At UFC 169, Urijah Faber and Duane Ludwig had a solid game plan going into the rematch with Renan Barao. On paper, the strategy is simple “Press forward, no breaks, be in his face… run through him.”
In their first bout, there was a common theme: both Barao and Faber had the most success when they pushed forward. Barao was more successful in doing so, and it played a significant role for his win.
Barao is a strong kicker with good looping punches in combinations. To make a strong kicker hesitate Faber has push Barao back; to intercept a “brawler” Faber should throw straight punches better than Barao can. It sounds simple, but the execution is definitely not.
Urijah clearly prepared to deal with the kicks, and he’d be able to cut it off at the center:
When a kicker is able to push his opponent back, a whole world of possibilities open up. Near the cage, the room to move back is limited — this leaves two remaining options (a) try to move out laterally (b) rush forward.
Unfortunately, strong kickers generally excel at trapping their opponent with arced strikes — see Jose Aldo: A Lesson on Aggression and Center Control. Against guys who can constantly press forward, rushing forward is not only predictable, they also have plenty space to move back and quickly regain center.
As much as I want to see Faber crowned in the UFC, much of the bout was him being pushed back. Both of them are employing a similar principle: but Barao, at least for this round, was much better at it. Eventually, Barao capitalized with a right-low kick set up into a right-overhand around the guard.
Also, it’s not just about defending well on one leg — when anyone is struck on one leg, they have less leverage to cushion the blow — the result is more damage. From here on out it was more downhill exchanges till the eventual stoppage. *Remember that Anderson Silva was also knocked down while one leg against Chris Weidman in the first round of their rematch.
The game plan Ludwig and Faber had in mind works, but Faber needed more polished tools to execute it against Barao. Regardless of the controversial stoppage, Faber either didn’t or couldn’t execute the game plan. It was Barao who made it a “dirty” fight on Faber.
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