Enjoy 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comebacks Don’t Work

In my opinion GSP (Georges St-Pierre) is the best fighter in UFC history and it is a toss between GSP and Fedor as the greatest of all time. After a 4 year layoff he is making a comeback – these just don’t work.

GSP was the most technical fighter I have seen in the UFC, he was also the most disciplined. He would use his skills to put his opponent in their weakest position and he would dominate his fights. Towards the end of his career people said he was boring as he didn’t finish his opponents, however what he was doing was controlling the fight and not doing anything that would risk a loss. GSP would control almost every minute of the fight. Usually he would use his wrestling to keep the fight where he wanted and more importantly where his opponent didn’t want to the fight to be.

GSP had two losses in his Hall of Fame career; his first was against Matt Hughes which was GSP’s first title shot. GSP could not even look Hughes in the eye before the fight. He gave Hughes too much respect and lost via arm bar. GSP then went on to dismantle Hughes in the rematches, they were not even close. His other loss was against Matt Sera, the Ultimate Fighter winner who created the upset of the year by beating GSP via TKO in round 1 of their fight, this was Sera’s only win inside the distance in his career. After his loss to Sera GSP came back more technical and disciplined that ever, he dominated his fights (including a brutal rematch with Sera) and did not let his opponent even have a chance.

GSP’s last fight was 16/11/13 and he is booked to fight Michael Bisping 4/11/17. This never goes well, even though Bisping is not the strongest in the division he is still an extremely tough and skilled fighter. The sport has moved on and I don’t think that this fight will go well for GSP. The big concern for GSP is ring rust and durability, Bisping has cardio for days and is very durable. Even though GSP is a great athlete and leaves no stone unturned 4 years away from the cage and 4 years older are going to have a big impact. GSP is also fighting heavier than he ever has in his career and it takes a lot of energy to move extra weight around. Then to make it worse if he does win he could be up against Robert Whitaker which will end with GSP being KO’d – which hurts me to say.

History is littered with great fighters that went to long or made failed comebacks attempts. Here are some fighters that went too long: Matt Hughes, Big Nog, Chick Liddell, Andrei Arlovski, BJ Penn to name a few. Usually the comebacks are a former champ that needs some money so they fight the young hungry up and comer – Holmes v Tyson, Ali v Holmes and so on, which also don’t usually go well. The one person that did well on a comeback was George Foreman but he is an exception.

Watching GSP take a beating is not going to fun, he is the best welterweight that sport has seen and has nothing left to prove. He is a great fighter and obviously will come in prepared but history dictates that it will not go well for him. Bisping will be bigger stronger these are factors that you want on your side going in to a big fight. The odds of a fighter winning after a long layoff fight are quite long. GSP is a legend and if anyone can do it’s him, so please prove me wrong GSP and get the victory.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

You Tapped to What!

In the recent UFC fight night there was a fighter who tapped out from ground and pound. Then I turn up to work and hear all these people saying how much of a pussy that guy was for tapping out to ground and pound – which got me thinking.

If you see someone in a choke hold and they tap before they go to sleep no one calls them a pussy. When Miesha Tate fought Rousey the second time as soon as her arm got extended for the arm bar she tapped early to stop any injury from the arm bar and no one thought she was a pussy.

Then if you take it a step further when Big Nog got his arm snapped from a Frank Mir kimura then people do not want to watch the reply as it is not nice seeing a bone go pop. As an extreme example a guy like Rousimar Palhares who would put another twist on heel hooks after someone would tap and caused a massive uproar that got him kicked out of the UFC. So why are there different rules for ground and pound?

With ground and pound there are two different ways in which you get finished, there is the too tired and can’t move with the guy on top landing lots of little shots with no reply (Miocic v Hunt ). This isn’t causing much damage but looks kind of bad, but the stoppage is due more to fatigue than damage. Then there is the other type of stoppage where there are massive shots landing and it is going to end in damage (Gustofsen v Johnson). If you are so damn tired and you can’t escape and the person on top is keeping position and landing consistent clean punches is it that bad to think I can’t get out should I tap, which is not that different to any other submission really. If you are getting hit or a joint is under danger is it that bad that you tap? It is a different beast if you have taken a massive shot from some ground and pound master like Khabib Nurmagomedov where there are repeatedly heavy shots landing cleanly on your skull. In this situation you should tap to keep your brain from turning in to a liquid, but there is usually not enough time before you get knocked and if you take a hand away from your head to tap then your head might get detached from your body. In both these situations the referee is there to stop the fight. It also seems fine to land a few punches more than you need to, if you whipped on an arm bar and popped the elbow and kept cranking and cranking until the ref came and had to pull you off people will have a go at you (as well as the ref). However there seems to be different rules if you keep throwing punches after someone is knocked out, as it happen all the time. You can keep throwing until the ref pulls you off and there is no problem at all. (to be fair Phalers even went after the ref tried to pull him away)

Is it because we are so used to watching boxing and seeing people get knocked out that we look at ground and pound in the same way. As we expect boxers to ‘go out on their shield’ they are expected to take a standing 8 count take a knee, get knocked down or knocked out that is about all the options available. If a boxer ever quits it can be the defining moment of their career. One of the best fighters in history, and one of the toughest, Roberto Duran quit in a fight against Ray Leonard – the No Mas fight – and that’s what he is most remembered for even though he was a four weight world champion and won 103 fights. Just by pure definition isn’t tapping out in a fight whether it is due to pain, pain that is going to happen, or lack of oxygen quitting? If you are making the call to stop the fight so not the ref or your corner but you decide to stop the fight isn’t that, by pure definition, quitting? Why is tapping looked at different, why don’t we say “they should’ve let him break his arm, “should’ve gone to sleep” – whatever it is.

So if tapping is quitting then why do people who tap early avoid the grief of being called a quitter, or a black mark on their record. When in terms of a long career a popped elbow is better than a concussion. If a MMA fighter took a big punch, knocked down and was about to KO’d decided to tap out I guarantee that there would be a nasty fall out. But if the same fighter got an arm bar put on and as soon as they knew they could not defend they tapped then they would walk away without the ‘fallout’ of being a quitter.

Is it because MMA has not been around that long (20 years) whereas boxing has been around for 100’s that we are used to seeing people getting knocked out and think that is normal and ok. Even with all the information about brain injuries (CTE) this seems an outdated mind set. As MMA is young it seems people have learnt from the outset that it is ok to tap, and that is acceptable rather than being labelled a pussy. I am not sure if this will ever change as people like seeing KO’s as they are considered the most exciting way to finish a fight and if they get taken away by people tapping then less people will watch which is less money so basically bad for business – in short who cares about peoples brains.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Bottom of the Food Chain

When most people begin MMA they are not very good and get easily beaten by the more experienced members. They stay at the bottom of the food chain until some new blood / new people turn up then, for the first time, they really have some fun.

The less experienced people are tentative with striking due to counter strikes from the better strikers and if they land a shot against a more experienced person they usually get punished for it. They get taken down and spend a lot of time on their back and can’t seem to escape, then when they do get top position they only keep it for as long as the more experienced person allows them too. As they are getting beaten all the time the defensive evolution is a lot faster than the offensive evolution of their game. The growth of the defensive side is just due to the fact that they are always defending then do not get rewarded for the offence as the more experienced guy just shut them down. We have all been there and it is great for motivation but not for confidence.

Then a beginner (noob) or the ‘new blood’ starts all of a sudden they are getting some success with their takedowns, striking and top control. Where this gets a little interesting is in the mind set as they have not had this success before they are not used to it. Every time they have landed a punch previously they got punished, so now when they land a punch their mind is all ready for the punishment and their intensity picks. With the increase in intensity it leads to more and harder punches at the new person who fires back harder and the cycle continues. Then when it goes to the ground they are not used to being in control so they are tense and hunting that elusive submission. When they get a sniff at a submission they go for it so hard, as they have always missed them previously, that it is close to causing an injury. Overall they try out and practice all their stuff on them as they love the success and have not felt it before.

For the less experienced people this goes against what the trainer and more experienced people keep saying – ‘relax’. When they are sparring the good people beat them easily and they feel under pressure the entire time. During this time they do not feel that the experienced person is relaxed due to the pressure. Then they go against a person they actually match up well against and they are booth tense as that is the person they can beat. Then they fight the new blood and neither of them are relaxed. As both the less experienced and new bloods always feel pressure or tension in sparring they are not being taught to relax from how they perceive the others are acting.

There downside to when you get the new blood in the door, with the how the less experienced people treat them is well outweighed by upside and is well worth it. The upside is when the less experienced students realise that they have learnt some new skills and they are surprised that the new [blood] people are doing ‘dumb things’. When you have a chat to them after the round and you tell them that this is the ‘dumb stuff’ you were doing when you started. They get success with their striking, takedowns and ground work. This leads to massive injection of enthusiasm to their training which leads to my favourite part – more questions. Prior to this time they have only have asked questions that have to do with something they saw on Youtube and UFC or what they keep getting caught with. Now they are asking specific questions about how to do improve things that are working for them and this is the start of system or a foundation of a game plan that they can really start to work with.

Once they have that foundation of some moves that they like then they sky is the limit. Up until that point they are unsure what they are good at or what they can actually do. Once the success happens then you really get a glimpse of their mind set and where their technique is heading.

Yes they bash up beginners and some don’t come back, but they are just repeating the cycle that happened to them. It just seems that this is what happens at fight gyms you start at the bottom of the food chain and try to work your way up. I still get a kick out of seeing that first session of success and seeing that spark get ignited and that wide eyed look that all this training is actually working as that is the real start of their MMA journey.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Thrown To The Sharks

Over the years I have seen many people get thrown in to fights when they were not ready physically and/or mentally. If you have a bad experience in your first fight then the chances of having a second fight is decreased.

From what I have seen the trainer who puts them in the fight has had a number of fights themselves and thinks ‘it will be good for them’. What they have forgotten is how much of big deal a first fight is for most people. The trainers who I have seen with this mind set have been very blessed with talent, speed timing and power, they also seem to have a lot of confidence and belief in their ability. I am unsure if the belief comes from experience, as all the trainers who have done this have had 30 plus fights, or if they are just blessed with confidence. Either way the trainers have confidence in spades and a loss did not so to affect them much. Therefore they assume that everyone has the same mind set and they put people in the ring that are just not ready ‘It will be good for them’. The poor fighter gets told to fight, which makes them feel good, they train hard then get in the ring and reality sets in and it does not go well. I have seen this situation a number of times and vowed to never do it as a trainer.

In MMA it makes it ever more interesting, you get people in who are very good at one discipline and want to fight. It seems that they think that if you are good at one element of MMA then it will only take a month or two to learn everything else you need to know for a MMA fight. This just blows my mind as you would not go in to triathlon if you could not swim, no matter how good you are at running.

If you are a top BJJ competitor and decide ‘I am going to fight MMA’ there is a very steep learning curve, not even including punches in the face. Unlike in BJJ comps you are against people that want to keep distance and may want to stay of the ground, you may be thinking that a BJJ guy will just take them down and submit them. However this is not as easy as you think. With BJJ the training and in competition, they are against people who want to go to the ground they start standing but every person has the intention of going to the ground. It is a lot different taking someone down who wants to stay on their feet and needs a different mind set. Just as if you have a top wrestler they will take you down but have no real idea on how to finish a fight, then with a striker they are fine until they get taken down. So you need more than once discipline to be effective – which was learnt in UFC 5

This a situation that I got watch with my own eyes, the trainer was tough as nails and fought MMA, kickboxing whatever he was not fussed as long as it was a fight. He had a young guy who was physical and talented so they put him in a MMA fight with very little lead up. He gave it hell for the first round and was doing ok, due to his athleticism, until he got tired and all his bad habits came in and he got destroyed with some nasty ground and pound. He never fought again. I have 100% belief that if had trained for 6 -12 months more before his fight he would’ve had a better outcome and would’ve had a number of fights and been a very handy fighter.

At the end of the day a trainer is there to protect their fighter from others and themselves, if a fighter wants to fight then it is the trainer’s job to prepare the fighter the best they can. If they can’t prepare them for the fight then the trainer either needs to tell them that they are not ready and take more time to prepare them or send them to another trainer if they do not have the relevant skills. Sadly in MMA there are many clubs out there, who are just one discipline, who will put one of their fighters in to a MMA fight. It could be a kickboxer, wrestler or BJJ I have seen it all happen in MMA fights and it just should not happen. The trainer should not let it happen, the promoter / match maker should not make the fight in good conscience. If you are going to compete in another sport you would go and train with people that did that sport until you are at a level that is at least competitive. These people that are going in to these fights feel that they are ready as they are working their skills against people who have no idea on what they are doing and getting success then thinking they are good. To put that in context think a squash player going in to a tennis tournament and only practicing on a squash court, with squash players using squash equipment then expecting to do well against tennis players playing tennis – not going to happen. People think those example are silly as no one would do that, but it does and happens a lot more than it should. This means that a lot of people with potential only have one fight as once you get thrown to the sharks you are not likely to get back in the water.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor