Heavy Hands

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT