From the illegible scratchings of my notebook to your computer, tablet or smartphone screen, post fight notes is an in depth analysis of some of the finest technical action from a weekend of combat sports action. The piece will take a look at 3 select fights from the card picked for reason other than my own personal preference, if you saw anything you thought should have be included or have a suggestion for the next piece, feel free to leave a comment or get at me on Twitter – @Hugh_OD
UFC 191 is in the books and saw little in the way of surprises, in a card that consisted largely of heavy favourites a number of underdogs managed to rise to the occasion including Ross Pearson, who looked to be in career-best form, and Corey Anderson, who I praise for coming out on top purely because it limits the number of times I have to try and spell Blachowicz in this weeks features. Without further ado lets get stuck in to this weeks post fight notes, kicking things off is a look at the events “Fight of the night” winner.
Some method or all madness? – Francisco Rivera vs John Lineker
In terms of bouts I was most looking forward to seeing on this card, Rivera vs Lineker might as well have been the main event for me. A number of intriguing story lines were present running into the fight, most notably the fact that it was Lineker’s debut at Bantamweight after a series of mishaps on the scales at 125 pounds. Rivera came into the bout a severely underrated fighter in the division, due in large part to the fact that he may very well have a win over perennial contender Urijah Faber if not for an eye poke that went unseen by the referee.
The bout was set to be nothing short of a barn burner from the get go and the men went to work right away, the fight was a back and forth rock-em sock-em robots battle for two minutes and eight seconds until Lineker snatched up a guillotine choke and forced the tap.
The bout was a showcase of my love hate relationship with MMA striking, on one hand, I see two men overly eager to engage in a type of bout that places neither at a distinct tactical advantage, but rather looking to plat their feet and play a 50/50 game of who falls first. And on the other, I can’t pretend it wasn’t entertaining. Matches like this arise from both participants believing they are at a power advantage, and so when one man indicates he wishes to engage in a firefight, the other willingly obliges thinking his opponent has made a mistake, if I had to take a guess I would say Rivera felt his size advantage, which was blatantly apparent looking at the two measuring each other up, would play a factor. Evidently he was wrong and paid the price.
The most impressive thing for me in this fight was how Lineker actually used the fact that he was the shorter man to his disadvantage, he closed distance in the cage by leading with a jab-overhand right and jab-right hook to the body, after which he would duck his head down and away from his opponents power in order to move inside any looping punches, rendering them useless. When the time came for Lineker to push forward he switched up the rhythm he had lulled rivera into and went to reverse, leading with the right body shot and following with the left hook, after doing damage with the left hook his duck and move technique played dividends as if you watch Rivera’s attempts to fire back he continuously found himself clipped with shorter, sharper punches from the inside. Brilliant stuff.
Lineker proved his worth as a bantamweight overcoming a stiff test, and I look forward to seeing what he can do without the strain of weight cutting he has previously dealt with.
A battle of duelling footwork philosophies – Pearson vs Felder
Moving on, we come to probably my favourite fight of the card, English veteran Ross Pearson faced a do or die match up against highly touted up-and-comer Paul Felder, who was riding a wave off confidence after holding his own in a narrow losing effort against Edson Barbosa in his last outing. Many, myself included saw this bout as a final nail in the coffin for Ross Pearson in terms of gaining steam in the stacked lightweight division, and thought Felder would add another name to his resume and get another shot at a top-10 challenge. Pearson, however, didn’t get the memo and looked to be in some of the best form of his career, frustrating and out doing the flashy Felder in all areas of the fight.
It is easy after watching the highlight real of Paul Felder to make the claim that he is a “dynamic” fighter. His arsenal favours spinning attacks and has seen him produce some memorable knockouts, however looking closer at some of his handwork it is clear to say that while he can throw with conviction and commit well to high risk, high reward techniques, as Felder sets up his shots his footwork is largely stagnant, and consists of mostly straight line movement. When dealing with a less savvy striker who will meet him in the middle, this can actually favour Felder’s style as opponents who wish to stand and brace for strikes leave themselves open to falling for a well timed feint finding themselves on the wrong end of a lethal spinning blow. Felder tends to gain steam as a fight rolls on, and the more he lands the more creative he gets, which is where a problem can arise – what do you do if your opponent is simply never there to meet your strikes?
Pearson is a product of Eric Del Fierro’s Alliance MMA, meaning footwork is a key factor in all of his training camps, so as Felder would charge forward, often looking for a lead left hook, Pearson would move off the centre line, fire back with a combination of his own, forcing Felder to reset and continue, charging forward at the now changes target, and meeting a kick to his lead leg.
Pearson’s ability to play matador and keep Felder chasing for the most of the fight paired beautifully with his head movement. Pearson has long been a fan of the inside slip, which he used earlier this year to set up a fight ending shot against Sam Stout, but one of the things I most enjoyed about watching his work against Felder was his use of the more conventional outside slip, that is, Pearson would slip under Felder’s lead hook away from his power, and use the movement to get out of the way of Felder’s follow up. Excellence in simplicity.
In hindsight its fair to say Felder was a dream match up for Pearson, and although I’m willing to say it was the best performance of his career, it shows little of his development towards long elusive contender status as his real struggle has been to fend off an eager grappler looking to get on top and secure position, and he’s no new kid on the block these days, so the clock is ticking.
You’re telling me THAT guy used to make welterweight!? – Anthony Johnson vs Jimi Manuwa
While the overall outcome of Jimi Manuwa ending up staring up at the lights wondering what happened was what just about everybody expected, Anthony Johnson still had some surprises in store for his Light Heavyweight feature bout.
With Johnson looking to rebound from an impressive yet unsuccessful title bid against now-champion Daniel Cormier, a definitive statement had to be made in order to throw his name back in the mix, and the UFC were seemingly willing to give him the chance to make one, as he was initially stated to take on Jan Blachowicz, with Manuwa coming into the fight after poor fan reception to the original booking. Without knocking on either man’s ability, they have done nothing earlier in their careers to make their way into a bout with one of the top 3 light heavyweights on the planet, and with Johnson coming so close to taking the belt in his bout with Cormier, a rematch between the two would be interesting in a division that does not offer a lot of compelling match ups at present.
An area where Johnson showed improvement in the bout was his patience. It seemed that even though Johnson had Manuwa hurt in the first, and had a distinct striking advantage, he was content to gather some ring time and wait it out to the second round. An important thing to consider as it was over exerting himself in search of a finish that cost him the Cormier bout. Johnson also seemed eager to test his grappling, shooting for a takedown and gaining control of Manuwa on the mat, something few expected but offers a promising sign that Johnson is making a strong effort in the gym to improve his grappling, and actually taking risks to test it out in the cage.
As for the actual finish of the bout, it was clear coming into the second that Manuwa was dealing with a faster, stronger, more powerful man, who was one step ahead and he was simply out of ideas. The striking of Manuwa was geared towards creating space to avoid Johnson, using a front side kick, and some lengthy overhand shots, but his efforts were fruitless as Johnson took advantage of every instance that one of Manuwa’s limbs lingered a millisecond too long and came through with a strike of his own. The hook that knocked Manuwa out came as he desperately charged in, hands forward, looking to clinch and avoid striking altogether. Start to finish Anthony Johnson had Jimi Manuwa outclassed.
With the light heavyweight division in its current state it looks like a Johnson vs Cormier rematch is on the horizon, and there are no complaints here.
“Why didn’t [insert fight here] make it into the notes”
- Paige Vanzant vs Alex Chambers – Good showing by Paige but this one was a mismatch from the get go. I look forward to analysing Vanzant as she moves into more compelling match ups, but I opted to leave this one alone
- Jan Blachowicz vs Corey Anderson – I could probably break this one down in a sentence if you’re that desperate. Anderson gets on top of Blachowicz and Blachowicz has no idea what to do about it.
- Andrei Arlovski vs Frank Mir – Breaking down fights means re-watching them and I would really prefer to leave this one behind me
- Demetrius Johnson vs John Dodson – This one was considered, for obvious reasons. But the match was start to finish technical brilliance from DJ and that really can’t be done justice by a few paragraphs, I hope to go back and do a full breakdown of the fight in the near future.