Submission ace, Mateusz Gamrot, will square off opposite knockout artist, Rafael Fiziev, this Saturday (Sept. 23, 2023) at UFC Vegas 79 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Gamrot dove into the deep end of the Lightweight shark tank pretty much immediately, and while it hasn’t always been easy, he’s picked up some excellent wins in his three years on the roster. Really, it’s shocking how often he lives up to the “Gamer” nickname. For a wrestling and top control specialist, Gamrot finds himself in wild exchanges and high-volume fights more often than not. He’s built well for 25-minute scraps, and this main event versus Fiziev feels guaranteed to deliver serious excitement.
Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Gamrot is an interesting striker. At times, he can really be quite slick and fluid, setting up slick connections that can do real damage. More recently, however, he’s been outgunned on the feet and forced to make up for his lack of combination punching with pure grit.
Generally, Gamrot is a movement and feints oriented striker. He’s very rarely standing his ground and trading shots. Rather, “Gamer” is comfortable from both stances, circling often, and trying to draw out offense from his opponents with feints and false starts. It’s not dramatic Dominick Cruz-style movement, but Gamrot stays a difficult enough target that he’s often able to draw his opponents into his takedowns.
As for his actual stand up, Gamrot does strong work with the concept of touch, pull, return. In other words, Gamrot initiates a striking exchange, avoids the counter, then lands his own counter after his opponent comes up short. Typically, Gamrot’s initial land is a single jab, lead hook, or 1-2. If he’s fighting open stance (meaning Gamrot and his opponent are in opposite stances), Gamrot will switch it up and poke his opponent with a lead cross straight down the middle. Gamrot’s best lead combination is likely the 1-2 from Orthodox (GIF). After landing this combo, he’ll frequently roll his head, which can be a great setup for the takedown.
Regardless, Gamrot’s movement flows really well after the initial touch. As he withdraws from range, he’s able to read his opponent. Sometimes, they won’t fire back, and that’s okay. Other times, it works perfectly, and Gamrot is able to plant a hard cross on the chin when they come up short.
Another element of Gamrot’s distance game is active kicks. He’ll target the lead leg, mid-section, and head with round kicks, and he’ll go up the middle with a snap as well. As he shifts stances, Gamrot does nice work of consistently kicking into the open side, occasionally even hiding his kick behind a straight first.
His last three fights — Tsarukyan, Dariush, and Turner — have seen Gamrot outgunned on the feet. All three hit harder and were more confident in the pocket, allowing them to push a pace on Gamrot. Typically, Gamrot can wrestle well if pressured, but the trio also really made him work for his takedowns. As a result, Gamrot struggled quite a bit more than normal on the feet, relying on distance kicks and single shots more than usual.
Gamrot is a wildly unique wrestler.
First and foremost: the ankle pick (GIF). Who is picking ankles in MMA at a high-level? Nobody really, not since Kazushi Sakuraba. It requires extraordinary timing to dive down at the ankle from kickboxing distance, when there’s no previous physical connection to the other professional athlete in the cage. The bright side of this shot is that it’s pretty unlikely to be caught with a knee or uppercut in the process — Gamrot is too low for that to happen!
At the same time, this type of shot would consistently land most fighters in absolutely terrible position. If mistimed, it plants the shooting fighter on his hands and knees beneath a fighter who can punch, kick, or knee as they try to stand back up. It could also give up top position if the other fighter is willing to grapple.
Fortunately, Gamrot is so damn good with his transitional wrestling that he’s willing to take that risk, because he’ll instantly latch onto the leg even in a less than perfect shot. See below:
Gamrot goes for an ankle pick, but his opponent limp legs out. He maintains control of the leg, attempts to dump again, then transitions to the double when his opponent maintains his balance. Note how well he cuts angles with every shot attempt (bonus GIF)!
A big part of Gamrot’s wrestling game involves latching into one leg and then finishing from there. Even off the ankle pick, Gamrot can wind up on a more classic single leg shot, and he’s a master of finishing that position. Let’s talk about a few of the classic finishes that Gamrot utilizes and why he’s so effective from a position where wrestling usually stalls out in MMA.
First and foremost, the golden rule of shooting in MMA is to never stop moving. Often, fighters shoot super quick and successfully connect with their opponent’s hips. Then, there’s a brief moment where the action pauses before they continue their transitions. By that point, the other fighter is defending, and it’s too late. This is true of all shots, but it’s especially important for the single leg.
Gamrot never stops moving. As soon as he’s attached to the leg, he’s instantly trying to run the pipe. He fully commits to the finish, willing to put himself in the crackdown position on the ground. The crackdown is not a great spot in MMA: the defending fighter has submission options, strikes, and back takes while the man shooting has his head buried into the floor. Gamrot avoids all that potential negativity by either cartwheeling over his opponent’s guard immediately or elevating the leg he just used to dump his foe to the mat.
Gamrot runs the pipe on a single into a nearly grounded crackdown scramble, then elevates the leg as Norman Parke tries to stand
Gamrot has lots of options if his opponent resists the initial dump and keeps his feet. For example, he can switch off to the double leg with an athletic lift, using that moment of off-balance to shift his hands. That’s reasonably common for MMA, but Gamrot does it well.
Less common is Gamrot’s ability to hike up the single leg takedown. In collegiate wrestling, this is extremely common, but wrestlers wear shoes! In MMA, it’s largely impossibly to cling to a punching opponent’s sweaty foot — Jose Aldo made an entire career of beating the s—t out people for trying to hold onto his limp leg.
Somehow, Gamrot manages. Against Jeremy Stephens, Gamrot elevated the leg to his hip, keeping a tight guillotine-esque grip on the ankle. From there, he twisted his own body, forcing Stephens’ knee to internally rotate. Fun fact: many, many MMA fighters have pretty poor hip mobility, particularly with internal rotation, as a result of wear-and-tear from years of kicking and wrestling. Against the many with poor mobility, this type of takedown finish especially sucks and is largely impossible to resist. Jeremy Stephens, veteran of 17 years and 50 pro fights, unsurprisingly seems to feel the same, as he tipped over to his belly immediately.
The final element of Gamrot’s wrestling skill is his ability to disappear towards the back. Often, Gamrot is met with a sprawl when he shoots — that’s Wrestling 101. If timed correctly, good wrestlers can cut an angle exactly as their opponent attempts to drop their weight onto them via the sprawl. If done correctly, the sprawling fighter sprawls on nothing, resulting in an effortless back take.
It doesn’t always work out that cleanly, of course. Sometimes, Gamrot gets sprawled on. He shoots often, and it happens. Even then, Gamrot is slick to sneak around towards the back, using arm drags and duck-unders to escape out from underneath his opponent.
A jiu-jitsu black belt, Gamrot has found great success in the ADCC European Championship competitions. Inside the cage, however, Gamrot doesn’t actually land submissions all that often, tapping just a pair of opponents in the last five years.
In one of his KSW Lightweight title defenses vs. Grzegorz Szulakowski, Gamrot showed the brutality of the crucifix position. In the fourth round, his opponent was definitely feeling Gamrot’s wrestling onslaught and looking a bit tired. Gamrot took advantage by trapping an arm in side control with his legs.
Now in a battle of two arms vs. one, Gamrot could occupy his opponent’s defending arm with his right arm while hammering away with his left. Whenever Szulakowski tried to protect his face with the free arm, Gamrot would attack the Americana or straight armbar that opened up as a result. It took a couple tries, but Gamrot finished the Americana after really battering his foe.
Against Jeremy Stephens, Gamrot brilliantly countered a Stephens’ kimura attempt. Stephens started to attack the arm from half guard, but Gamrot quickly passed. Stephens wasn’t quick enough to let get of the figure-four, and suddenly the situation changed: Stephens didn’t have Gamrot’s arm, Gamrot had his! Stepping around the head, Gamrot did not fall back on the armbar a la Matt Hughes vs. GSP.
Instead, he secured north-south by sitting on Stephens’ head, allowing him to adjust to the full kimura grip. It didn’t take long afterward to wrench the arm behind Stephens’ back and force the tap (GIF).
Gamrot is certainly the most skilled wrestler that Fiziev has faced yet in his career, but this also feels like a his recent trio of match ups that saw Gamrot take more abuse than normal. It’s going to be a real test for “Gamer” to either 1) out-wrestle Fiziev without getting smacked up in the process or 2) survive getting battered en route to the takedown against a hitter like Fiziev.
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.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 79 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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