Effective Aggression and Taking The Center:
A consistent theme when Jose Aldo fights is that he takes the center of the octagon. He dictates the pace and takes small turns as Ricardo Lamas is forced to circle around him. Each time Lamas backs up, Aldo would step-forward to take that space. To stop this, Lamas has to be able to establish real threats. This may sound simple, but where Aldo differs from many MMA fighters is that he’s not hyperactively aggressive… Rather, he’s very selective.
A golden principle to effective aggression is not to be overly aggressive and push forward too quickly — doing so leaves a fighter to over-commit and lose balance [GIF Example]. Instead, pushing forward is generally about inching forward with straight strikes. Keeping them there is about (a) throwing and feinting arced-strikes e.g. hooks and roundhouses ; (b) moving side-to-side to cut off the opponent’s lateral movement.
Balace and Balance: Of course, there are important factors to this strategy — a fighter has to remain balanced as he inches forward (much harder than it sounds), and his footing must be strong enough to not get pushed back. This is why having stronger leg and core is essential, and why strong wrestlers can “naturally” apply this pressure.
Comfort In Exchange Range: Being the aggressor generally means being superior in this range — they’ll stand their ground. Aldo isn’t a particularly long-range fighter like Georges St. Pierre, Lyoto Machida, or Junior Dos Santos. The exchange range is their comfort zone, and fighters like Aldo love this range. [GIF Example]
“Aggressive vs. Passive Counter-game”
Anderson Silva once said that few fighters can fight while moving back — this is still very true even amongst the elite. Lamas was consistently pushed back. This isn’t just “appearing good” in terms of aggression and octagon control — as Lamas gets pushed back, he runs out of space to keep back-pedalling and therefore becomes more predictable. More predictable means more easily countered. Pushing forward doesn’t mean you have to attack — rather, it can often pressure the opponent into attacking.
A big reason of why Anderson Silva did really well with consistent back-pedalling was that outside of Chris Weidman, few were able to consistently apply “an aggressive counter-game” (making Silva lead attacks while pressuring). The result is often falling prey to Silva’s more “passive” counter game. *Silva also made his counterattacks unpredictable with his antics — a very decisive factor.
Theories on Taking the Center:
After Joe Calzaghe’s bout against Mikkel Kessler and Bernard Hopkins, he’s repeated said that the main objective was to take the center of the ring. George Foreman (along with many Muay Thai fighters) believe that it’s generally unnecessary for a fighter to consistently back up. Alistair Overeem almost always applied these principle since 2007 (other than his bout against Frank Mir).
- The main utility is that once a fighter takes the center, he will dictate where the opponent goes. This makes the opponent more predictable.
- The opponent becomes easier to trap along the cage (if in a ring — on the ropes and cornered).
- Taking the center ensures a lot of space to move back — particularly important if an opponent times a long-distance combination.
- Can freely move back and then side-step. If done when one has the center taken, both fighters will still remain on even grounds. This is very important defensively, and allow much more room for a counter.
- It’s more tiring for the opponent because he has to constantly move and create angles.
- Force opponent to use lateral movements along the cage or ring: the opponent is of much less threat when in lateral movement stance.
- Help convince the judges you’re winning.
Counter: Fighters who generally move a lot and are very comfortable with doing so — this is their natural style. But success with this style is rather rare (Muhammad Ali, Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva, Samart Payakaroon). They’re all incredibly evasive fighters and can make the opponent miss without guard.
Conclusion on Aldo vs. Lamas
Unfortunately, Lamas does not have this style. This is the result, as explained by the principles above:
There are many more examples throughout the fight — watching Aldo take the center and remain in control is rather “textbook”.
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