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Recently myself and Patrick Wyman sat down to speak with Tristar MMA's Firas Zahabi, famed trainer of former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and current welterweight contender Rory MacDonald, who is set to challenge Robbie Lawler for GSP's old title next Saturday, July 11th.

MacDonald first met Lawler in a three-round bout in November of 2013. MacDonald withstood some of the most punishing strikes of his career in that bout. A Lawler uppercut in the third round sent MacDonald to the canvas, and he was forced to defend himself for most of the frame before he managed to take top position at the very end of the bout, from which he rained down elbows and punches for the final ten seconds. Lawler took the split decision win, and went on to defeat Johny Hendricks for the championship, while MacDonald returned to the drawing board.

We asked Firas about that first bout, and what's changed since.

Firas Zahabi is one of the best trainers in the sport of MMA, and he had a lot more insight to share with us, including his thoughts on ground & pound as a specifically trained aspect of MMA, the difference between sport BJJ and jiu jitsu for mixed martial arts, and his thoughts on two other Tristar-bred prospects in Alex Garcia and Joseph Duffy. If you want to hear the rest, check out the full episode of Heavy Hands.

Direct download: 58_firas_zahabi.mp3
Category:Interview -- posted at: 2:43 PM

Joanna Jedrzejczyk isn't just the best striker at women's strawweight--she's one of the best strikers in MMA, period. Her dynamic style, more akin to Dutch/European kickboxing than true Muay Thai, is marked by slick, fundamentally sound footwork, and an increasingly well-crafted arsenal of punches, elbows, and kicks. Of these strikes, Jedrzejczyk's left hook stands out. It may not be her best "kill shot," but the champ's hook is rapidly becoming the cornerstone of her boxing attack. On today's episode of Heavy Hands, Pat and I discuss the place of this punch in Joanna's game, and in striking in general. 

We also devote a lot of time to the champion's footwork--and compare/contrast it with that of Bellator fighters Michael Chandler and Patricio "Pitbull" Freire, both of whom also scored impressive finish victories last weekend at Bellator 138. 

And holding the episode together is an interesting conversation about the interconnected relationship between cardio, chin, and confidence.

Direct download: 57_jedrzejczyk.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 7:41 PM

Not only is Jason High one of MMA's last road warriors, having fought for Strikeforce, Dream, K-1, and Affliction in addition to his two stints with the UFC, the "Kansas City Bandit" is much-loved by hardcore fans throughout the MMA community. In addition to a well-rounded, finish-oriented style of fighting, High is easily one of the best fighters to follow on social media--if you don't follow him already, just ask for Marcelino Evil.

High joined myself and Patrick Wyman on this week's Heavy Hands to discuss a number of subjects, including the recent end of a year-long suspension for... pushing a referee? 

High is well known for his well-rounded grappling game, highlighted by the same arm-in guillotine which Fabricio Werdum used to finish Cain Velasquez at last weekend's UFC 188. Aside from his submission skills, however, High possesses excellent, methodical ground & pound. We asked him about his scientific approach to wrestling and ground striking. "It's just efficient. That's really the name of the game. The higher you climb on that ladder, it's about who's more efficient. People aren't making mistakes, so you can't be that first guy to make a mistake. That all starts in the gym--a lot of people don't understand that. It all comes from saying focused and drilling."

High, like the ATT team with which he is affiliated, operates on the cutting edge of the current MMA metagame. Concerning grappling in mixed martial arts, he said, "A lot of guys, when they're in the guard, they focus on passing guard. In MMA you can do damage. You don't really need to pass guard . . . It's hard to submit a savvy opponent inside the guard . . . The best option to me [from bottom] in today's MMA is just to get back up."

We also asked High his thoughts on hard sparring, which has become a hot topic in light of the recent criticisms leveled at teams like AKA and Roufussport, both of which are known for frequent hard sparring--and frequent injuries. "I'm on the fence about that," High said. "Me, personally, I need to spar. I need to feel that hard blow . . . I feel like if you have a group that you trust, that you can spar hard with, you're training on the edge, you know? In any sport, it's about pushing to the edge, but not pushing over it. Hard sparring definitely has a place in the game." 

Jason wasn't sure where he'd be going next, but now that his suspension is finally over he assured us we would know very soon. Whether it's the UFC or Bellator, where High's business partner L.C. Davis currently resides, we wish him the best, and look forward to his next fight. 

Direct download: 56_jason_high.mp3
Category:Interview -- posted at: 6:01 PM

On today's episode of Heavy Hands, we're looking forward to UFC 188--namely, to Cain Velasquez's long awaited return to the Octagon. The UFC has endlessly promoted Cain as a cardio freak with endless stamina and... I guess he doesn't get tired as easily as other heavyweights, so that's good. But in this writer's humble opinion, they've really missed the mark by failing to mention Velasquez's record of finishes and the incredible skillset that caused almost all of them. 

Aside from a pair of decisions with the brutally tough Junior Dos Santos and the always crafty Cheick Kongo, Velasquez has never gone to the judges' scorecards. He is, without a doubt, one of the best finishers in all of MMA, and most of those finishes are the direct result of his ferocious ground striking, more commonly known as ground n' pound. Today, Pat and I break down what exactly makes Cain such a terrific top position fighter, and try to understand ground n' pound in general. 

Also, we discuss the technical and stylistic improvements of Dustin Poirier who, since a move to the lightweight division, has looked like a destroyer of men.

Direct download: 55_ground_and_pound.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 4:01 PM

If you've listened to Heavy Hands before, you know that Pat and myself haven't always been particularly fond of the technical prowess of Jackson-Winkeljohn fighters. We both agree, however, that Carlos Condit is among the finest fighters to have ever come out of Albuquerque's most prestigious MMA academy--and, in fact, he's one of the best in the world as a whole.

After discussing why Mike Winkeljohn's unique style might be so perfectly suited to Condit's strengths, we move on to Mirsad Bektic, one of UFC Goiania's other standouts, and discuss the nature of prospects in MMA.

Direct download: 54_condit_and_bektic.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 7:18 PM

There are a lot of things responsible for a fighter's success. Skill is one, and natural talent is another. No fighter wins consistently without stamina, and power and chin have carried many fighters to victory. One essential ingredient that often goes undiscussed, however, is confidence

Today, Pat and I talk about the role of confidence in a fighter's career, and how some of MMA's greatest comeback stories are the result of subtle changes in style and a little bit of favorable matchmaking--just enough to help build the best, most confident version of our fighter possible.

We also talk a bit about the idea of peaking--what it means, and how trainers control it. And then finally, we address MMA's numerous comeback stories, and ask, "Is it possible to change who you are as a fighter?"

 

Direct download: 53_confidence.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 5:15 PM

So far on Heavy Hands we've talked about out-fighters and boxer-punchers. Today, Pat and I get the chance to talk about a fighting style close to both of our hearts: pressure fighting. Bouts involving a pressure fighter are almost guaranteed action, as the style calls for constant forward momentum and a nerve-wrackingly narrow gap between the two combatants. To understand the style, Pat and I break down four spectacular exemplars of the type: UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, light heavyweight contender Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, boxer Gennady Golovkin, and flyweight boxing champ Roman "El Chocolatito" Gonzalez. 

Tune in to hear two self-professed pressure fighters talk about the art of pressure fighting.

Direct download: 52_pressure_fighters.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 4:12 AM

Episode 3 of "Styles Make Fights" is all about boxer-punchers. 

For those unfamiliar with this Heavy Hands series (you can find the first two installments here, and here), "Styles Make Fights" is all about the way combat athletes do their thing--not technically, per se, but mentally. Which way does the fighter prefer to move? Where does he like to stand in the ring or cage? How does he act under duress? These are the questions that help us to understand the mindset at the heart of any fighter's style. 

Today, we're talking about the Boxer-Puncher, a sort of catch-all category that even Pat and I don't perfectly understand. We break down the styles of some notable boxer-punchers, namely Canelo Alvarez, Urijah Faber, and Eder Jofre, and try to figure out what exactly makes one a boxer-puncher in the first place. 

The discussion is a good one, and we hope you enjoy it--next week we'll visit our "Styles Make Fights" series again and talk about pressure fighting, with the help of Gennady Golovkin, Anthony Johnson, and Chris Weidman. 

Direct download: 51_boxer-punchers.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 3:02 AM

I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Joe Delguyd, boxing coach at Cleveland's Strong Style MMA, on the latest episode of Heavy Hands. Strong Style hosts a number of high-level UFC fighters, among them heavyweight Stipe Miocic and bantamweight Jessica Eye, for whom Delguyd has very high hopes. 

When it comes to Ronda Rousey, the current champion in Eye's division, Delguyd has no delusions about her finishing ability. "Once . . . your hip meets her hip, it's goodnight, adios amigo. [To beat her] somebody is gonna have to give her a tremendous amount of movement . . . maybe make her reach, maybe make her make mistakes, maybe use the jab to punish her a little, swell her up . . . Maybe even be Mayweather-ish, you know? Don't be so fan-friendly . . .The girl that has that particular skillset is in our house."

"I have all the confidence in the world in [Jessica Eye]. Everybody else in the world is coming straight in, and [an out-boxing style] is the specific skillset, and she has that specific skillset."

One of Delguyd's other fighters is Stipe Miocic, who is set to face Mark Hunt in the main event of UFC Adelaide this weekend. 

"I've watched Mark Hunt since he was in K-1 fifteen years ago," Delguyd said. "People see Mark Hunt and they see an older fat guy. But he maintains that . . . short, punching power . . . But Stipe has all the long tools. I think what we're gonna see . . . is Stipe use the jab and straight right hand at long range. He's gonna use angles, and I don't think Mark Hunt is gonna be able to find him with those short power shots. 

Direct download: 50_joe_delguyd.mp3
Category:Interview -- posted at: 9:16 PM

Needless to say, Patrick Wyman and I have watched an awful lot of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao footage lately. As we come ever closer to Mayweather vs Pacquiao itself, we decided to look at the fight from a strategic perspective. Each of us compiled, in order, what we thought to be the three most important keys to victory for both Manny and Floyd. On today's episode of Heavy Hands, we compare notes.

It's too easy to forget what an incredibly compelling style clash this fight represents, but the fact that Pat and I came up with nearly a dozen "key points" between us is a nice reminder. Tune in to hear for yourself, and enjoy the show!

Direct download: 49_mayweather-pacquiao.mp3
Category:Boxing -- posted at: 12:35 PM