In Part I, I discussed the strategy of Duane Ludwig and Urijah Faber going into UFC 169: “Push forward, no breaks, in his face; make the fight ‘dirty’ and high paced“. Reason: Barao is a strong kicker — if pushed back, he will have less maneuverability and base to kick with consistency.
At UFC 165, Eddie Wineland did well against Renan Barao until he was “knocked out” in the second round (despite what the Fight Metric indicates, all judges gave it to Wineland) . In this sport, most of the the things we get to see is deliberate. It’s deliberate practice and deliberate strategy that leads to exploitation. So what is it that Wineland did successfully?
UFC 165: Wineland vs. Barao
Wineland’s Gameplan in Interview with MMAJunkie: “Push Barao backwards, and stop his combos before they start… Barao throws lots of looping punches… straight down-the-pipe (straight punches) is the key – not backing up, but forcing him to back up and keeping that pressure on him. I think that will drain his gas tank.”
From the beginning of the round, Wineland consistently pumped feints at Barao, pressing forward. This worked particularly well because of several reasons:
(a) Defensive Right-Hand — Barao leaves it stationary and out to defend the jab or left-hook
This hand-positioning, despite it’s defensive utility, has offensive (punching) costs — as Jack Slack alluded to, Barao has a fine jab but over-commits to his cross. One reason is his right-hand position — if it’s out and forward, one must 1. readjust and fire (this will be a tell)–Barao often loads up as well 2. fire straight away (lack power) 3. set it up with another strike (e.g. jab).
Barao often chooses #2 against Wineland, and to compensate for the power decrease he over-commits and swings.
Think about it like this: imagine swinging a bat or throwing a ball with a 30-40% increase in starting (swing/throw) position. Now leaving the hands forward isn’t all that uncommon in Muay Thai, they will do this to eliminate punches and engage clinch.
But as a result, if they punch, it’s often a hip-punch rather than a whole body punch — the first shot won’t be particularly powerful, but as Wineland alluded to, the problem is when it comes in bunches (borrowing the leverage of the first shot to make the following ones more powerful).
To stop this, Wineland fired straight shots consistently to halt combinations from Barao.
(b) Better Hands — Jab — and Vision: Eddie has much more agile hands and understands punch angles. Relative to Barao’s hands, it’s proficient enough to be purely offensive — hands low, chin up: using footwork and slips to evade and draw strikes: using vision as the first line-of-defence. This is another reason why Barao couldn’t establish the jab against Wineland, and therefore his other punches are compromised as well.
The combination of these two factors reinforce each other and made Barao either defensive or over-commit.
And then there’s the third factor…
(c) Squared Stance:
Wineland’s stance is generally more bladed when engaging punches, whereas Barao is almost always square and more stationary. The purpose of being stationary and square is to more easily unload the hips for a kick. Bladed stance has several purposes as well, such as making the lead-hand closer for a jab, and the rear-hand in position for a power-strike.
Centerline: Notice the open centerline of Barao — right down the middle. Eddie jabbed high and low and constantly feinted — Barao didn’t know how to respond aside from moving back and then occasionally explode out aggressively (and missing).
In this case, it’s literally straight-strikes vs. arced strikes. Punches wise, straight will tend to beat arced (same holds true for push-kicks vs. roundhouses).
Making the Kicker Hesitate
MMA Junkie: And if Barao started attacking with the same vicious kicks he’d used against previous opponents?
Eddie Wineland: “You step in and punch him in the face when that happens, right away,” said Wineland. “Look at the [Michael] McDonald fight. McDonald punched him a couple times when he kicked, and then he thought twice about kicking.”
I mentioned the inside low-kick counter via Ernesto Hoost in my last piece on Urijah Faber. This is another way to do it, and Eddie executed it quite well by: (a) reading the kick(b) turning the lead leg into it as he steps down and (c) return pivot for a cross.
Doing stuff like this, while successfully pushing forward made Barao hesitate.
Against Spinning Kicks & High-Kicks: Wineland would step forward to cut it off or side-step. The key is to have active feet. Despite the early stoppage controversy,Wineland’s critical mistake was to remain stationary too long — something one cannot do against Barao.
Wineland is one of the more successful men to fight Barao, and he’s faced Urijah Faber as well. Here’s what he had to say at the UFC on FOX 10 Post-Fight Conference:
“I think it’s going to be a really good fight. Urijah’s on a tear. He’s getting older, but he’s getting better. His last couple of fights he’s looked like a monster. Not taking anything away from Renan, I like both guys, but I’m gonna pick Urijah on that one. He’s been tearing things up. He looks really good.”
How Faber will do against Barao is certainly a big if. While Faber doesn’t have the jab like Wineland, he has a killer right-hand, a developing left-hook, and teeps. Off Wineland’s case-study, it’s quite possible to make it work ; tune in to the bout on Saturday to find out.
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