One-time Cleveland Brown, Eryk Anders, will look to continue his climb opposite former Light Heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida, this Saturday (Feb. 3, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 125 inside Arena Guilherme Paraense in Belem, Brazil.
Anders made his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) debut in Aug. 2015. Less than two years later, he had already captured the LFA Middleweight title — a premiere regional organization — and made his UFC debut, sending long-time veteran Rafael Natal into retirement. His next bout came to a short-notice newcomer and wasn’t quite as exciting, but it was yet another dominant win for “Ya Boi,” who improved to 10-0.
Now, the 30-year-old knockout artist will attempt to dispatch a former UFC strap-hanger still less than three years into his pro career. The sky is the limit for such a powerful athlete, but let’s take a closer look at this skill set first.
Six of Anders’ 10 victories came via knockout, and it’s immediately obvious that the Southpaw has big power in his left hand. Anders is a definite pressure fighter who stalks his opponent relentlessly, but much of time, he’s looking to counter as they attempt to back him off with strikes.
Anders’ left hand is his money punch, and his usual set up is the pull-cross. As Anders pressures forward, he’s ready to step back and fire at the first sign of a counter. Often, his foe is trying to keep him back with the jab despite not being great with the strike, leaving him vulnerable to the pull counter.
One of the reasons Anders is so effective is that he does a great job of sitting on his back leg. Not only does that allow him to create big power by moving his full weight from the back leg to the front, but it keeps Anders’ head far from the pocket. He’s more difficult to punch as a result, which causes opponents to reach and sets up the pull counter even more. Despite constantly looking for the pull counter, Anders has little fear of leading. He’ll fire a hard one-two combinations down the middle often enough, and Anders will still look to pull and fire if his foe tries to counter Anders’ lead (GIF).
On the whole, Anders does a very good job of threatening with takedowns while moving forward. Most often, he uses the threat of the level change to set up power shots, a strategy we analyzed in this week’s technique highlight.
In addition, Anders likes to crash into the clinch after punching. He’s a physical force with strong takedowns, which means the clinch is often a great position. Because of those abilities, Anders can safely finish combinations by falling into the clinch, which will snuff out his opponent’s attempts to counter.
Once there, Anders is a brutally effective fighter. His clinch work is generally simple but powerful, as Anders maintains good head position and finds moments to land knees. Most of the time, he looks to cross frame — use one arm to underhook or overhook, place that hand in the crook of the arm, and use the other forearm to drive into the face — to break his foe’s posture. Any time Anderson can drive his forearm into the side of his opponent's face, it won’t be long before a knee comes driving toward its target.
Defensively, Anders’ aggression occasionally leaves him vulnerable, and he will at times over-commit to punches. These are common enough habits for a fighter with so little professional experience, but they could prove problematic against an expert counter striker in Machida.
From what I can gather from interview and the Internet, Anders wrestled a bit in school, but most of his early athletic career was dominated by football. Luckily, those sports share quite a few common threads, resulting in Anders having a powerful takedown game inside the cage.
From close distance, Anders is a bull. After backing his foe into the fence, Anders likes to drop into the single leg. From there, he tends to finish with a slam, either lifting directly from the level change or using a step back and dump to set up the lift.
In his last bout, Anders repeatedly used the snatch single to move himself into the clinch. Yanking on the leg often creates the space necessary to transition into a body lock, which is a great position for slams and throws. Anders didn’t always look to complete the takedown from that position, as he’d also maintain the clinch and do damage.
Defensively, Anders is not an easy man to take down or control. That said, taking him down is not an impossible task, as he does leave his hips open and is not an amazingly credentialed wrestler. Last time out, his opponent Markus Perez was able to time a couple good double legs along the fence, which are nearly impossible to resist once the hands are locked unless the defending fighter is a truly extraordinary wrestler.
A bit of inexperience aside, Anders scrambled up immediately from those takedowns with no issue. Additionally, he shucked off both Natal and Perez repeatedly, as anything less than a perfectly timed shot saw the fighters bounce off his hips.
A BJJ purple belt, Anders has not shown a ton of his submission grappling inside the Octagon. One of his regional victories came via rear naked choke, but seeing as that’s probably the simplest submission possible, that doesn’t tell us much either.
Realistically, all we can say so far is that Anders has shown smart top control. Opposite both Perez and (briefly) Natal, Anders avoided submission attempts by keeping good posture and sitting his weight back. Against Perez, he actually used his opponent’s attempts to scramble to hop around the guard, advancing into good position and continuing to do damage.
There are really two ways to view this fight. On paper, this appears to be a huge jump in competition for Anders, but that assumes Machida is still somewhat close to his prime form. The odds makers have a different view of the situation, placing Anders at a nearly 3:1 favorite, which implies both that Anders is a future contender and Machida is a has been. All of that makes this bout very difficult to reliable predict, as it’s tough to tell exactly where either man is at this stage of his career. If the truth is somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, that’s perhaps the best outcome, as it will result in an excellent fight rather than technical showcase for Machida or physical drubbing by “Ya Boi.”
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.