The Striking Clinic: The art of close-quarters combat with Chris Leben



 Have you ever heard the expression 'he's a bover not a brawler or he's a brawler not a boxer?" well that saying isn't just a phrase as it's a true sentiment.

See being multi-faceted in all different degrees of mixed martial arts is a great tool. Technique usually always beats brawn unless it's a crazy size difference of course. The one thing that isn't really a talent but more a sense is 'being a fighter'.

 When you think Nick Diaz you give kudos to his boxing and his ground game which helped make him a champion. Nick Diaz is a fighter not just by profession but by some sorta blood type. It's what makes him so ferocious, okay to take a punch flush and want more. He loves taking guy who is very disciplined and technical and making it a scarp.

On Sat. November 5th, 2011 we will see middleweight contenders Chris Leben and Mark Munoz face each other in the main event of UFC 138. The bout will be historical in the fact it's the first non-title five round tilt for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

In this edition of the clinic i will examine how the 'Cripller" may use an ole' technique known as dirty boxing to move up the middleweight ladder this Saturday.

The art of dirty boxing flourished out of the once famed camp of 'Team Quest" that was led by former UFC champion Randy Couture, Pride and Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland. All three were world class grapplers in wrestling and Greco-Roman.

After reaching the pinnacle of their talents in those arts they wanted to continue to compete and make money so they transferred thei talents to MMA. All three at one point were on dimensional wrestlers who were dominating because they had great takedowns and dominant top games.

Slowly but surely each started to develop their skills sets to include boxing and that's where Dan Henderson started to knock people out cold. It's when Randy Couture started to slug withsupposedbetter strikers in Maurice Smith, Pedro Rizzo, Vitor Belfort and Chuck Liddell.

Matt Lindland and striking won't be confused unless it's him getting knocked out as of recent.

Some great pupils came from Team Quest like middleweight trio of former number one contender Nate Quarry,  The ultimate Fighter season 2 finalist Ed Herman and brash Chris Leben.

The trio has seen it's highs and lows like Nat Quarry being a highlight reel for Rich Franklin at UFC 56, Ed Herman recovering from surgery where the doctors seeming;y gave him submission powers and Chris Leben from drunk a**hole to much improved and sober Chris Leben.

Chris Leben will main event his second European card after knocking out a man he idolized in former Pride middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva at UFC 132.

There is nothing illegal about dirty boxing in MMA as compared to boxing except of course the rules outlined in the unified rules of mixed martial arts. It's called dirty boxing due it not being a clean style of striking and that it most cases it requires to take some damage.

Most fighters use a simple jab-cross then with the chin tucked the closed the distance for either over or under hooks. That's why you see a lot of wrestlers use this technique as wrestlers enjoy having having hands on you so they can revert to single or double leg takedowns if their striking doesn't earn them an advantage.

So let's start with a simple jab-cross, when you swim for the underhook ensure you get nice and high so your hand is on the shoulder. If your swim to hook is low your opponent can wrench the arm off and get his distance again. In some cases you may want to use a jab-cross then fake a punch for your swim. The reason is your opponent may give you a better chance if he thinks your going for a three punch combo which brings his hands up and thus you can do you swim much easier.

The one thing all fighters need to know is when you engage you must full commit to gaining that under/overhook here. If you don't keep your feet moving and get to a longer distance your opponent while back tracking to get out of your range thus making you possibly sustain many more shots.

Let's assume your safely get the underhook, now if you are orthodox you will have your left arm scoop under onto his shoulder. With you other arm you must lock his un-hooked arm secured to his body.

Now another style when you finally close the distance and engage is the use of the single plum clinch. The usual thai plum (clinch) has youutilize both your hands around the back his head.

The one interesting thing about dirty boxing is the art of surprise and how you can keep your opponent guessing. You can use a push-pull affect and this will have your opponent trying to see if your going to wrestle him or you just going to strike him.

Dirty boxingrequires you to have a good gas tank to get the most out of the position. You have to keep active so you are pushing the pace. Push-pull and keep the opponent guessing and having to breathe and think at the same time.

A tactic that you may want to use is a 'bump', it's a rather simple tactic but does work. Using your shoulder simply thrust it towards your opponents head. This will annoy your opponent and cause slight damage but a nice 'bump' could actually inflict some damage to the structure of the jaw.

The difference between dirty boxing clinch and the thaiclinch are the variables presented in favor of the dirty boxing boxing clinch. In dirty boxing you are chest to chest with your opponent and your head/chin is tucked over your opponents shoulder.

 In thai clinch with both hands your chin is open for upper cuts, hooks and take downs. With both your hands clinched behind your head a wrestler will shoot on you but your hands can't swoop down fast enough to gain underhooks to negate sometimes. In dirty boxing you are already clinch and able to throw knees and elbows just as effectively. You are in a wider stance which helps with your sprawl much easier as you have hooks in to begin.

Here's the best example of this thai clinch vs. dirty boxing breakdown, Chris Leben vs. Wanderlei Silva at UFC 132. Now at first, Wanderlei is picking Leben apart by using good distance as oppose to getting into Leben's pocket. Silva is the more refined striker but at this point Leben's chin still can absorb more.

It all starts to go downhill when Silva misses a huge opportunity to capitalize, on a whiffing upper cut from Leben. Instead of throwing a hook he panics and decides a clinch is best. This falls right into Lebens realm as he locks a single clinch because a double thai clinch equals knees. Leben tosses brutal uppercuts and everyone lands flush on Wanderlei which sends him crashing down.)


Leben's opponent Mark Munoz could very well be a top five wrestler in the UFC which most likely means he is shooting in. Here's the scary thing though about Munoz's striking , he was outstruck by Damian Maia who's striking is still very simple. Munoz loves to get into a slobberknocker himself. A slobberknocker is exactly how Leben wants this fight as it suits him

Leben needs to use his decent takedown defense to stifle Munoz early and frustrate the wrestler. Leben needs to have Munoz revert to a striking fight and maybe he can get Munoz to clinch him and then illustrate dirty boxing. Leben needs to turn things ugly to get a win in almost every fight and it's not due to lack of technique but it's where his sweet spot is.

Chris Leben is a brawler not a boxer. Chris Leben is a fighter moonlighting as a mixed martial artist.

That last statement wasn't slander against Leben but rather an embracing that the old school UFC blood flows within his veins. He is a mix of Tank Abbott, Randy Couture and Ken Shamrock. He is crazy, brash, hostile, emotional, good hearted and talented. He loves the martial arts but he loves a fight just as much when it's non-technical.

Chris Leben is the 185 pound version of Jens Pulver.

So there's your breakdown-leave your harsh words below.

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