It is well known in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) that an aggressive wrestler who has the ability to put his opponent on the mat is one of the most dangerous competitors to face. It has been known for quite some time that to achieve success at the higher level of this sport, you will have to be equipped with the ability to keep the fight in your own comfort zone.
That zone may be different for individual fighters.
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.
But there is another fighter who has made a career of beating down opponents with his aggressive striking, a skill that he in fact has used to stifle wrestlers.
Who is that man? Follow me after the jump to find out.
Quinton Jackson is a veteran in the sport of MMA. While many have labeled him an "Old School" guy, he is very relevant in the "new school" scheme of doing things despite being in the fight game since late 1999. While always being a physically intimidating opponent, Jackson has also been gifted with unreal strength.
And a mean streak.
Early in his career, "Rampage" used very powerful wrestling to slam his way to victories. He would use those vicious takedowns to set up submissions or ground and pound. However, during the progression of his career, the Memphis native took to a new passion in his fighting style.
Rampage turned into a striker. And a very good one.
Starting with beating K-1 striker Cyril Abidi, people began to take notice on how good Rampage was on his feet. Fast forward several years and Jackson’s boxing is now considered his bread and butter.
He showed us how effective it can be against fellow wrestler Matt Hamill.
Before we start, let me first give a thank you to Zombie Prophet for the .gifs. Check out his site (Ironforgesiron.com) -- he has .gifs and videos of fights up faster than anyone else on the 'net.
Before we talk about the above clip, for anyone who doesn’t know too much about technique in MMA or in wrestling, it is very important to know that distance is your enemy. Shooting from too far out makes it easy to anticipate and counter and much more difficult to get the leverage and explosion to get the takedown. There are exceptions every now and again, but to achieve the highest percentage of effective shots it is important to cut off the space of your opponent.
In this clip you can see Rampage immediately standing in a very aggressive stance. Matt Hamill attempts to reduce the space between them with strikes in order to get close inside the range of Rampage. This would allow him to either shoot or grab a clinch. Both of which achieve the desired result of placing Rampage on his back.
Rashad Evans sets his shots up with strikes very well, however, Hamill pays for his efforts. As Hamill cuts out the space with strikes, Rampage answers back with big power punches that are real short and hit the outside of Hamill’s zone of protection. As Hamill throws straight forward, Rampage throws just outside of them.
He lands and forces Hamill to retreat and reset. Once again putting the fight at a distance outside of a takedown area. Rampage just made "The Hammer" re-think rushing in which could be huge if you are able to discourage or frustrate an opponents mind. That will in turn cause them to abandon their gameplan or at the very least hesitate.
It is very difficult to attempt takedowns while back pedaling; you lose the explosion and the necessary leverage when on the heels of your feet. Rampage is on the offensive disabling Hamill from setting his feet and his base in attempts to grapple.
And when Hamill does attempt to reset his base and changes levels with his upper body Rampage makes him pay with an upper cut that once again has him reeling back in retreat. Upper cuts are tailor made to use against wrestlers, whenever a change of level comes the head must drop and if you time an upper cut well the momentum of both head and fist movements collide.
Rampage also is using very good footwork to stalk Hamill. When he throws his flurry he meets Hamill with a step forward which adds power to the strikes but does not disrupt posture or stance.
This is twice now that Hamill has eaten big strikes while inside the range of his opponent. Rampage keeps his strikes very tight and crisp; he isn’t throwing huge haymakers that may throw off his balance and ability to pick his shots. This is also important; it is very easy to lose control of your balance when you throw heavy strikes. Rampage is patient and diligent as he attacks the level changes and inferior striking Matt Hamill.
Hamill has always been credited as having immense strength, especially inside the clinch. As you can see he has a hold of a very loose single collar tie around the neck of Rampage and he is easily shrugged off. Rampage throws Hamill into the cage which can only be more demoralizing to the over-matched challenger.
But that isn’t it for Rampage; he stalks Hamill and pressures him once more with strikes. Hamill just isn’t getting a break in this fight as Rampage continues to be unforgiving. As Rampage walks him down each time Hamill attempts to get in close Rampage unleashes more short strikes and uppercuts forcing Hamill to cover up instead of attempting any sort of offense.
Knowing his range well, Rampage is able to counter Hamill’s straight strikes with hooks. He is able to land just around the straight punches, this is due to Rampage knowing his distance and range and Hamill not being able to land within his own range. Usually straight punches are counters to wide strikes but Rampage throws very crisp, tight and controlled strikes.
When nothing is going right for someone, often times desperation kicks in.
Hamill shoots from way outside the desired range and Rampage easily anticipates it and avoids it. I wouldn’t even classify this as a sprawl since there was never any significant danger of Rampage ever being taken down. All that was needed is a step back evading the outreaching arms of Hamill. There isn’t a better example of desperation then takedown attempts this sloppy.
However, Rampage takes the mistake to the next level by forcing Hamill to re-think his desperation shot.
Since Hamill has to now climb to his feet or else be placed into a horrible spot turtled beneath the powerful Rampage, he explodes to his feet in full defense back pedaling. Rampage swarms and since Hamill had not established his balance or base he is a very bad position to defend or throw any offense effectively.
Rampage at this point had already outclassed his opponent.
In the fight, Rampage avoided a jaw dropping 17 straight takedown attempts over the course of 15-minutes. He landed 55 strikes with a balanced fight of 18-16-21 in the three round fight. Rampage was never once in jeopardy of being taken down and that was in large part due to his quick hands and aggressive offense that kept Hamill from ever being able to mount considerable offense.
Will he be able to do that at UFC 135 in just two days against division champion Jon Jones? We will soon find out, but there is no question that he has the skills to keep the fight in his own comfort zone.