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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Fight Night 121’s Marcin Tybura

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David McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports

No. 8-ranked Heavyweight contender, Marcin Tybura, will face off with former champ, Fabricio Werdum, this Saturday (Nov. 18, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 121 inside Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia.

Tybura first gained some acclaim in 2013 by winning the M-1 Global Heavyweight Grand Prix. He captured the official M-1 title not long after and defended it a couple times prior to being picked up by UFC. Like a fair share of top fighters, Tybura’s UFC debut went poorly, as he was out-hustled by Timothy Johnson. He has found his groove since then, knocking out a pair of prospects before dispatching a Top 10-ranked foe in Andrei Arlovski.

This is another step up for the Polish athlete, so let’s take a closer look at his skill set.

Striking

Judging from Tybura’s general approach and what I’ve read about him while researching for this article, my educated-but-unconfirmed guess is that Tybura doesn’t have a deep background in one martial art. Instead, he’s likely been training in every aspect of mixed martial arts (MMA) since early on, resulting in a well-rounded fighter who doesn’t exactly specialize in any one area.

On the feet, Tybura definitely has the look of an “MMA striker.” He only makes occasional use of the jab, instead preferring to step in heavy with power shots. Often, Tybura will make use of shifting punches, stepping into the opposite stance as he fires a power shot in order to load up another. Despite the emphasis on landing hard, Tybura doesn’t throw slow or exaggerated strikes.

Another strong trait of the Pole is his habit of moving his head while he punches. That’s an important detail, one that separates wannabee Heavyweight contenders from the actual Top 15. Often, Tybura will roll off the right hand, occasionally throwing a left hook while he does.

Thanks to that head movement, Tybura has found good success as a counter puncher. He lands the jab on aggressors whenever he actually throws it, but mostly Tybura is a fan of the check hook. Looking to catch his opponent coming up, he does a nice job of leaning back and hiding his chin behind his shoulder.

Tybura’s rolling hooks and heavy right hand are great, but his kicks are far more interesting. Despite not having a Karate background, Tybura kicks with a great deal of speed and snap. In particular, his left kick is a thing of beauty, and Tybura takes great pains to set it up well.

First and foremost, Tybura throws the kick at two different angles. Some times, he’ll come straight up with a surprisingly powerful front kick. Front kicks can usually snap into the mid-section or push the opponent away, but Tybura’s seems to do both quite effectively. Alternatively, Tybura’s kick can come up to the side of his opponent’s head (GIF). It still snaps from the knee, but the angle is different. Usually, Tybura accompanies his round kick with a quick step into Southpaw that is disguised by a combination. Sometimes, whoever, Tybura will just lean back and flick the kick up as his opponent comes in, hoping to catch him with his hands low.

Tybura will throw a right snap and low kick as well, but less thought goes into those strikes. However, the habit of snap kicking with either leg sets up his step knees. The first step to the snap kick is to raise the lead knee up, which means the same motion can easily be converted into a knee if his opponent is too close.

In Tybura’s sole Octagon loss, he was controlled along the fence by Timothy Johnson. The exchanges were reasonably close, but Tybura ultimately ate some hard shots and lost the decision because he allowed his opponent to control him for too long.

Wrestling

Tybura has proven to be an effective wrestler. Forcing takedowns is not his strong suit, but the Pole is opportunistic when it comes to landing in top position.

For example, Tybura wrestled offensively more in his bout with Andrei Arlovski than any other. The first takedown was classic Tybura, as he simply caught a kick and yanked the Belarusian off-balance. In the third round, however, it was really gut-check time. Both men were exhausted, but Tybura ultimately pulled out the win by showing off some better transitional wrestling than expected.

First, Tybura drove his opponent into the fence with an inside single leg. He then slipped his head to the outside for a high-crotch and dump, but Arlovski maintained his balance. It was enough to sit Arlovski to his butt against the fence, though, which allowed Tybura to circle back in front of his opponent. He couldn’t lock his hands on a double-leg immediately, but he patiently waited for Arlovski to attempt to stand. When Arlovski went to stand, Tybura clasped his fingers and landed a real double-leg takedown, lifting and slamming his foe away from the fence.

Defensively, Tybura has proven to be game wrestler as well. He’s not perfect, but Tybura does a number of things well that make him very difficult to keep on the mat. Most important, Tybura has strong hips. Solid wrestlers like Viktor Pesta and Luis Henrique managed to get in on his hips, and normally that means a takedown for such powerful athletes. However, Tybura managed to get his hips back enough at least to force his foe to move towards a body lock instead.

That’s still a terrible position, but it’s an improvement, and Tybura fights well from there. While continuing to shoot his hips back, Tybura will defend with some combination of a frame at his foe’s waist, attempt to dig for an underhook, or forearm to the jaw in an attempt to score better head position. All those defenses tie together well and make him a difficult man to drag to the mat.

Still, it does happen, which is the result of Tybura not being a lifelong grappler. To his credit, Tybura does a great job of immediately working for an underhook and getting back to his feet.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, Tybura has shown some very solid skill on the mat. He’s finished six of his opponents via tapout, but he also won a pair of bouts inside the Octagon as a direct result of his grappling prowess.

From top position, Tybura is a very heavy guard passer. He usually waits for his opponent to make the first move to open the guard, simply landing strikes until his opponent is forced to move. Once that happens, Tybura will sometimes look to stack the hips and pass directly into mount. If not, he’ll step into half guard, drop heavy should pressure, and land in that same dominant position.

Once in the mount, Tybura does an excellent job of maintaining position. He’ll quickly climb into a high mount and start dropping hammer fists, which usually causes his opponent to buck and scramble. When that happens, Tybura lets his opponent roll over but sinks his weight back, ensuring he doesn’t fall off the top. All the while, he keeps punching, encouraging his opponent to turn back to mount.

He hasn’t tapped anyone inside the Octagon yet, but just from watching his fluidity in mount and back control, it’s no surprise there are four rear-naked choke victories on his record. Lastly, Tybura did use a north-south choke to sleep UFC vet Damian Grabowski in his first M-1 Global title fight. That’s a rare technique, which is the reason why we chose to highlight this choke.

Conclusion

Tybura is 32 years old and six years into his professional MMA career, which makes him the Heavyweight equivalent of a high school freshman. Despite his (relative) inexperience, he’s quickly proven himself a composed and well-rounded fighter, belonging among the top half of UFC Heavyweights. If he can upset Werdum, he raises his position to title contender and is in the immediate mix.

*****

Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an amateur champion who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.