and that was the beginning of the end. (gif)
To be fair to DC, Jones hit him with an accidental headbutt right above Cormier’s right eye and blood was running to his eye limiting his vision. However, this was not a good gameplan against Jones to begin with. As the Diaz brothers’ fights have shown in the past, volume striking will do damage over time and fighters should not underestimate their opponent’s power.
Drew Dober vs. Josh Burkman
In his fight against Burkman, Dober was able to finish the fight with a fake jab to a jab to the body and then landing with a vicious overhand right. It is nice to see younger fighters set up strikes to the head with fakes and body punches. This is a very effective offensive tactic especially against counter strikers trapped with their backs against the cage.
Techniques 2 and 3
The two sequences above are examples of blocking and counterattacking kicks with low kicks.
In photos 1-3 Dober blocked a right teep from Burkman by deflecting it to the side with his right arm. This put Josh’s foot in a position for Drew to land a left low kick. gif
In photos 4-6 Drew blocked a right roundhouse kick and landed again with a low kick. gif
Notice in both sequences Dober’s stance was ready to counterattack with the low kick without telegraphing and wasted movement as speed is essential for counterattacks.
Ricardo Lamas vs. Jason Knight
Ricardo Lamas landed a vicious low kick to the calf of Jason Knight putting him off balance. This low kick is underutilized in and is impossible to block. To use it correctly though, fighters need to move with penetrating force like a soccer kick while moving to the outside of their opponent’s front foot.
Aljamain Sterling vs Renan Barao
Aljamain Sterling made a mistake in the sequence above by going for the same move twice without setups. Sterling attacked with a left roundhouse kick to the body twice giving Barao the opportunity to counter with a right low kick to Aljamain’s supporting foot, sweeping him down. This is a beautiful Muay Thai counter attack.
Generally it is not a good idea to use the same attack twice.
Sterling, who is a talented fighter, took Barao’s back and went for a ‘Suloev Stretch’ kneebar from top turtle position. Barao barely escaped, using his flexibility and his left hand to free his leg. This is a rarely-used move and I will not analyze extensively as it was explained in detail by KJ Gould in a previous Judo chop on Bloody Elbow. This is a great read so please take a look here. Here is also Kenny Robertson’s ‘Suloev Stretch’ kneebar submission against Brock Jardine on Youtube
Calvin Kattar vs. Andre Fili
Gif 1 Gif 2
Using a textbook Muay Thai counter against Andre Fili, Calvin Kattar kept blocking right kicks to the body and catching Fili with left hooks. Notice in the two sequences above that as Kattar blocked from a southpaw stance he pulled back his right foot temporarily landing in an orthodox stance before landing the left hook. He probably did so to load power on his right foot for a follow up kick option.
General rule of thump in Dutch style Muay Thai is that when you block kicks, you counterattack with the hand of the same side your opponent is attacking. If he kicks your left side, you block, load, and punch with a left hook. If he attacks your right side, you block, load, and attack with a right cross. You need to block and attack immediately with a “single breath” as they say in Japanese budo arts.
Jarred Brooks vs. Eric Shelton
During his fight against Eric Shelton, Jarred Brooks was able to get headlock control. Unable to hit the head due to his opponent being on his knees, Brooks landed a knee to the shoulder. This forced Shelton to try and control Jarred’s knee and also go for an underhook, leaving some space under his belly for Brooks to slide his left knee and shin (photo 4). This also removed Eric’s posts. Jarred went for a guillotine reversal to a mounted guillotine. In order to follow his opponent from the bottom, Brooks pushed his right foot against the cage while his left foot hooked Shelton’s foot (photo 5). Brooks landed in a mounted guillotine which he was unable to finish as the round ended. Nevertheless it was a beautiful transition. Mounted guillotines are very effective chokes.
Brian Ortega vs. Renato Moicano
Trying to apply a famous Jon Jones move, Brian Ortega tried to touch Renato Moicano’s left foot, faking a takedown with his hands while twisting his hips in an attempt to land a spinning left elbow. He was unsuccessful in the sequence above (gif) and he landed on the shoulder in another attempt (gif), however this is a very dynamic move and also an MMA Specific Technique.
Volkan Oezdemir vs. Jimi Manuwa
Using a very effective combination while fighting in the clinch with his back against the cage, Volkan Oezdemir used a neck tie control on Manuwa. Jimi is not a wrestler so there was no need for underhooks (not a good tactic if he ever gets to fight Jones). Volcan used his right neck tie to aggressively pull Manuwa’s head to the right, causing Jimi to use force in order to come back in position. This opened some space under Manuwa’s own neck tie control. Volkan mixed left uppercuts to left hooks combinations, forcing Jimi to expose his chin and get rocked. Impressive technique, but this is not something which would be easy to apply against Jones, as Jones is a master in pressing opponents against the cage. This is also an MMA Specific Technique.
Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone
Robbie Lawler went to war against the always dangerous Donald Cerrone. Robbie was dominating foot positioning in his southpaw stance as described above. Lawler was touching Cerrone’s hand to measure the distance and went for a lead right hand. Cowboy was able to parry and pull back, step to the front to close the distance and landed a beautiful upward elbow in an uppercut-like fashion.
Lawler went again for a right hand and Cerrone shot for a takedown underneath. This was not much of a shot as Cowboy did not go low enough with his hips but caused Robbie to put his hands down as he tried to sprawl and defend the takedown. Cerrone capitalized by landing a right knee, followed by a right cross and a right high kick. Impressive combination of different offensive tools by Cowboy. This takedown attempt to strikes is an MMA Specific Technique.
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).
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