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Money or MMA

Conor McGregor is the biggest name in MMA, but I do not think he is not looking at fighting MMA anymore and I can’t say I blame him.

When I say the biggest name in MMA I am talking about the person who you could go up to a random person in the street and ask them to name an MMA fighter the most common name you would hear would be Conor McGregor. Conor McGregor is by no means the best fighter in the sport but he would’ve made more money than the top 10 earners in MMA combined. McGregor made over $100 million in his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather and has not fought since. Now there is word that he is in talks with Manny Pacquiao. If this fight against Pacquiao goes ahead I assume that McGregor would earn over $70 Million if the Mayweather is anything to go by.

As a fan of MMA and boxing I do not want to see McGregor v Pacquiao it is another irrelevant fight that does not matter to the history of boxing or MMA. This fight makes no real difference to either fighter except for their wallet as people will pay to watch this fight. This annoys me as there was Lomachenko v Rigondeaux on in the weekend. This was the first time in boxing history where 2 fighters who won 2 Olympic golds fought each other. If you went up to the random person in the street and asked about this fight chances are that they wouldn’t know either fighter and had no idea the fight was on. Those two fighters are two of the best amateur boxers in history (Lomachenko 296-1 , Rigondeaux 450-12) but no one knows them. Most people would not pay for this fight, but they will pay $50 to watch McGregor v Pacquio.

You can’t blame Conor McGregor for this, he is trying to earn as much as he can as he knows he has a short shelf life. McGregor knows that he can make a lot more money from fighting these big name boxers compared to MMA. For this reason alone I do not think that you will see McGregor fight in MMA again and that makes sense. Would you fight Pacquiao for $50 – $80 million of have a UFC fight and earn $1 – $5million. These numbers are an estimate as what they actually earn is questionable. After the Mayweather fight McGregor was already set for life, earning over $100 million, add another big payment and it would set his grandkids up.

I can’t understand that if you are set for life financially why you would risk your health and keep fighting, especially with all the concussion information. If you did not have worry about the day to day grind it would be hard to have that real desire to put your body on the line for a fight. Obviously it must be more than money that drives a lot of fighters which is great and they are fighting just to fight and that is great. That is until they run out of money and do a comeback fight and get destroyed.

I can’t see Conor McGregor fighting in the UFC again, and why would he. McGregor has become as much as a house hold name as any fighter on the planet right now and he is looking to make a buck. From a very solid source that talked to McGregor a few years ago McGregor said ‘I will not stay undefeated, so I have to make as much noise and money until I lose then get out’. Even though that has slightly changed you see that McGregor is chasing the money and has been very good at it. If he fights Pacquio I think that will be the last we will see him fight, he has a young kid and will be set for life – what would you do?

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

http://www.Lockdown.co.nz/

Do you Wear Lycra?

It is no secret that I think that wrestling is the most important element of MMA, but what are the differences in wrestling in against wrestlers and wrestling in MMA.

The wrestling I am talking about is Olympic Freestyle wrestling, which in a nutshell means you can do both upper body and lower body attacks ie you can grab the legs. That is compared to Greco Roman wrestling where you can only grab the upper body. When drilling wrestling you are very close to your opponent as most of the time you have your head six inches or closer to your opponent. Almost all the takedowns are set up form inside that six inch distance. You are either looking to clear your opponents arms out of the way or unbalance your opponent in the hope of getting to their legs or back to get a takedown.

You are now going to MMA and trying to execute take downs from striking range which is going to cause some serious problems. Therefore we are going to be looking at this from two separate angles with the first being from a striker who has adopted wrestling and then wrestlers who have moved in to MMA.

As I was a kickboxer with some BJJ who picked up wrestling later this is more or less me. The biggest change is firstly the distance it was very hard to let someone get in that close without lifting your hands to protect your head from a striking instinct. Instead of protecting you head you had to drop your hands to protect your legs from the takedowns. So all it took for a wrestler to take down a striker is to fake a neck grab, or go for a neck grab, so they would lift their hands from instinct where the wrestler would shoot under and get the legs or single leg to get the takedown. Then if you are lucky your BJJ brain would came in and you fall to my back, which the exact wrong thing to do as in Wrestling if you are on your back you lose via pin. So once you have clicked to that little trick it is all about keeping up with the level changes. Once you have some wrestling defence then you can strike with some confidence. Then with confidence you can keep distance more effectively and against a wrestler and that distance is a life line. From a technical standpoint the biggest struggle is changing what foot you had forward. In wrestling you constantly changing stance to set up both defence and offence and to counter your opponents movement. However most strikers w only feel comfortable with one foot forward depending if they are orthodox or southpaw depends on the foot. This means that if you have your right leg forward you do not have to worry about a double leg from an orthodox striker. In MMA this is not such an issue as a lot of take downs are set you using strikes. Using striking to set up takedowns is all about selling a punch or a move to make your opponent react in a certain way to create the opening that you want. To use striking to keep wrestlers away is all about maintaining distance and making the wrestler make the first move. That is you want to wrestler to try and step forwards so you can change your distance and keep them on the end of your punches until they get frustrated and do something silly and then make them pay. However keeping distance is difficult as there is only a limited distance to work in and you get tired which both limit your mobility. This means that sooner or later you are going to have to defend some wrestling sooner or later no matter what.

To make a wrestler an absolute beast all they need to learn is to deal with punches and submissions then they are a nightmare. If you can’t stop the takedown down and then being underneath a wrestler is insane as wrestlers are next to impossible to sweep and their scramble is top class. If you have a wrestler in your guard and they avoid your submissions then you are not going to have a good night. The fundamental skills and mind set in wrestling transition really well to MMA they have an absolute desire to win, which to me is greater than in other sports I have done. It is not easy to deal with strikes and submissions but if they can do it – Watch Out.

When I was competing in wrestling I would focus on my wrestling at all times, even while doing MMA training / sparring and I enjoyed the change and the challenge. Firstly the specific wrestling training was great and the intensity is like nothing else. The reactions you gain and how quickly you can drop your hips was surprising. Then changing the way you spared in MMA was fun. The stance drops drastically and movement is minimised as all you are looking at doing is closing the distance. This is done in two ways either going to them or making them come to you. Working off the jab is the easiest way for both, when going in you use your back hand to parry the jab and you slide and feet in to get close where you usually end up in the clinch. To make them close the distance you need to drag them in by doing something along these lines. They throw a jab you parry it and take an exaggerated step backwards, then you repeat, there is something you see in their body language and you now they are thinking ‘I am going to get you this time’ and they put more on the jab so your drop down for the double leg and they get very frustrated. Once you are comfortable with your wrestling and you can avoid being hit then something great happens. That is you start wearing your opponents down both mentally and physically, once you get hold of them you find yourself going from one takedown to another until you get them down and this is all done subconsciously. Then once you get them down you just smother them, you may even let them get up so you get work the process again. One thing is for sure this takes the heart from your opponent and the fight leaves them like nothing else I have seen in MMA. The other fun thing that happens with the wrestling training is the desire for the takedown, the effort just does not stop until you get the takedown or you are completely stuffed. There is no such thing as too hard in wrestling. Then with the defence you become very hard to takedown as you have wrestling hips. Wrestling hips are very heavy and stay horizontal. By staying horizontal you can’t get rolled over or taken down. Then your scramble becomes better so if you do get taken down you can flatten out your hips (horizontal) and get back to feet which then deflates your opponent. Having this confidence in your wrestling allows you to decide how you want the fight to go as you are comfortable with both your attack and defence.

Overall the range for pure wrestling is closer than in MMA as you have less to worry about, and also less to attack with. Unless you have wrestled a pure wrestler then you have not wrestled as they just have another level that only wrestling training gives you. A good athlete will be able to transition in to most sports it just seems that wrestling transitions in to MMA very very well.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor 

http://www.Lockdown.co.nz/

 

Those Little Gloves Hurt!

People that have not used MMA gloves for sparring or even pad work do not understand the difference between them and boxing gloves. This is just one of the differences between kickboxing striking and MMA striking.

Something that took a lot longer for me to notice than it should’ve was the massive change in footwork between kickboxing and MMA. If I use me as a guide when I was fighting in kickboxing my weight was on my toes and I stood very tall compared to how I stand in MMA. For kickboxing you want your weight on your toes so you can lift your legs and rotate to kick. The key to an effective kick is to be able to deliver it with minimal movement so you do not telegraph your kick but have maximal impact. You also need to put your body weight behind the kick and the best guys do that rotation at the end of their kick.

You also want to be light on your feet so you can leg check as this is very important if you plan on having a decent carer in kickboxing after taking a few solid leg kicks you are limping for a week. As the striking range is very precise your foot work is a massive part of your defence, using very subtle in and out’s to get your range. In MMA the stance is wider, longer and heavier. I was very surprised when I saw the comparison between my kickboxing stance, tall and light on my feet, then how much it had changed after years training MMA and how I was a lot heavier and slower with my foot work. This may be due to being older and heavier however, but I am hoping it is more to do with the difference in requirements between kickboxing and MMA. Your stance had to be ready to change levels to defend the takedown in MMA. The effect this has in striking is it makes leg kicks very hard to defend but it gives you the chance on defence to be able to catch the leg kick and take them down. Regardless if you are defending takedowns or trying to get a takedown your stance is going to be long and wider than it would be in kickboxing and this make kicks both harder to throw and defend.

If you break down to just pure punches with MMA there are differences. Hitting with the little gloves is different, I have been doing MMA for years and I need sparring to be hard before I can throw punches with MMA gloves and not be concerned. If you are doing light sparring with boxing gloves it is relaxed and you are working things, light sparring in MMA gloves you just do not want to get hit and that is it. MMA gloves just feel different when they land compared to a boxing glove. Obviously there is more padding on boxing gloves and you don’t feel your opponents skull when you land a punch, yes you actually feel it on your knuckles. Then there are the awkward punches (yes I still throw them) that don’t land as you would like. I have both landed and been hit by lefts hooks when moving my head when the mid finger knuckles, or the knuckles you use to knock on a door. When they land around the eye it always creates swelling around the eye as it is more or less hitting bone on bone. Then how you hold your hands, yes you have your hands in more or the less the same place as pure boxing but the thing is your hands are open. This is a massive difference as you are constantly opening and closing your hands when sparring. The reason for this is that you need to have your hands open when you are defending punches where you are basically putting your hand through your hair, or attaching your palm to your head. You have your hands open otherwise if they are closed and you defend a punch wearing MMA gloves you get the door knocking knuckles slammed in to the side of your head – which hurts. This means your hands are open when defending and closed when attacking this can get confusing and difficult, and this is why there are eye pokes in MMA. This defence makes things a lot different as in boxing you defend a lot punches using your gloves, this also changes the distance. In MMA it is a lot harder to sit in the pocket and rely on head movement as there are kicks and knees to worry about. Therefore it makes the striking tactics of more get in and throw 1 -3 punches and then get back out. This changes your mentality on how you work your striking and what combos you can throw (or what I can throw). Then getting hit by a boxing glove is never pleasant but it is a hell of a lot better than getting hit by a MMA glove. The boxing glove is like a big thud, don’t feel it anywhere but just know your head got hit. That compared to a MMA glove you know exactly where you got hit and it stings. When you get hit with a MMA glove and it stings, and I hope I am not the only one here, it changes how you throw as when you get hit and it feels warm which makes you think you are cut or bruised ad that messes with your head. When striking you can’t defend like in boxing as you do not feel as safe taking shots on the gloves.

People can be hard on the striking in MMA and the boxing match between McGregor and Mayweather didn’t help with this argument. MMA have very good strikers, some of the best in the world, but as they have so many other things to train they are not comparable to elite boxers / kickboxers. If you put a top boxer against a MMA fighter in MMA gloves that would be more interesting as it changes the game like you would not believe. My background is kickboxing and I feel at home with big gloves on, but I can still feel uncomfortable with those little gloves. Added all up with the different stance, due to takedowns, the different gloves it should make more sense why the MMA striking is less with combos than either kickboxing or boxing as it is just different – not better or worse just different.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

http://www.Lockdown.co.nz/

It Needs a Little Something

Do we need a little spice added to MMA to shake it up a little? Just something different from the current norm which is the UFC with the Octagon and then everything else.

When I say a little spice I do not mean what they originally had planned for UFC 1 with razor wire around the top of the cage, electric wire for the cage wall and then top it off sharks in a moat swimming around the cage. These are all things that they thought would be good for tv but decided against it due to cost and danger. Imagine the bulls**t in trying to legitimise that as a sport with all that attached to the cage. Therefore I don’t think adding dangerous items to the cage and making it a death sport is going to do any good. What is needed is to create some interest outside the UFC, for me personally I don’t pay a lot of attention the UFC fight nights any more. The last two fight nights have taken 8 hours and I just don’t have the time the patience or desire to sit there and watch 8 hours of fights. It also seems like a lot of the fights are the same as everyone is so well rounded the fights are mostly on the feet as going for a takedown is a little dangerous so you end up with a tentative striking for the first round then second round it can change a little. But there has been some many fights where it looks like people are playing it safe, or trying not to lose. Then as I mentioned a few weeks back the UFC is in transition with only one champion having more than 3 title defences so the big draw cards are not there at the moment, that includes the biggest draw in MMA Conor McGreggor, no one is really sure what he is up to, when or if he will fight again in the UFC – it is all just rumours.

After watching the King of the Ring kickboxing tournament in the weekend it reignited the thought of an 8 man MMA tournament. This is how MMA started and as the UFC has no established champions wouldn’t it be a great injection to have a weight division 8 man tournament with the top 6 fighters in the division, then have two qualifying fights to fill the last two spots. Yes the event would go a little longer with 8 fights (one ‘super fight’) on the main card compared to the usual 5 fights on a normal card. However it wouldn’t be too bad as if you have two title fights on a normal card and assuming that all fights go the distance you have 19 rounds all up. Then with an 8 man tournament you have 21 rounds, then another three rounds for the super fight. I for one would love to see an 8 man MMA comp. The injury management would be very interesting compared to kickboxing, as you can win a MMA fight taking minimal damage if you do it right, where in kickboxing you are going to be sore after any fight outside of a first punch KO.

Even though you don’t get to see what a fighter does to prepare it would be a lot different as well. If you are training to fight one person then you have a specific game plan against that one person. Then when you are fighting anyone of the 7 other fighters it would be very difficult to prepare for them specifically. This means that you just have to make yourself the best you can be, maximise your strengths and minimise your weaknesses. I really like the thought of seeing fighters fight their preferred style compared to a beat that specific opponent style. Then to make it more unpredictable they could use the old K1 style for the sorting out the fight order. You have someone pull a name out of the hat and that fighter goes and stands next to the fight they want – eg fight 1 -2 -3 4 – as it is an 8 man. The first choice for most people will be fight one as that gives you most rest. In general the first four fighters take one side of the first four fights, then the next four people choose the opponent that they believe they have the best chance of beating. This is all done either two nights before the fight or can be done the weigh in. This all keeps the fight card unknown and adds a little intrigue to the night.

I would really like to see fighters from other organisations invited to a 8 man comp, but since the UFC more or less control the sport it is unlikely that they would risk their fighters being shown up by another organisation. To me this is something I would pay to see, just to see something different and see how the fighters deal with the change. Seeing a fighter win three fights in a night against elite competition is always an impressive sight. Regardless if it is kickboxing, boxing or MMA 8 man comps always through up a few upsets and some relatively unknown usually makes the name known. If I get the top 8 fighters in the Heavyweight, Middle Weight and Light Weight division check out the potential fight cards and tell me you are not excited about the thought.

Heavyweight

Champ – Stipe Miocic

1 Alistair Overeem

2 Frabricio Werdum

3 Cain Velasquez

4 Francis Ngannou

5 Mark Hunt

6 Derrick Lewis

7 Alexander Volkov

8 Marcin Tybura

 

Middle Weight

Champ: GSP

1 Robert Whittaker (Interim Champion)

2 Michael Bisping

3 Yoel Romero

4 Luke Rockhold

5 Jacare Souza

6 Chris Weidman

7 Derek Brunson

8 Anderson Silva

 

Light Weight

Champ: Conor McGregor

1 Tony Ferguson

2 Khabib Nurmagomedov

3 Edson Barboza

4 Eddie Alvarez

5 Justin Gaethje

6 Nate Diaz

7 Dustin Poirier

8 Kevin Lee 

 

Gareth Lewis

Head Trainer

http://www.Lockdown.co.nz/

Don’t Call It a Comeback

There seems to have been a resurgence in boxing, if I use the saying ‘when the heavyweight division is strong then boxing is strong’. If that is the case then boxing is very strong at the moment.

The heavy weight division is stacked at the moment with names like Joshua, Wilder, Bellew, Breazeale, Parker, Dubious. There is also the middle weight division with Canelo, GGG (Gennady Golovkin), Jacobs and Lemieux. Then a couple of other boxers who are great to watch Lomachenko, Katie Taylor

There seems to have been more anticipated fights this year then there has been over the last 5 years combined. The most anticipated fight of the year was GGG v Canelo, which lived up to the hype and was a great fight to watch. Anthony Joshua vs Klitschko was one of the best heavyweight title fights in history. Joshua is filling stadiums like no heavyweight for 20 years. Then the New Zealand public has taken to Joseph Parker and there is always a lot of chat when his fights are announced.

Even though this fight has not been announced I can’t wait for Joshua v Wilder. This fight I just can’t pick, Joshua is the better boxer but Wilder is the better fighter. They both have nuclear weapons in their gloves and can end the fight at any time. Joshua never looks rushed and has a very technical style. He doesn’t do anything that is that flash, keeps his hands up and throws nice clean punches that will end your night if they land. Joshua’s head movement is just enough to stay out of trouble but is not a big part of his overall game. He never gets caught up in the fight and just sticks to the routine and wears the opponent down, then lands that big shot and it is over, in short he makes it look easy. Wilder on the other hand does throw out his jab and solid punches but he throws them from his hip, shoulder or chin. He has swagger and hams it up during the fight, then when he lands a good punch he gets very wild and gets the finish, I still think he is the best finisher in boxing right now. For Wilder to win he needs to get under Joshua’s skin during the prefight build up in the hope of drawing Joshua in to a fight. If Wilder turns it in to a fight then he stands a very good chance, but if he tries to out box Joshua the Joshua will win. Either way this is the biggest heavyweight fight in years. Then the winner will go for Parker to unify the titles, sorry Parker fans, either of those two fighters will be too much for Parker and we will have a unified heavyweight champ.

I want to see Parker fight one of the other big names in the heavyweight division, but it seems that his management are trying to keep his belt until he gets to fight against either Wilder or Joshua to make some money. The money fight is against Joshua compared to Wilder who is not as well known outside of the US. You can’t really blame Parker’s management for doing this, it is just not as entertaining for the fans. Then there is the young Daniel Dubious who is a very exciting prospect and hits like a freight train, he is going to make massive waves in the heavyweight division.

Other fighters that I always look forward to watching, Lomachenko who is just another level, he has had 9 pro fights and is ranked #3 on the pound for pound best in boxing. The things he can do in the ring amaze me and I have never seen anyone make professional boxers look so out classed. He is just a pure pleasure to watch and makes you think why doesn’t everyone do that. Then GGG just how he makes it look so easy, what he does should not work. GGG takes away his opponents job just by walking forward as he counters their jab then after a few rounds the opponent is very hesitant to throw and just lets him walk in. When you watch GGG fight it makes you wonder why I can’t I do that? Canelo he is just very technical and puts his hands where they need to be, keeps his hands up punches hard and throws lots of combos with level changes just a very go forward fighter to watch. Katie Taylor, she is just a beast and her left hook, either head or body, is devastating she has very tight hard punches and is technically brilliant.

We are still a while away from matching the hay day of boxing with the four horseman Leonard, Duran, Haggler and Hearns. However It is so good to have people talking about boxing again and looking forward to fights. People are always asking me who will win in Parker v Joshua. At the end of the day boxing has been around 400 years at least (16th Century in the UK) and has had many up’s and downs including pro boxing being outlawed in some countries. People thought that MMA would kill boxing and that was looking the case 5 years ago. Boxing has a lot of life to give yet, and for all the MMA fans that have a go at boxing remember that MMA’s highest earner had to go pick a fight with a boxer to make big money. Boxing has a lot more money for the popular fighters and I do hope that MMA fighters do make the big money in the very near future. As boxing never left we definitely can’t call it a comeback in the immortal words of LL Cool J “don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years”

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

http://www.Lockdown.co.nz/

The UFC Transition

Right now there is a transition in the UFC and we are waiting for the next dominant champions to show up. I am writing this just after UFC 217 where 3 titles changed hands, which seems to make this situation even worse.

Going back a few years we didn’t realise how lucky we were with the most dominant champions in UFC history with GSP, Jon Jones and Anderson Silva. They all ruled their respective divisions with an iron fist. There was never a question of who was the best within their division. Now over all the different weight divisions, there is just one champion with more than three title defences and that is Demetrious Johnson. Up until UFC 217 there were two as Joanna Jedrzejczyk had 5 title defences until her defeat. Outside of that there is no dominant force in the other division.

Heavyweight, Stipe Miocic – 2 defences – has been a top heavyweight but there doesn’t seem to be many heavy weight fights and the title fights are very few and far between. Also I think Velasquez is better.

Light Heavyweight, Daniel Cormier – 2 defences – Was always a question mark as he did not win the title from Jon Jones. He lost to Jones then Jones was banned for 2 years, they fought again and Jones failed a drug test. Without this win over Jones Cormier will always be haunted, and he will never be the true champion.

Middle Weight, GSP – 0 Defences – GSP had his first fight as a middle weight at UFC 217 where he beat Michael Bisping for the title. This division is crazy with Romero, Jacare and Roockhold who are all amazing fighters. Then there is Robert Whittaker as the interim champ. Regardless of what GSP decides to do the title holder will not hold his belt for long in this crazy talented pool.

Welterweight, Tyron Woodley -3 defences – Tyron Woodley has defended his title three times. Each was as boring as hell. He is a great fighter but for whatever reason he just con not connect with the crowd. He has had some amazing KO’s on his highlight reel, great power and great movement. There is just something with him and this is why people are not that fussed about him. Maybe it is because he fights to safe to keep the title.

Lightweight, Conor McGregor -0 defences. The money man. Has never defended a title yet made more money than any fighter in UFC history by a long long way. People pay to watch him over any other name in the UFC, he is only going to be around for another couple of fights and then be gone.

The interim light weight champion Tony Fergusson, is in the division that McGregor more or less ripped apart and is now left in tatters.

Featherweight, Max Holloway – 0 defences – I do feel sorry for the small guys technically brilliant but have a hard time drawing a crowd, even though he beat Jose Aldo he has not made his mark just yet as it is another division that McGregor left in tatters.

Bantamweight, T J Dillanshaw 0 defences – This division had a very dominant champion in Dominic Cruz. Grambrandt beat Cruz then lost to Dillanshaw in his first defence. It will be very hard to stop Cruz regaining the title even though TJ wants to fight mighty mouse.

Flywieght, Demetrious Johnson 11 defences – at the moment he is the man, no better champion in the sport

 

Featherweight, Cris Cyborg 0 defences – Brutal,legend, but no one wants to fight her.

Bantamweight, Amanda Nunes 2 defences – looking good so far with some good defences, especially when she smashed Rousey

Strawweight Rose Namajunas – 0 Defences – Shock win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk the rematch should be interesting, even though Rose said she will not give Joanna an immediate rematch.

As more women are getting in to the sport it is really improving the depth in each of these divisions

It can’t be long before that is another group of freaks who will take the sport by the scruff of the neck and control their division. After Chuck Liddell lost his title after years of being champ (light heavyweight) the title was passed around by a few people before it settled on Jon Jones’s waist. The heavyweight division is the one division that has never had a dominant champ as no one has had more than 3 title defences. Part of me thinks that everyone is so damn good that it is very hard for someone to stand out, then the other part of me thinks that there is always someone who is just better and history is littered with fighters who have proven this time and time again.

 

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

http://www.Lockdown.co.nz/

Rolling In MMA

I still go and roll at a pure BJJ gym and notice the difference when rolling with BJJ purists over us MMA types.

The first and main thing I notice is the absolute desire that MMA people have to get of their back, as nothing good happens when you are on your back in MMA. Conversely the BJJ purists are not worried about going to their back, they are more than happy to be playing guard as that is a good position for them. I feel it is important to say that the MMA people (me) can do dumb things to get of their back and end up getting caught. Also the BJJ purists do not just roll over on to their back, they are very hard to sweep but once the sweep is on they are programmed to pull guard. Then once in guard they are thinking submission or sweep, once they have your posture broken down they are looking to either roll your over or tap you out. The person who is in guard has one goal and that is to pass guard (get passed the legs) and get to a better position. How this changes in MMA is with ground and pound. People can be quite happy to sit inside someone’s guard and just throw strikes as this can set up a guard pass. The pass is possible as the person on the bottom is now more defensive, and trying to stop getting hit in the head, rather than just thinking about a sweep or submission. More or less in BJJ when you are in someone’s guard you are on the defensive as you are trying to pass their guard while avoiding sweeps and submissions. Then in MMA the roles reverse, the person who has guard and is on their back, is on the defensive as they have to shut down the person on the top so they don’t eat too many punches.

In half guard things are different as well. In BJJ when you are on top in half guard you are trying to keep close to them, flatten then out and get passed their legs. On the bottom your digging for the under hook getting on your side and working one of many escapes. In MMA when you are on top you are trying to keep their far shoulder flat, by using your hand, you are ‘half guarding’ their leg so they can’t wiggle away which allows you to sit tall and unleash some solid ground and pound. On your back in MMA you are trying to get an over hook and lay flat so they can’t get any distance to punch. This is only a stall as they will free there arm, as soon as that arm is free you get the under hook and bury your head in to their hips, so they can’t land big shots on you, then you start your escape. Once you have dealt with the ground and pound it goes exactly like BJJ is it just a little different before you get there.

Side control, in BJJ it is very simple on top you are attacking and on the bottom you are escaping. There are exceptions but in general this is what happens. Then in MMA it isn’t really different as on top you are attacking and on the bottom you are looking at getting the hell out of there. On the bottom you do a plan just like half guard, keep them as close as possible while tying up the arms as soon as they get lose you are escaping using BJJ technique.

Mount in BJJ is bad but not as dangerous as other positions, most people have a lot less submissions in mount than side control as when you are in mount you movement in limited. Of course there are people out there who will make me tap like Fred Astaire from mount, but most people struggle to get submissions from there. In MMA mount is the glory position as the judges and crowd love it, I personally think it is over rated and enjoy other positions better. But in general the escapes and plans are the same in BJJ as in MMA, the main difference is that you have to be prepared to take a punch before you go for an escape in MMA, which is not a concern in BJJ. However I do notice that in general MMA people go harder to escape mount compared to BJJ people.

Overall you can’t be good at MMA without BJJ and you have to learn and modify it a little to make it work in MMA. I really like the subtle things that the purists do and how smooth and relaxed it is when rolling. MMA people do try and power out of moves a little more and I find against most people of smaller size or less skill it works. However when I come up against a good BJJ guy it just does not bother them and they go with it and I end up in bad spot having to fight like hell to survive. Rolling with pure BJJ people is great as they are relaxed and skilled and not really concerned about being stuck under someone. I do not mean this in a bad way they just don’t get punched and they work more technique to escape rather than trying to go ‘wrestling’ on it and go belly down and get to your feet. In any sport that is used in MMA it is modified for MMA and is used for that purpose, any of the kickboxing, Wrestling or BJJ is going to be different when training with purists as they have a more direct focus. This has always been the way and continues to be the best way to improve your skills by training with the purists. Hopefully they a get a little back from us as well.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

http://www.Lockdown.co.nz/

Going Down.

In a MMA fight or in training your mind is doing constant calculations on what to do and what to avoid. With takedowns it is a hard decision as they can take a lot of energy to complete but can be even worse if you miss the take down and end up in a bad position.

In training the most efficient takedowns come from the clinch or up against the cage. When sparring someone who is heavier it makes sense to avoid going for double legs unless it is wide open. The double leg take down uses a lot of energy and the risk of missing the takedown is big as you can be stuck underneath your opponent, especially if they are heavier. Of course you can get a reasonably easy double leg by reading an attack and shooting in when they go to punch or kick or setting them up with movement so their weight is on their front leg. The single leg can be safe as well, you can set it up with a jab cross then level change to grab that front leg and get the single leg. Both these set ups usually happen against people who are either below your level in terms of wrestling or MMA knowledge. Therefore if all things are equal then the double leg is really quite hard to get. Closing the distance and getting to the clinch where the takedowns are using your bodyweight to unbalance your opponent take less energy and you can move your opponent around the cage to your advantage. If you get their back up against the cage then you can work your offence and really push for the takedown as they can’t get their hips away.

When you are working against the cage the high percentage, low energy takedown is the single leg. With the single leg you more or less pull their leg out from underneath them and they have no choice but to fall over. This puts you in a great position to work top position. To make the takedown easier you can work your striking or ‘dirty boxing’ to set up the takedown. There are many options for takedowns when working against the cage, you can even work a low energy double leg take down. Once you drop levels the opponent can’t get their hips back so once you lock your hands together behind their legs you can get them down by pulling their legs out – much like the single leg. There are momentum takedowns using the cage where you can drive people in to the fence then use the ‘bounce’ off the fence to use momentum against them to control their weight for a double or single leg takedown or a clinch take down.

Being a heavyweight the low energy takedowns are what I go for as if I miss them I haven’t used a massive amount of energy and if I end up on the bottom I can start the scramble while still having energy. There are people I have trained with who are stronger / more power full and they go for the big take downs where they actually lift opponents of their feet and slam them to the mat. They set up the double leg with their striking and bulldoze their opponent across the mat and end up on top or sprawled. They also go for the single leg in the open mat but usually transition it to the double leg then bulldoze them in to the ground. Up against the cage the first instinct is to lift, they grab a leg for the single and transition the hands to high on the thigh to get a lift using the high crotch takedown. Then with the double leg they lock the hands up behind the legs and go for the lift rather than pulling the legs out. These takedowns are very effective and look great but come at a risk, if you miss them the energy expenditure is massive. Then if the opponent scrambles out and gets back up it becomes rather demoralizing.

Overall for me in competition or in training I will always go for the high percentage lower energy takedown over the big pick up and slam. I do this as a safety thing, I don’t want to get caught underneath someone big or be on my back. However the people that go for and get the big slams, even though they might risk big energy loss if they fail, get a massive boost if they get the takedown and their opponent gets demoralised and becomes very weary of the big take down, as it just plain sucks to get picked up and slammed, which opens up other opportunities. Therefore if it is your style the big takedowns can be worth it.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

http://www.Lockdown.co.nz/

Well That Opened My Eyes

In the recent UFC (216), the flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson (DJ) pulled off one of the most impressive moves I have ever seen in MMA.

I have been training MMA for over a decade and have gone to countless seminars and have seen numerous fights live as well as televised TV. In all these fights there have only been a few moves that stick in my mind, Anthony Pettis – Showtime Kick, Anderson Silva’s – Shin Break and Khabib Nurgamedov – Massive Suplexs. All these are one of moves in a fight not a result that just sit in my mind. None of these moves are even close to what DJ pulled off recently.

What opened my eyes about the move was how it was done from standing, doing an armbar from someone’s back is a relatively basic move in BJJ and it happens a lot. However I have never considered setting this move up from a standing position, which may be honesty to the point of stupidity. This is has opened my eyes to other moves that are considered ground moves that you can set up from standing. If you can set things up from different places then there is more of chance you can make them work. When you practice BJJ a lot you get used to where moves are coming from and you start you defence early on in the piece. This means that all things being equal it is very hard to get a submission, unless you are Damian Maia. But if you get a head start with the move then you are more likely to get the submission. If someone takes your back from standing you are thinking about pushing their hands low so you can avoid being lifted then working an escape. If you can’t control the hands then you are trying to make the most out the takedown / scramble but for me I would not be thinking I had better keep my arms close so he doesn’t get the under hook then slap on an armbar. When DJ put this on you can see that Ray Borg is in shock ‘what is going on’ then when he clicked to what is happening it was too late. DJ’s arm bar is not that great, he has his feet crossed and knees apart and took a while to get the tap. If it wasn’t on before Ray Borg had clicked to what was happening I don’t think he would’ve got the tap as he still survived for a while.

In MMA where you train the sports (kickboxing, wresting and BJJ) individually it is your job to put them together and make it flow. We are always connecting striking to wrestling and wrestling to BJJ and BJJ with striking. However it is hard not to get stuck with the rules in each individual sport and miss options. One of the most obvious rules to break is in BJJ when you have top position and you do not like what your opponent is up to then you can just stand up to avoid a possible sweep where you end up in a bad position. If you did this while rolling, even though it is not against the rules, it would not be a good look on the mat. Then in MMA if you are against someone more skilled on the ground and you have them on their back, you make some space with your hips and start punching which is a very good idea then to be really safe stand up while punching and move away.

What this really means is that there is still lots to learn in MMA as there are all sorts of moves in the transitions that will come about as MMA keeps evolving. For me I am going to invert BJJ and wrestling positions to get a different perspective. Looking at BJJ and wrestling positions from standing up rather than being on the ground and see what other moves are hiding – from me anyway.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

http://www.Lockdown.co.nz/

Joseph Parker

Joseph Parker is New Zealand’s only heavyweight champ however he does not seem to be impressing these days and seems to be missing the spark that the he needs to create interest from overseas viewers.

In NZ it is hard to build up a strong amateur career as there is such a small population and it is a long way from other countries. There is not much money in amateur boxing so flying overseas for boxing comps is expensive which makes it hard for fighters to get the experience. If you compare this to European fighters where the population is bigger and they can jump in a car and get to a number of countries for a relatively low cost. When Joseph Parker tried to qualify for the 2012 Olympics he came up short as he was lacking the international competition that others had, even though Parker has fought overseas it just wasn’t enough. Then if you look at Anthony Joshua, who won the gold at the 2012 Olympics he had fought in many overseas comps against many different people.

In terms of pure talent Joseph Parker has got a lot of skill and is very fast but seems to lacking in power. In his last 4 fights he has landed some clean shots and none of which have done any damage on his opponents. He has not even got close to knocking any of them down. If you look at the best heavyweights in history all of them had a punch that if it landed then you are going down. Then if you look at Anthony Joshua (19-0-19ko’s) who has knock out power in both hands and if he lands that clean shot you are in for a tough time to stay vertical. The same with Deontay Wilder who has an anvil for a right hand. If you put Parker in the ring with either of these two, Joshua and Wilder, Parker is getting KO’d. The other concerning part with Parker is that when he gets tired he puts his weight on his heels, hands drop and chin lifts. Some people say that his fitness looked better in his last fight against Hughie Furry but he was chasing Furry the whole fight and threw his punches when he wanted, he had no real pressure put on him. From what I saw Parker did not look like a Heavyweight champ in his last fight, he was throwing haymakers and lacked the ability to cut off the ring.

Not only do I think that Parker is not the best heavyweight in the world I don’t even think he is the best heavyweight that NZ has produced. If Parker fought David Tua in his prime I believe that Parker would get knocked out. Tua had devastating power and is considered one of the hardest punches in heavy weight history, Tua’s left hook created havoc in the heavyweight division for years. Tua never won the title and got beaten in a one sided fight title fight against Lennox Lewis. The advantage that Tua has over Parker is that devastating power, Parker could not hurt Tua but one punch at any time from Tua could end the fight.

Parker seems to be taking fights that are safe and no one really wants to watch them. He had two razor close decisions against Takam and Ruiz then two disappointing decisions after that. They are now talking about fighting an Australian, who has the WBO title but no name of international interest. When Parker fought Takam the winner was meant to be the mandatory challenger to Joshua’s title however that was a long time ago and the Parker v Joshua fight doesn’t seem any closer. From my perspective the only reason that Parker is on the radar for Joshua or Wilder is that they want his title so then they can fight each other for a unification bout.

Parker has a lot of talent and has done very well, it seems that he has hit his talent wall. There are guys out there that would create massive problems, Dillian White, Dominic Breazeale, Tony Bellew. Then there is a young heavy weight with 5 knock outs from 5 fights and I think he would beat Parker. This young guy Daniel Dubois has freak ability to knock down people with the first punch he throws in the fight, Tyson is the only other heavyweight I have seen do this, it leaves the opponent looking up with surprised look on their face as they try and get to their feet. But this young guy has the x factor and will create massive talk in the heavyweight ranks. In 12 months he will have a bigger profile that Parker mainly because he is more exciting and that destructive power. At the end of the day Parker needs that big fight, the problem is that he will most likely loose and he just doesn’t have to tools to challenge the top level guys. For Parker to really progress it seems he should leave Kevin Barry, his trainer, and Duco, his promotion company. If he was with one of the top trainers he would have better people around him and have more of chance of getting the big name fights.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

http://www.Lockdown.co.nz/