England’s top Featherweight, Arnold Allen, will challenge former 145-pound king, Max Holloway, this Saturday (April 15, 2023) at UFC Kansas City inside T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Allen is sneaky good. “Almighty” has been on the UFC roster since 2015, slowly building up a 10-fight win streak in the promotion. In truth, his inactivity has really benefited him. Allen was still a raw product in the beginning of his UFC career, a professional for just three years at 22 years of age. Someone of his victories back then were by the skin of his teeth, but the ultimate outcome is that Allen gained high-level experience as he grew up on the job.
Now 29 years of age, Allen has solidified his weakness and enhanced his strengths. Allen is hitting his prime, so let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Allen does most of his work as a kickboxer, managing distance careful to surprise his opponent with big shots. The Southpaw can crack, but his game is much more about finesse than raw speed or power.
When talking about Allen’s striking prowess, it really all comes back to movement. Allen is light on his feet and tends to circle the outside, inviting his opponents to take the center. While moving his feet laterally, Allen is constantly showing false steps forward, which will later become very real and very fast lead left hands.
Before talking about the offense itself, Allen’s posture is notable. When at distance, he’s often slightly leaning forward at the waist, presenting his face as a target. When his opponent attacks, Allen withdraws both his feet and his head ... usually. Sometimes, he just pulls his head back and fires without moving his feet. Or, he’ll attempt to time their step forward and create a collision with an immediate left and no movement at all.
In either case, Allen creates big impacts by catching his opponent moving into his left (GIF).
On the whole, Allen does really good work defending himself from this distance. He switches directions well, but Allen really likes to win the outside foot position against Orthodox fights. Because of this, he’s often angling to his right. As he does so, Allen hides his chin behind his should and presents the point of his elbow — an unenviable target to punch. His body is open from this positioning, but most fighters are such head hunters that it seldom matters.
In terms of actual offense, Allen largely relies on the fundamental. The Tristar-trained fighter has a strong jab as one would expect, firing off the open stance engagement by parrying his foe’s lead hand before sticking the jab. Allen likes to double up the jab, using the double jab both to pursue that outside angle or close distance for a left hand follow (sometimes to the body!).
Allen does a bulk of his punching with his left hand, which is always chambered and typically fired very straight down the center. His trickery with head positioning often allows him to just extend his left with no tell or load up, resulting in a crisp cross that catches even experienced boxers like Calvin Katter off-guard (GIF).
Allen often limits himself to short combinations, often the 1-2 or 2-3, before returning to his movement. On occasion, he will explode into longer flurries, typically filled with lots of left crosses and right hooks. It’s not complicated, but “Almighty” can put together punches in bunches when the moment calls for it.
Allen’s kicking game is quite interesting. His best weapon is surely his calf kick, which is uncommon for Southpaws mostly fighting Orthodox opponents. Allen has a unique flair to his outside low kick, stepping his back foot forward to gain a bit of an outside angle. Then, he kicks with almost an upward angle, as if he’s trying to lift his opponent’s foot up into the air (GIF). The extra bit of angle secured helps ensure his opponent will not check the kick, and when he picks the foot up, it guarantees Allen secures the outside angle he desires.
In addition, Allen definitely plays the classic Southpaw double threat game. He timed Sodiq Yusuff perfectly with a high kick as Yusuff slipped his cross, which had landed several times. Allen could build upon this further by also throwing left round kicks to the body, but he tends to throw his body kick with more of a forward snap/toe stab.
Early on in his UFC career, Allen’s wrestling simply wasn’t great. He was pretty soundly out-wrestled by Makwan Amirkhani and Mads Burnell, but he still managed to win both fights and use them as learning lessons.
Since then, he hasn’t given up a single takedown! When pressed into the fence, Arnold does a far better job of spreading his base wide and pulling his opponents up into the clinch. In the open, Allen’s style of distance management makes timing him very difficult, as he’s the one usually setting traps and initiating the collisions.
Offensively, the timing for a counter left hand is the same as a counter double leg. Notably, Yusuff came in with a very clear strategy of trying to pressure Allen to the fence then beat him up. In that bout, Allen did a great job of mitigating his opponent’s pressure with well-timed and effective double leg takedowns. He didn’t have an easy time holding Yusuff down, but it still forced Yusuff to back off a bit.
Both of Allen’s UFC submissions came via guillotine. More specifically, both were finished via the rear naked choke grip guillotine, also known as the ninja choke.
This style of guillotine is a really great defensive weapon against head inside takedowns, either the double or single leg. While defending the shot, Allen sneaks his outside arm across the front of his opponent’s shoulders/neck. From this position, he can push away at the the throat, and most wrestlers are likely to drive back forward harder in response. Suddenly, Allen shifts gears and allows the neck to fall into the crook of his elbow, and he locks in the rear naked choke grip.
Once this choke is locked, there’s pretty much no hope (GIF).
Against Kattar, Allen briefly showed a bit more of his submission game. After Kattar injured his knee, Allen jumped on the neck and attacked the guillotine. As Kattar defended, he tried to switch to an anaconda choke, and he smartly attempted to use his leg to hook Kattar’s elbow and cinch the strangle tighter.
Allen is in his prime, and he has a great record against high-level opposition. He’s been consistently improving year-to-year, and now he’s fully prepared for the biggest test of his professional career.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter 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.
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