MMA 101: Comprehensive technique guide for UFC on FOX fight fans, new and old

HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: (L-R) UFC Fighters Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos stand for the cameras during the UFC on Fox: Velasquez v Dos Santos - Press Conference at W Hollywood on September 20, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Later today (Nov. 12, 2011) history will be made within the mixed martial arts (MMA) world when Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will promote its first show on the FOX television network, beginning at 9 p.m. ET. FOX, a premier sports outlet, and UFC, the top brand in MMA today, struck a mega boob tube deal that shook the combat sports world just a few months ago.

And already, the two companies are starting off with a bang.

It has been quite some time since a heavyweight title in major combat sports has been contested on live television for free. Boxing did it in the mid-1990’s. And while the UFC has shown a number of other divisional title fights on "free" television via Spike TV, this is the first time the promotion will offer the colossal heavyweight tilt in this manner.

And it isn’t just any title fight: Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos are the acknowledged two top ranked heavyweights in the sport today. Velasquez, the heavyweight champion, will fight challenger dos Santos in a fight that will not only be for the belt, but for the number one spot atop the sport's rankings. This arguably hasn’t happened since the days of Pride FC, when Fedor Emelianenko fought Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in Japan back in 2003.

Bottom line fight fans: This is a fight you just can't miss. And not only for the historical value, but for the match up itself, which should be an all out war between two completely different fighters.

In the extended entry I talk about the match up and showcase some of the better breakdowns of the important fighters, techniques and analysis you need to be fully prepared for UFC on Fox 1 later this evening.

Enjoy: 

In this post, I will focus on fighters, techniques and disciplines that fight fans could possible enjoy this weekend. While I will be linking a lot of my own work I will also be linking to another SBNation blog, Bloody Elbow, which has some of the best breakdowns around with its "Judo Chop" feature.

Junior dos Santos, a walking nightmare for heavyweights, is undefeated in the Octagon (8-0) and 13-1 overall. He has nine fights that ended when the opponent succumbed to the brutal hands of the challenger. From his first knockout as an underdog to Fabricio Werdum to his one-side dismantling of giant Shane Carwin, Junior dos Santos has shown that nobody should be getting in the way of his striking skills.

Dos Santos is an elite striker, one who focused heavily on the body shot. From my own fanpost, "Body Blow! The often overlooked (but always effective) body shot," which discussed in depth the usage and benefits of the body shot: 

So with that, the final comment on body shots are that they can be brutal and effective but we rarely see them since in mixed martial arts the kick is utilized in its place. We have seen body kicks end fights (Franklin vs. Hamill) and dictate the fight, too (Georges St. Pierre, Lyoto Machida and Cung Le).

And of course we have the legendary Bas Rutten who made a career out of the body blow. More fighters are using the body strike however as seen at the top. Heavyweight prospect Junior Dos Santos has made a habit in the past to be very active when working the body. Don't be surprised to see it more and more in MMA as the sport continues to evolve and as striking continues to rise to elite levels.

Dos Santos is a masterful boxer. And to get prepared for the strikes you may see in this fight, I highlighted this week the most common strikes you may see on Saturday night. From the fanpost "Looking at the most used strikes prior to the debut of UFC on FOX":

"Cigano" has outstruck each and every opponent during that time, including finishing five of those foes violently with strikes. Notorious for being considered one of the most dangerous strikers in the world, he will look to pry the title from current champion Cain Velasquez.

To do that he will need to unleash his striking arsenal on the champion.

Easily the most important strike in the combat world of striking is the jab. The jab is a lead punch that is thrown with your lead hand. It is the strike that lands quickest as the hand is usually the closest to your opponent. While it lacks the power of other strikes, its effectiveness is unparalleled to any other strike

And speaking of this jab, there are two fanposts of my own that I get in detail on the single punch. Dos Santos is a master of this art, too. As we have seen in his fight with Mirko Cro Cop and Shane Carwin, in particular, where he really established his jab effectively.

Cain Velasquez , the champion, has shown his elite wrestling pedigree can be translated into MMA effectively. As I have said in the past (including this fanpost about wrestling) wrestling has become the best base of all the disciplines to really bring into MMA.

Training at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, Calif., with Dave Camarillo and the gang, Velasquez has been able to add grappling and striking to his elite-level wrestling. One of the most disappointing things to watch as a fan, personally, is to see lazy executed takedowns. Shooting in from too far away or not properly setting up a takedown is almost always recipe for disaster.

Velasquez, however, has shown the ability to use strikes magnificently to set up his takedowns. To really get a grasp on what I am talking about, the guys over at BloodyElbow.com have an amazing breakdown on the blend between wrestling and striking.

From the "Judo Chop" titled "UFC 133 Fight Card Judo Chop: Striking to Take Downs with Rashad Evans":

There are several aspects to successfully taking down an opponent; starting distance, depth of the first step, speed, hand placement and hip placement. When these aspects all work together a take down can appear effortless and when they don't the results can be laughable. In grappling tournaments the standing phase of grappling is about creating the opening to close the distance into an advantageous position.

More goodness from the BloodyElbow.com team with its "Judo Chop" Rashad Evans transitions from punches to takedowns:

The bouncing double jabs missed but allowed Rashad to get inside on Rampage. More importantly when Jackson slipped the second jab, he moved his head directly into Evan's incoming right hook. Note how Jackson was looking to land a hard right uppercut counter to Evans' jabs. Rashad clearly studied the style of fighting Jackson has used since he was trained by Juanito Iberra. 

When facing a wrestler, fighters traditionally will work very hard on takedown defense and submissions (I went into detail in common submissions here). Working a game plan in anticipation of takedown, you must take into account a few different skills.

The first of those skills is takedown defense, the art of keeping the fight on the feet. For dos Santos, that in all likelihood was the main focus in this camp. "Cigano" may be the best striker in the entire heavyweight division today. And utilizing his largest strength, his bread and butter, may be his avenue to winning the title.

To do that, good hips and balance are just a few key elements along with using your striking to keep the wrestler at bay. From my fanpost titled "The Striking Zone: Keeping a fight standing using effective striking and distance:"

Some may be okay with being taken down where they are comfortable with their Jiu Jitsu. Others may enjoy the opportunity to out-wrestle their opponent to be able to achieve their own top position and the others may want to use striking to keep the fight on the feet.

This has been utilized by many successful fighters dating way back to the era of Chuck Liddell and Mirko Filipovic when they were in their prime. Using good takedown defense was only a part of their game; the other part was using striking at the right moments of a fight to negate the chance of a takedown.

More recently, UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz has shown his game of keeping the fight standing when wrestlers like Joseph Benavidez and Urijah Faber attempted to get the fight to the ground.

This is just one of many ways to keep the fight standing for dos Santos. There is almost a guaranteed chance that if Velasquez wants the fight on the ground, he will get it there. With such a high caliber wrestler in the cage, it is only a matter of time before you find yourself back on the mat.

But, that doesn’t spell the end of the fight. Dos Santos is said to have very quality grappling and we have seen brief glimpses of it in fights against Gabriel Gonzaga and Shane Carwin. But if Velasquez is on top, what could be done to get up again?

The answer was discussed by the boys at BloodyElbow.com in yet another great piece titled "Strikeforce Judo Chop: Luke Rockhold does a cage crawling clinic against Jacare:"

It was common forum fodder in the mid-2000s to debate the merits of cage vs ring as a venue for an MMA match. It was asserted that cages favored grapplers, while rings favored strikers. The reasoning was that grapplers had more space to run in the UFC Octagon and could then pin the striker against the cage. While in a ring the striker could trap the grappler in a corner and punish him with punches and kicks. 

But recently as the MMA game has swung back towards the striking arts, fighters have become experts of using the cage to keep fights standing. Using the cage to stand back up has become a vital skill set to a complete MMA fighter. 

Submissions will also play a big part in this fight should Velasquez attempt to explore a wrestling game plan. When utilizing takedowns, it is very common for explosive wrestlers to shoot in for them with a single- or double-leg. Both of which require you to lower your head and drive into the body of your opponent.

The counter to that? A well-timed and executed guillotine choke. From my fanpost solely dedicated to this choke my "Ultimate Submissions" fanpost had this to say:

The guillotine is a choke favorable against wrestlers because it punishes your opponent if they shoot in for a takedown with their head down. While there are other ways to complete the choke, this is often the most common. The most basic way to describe the choke is when you reach around your opponent’s neck when it is in range, grasp the choking side hand with the free hand and lift up.

The interesting portion of this match up is that both fighters have yet to show a weakness. Both have never been defeated in the Octagon and aside from a few knockdowns against Cheick Kongo, the champion has yet to be in danger of losing. Dos Santos shares that same sentiment, too, sans a few big punches from some of the heavyweights in the division.

In the reverse, Velasquez also has the opportunity to finish submissions. While not being the heralded grappler that dos Santos is, Velasquez finished very well in grappling tournaments and does train under the much respected Camarillo.

Arm locks like the Kimura and Americana are favorites amongst wrestlers who are powerful in top position, the Arm Triangle Choke is another because of the ability to smother your opponent when you are high atop his chest. Brock Lesnar demonstrated that brilliantly when he fought Shane Carwin.

These two fighters have really been a great example as to the evolution and progression of our sport and its athletes. I spoke in detail about the ingredients for an effective recipe to becoming a well rounded mixed martial artist in a series called "Recipe for Success: Becoming well rounded in mixed martial arts:"

In any case this fight will be a dog fight on the feet, on the ground or a mixture of both. As both of these fighters have killer instinct, determination and incredible talent that will undoubtedly make this one memorable night.

For your enjoyment I have included some other great reads you may want to catch up on before the main event later on tonight. Enjoy, Maniac’s!

MMA 101 Series for UFC on FOX:

Other MMA Must Reads:

REMEMBER: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC on FOX 1, beginning with the preliminary card bouts on Facebook scheduled for 5:00 p.m. ET. In addition, we will also provide LIVE, real-time results of the heavyweight championship bout as it happens later this evening at 9 p.m. ET.

See you then!

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