Massachusetts power puncher, Rob Font, will square off against Brazilian mixed martial arts (MMA) legend, Jose Aldo, this Saturday (Dec. 4, 2021) at UFC Vegas 44 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
When Font was thoroughly dominated by Raphael Assuncao in 2018, that probably should have been the end of his title dreams. Bantamweights don’t tend to improve dramatically once on the wrong side of 30, but Font did just that, returning better than ever in his next four performances to rise into the Top 5. At the same time, Font still has that feel of an unlikely contender, a fighter who has to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s championship level before that title shot emerges.
Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Font is a sharp boxer with good power who makes the most of the fundamentals to batter opponents.
It’s a lot of fun to watch Font jab. He’s got solid reach for a Bantamweight, and Font makes the most of it by leaning his left shoulder forward a bit, often keeping his hand lowered. From this position, Font can feint with his shoulder or really snap the punch out quickly. Once he figures out his distance with the punch, Font will play with his opponent’s timing, feinting then jabbing and vice-versa.
Since Font’s jab lands with a major impact (GIF), he can really control fights with just the jab and his feints. However, Font actually does a really good job of building combinations from the strike, which makes him far more dangerous.
Obviously, the right hand is the most natural follow up to the jab. Font does well to measure distance with his jab before firing the right, doubling up his jab if necessary. However, what’s really interesting about Font’s right hand is how much variation he puts into how he throws it.
Font throws his right as a cross, overhand, and hook in fairly equal amounts (GIF), looking to find his way through his opponent’s guard. More telling of his skill is Font’s ability to switch up his footwork, as Font can drill the cross at distance like a boxer or really step forward into Southpaw to cover that extra bit of range.
In his excellent debut knockout opposite George Roop, for example, Font absolutely charged the taller man to land his overhand (GIF). His feet were not in great position afterward, sure, but sometimes that’s necessary when closing distance on such a lanky fighter. Against more similarly bodied men, Font has followed up that Southpaw commitment more smoothly, adding on punches.
A common tactic of Font is to follow his right hand with a right kick. He doesn’t throw the strikes at the same time — though he has done so with the cross-kick as a Southpaw — instead opting to attempt to catch his opponent circling away after the punch (GIF).
The strike’s use is a bit different to the other right hands mentioned, but Font has a nasty power uppercut as well. Very often, he’ll use the strike to deter takedown attempts, often switching his left jab to more of a frame to help line up the uppercut. After the uppercut, Font is happy to keep firing, adding on further hooks or even marching punches depending on whether his opponent stands in place or runs off.
Font does the majority of his work with his hands, but he can kick well. Aside from the mentioned right high kick, Font likes to show hip feints and target the lead leg. In addition, he did a great job against Ricky Simon with the front kick to the chin, taking advantage of his shorter foe’s hunched stance.
Against Cody Garbrandt, Font’s distance management was really on display. Against the shorter power puncher, Font kept his jab active, but he didn’t overcommit in the process, denying Garbrandt his attempts to time the right hand over the jab. Instead, he continued working his lead hand, backing Garbrandt towards the fence and getting a read on his head movement.
All throughout the fight, Garbrandt waited for his foe to step too far forward, but Font did not take the bait. He hung back and used his range advantage, doubling and tripling up the jab, then stinging Garbrandt with right hands at the edge of his range (GIF). When Garbrandt tried to advance himself, Font was ready on the counter, often with his right uppercut.
Defensively, Font does a nice job of keeping his non-punching arm relatively tight to his chin, and managing distance well always helps keep on safe. However, he’s very willing to engage in the pocket, and that carries risk. Font has been dropped in the past, even when he’s winning exchanges, largely because he’s willing to stand and trade.
Rob Font is a fighter who looks to win in all areas. He’s not the most committed wrestler, but Font can still be trusted to try — and often score — a takedown or two per fight.
Very often, that shot comes in the form of a double leg. The aforementioned right overhand step into Southpaw is quite a good strategy for closing distance, which means it’s also a great way to transition into the takedown. Good luck staring down the barrel of a Rob Font overhand and not covering up! Plus, if Font times the step perfectly, his right knee can trip up his opponent.
Otherwise, the classic punch to get the hands high then double leg along the fence works well for an athlete like Font.
On defense, Font is not impossible to take down, but he’s yet to lose a fight solely because he was controlled from his back. The Raphael Assuncao is the nearest exception, but Assuncao’s ability to take away Font’s jab with his kicks and counter right hand really threw everything off more than mere wrestling ability.
Font’s scrap with Ricky Simon is more telling. Font did an excellent job of stuffing Simon’s attempts to change levels in the open with a quick sprawl, changing the angle and pulling him up into the clinch. Against the fence, Simon was better able to find success locking his hands and completing the shot, but Font still managed to scramble up quickly in most cases.
A brown belt in jiu-jitsu, Font has submitted four of his opponents.
Three of those victories — including his sole tapout in the Octagon — came via front choke. Against Douglas Silva de Andrade, Font managed to drop his foe with an overhand then attacked the neck as de Andrade went to stand. The Brazilian was a bit wobbly, and he only made matters worse for himself by slamming Font into a better angle, allowing him to really sink in the high-elbow guillotine.
In other bouts, Font has used his jiu-jitsu to return to his feet. Against Simon, for example, Font used both the guillotine and kimura from his back to convince Simon to pull back. The second Simon took his weight off, Font immediately moved to stand along the fence.
That’s smart work.
Font is a hard-nosed and well-rounded veteran, but is that enough to become champion in a division as talent rich as Bantamweight? He’s already built a strong case, but defeating a resurgent Jose Aldo would be the best feather in his cap yet.
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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