Heavy Hands

Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit are both fascinating fighters, and their UFC 195 clash could very well end up being one of the greatest fights in welterweight history. Both Condit and Lawler welcome the blood and the guts of combat with open arms; and yet both are intelligent, crafty fighters with undeniable skill. Their fight will be a contest of adaptation, and we spend the bulk of this week's episode sussing out the different ways in which these two great warriors adapt. 

In scouting this fight, we also examine what we consider the best and worst qualities of each fighter. After that it's on to Lorenz Larkin vs Albert Tumenov (don't mind the sound of drool hitting the mic) and the fortunately rescheduled Dustin Poirier vs Joe Duffy, both phenomenal action fights. 

The show wraps up with a few questions from our listeners.

Direct download: 84_lawler_condit.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 10:59pm EST

Rafael Dos Anjos got it done against Donald Cerrone, and it only took about a minute, cementing him as the rightful lightweight champion and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. In addition to the stunning killer instinct Dos Anjos displayed, we break down Alistair Overeem's slick win over Junior Dos Santos, and Nate Diaz's triumphant return to form against tough-luck would-be contender Michael Johnson. 

But enough about what just happened. UFC on Fox 17 was the last UFC event of 2015, and it was a year full of great fights and shocking upsets. Next week we'll be looking ahead to UFC 195, but on this episode we remember the year in mixed martial arts, and name our picks for the best of 2015. Best fighter, best fight, best upset--these and more are discussed in detail on the latest Heavy Hands. 

 

Direct download: 83_2015_awards.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 11:39am EST

Greatest fight in featherweight history! One of the most skilled fighters to ever step foot in the ring or cage defends his title against the most dangerous contender he's ever--what's that? It's over already? Oh. 

Huh.

It took Conor McGregor a mere 13 seconds to lay 10-time champion Jose Aldo out flat on the canvas and emphatically declare himself the best featherweight in the world. On this week's episode of Heavy Hands, we ask how much we can really take away from such a quick and one-sided victory, get a little sentimental about the potential end of Jose Aldo's career, and break down the tactics--well, tactic that McGregor used to get the KO. 

After that it's on to Luke Rockhold, who put a beatdown on middleweight champion Chris Weidman, and Frankie Edgar, who made us look like fools for doubting him--again

Finally, we give our predictions for next week's lightweight title fight between newly crowned champion Rafael Dos Anjos and fan favorite Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. Should be a good one!

Direct download: 82_conor_mcgregor_new_champ.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 9:35am EST

Jose Aldo is fighting Conor McGregor in the biggest fight in UFC featherweight history. What more is there to say? 

Well, a lot actually. And on this week's episode of Heavy Hands, we try our very best to say all of it. With so many variables at play, our main goal is to come up with a gameplan for each of the two combatants. We lay out three keys for Aldo to defend his belt, as well as three keys for McGregor to take it for himself. How does Aldo deal with McGregor's pressure and volume? How does McGregor deal with Aldo's variety, experience, and defense? And who wins? 

We discuss all of this in detail, as well as giving our analysis and predictions for Frankie Edgar vs Chad Mendes and Max Holloway vs Jeremy Stephens, two other extremely relevant featherweight fights taking place the same weekend. 

Direct download: 81_aldo_mcgregor.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 12:37pm EST

This week on Heavy Hands we're looking forward to the imminent UFC extravaganza, with three events taking place three days in a row, from December 10th through December 12th. There are too many great matchups to discuss on this episode, so we're saving a few (including Aldo vs McGregor) for next week and reserving the bulk of this week's show for the middleweight title tilt between Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold, who is almost certainly the young champion's toughest challenge to date.

It's maybe the most technical, well-rounded matchup in middleweight history, and it's a doozy to predict as a result, but we do our best! After that, it's the number one contender's fight between Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, and Yoel "The Preacher of Pain/The Cardinal of Carnage/The Vicar of Violence/The Pontiff of Punishment" Romero, two of the sport's most explosive old men. 

Wrapping things up, we give the quick skinny on Paige VanZant vs Rose Namajunas, Aljamain Sterling vs Johnny Eduardo, and Edson Barboza vs Tony Ferguson. Who says there's too much of a good thing? Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 80_rockhold_weidman.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 8:52am EST

What makes an out-fighter an out-fighter, or a boxer a boxer? On this week's Heavy Hands we look into the behaviors that let us define fighters' styles. 

First up, there's Neil Magny, often sold as a rangy boxer but, as he showed in his upset win over Kelvin Gastelum last weekend, actually much more effective on the inside. Then there's Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, the new pay-per-view king of the boxing world, whose peculiar blend of power and boxing skill makes him a uniquely dangerous--and uniquely limited--opponent. Finally, we analyze the stylistic talents of Tyson Fury, set to battle Wladimir Klitschko for--well, all the heavyweight titles on Saturday, November 28th. 

Direct download: 79_magny_canelo_fury.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 10:11pm EST

Holly Holm wasn't supposed to beat Ronda Rousey. She wasn't even supposed to survive for more than a round or two. Expectations didn't stop her from putting on the performance of a lifetime, however, and her training and preparation seemed absolutely flawless. 

On the other end of the bout, Ronda Rousey had an unbelievable amount of trouble with Holly Holm. The loss highlighted some of the flaws in her game, particularly in her boxing. Rousey has trained her hands diligently at Glendale Fight Club under coach Edmond Tarverdyan, but there is reason to doubt the effectiveness of this training. On this week's episode of Heavy Hands, we talk about the changes Rousey will need to make in order to prevent a repeat of this result when she rematches Holm--and a change of camp just might be at the top of that list. 

After that, it's on to the co-main event, in which strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk showed off her adaptability against an unexpectedly tough challenger, despite breaking her right hand early in the fight. 

Direct download: 78_how_holly_holm_beat_ronda_rousey.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 10:07pm EST

Ronda Rousey achieved the status of a "not if, but how" fighter years ago. No longer do we wonder whether or not she will beat the next opponent in front of her; we merely ask how she'll get the finish, and how long it will take. And though she has yet to rematch Claudia Gedelha, to whom she arguably lost, strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk is starting to take on a similar aura. 

So on this week's episode of Heavy Hands, we're talking about stylistic matchups, and trying to figure out just what, if anything, Holly Holm and Valerie Letourneau have to offer the queens of MMA. 

After that it's a recap of last weekend's two standout fighters, Thomas Almeida and Rashid Magomedov. One earned yet another knockout, but did so in impressively intelligent fashion; the other earned yet another decision, but did so with the same fascinating surgical precision as always. Both seem destined for the top tens of their respective divisions. 

Direct download: 77_rousey_holm.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 10:03pm EST

UFC Sao Paolo is chock full of fantastic matchups between prospects and the veterans who love to thwart them. On this week's episode of Heavy Hands we're talking about the process of becoming a prospect, and where we expect these standout fighters to go next. 

First there's Rashid Magomedov, a Master of Sport in both boxing and Russian hand-to-hand combat, who combines his precise hands with a stellar kicking game and excellent distance management. Magomedov, a finished product who has yet to break through, faces off against Gilbert Burns, a true prospect with massive potential but only three and a half years of pro MMA experience. 

We also discuss Thomas Almeida, Corey Anderson, and the other young athletes that make UFC Sao Paolo such a fantastic card from top to bottom. 

Direct download: 76_sao_paolo.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 3:28pm EST

Today on Heavy Hands we're discussing southpaws. 

Last weekend's fights gave us a number of open stance (southpaw vs orthodox) fights, and most of them highlighted just how challenging it can be for an orthodox fighter to strategize for a southpaw. Darren Till vs Nicolas Dalby, Tom Breese vs Cathal Pendred, and Terence Crawford vs Dierry Jean all demonstrated some of the essential challenges of open stance fighting, while inspiring us to discuss some unconventional ways to defuse the unique challenges offered by a southpaw opponent (or an orthodox opponent, if you're a lefty).

Today's episode also marks the launch of Heavy Hands on Patreon, a site that allows listeners to fund the show in exchange for rewards. Please take a moment and a few dollars to help support the podcast. We're also interested in hearing your suggestions for rewards that you would like to see!

 

Direct download: 75_southpaws.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 8:45am EST

This week on Heavy Hands we're celebrating the one-year anniversary of the illustrious Mr. Patrick Wyman joining the show, and there's only one way to do that: talking about fights! 

More specifically, we're doing something we always enjoy, which is talking about underappreciated fighters and up-and-comers. Joseph Duffy is the man of the hour this week, and we admire the depth of his game, which includes not only a slick submission grappling base, but some of the very best boxing in the stacked lightweight division. Oh, and we do a little griping about the state of boxing in MMA, too. 

After that it's on to Nicolas Dalby vs Darren Till, one of the most fascinating matchups on this weekend's UFC: Dublin card, and then Golovkin vs Lemieux and Gonzalez vs Viloria. I eat a little crow and admit that Gennady Golovkin turned into a much more impressive performance than I ever could have expected, and we praise Brian Viloria for a game effort against the very best boxer on the planet. 

Direct download: 74_duffy.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 9:13am EST

If you're looking for action, then look no further. This weekend may be devoid of UFC fights, but that's only to make room for the most tantalizing lineup of the entire boxing year. HBO's October 17th pay-per-view card features fan-favorite Gennady Golovkin vs David Lemieux, while the co-feature sees flyweight king (and #1 pound-for-pound) Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez taking on Brian Viloria. 

Altogether, these four fighters boast a 79% knockout rate. If we remove the hard-hitting but somewhat conservative Brian Viloria from the equation, that number rises to 88%. In other words, knockouts and knockdowns seem very, very likely. 

For Golovkin, Lemieux represents the first real puncher he's faced since breaking through as a middleweight star. Lemieux may, in fact, be the single most powerful puncher at middleweight, though he lacks the depth of skill that Golovkin possesses. Still, at just 26 years old, Lemieux is improving with every fight, and it will be interesting to see Golovkin against a man who may actually be able to force him backward.

As for Gonzalez, he's really just passing time while waiting for either a rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada, whose incredible boxing skills I broke down here, or a fight with breakout super flyweight champ Naoya Inoue. Gonzalez is a must see fighter, heavy handed with excellent defense and superb combination punching, and though he'll almost certainly beat Viloria, the Hawaiian veteran has enough craft and pop to make the contest interesting.

We break down both of these fights in-depth, discussing not only the meaning of each bout for the fighters involved, but the strategies and techniques we expect to see in both. 

Direct download: 73_ggg.mp3
Category:Boxing -- posted at: 1:00am EST

There are a lot of things to unpack following UFC 192, as we knew there would be. A card so loaded with meaningful matchups unsurprisingly had its share of meaningful results, and on this week's episode of Heavy Hands we discuss the most interesting ones. 

The title fight between champion Daniel Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson was stupendous and troubling in the way that all truly great fights are. While Gustafsson defied those who counted him out as we predicted he would, he may also have confirmed some of our fears about his mental state following a crushing knockout defeat at the hands of Anthony Johnson last year. Daniel Cormier, on the other hand, dealt with Gustafsson's size better than we ever expected, and proved himself to be the very best at light heavyweight--except for Jon Jones, now hungrily waiting in the wings. 

In the co-feature, Ryan Bader put the pieces together. After a difficult evolution as a striker, including the loss of a coach that had only begun to make marked improvements to Ryan's boxing skills, the light heavyweight division's least-remembered man finally got the marquee win he has lacked for so long, using beautiful timing to disrupt the rhythm of Rashad Evans en route to a lopsided decision win over the returning veteran. 

And Albert Tumenov . . . my God, Albert Tumenov did some nasty things to Alan Jouban on the undercard. Is he the best boxer at welterweight? Only time will tell, but we have our thoughts. All of that and more on this episode of Heavy Hands.

Direct download: 72_ufc_192.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 10:06am EST

UFC 192 is, across the board, the most well-matched card of 2015. So far, the bettors and bookies have no idea what to make of it, as the entire event seems riddled with live dogs, questionable favorites, and otherwise close matchups. 

Among those is the main event, which sees UFC light heavyweight title holder Daniel Cormier put his belt on the line against former title challenger Alexander Gustafsson. Both Gustafsson and Cormier have proven their worth in competitive bouts against former champion Jon Jones, though most remember Gustafsson's as being just a little more competitive than Cormier's. Gustafsson has also proven himself to be one of the finest anti-wrestlers in the division, a skillset which serves to back up his crisp outside boxing game. So why is  Cormier nearly a 4-to-1 favorite in some books? 

In addition to our full breakdown of that matchup, Patrick and I have other picks that may surprise you, and we devote time to the most promising bouts on the card, including Alan Jouban vs Albert Tumenov, Joseph Benavidez vs Ali Bagautinov, Rose Namajunas vs Angela Hill, and Yair Rodriguez vs Dan Hooker. 

Direct download: 71_ufc_192.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 11:10pm EST

On this week's episode of Heavy Hands, Patrick Wyman and I are breaking down one of combat sport's most confounding styles: the brawler. 

Already on this show we've looked at some of the classic boxing archetypes that exist across the board in fighting sports, including boxer-punchers, out-fighters, pressure fighters, and more. Understanding the mindsets that go into these styles is always a tricky thing, but they are all relatively well defined. Not so with the oddball of the group, the brawler. 

Brawlers come in many shapes and sizes, but they are universally defined by their willingness to take damage to dish out damage. Whether this is the result of poor discipline, extreme self-confidence, or even a pathological desire to do others maximum physical harm we're not quite sure, but we look through some of history's most legendary brawlers in an attempt to get at the mentality that makes the archetype tick.

We talk Justin Gaethje and Rocky Marciano, Manny Pacquiao and Chan Sung Jung. Can a brawler be the best in the world? That depends on your definition, but our conclusions might surprise you. 

Direct download: 70_brawlers.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 9:42pm EST

In the aftermath of the latest hearing of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, we're celebrating a career that very commission may have just ended. Facing a five-year suspension from mixed martial arts competition, it's possible that Nick Diaz could never be seen in the Octagon again. And that's a shame. 

We're looking back at some of Diaz's best performances and celebrating the innovative aspects of a style that has often been derided or ignored altogether. Diaz's pace, his volume striking, his clinch fighting--all of these make him an important figure in the history of MMA. 

After that it's on to Bellator Dynamite, a combination MMA and kickboxing event that features an excellent light heavyweight tournament. Alongside ex-UFC fighter Phil Davis and King Mo Lawal, Emanuel Newton stands as the most interesting man in the tournament, as well as one of the most interesting men in the entire division. We try to understand the absolute weirdness of Newton's style, an approach that shouldn't work but does, over and over again. 

We're not sure how he'll do in the tournament, but we'll be tuning in to find out, because Emanuel Newton's is a weirdness worth watching. 

Direct download: 69_free_nick_diaz.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 11:46am EST

Demetrious Johnson is undeniably one of the best to ever do it. The UFC's first and only flyweight champion recently outdid himself in a rematch with John Dodson. The man who had previously proven to be the most threatening challenger to Johnson's throne was summarily beaten in every phase. Johnson out-clinched, out-wrestled, and out-struck Dodson for twenty five minutes, making him look like an amateur rather than the man who had knocked Johnson down three times in their first fight. 

And yet no one cares. Is it his size? Is it his dispassionate, technical mastery? Is it his generally agreeable personality? We ask these questions and more, and try to get at the heart of Johnson's brilliant fighting style in the process. 

Then, it's on to the upsets. Both Pat and I were very unsuccessful with our predictions for this card, and no result was more surprising than the first-round knockout of Francisco Rivera by John Lineker, who proved himself a brawler worth fearing. Finally, we talk Felder vs Pearson, and the concept of layered offense--and specifically how Felder didn't have it. 

Direct download: 68_why_not_mighty_mouse.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 12:03pm EST

This week on Heavy Hands we're relishing the fight buffet that is UFC 191. From the start of the televised prelims onward, this is a fight card rife with either relevance or entertainment value, and in many cases both.

I know, I know . . . half of you don't care about Demetrious Johnson because you only like fighters who can ride all the roller coasters at the amusement park, but if I had to pick just one fight from his impressive flyweight title run to appeal to average fight fans, it would be his first fight with John Dodson. Dodson floored Mighty Mouse several times, and the champion recovered, adjusted, and ended the fight battering Dodson with brutal knees and short punches in the clinch. If Dodson can build on his previous success, we might just be in for a stunning upset, and if not, then just remember what Demetrious Johnson did the last time he rematched an opponent: GIF.

Then, along with some exciting light heavyweight action, we have two old school heavyweights duking it out on the undercard in Frank Mir and Andrei Arlovski. But most importantly, FRANCISCO RIVERA VERSUS JOHN LINEKER. As it turns out, John Lineker's many failures to make the flyweight limit were merely the result of the gentle hand of fate guiding him toward his destiny, and now he's set to face one of the most entertaining knockout artists at 135 pounds. 

And we're breaking down all of this, and more on this episode. Tune in, and enjoy the show.

Direct download: 67_ufc_191.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 9:38pm EST

We mention initiative an awful lot, but we've never taken the time to discuss it as a concept . . . until now!

On this week's Heavy Hands, Connor and Pat discuss initiative. What is it, how does it work, and how is it attained? Looking back at some of the best fights of UFC Saskatoon, including Magny-Silva, Trinaldo-Laprise, and Moroz-Letourneau, we analyze the ways in which initiative influenced the outcomes.

Initiative is often the factor that makes or breaks a given technique. We explore the all-encompassing importance of initiative, exploring the importance not only of "being first," but of getting the opponent to  do what you want them to, when you want them to do it. 

Then it's on to the Heavy Bag to answer a brace of questions from you, our beloved listeners. 

Direct download: 66_initiative.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 8:06am EST

On this week's Heavy Hands, Pat Wyman and I were lucky enough to talk with Tyron Woodley, who is fighting former champion Johny Hendricks at UFC 192 on October 3rd.

Woodley gave us his thoughts on what it's like to possess such tremendous natural power, and spoke about his development as a striker and a mixed martial artist. He also had some choice words for Hendricks prior to their bout. According to Woodley, his college wrestling match with Hendricks would've played out differently had there been punches involved, and he aims to make that dream a reality this October.

After speaking to Woodley, Pat and I talk Max Holloway Charles Oliveira, the main event of this Sunday's UFC Saskatoon event. Listen to hear what we think of two of the featherweight division's most promising young contenders, and our predictions on how the fight will play out.

Direct download: 65_tyron_woodley.mp3
Category:Interview -- posted at: 9:09am EST

Counter fighters. They're rare, they're difficult to understand, and they may just be the perfect expression of combat. On today's episode of Heavy Hands, Pat Wyman and I suss out what exactly makes true counter fighters tick, and why we see so few of them in MMA, and in combat sports in general. 

We go through the various types of counters available to these specialists, and lay out the pros and cons of each, before exploring the games of a few of history's best counter punchers. For your viewing pleasure, we recommend you check out Salvador Sanchez's unexpected destruction of feared puncher Wilfredo Gomez, and Juan Manuel Marquez's patient dismantling of the unbelievably aggressive Juan Diaz. 

And at the start of the show, we reserve a little time to analyze Beneil Dariush's controversial win over Michael Johnson from the undercard of UFC: Teixeira vs Saint Preux.

Direct download: 64_counter_fighters.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 10:16am EST

Last week we asked who could beat Ronda Rousey. This week we're asking the same question. Having beaten her third opponent in just over a minute--total, that is--Rousey finds herself at the top of a division that has very much failed to match her abilities. Despite having been beaten twice before, Miesha Tate is matched up for a third bout with the champ, and Pat and I agree that she may have something resembling a chance. Maybe. 

After that we discuss Stefan Struve, who is slowly learning to use his length and height, and Claudia Gadelha, whose rematch with strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk we're very much looking forward to. 

Finally, a fantastic interview with Glory WS kickboxer Raymond Daniels, who makes his second run at Nieky Holzken for the vacant welterweight title.

Direct download: 63_raymond_daniels.mp3
Category:Interview -- posted at: 9:36am EST

Ronda Rousey is starting to seem unbeatable, and nobody really seems to think that Bethe Correia will be the first woman to change that. 

So today, we're focusing our attention on the woman who could beat Rousey--even if she doesn't necessarily  exist yet. What style will it take to defuse the swarming, clinching, Judo-throwing approach of Rousey? And are there any fighters on the planet who fit the bill?

After that, we talk about the UFC's other bantamweight champ, TJ Dillashaw, who put on a scintillating performance in his second title defense against Renan Barao at UFC on Fox 17. Oh, and we urge you to lighten up on the man he beat as well.

Direct download: 62_rousey_dillashaw.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 9:44pm EST

Pat and I aren't sure who exactly is clamoring for a rematch between TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barao, but we're certainly excited to see "Ill Dill" back in action. 

After thrashing Barao en route to a fifth round KO to win the title, Dillashaw has quickly established himself as one of the smoothest, most technical strikers in the sport of MMA. Barao, likewise, is one of the best fighters on earth and certainly one of the best in the division, but neither Pat nor I expect him to overcome the stylistic hurdles of this matchup any better than he did last time. A born out-fighter, Barao does not react well to pressure, and his tendency to plant his feet and throw as his opponent moves around him is a recipe for disaster against the fleet-footed, angular Dillashaw.

We also find a little time to talk about Paul Felder and Edson Barboza, who fight further down on the card in a matchup of thrilling strikers. Will Felder's steady pressure and well-timed counters win the day, or can Barboza keep the fight at range and work in the short sequences of powerful punches and kicks that he throws so well? We're not sure, and that's what makes this bout so excellent!

Enjoy the show, folks.

Direct download: 61_dillashaw.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 9:33pm EST

Altogether, the main card of UFC 189 may have been the best collection of five fights we've ever seen. It was certainly up there. And capping off all the fantastic action were two incredible title fights--well, one title fight and one "title" fight. 

Co-host Pat Wyman and I sat down to give this one an enthusiastic in-depth breakdown. How did Conor McGregor really look against Chad Mendes, and what did his performance teach us about his potential? One of us thinks he no longer has much of a shot against Aldo, and one of us thinks just the opposite. And we're both pretty sure he learned to grapple by studying 2005-era Wanderlei Silva.

Of course, we had to devote a healthy portion of the show to the instant classic welterweight title fight between (STILL) champion Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald, who proved himself to be an unbelievably game challenger. It was a tactical masterpiece, with both fighters struggling to out-adjust the other. It was also a visceral gut-checking kind of fight, that at times was hard to watch. Pat and I agree that Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald are two of the most intelligent, savvy men in all of MMA, and it's not often we get to see two such masters match up. Bravo to both men.

And we save a little time to talk Thomas Almeida to wrap things up.

It was a fantastic night of fights, and an absolute pleasure to break down here. We hope you enjoy the show.

Direct download: 60_ufc_189.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 10:08am EST

On this week's episode of Heavy Hands, co-host Patrick Wyman and I readily agreed on two things: 1) we love when we get the chance to dedicate an entire episode to a single, fascinating fight; and 2) Mendes vs McGregor is absolutely one of those fights. 

Over the course of the episode we analyzed the styles of both fighters. First, McGregor's fondness for pressure, the purpose of his frequent spinning kicks, his intelligent use of the southpaw jab, and his ever-increasing volume of strikes. On Mendes' side, Pat and I both expressed our appreciation for what may be the finest counter punching game in the UFC, and certainly the purest. Will McGregor be able to swarm Mendes without being taken down, and if that proves too difficult, will he manage to keep the smaller man at arm's reach? 

Both Pat and I give our final predictions at the end of the show, but the real treat is in discussing the matchup. Next to Aldo-McGregor, there is simply no better fight to be made in the featherweight division. 

Direct download: 59_mcgregor_mendes.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 9:59am EST

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: 10:43am EST

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: 3:41pm EST

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: 2:01pm EST

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: 12:01pm EST

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: 3:18pm EST

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: 1:15pm EST

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: 12:12am EST

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: 11:02pm EST

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: 5:16pm EST

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: 8:35am EST

What do Max Holloway, Lucas Matthysse, & Demetrious Johnson all have in common?

Patrick Wyman and I decided to tackle this thought on the latest episode of Heavy Hands which (and here's your answer) is all about fighting in transitions. When Matthysse threw punches at Ruslan Provodnkov, he did so with the express intention of catching Provodnikov in the spaces between movements. Likewise, Cub Swanson struggled to keep up with the rapidly shifting attack of Max Holloway.

And for Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson, the shifts happen not only from one technique to the next, but from one phase to the next. Takedowns, punches, clinch attacks, submissions--Johnson uses every opportunity to take his opponents apart. Will he be able to do the same to Kyoji Horiguchi this Saturday?

Direct download: 48_johnson-horiguchi_fighting_in_transition.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 11:07am EST

It's another episode of Heavy Hands, and another great fight card to break down. This week Connor and Pat are looking into the best fights from UFC on Fox 15, including Lyoto Machida vs Luke Rockhold, Cub Swanson vs Max Holloway, and Beneil Dariush vs Jim Miller.

After a brief foray into the Heavy Bag to talk about gameplans (and fighters who claim not to use them), your hosts carry that topic into the fight discussions, coming up with on-the-spot strategies for the three big matchups named above. How does Machida beat Rockhold? How can Holloway thwart Swanson? And is it possible that Beneil Dariush can squeeze the life out of submission-master Jim Miller? 

All of that and more on this episode of Heavy Hands.

Direct download: 47_machida_rockhold.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 11:33am EST

On this episode of Heavy Hands, Connor and Pat break down Open Stance fights. Open Stance occurs when a southpaw and an orthodox fighter meet, and the angles and attacks of such an encounter are truly fascinating. 

Your hosts look at the tactics of an open stance fight by analyzing the skills of southpaws Luke Rockhold and Lyoto Machida, who face off in the main event of UFC on Fox 15, on April 18th.

Also discussed are boxers Adonis Stevenson, who used classic southpaw tactics to retain his lineal light heavyweight title last weekend, and Artur Beterbiev, who bested the southpaw Gabriel Campillo in flawless fashion. 

Direct download: 46_open_stance.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 12:13pm EST

Patrick and Connor have got a treat for you today--one of those rare episodes where they get the chance to just talk about two of their favorite fighters. Today's episode is all about Chad Mendes and Al Iaquinta, both of whom have made dramatic improvements in the striking realm over the past year.

And wouldn't you know, both of those men are fighting this Saturday--Mendes faces the always dangerous Ricardo Lamas, whose limitations are second only to his threats, and Iaquinta faces fan-favorite Jorge Masvidal. Both men fight atop the UFC's card in Fairfax, Virginia this April, the 4th. 

It's some good old fashioned analysis, so sit down, grab a drink, and enjoy.

Direct download: 45_mendes_lamas.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 1:00am EST

It's once again time for listener mail!

We've got a wide range of questions for you, and some inspired discussion centered around them. First, we break down the process of analyzing a fight. What does each of us focus on when analyzing a fighter or, better yet, when devising a gameplan to defeat him? 

We talk low kicks--remember when they were the coolest technique in all of MMA? How come nobody cares about low kicks anymore? Huh?

And then it's on to the "Philly Shell." Why isn't Floyd Mayweather's vaunted shoulder roll more commonly seen in MMA, and would it apply to this sport if someone did try to use it? 

All of this and more on the latest episode of Heavy Hands. 

Direct download: 44_listener_mail.mp3
Category:Listener Mail -- posted at: 10:13am EST

43 - Upsetting: Rafael Dos Anjos & Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Upsets are a marvelous thing. In fact, you could say that unexpected upsets are what keep combat sports interesting. Particularly upsets of the kind that we witnessed in the main and co-main events of UFC 185, in which the favored fighters not only suffered defeat, but were proven to be vastly, utterly inferior to their underdog opponents. 

Anthony Pettis was expected to be the Anderson Silva of this era, but Rafael Dos Anjos is no Chael Sonnen. The Brazilian fighter and Rafael Cordeiro product took Pettis to the woodshed for five rounds, eating plenty of shots but landing more of his own, and scoring takedowns that, for once, Pettis couldn't deter with his dangerous guard. In fact, Dos Anjos sliced right through that guard with ease. 

In the co-main, Polish kickboxer Joanna Jedrzejczyk beat strawweight champion Carla Esparza in even more convincing fashion, capping off a week of talking with nine minutes of very impressive walking. Jedrzejczyk, who we've decided to call "Lady Golovkin" to save ourselves the embarassment of mispronouncing her name, beat Esparza to a pulp and seemed to undo all of the improvements made to Esparza's striking in just a matter of minutes, turning her fight with the former champion into nothing but target practice.

Our episode kicks off with a question from a fan about the nature of upsets, which almost always seem predictable in retrospect, and the discussion flows from there. Enjoy the show, folks.

Direct download: 43_rafael_dos_anjos.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 7:33am EST

It's episode two of our new series, Styles Make Fights! And today we're talking about out-fighters. 

Lucky for us, we've got one of the greatest out-fighters on earth in Anthony Pettis preparing to entertain us this weekend in defense of his UFC lightweight title. Pat and Connor break down the skills that Pettis uses, but more importantly why he uses them. What's the mentality of an out-fighter? Why does he throw the strikes he throws, and move the way he moves? 

We go into all of this and more while predicting what Pettis will try to do to Rafael Dos Anjos in his second defense of his belt. After that, it's on to another archetypal out-fighter in Carla Esparza, who will attempt to outbox and outwrestle dangerous eight-limbed kickboxer Joanna Jedrzejczyk. 

All of that and more on this episode of Heavy Hands. Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 42_pettis_styles_make_fights_2.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 7:30am EST

41 - Styles Make Fights, part one

Styles make fights. We've all heard that before, right?

Well, it's true. But styles also make fighters, and there is no fighter on earth who doesn't, in one way or another, express the attributes of one of fighting's central archetypes. This week Pat and Connor are breaking down those archetypes--out-boxer, counter fighter, pressure fighter, and boxer-puncher--and kicking off a new series in the process. A series called (you guessed it) Styles Make Fights.

In this first installment, your hosts try to answer the fundamental questions: what makes a style a style, and why do we create these archetypes in the first place? What follows is a lengthy, enthusiastic discussion of the facets of style, what separates one form the next, and even some lively debate as to how many styles there really are. 

 

Direct download: 41_styles_make_fights.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 1:58pm EST

40 - The Transitional Brilliance of Ronda Rousey

MMA is all about transitions, and so is this episode of Heavy Hands. Including this excellent segue!

Ronda Rousey, the armbar queen of the UFC, is currently riding a two-knockout streak. It's not that she's abandoned her judo base, but rather that she's found a way to really make it work for MMA, which means setting up her throws with strikes, and vice versa. She faces Cat Zingano this weekend in the main event of UFC 184. 

Also featured on the card is Holly Holm, who racked up 33 career wins as a professional boxer. She faces Raquel Pennington in her UFC debut. Your hosts discuss her chances against the game Pennington, and what her style means for her should she meet champion Rousey down the road.

Direct download: 40_ronda_rousey.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 11:15am EST

39 - The Small Steps of Gennady Golovkin & Michael Johnson

Today your hosts are obsessed with the small, subtle things that make high level combat so beautiful. Small steps, tiny shifts in rhythm. These are the things that separate the great from the merely good. 

Gennady Golovkin fights Martin Murray this Saturday on HBO, and whil few are expecting Murray to get the win, there is the distinct possibility that he will prove tough enough to take the fight into the late rounds which, for technique geeks, is a good thing. More fight time means more opportunities to study how Golovkin inches his way in and out of range, and from side to side, keeping himself balanced and poised for the knockout blow. Pat and Connor spend some time drooling over this aspect of the Kazakh's game. 

Then, this Sunday, Michael Johnson will use many of the same principles, toying with angles and rhythm to shoot long, straight punches at Edson Barboza who, while a very exciting fighter, lacks the technical finesse and depth of athletic talent possessed by his opponent. 

It's a good weekend for fight fans, and hopefully this episode of Heavy Hands gets you all the more excited. 

Direct download: 39_golovkin_and_johnson.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 8:21pm EST

38 - Rhythm Is Gonna Get You

Rhythm.

What is it? How does it apply to fighting? Do you have to be born with it, or can it be learned? Why did Connor choose a Gloria Estefan song as the title for this episode?

All of these questions and more are answered on this latest installment of Heavy Hands. Your hosts discuss the importance of rhythm in combat sports, why fighters need it, and how it can be manipulated and used against an opponent. Nieky Holzken and Ben Henderson feature as masters of difficult timing.

Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 38_rrrrhythm.mp3
Category:Technique Breakdown -- posted at: 10:43am EST

37 - Silva vs Diaz, Al Iaquinta, Listener Mailbag

So, Anderson Silva vs Nick Diaz happened, and it was... different than we expected it to be. Of course, it was still a great fight, but the tactical battle between the two men may teach us a lot about where they go from here, how they can perform in future fights, and just how cool it is to see high level fighters from different weight classes putting it on the line against one another.

(also Anderson popped for steroids after the fight)

But hey! What about that Al Iaquinta? Pat thinks he can become a top five lightweight given time. Your hosts break down his combination-punching style, and talk about his potential.

And to open up the show, it's time for some listener mail. You sent the questions in, and we answered 'em.

Direct download: 37_silva_diaz_post_fight.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 4:06pm EST

Both Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz are coming off pairs of losses. Silva's defeats came at the hands (and shins) of Chris Weidman, a series of brutal finishes, the second of which left the former champ with a broken leg and a long recovery ahead of him. Diaz's losses came in a competitive decision to Carlos Condit, and a considerably less competitive decision to then-champion Georges St-Pierre.

Both men have been out for a long time, but now they return, and they're facing off. A fight that would have seemed impossible just two years ago is happening, and Pat and Connor couldn't be more excited.

Your hosts break down, in-depth, the styles of both competitors, and then compare notes to analyze the interesting way in which their styles match up. It's a tough fight to predict, and there's no concrete favorite, but we hope that this fight is as tantalizing to you as it is to us.

Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 36_silva_vs_diaz.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 1:06pm EST

Last week Pat and Connor discussed Conor McGregor as an aggressive counter puncher. This week we're talking Conor McGregor as a bonafide knockout artist and dangerous opponent for featherweight champion Jose Aldo.

Then there's next weekend's UFC main event, a number one contender's bout between top light heavyweights Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony "Rumble" Johnson. Your hosts break down the styles of the two men (hint: aggressive counter punching makes a return appearance), and give their predictions for the bout.

Finally, Deontay Wilder became the first American heavyweight boxing titlist since 2007 by beating Bermane Stiverne last weekend. Also, his style gives us some clues about how Gustafsson could beat Johnson this Saturday night. That deserves some discussion too, don't you think?

Direct download: 35_gustafsson_johnson.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 10:22am EST

Conor McGregor is fighting this Sunday. His opponent, some guy named Dennis Silver, hasn't gotten a lot of love, but that's not exactly surprising, or even wrong. McGregor is an incredibly talented mixed martial artist and, interestingly, likely one of the hardest hitters at featherweight. As McGregor prepares to face what will likely be his last opponent before Jose Aldo, Patrick Wyman and Connor Ruebusch break down the subtleties of his style.

His left high kick. His wide left. And, interestingly, his tremendous power, which has gone largely unheralded despite his very high knockout ratio.

Next, your intrepid hosts discuss step-knees and Donald Cerrone--who just happens to like said knees an awful lot. Cerrone faces Ben Henderson for the third time in this weekend's co-main event.

Finally, a few minutes are devoted to the recently announced Johny Hendricks vs Matt Brown, a dream-fight that's sure to have fans of in-fighting everywhere salivating, and excusing themselves from fancy dinners while they take a few seconds to collect themselves.

Enjoy the show!

Direct download: 34_mcgregor_and_cerrone.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 4:34pm EST

Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier don't like each other. They're both excellent wrestlers. And, most importantly, two of the best mixed martial artists in the world. Jon Jones may, in fact, be the very best.

All of those factors combined to make their January 3rd title clash a fight to remember, and Pat and Connor are here to break it all down. 

In-fighting is the topic of the day, as Jones and Cormier spent the vast majority of their bout battling it out toe-to-toe, in the clinch, against the cage, and just generally close enough to kiss--or elbow each other in the mug, as it transpired. Your hosts break down the various aspects of in-fighting, as well as the mean-spiritedness it takes for Jones to do it as well as he does.

Direct download: 33_jon_jones_and_infighting.mp3
Category:UFC -- posted at: 2:12am EST

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