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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Fight Night 126’s Yancy Medeiros

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Gutsy power puncher, Yancy Medeiros, will duel with longtime UFC veteran and fellow kickboxer, Donald Cerrone, this Sunday (Feb. 18, 2018) inside Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Medeiros came into UFC along with the rest of the Strikeforce roster back in 2013. He dropped from Middleweight all the way down to Lightweight for his debut, but his early UFC career saw him struggle a bit with his foe’s grappling. Since then, Medeiros has improved each aspect of his game, and he’s found a healthy middle ground at 170 pounds. Currently on the best win streak of his career, the Hawaiian will look to cap it off with his biggest victory yet by knocking “Cowboy” out.

Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:

Striking

Medeiros is an interesting striker, a rangy kickboxer with more knockout power than his foes tend to expect. “The Kid” has trained both with Max Holloway’s team in Hawaii and with the Diaz brothers in Stockton, and the influence of both gyms is obvious in his kickboxing game.

Though he’s been fighting as a Southpaw more often — which I’ll talk about in a bit — Medeiros has mostly operated from the Orthodox stance. When fighting as a righty, Medeiros boxes far more than he kicks, and he makes full use of his long jab.

Medeiros has a more active jab than most in mixed martial arts (MMA). He’s not quite able to establish and control range compared to someone like Georges St-Pierre, but the lanky Hawaiian is definitely able to keep the strike in his opponent’s face. Medeiros does a nice job of mixing up his jabs, using both non-committal and full force jabs to stab at his opponent.

For Medeiros, the jab’s primary goal is to set up his power shots. Like Holloway, Medeiros is a fan of hooking off the jab. Once his opponent begins to reach to parry the jab, Medeiros will quickly tack a left hand behind the jab, or simply feint into the left hook. Again like the Featherweight champion, Medeiros will look to jab high to land a left hook to the body.

From either stance, Medeiros is less active with the right hand. When in Orthodox, he tends to throw the right with an arc despite his range. That does cost him an inch or two or reach with the strike, but it helps him load up the follow up left (GIF). It’s far from a perfect cross, but you cannot deny the transfer of weight when Medeiros pull back into the left hook (GIF).

Finally, Medeiros kicks occasionally from the Orthodox stance. His most common weapon is the spinning back kick, as Medeiros will usually flash a jab before digging to the body (GIF). Aside from that, Medeiros will make use of the switch kick to the mid-section, but he’s not all that active of a kicker.

As a Southpaw, Medeiros is far more active. Opposite a right-handed foe, Medeiros will look to use straight kicks to the lead knee, a great alternative to the jab (made more difficult by an opposite stance foe) in terms of maintaining distance. Furthermore, Medeiros will fire a left kick to the open side all day if allowed the correct range.

On the whole, Medeiros’ attack from Southpaw is comprised of the staples of leftie kickboxing. Occupying his foe’s lead hand with his right, Medeiros shoots out a much straighter cross direct from his chin to the opponent’s jaw or mid-section. His long arms make that a formidable weapon, and Medeiros will rely on it as a counter as well. Between the smooth cross and double threat with the left kick, Medeiros makes good use of his range as a Southpaw.

Medeiros’ overall issue on the feet is a defensive one. He’s been able to find success thanks to an iron chin, great conditioning, and definite toughness, but the fact remains that his defense is porous. At times, Alex Oliveira literally sprinted at Medeiros and chased him around the cage with the same punch repeatedly, but it still landed more often than not. Medeiros’ head is quite stationary almost all of the time, which is compounded by the fact that he usually backs straight up.

Wrestling

Medeiros tends to have little interest in getting the fight to the mat, but he’s quite good at stopping the shot. I mentioned he struggled with grappling early in his UFC career, but even then he was stuffing Rustam Khabilov’s takedowns rather well prior to dislocating his thumb.

Offensively, Medeiros has scored just a single takedown inside the Octagon, and it was only partially his own doing. Near the end of second round in their all-out war, “Cowboy” Oliveira attempted a fairly sloppy trip from the clinch. Medeiros was fresher and reacted by reversing Oliveira, taking advantage of the fact that Oliveira was standing on one leg to spin him to the mat.

Defensively, Medeiros has that type of wiry strength that annoys the hell out of wrestlers. Once his back is to the fence, Medeiros does a great job of spreading his feet wide and preventing the lift, buying plenty of time until he’s able to dig an underhook. In addition, Medeiros is offense when defending the shot, looking to snatch up the neck in a guillotine or hit a switch if his foe transitions into a single leg takedown.

Medeiros can definitely be taken down occasionally, but he’s quick to scramble up to his feet anyway, and he currently defends 82% of shots according to Fightmetric.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Medeiros does not often spend much time on the mat, but he’s shown nothing but solid jiu-jitsu skill so far. Of his four career submission wins, Medeiros has scored two rear naked chokes and a pair of guillotines.

The high-elbow guillotine is a simple enough technique, one of the most effective chokes in the sport. Rather than choke up through the windpipe, the high-elbow guillotine aims to cut off both sides of the carotid artery. Medeiros hunts for the choke while defending the takedown or after dropping his opponents, and he’s rather nasty at immediately hipping into the submission and cranking on the neck.

In one such example, Medeiros ended up in an odd position when Damon Jackson reacted strangely to the submission. In this week’s technique highlight, we talked a bit about the high-elbow guillotine, the transition Medeiros used, and the correct way to spin out of a choke.

Opposite Spencer, Medeiros used the guillotine choke to force his opponent to his back. Spencer scrambled as Medeiros tried to take mount, allowing the Hawaiian to instead flatten him out from the back mount. From there, the rear naked choke came quickly.

Medeiros’ sole submission loss came to Jim Miller, directly after he was dropped by a body shot. Just about any time someone is dropped to the mid-section, their arms are busy covering up their wounded torso. Such was the case for Joe Proctor when Medeiros strangled him, and Medeiros found himself on the wrong end of the exchange opposite Miller.

Conclusion

It could be argued that each of Medeiros’ three Welterweight wins are comebacks. At the very least, he faced adversity, usually in the form of a lot of punches to the dome. “Cowboy” is likely to continue that trend, but it’s also true that Medeiros is cracking hard right now and toying with Southpaw, a pair of things Cerrone does not like himself. Medeiros may be flawed defensively, but he just might be in the perfect position to gut through and win anyway at least one more time.

*****

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.