Home Science Education Alexander Gustafsson: A Dominant Performance

Alexander Gustafsson: A Dominant Performance

Technique Breakdown of Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jimi Manuwa

(Gustafsson vs. Manuwa, photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

This weekend, we saw Alexander Gustafsson put on clinic against Jimi Manuwa — a knockout artist (13 of his 14 wins by KO) and has never lost a round.

Jab Into Right Kick

Gustafsson is a better puncher than he is a kicker. But his ability to land kicks, although they’re more on the petty side, is an excellent example of how the jab can setup various techniques.

Gusafsson would often feint and then land a stepping-jab. Generally, they’d be aimed right in the center of Manuwa, either landing or causing Manuwa to back up. As a general principle it’s difficult to stop a leg kick when backing up.

Cormier vs. Cummins

This is literally the most simple setup, and the principle is that it distracts the opponent and shifts them back. Note how Cormier is occupied by parrying the jab — and does not initiate any counters. Instead, he takes a step back with his rear-leg, which means he’s going to back up and drag the lead-leg with him shortly. During this drag, there’s a clear timing to attack as it becomes much more difficult to check.

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The principle is the same here, as Manuwa does not initiate counters and backs up, he puts his hands high (wary of Gusafsson’s combination punches), and gets kicked as his leg is dragging back. The possible reasons of why it’s difficult to checks in this situation are many, but some are: 1) lack of vision from hands high, 2) being distracted and paying attention to punches, 3) reluctance to raise leg due to fear of takedowns 4) wanting to remain offensive with punch and takedown options.

Another neat trick Gustafsson was doing was jabbing to the left (making Manuwa lean more towards the lead-leg), which makes the the lead-leg heavier, producing a lag-time similar to that of a left-hook. Gustaffson kicked to the mid-section when he did this in the 3rd sequence (which is harder to check than a low-kick).

Watch Jeff Joslin’s excellent demonstration of the concept here:

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 Takedown Off The Jab:

Straight punches can setup the takedown quite well (particularly the cross), Rory MacDonald and GSP uses it to straighten people up, get the guard up, and hence open the midsection and hip for a shot. However, though Manuwa’s hands raised higher, he’d crunch down forward as he shift-steps back, overhook with his right hand and pivot out (with head control with his left) and switch-kneed.

This is an example where the jab only had parts of its intended utility, and where it was ineffective was that it ended up creating more distance (caused the opponent to back up). It could’ve ended badly.

But the threat of takedown, even if it wasn’t successful, can have other purposes, such as setting up upward strikes. It’s the principle of establishing a threat and then feinting with it. In this instance, because Manuwa shifted back, Gustafsson’s penetration step wasn’t quite deep enough. 

Gustafsson loves uppercuts. He’ll do it while moving forward, backing up, or during a clinch. Sequence 1 shows him using a jab into right uppercut offensively, and when they missed he uses a shift-jabs with his right hand (moving the back leg into front to cover distance). Sequence 2 shows a wild uppercut by Gustafsson as Manuwa comes in for a lead inside low-kick. Throwing the uppercut while the opponent is on the offensive is a regular way to land it, but it’s unlikely for it to land against a kick due to the (generally upright) posture.

Sequence 3 is neat: Gustafsson throws a left-hook, hangs his right hand low as he changes levels (as if he’s going for a takedown), throws another left-hook, which he pull down Manuwa’s already forward postured head with, and with the right-hand hanging low he throws an uppercut. Notice Manuwa’s posture as a result of the level change.

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End Sequence:

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To finish Manuwa, Gustaffson backs him up with the jab and throws an uppercut that barely misses. From there, he successfully gets a double collar tie, and unleashes an upward-knee that lands flush. Gus then throws a 1-2 and clinches Manuwa with the left, and as Manuwa is falling forward he lands two quick right-uppercuts was and one short right hand. Seamless transitions: a simple jab uppercut into knee setup, followed up by 1-2 into dirty boxing.

With Manuwa grounded, he throws two more ground strikes for good measure until the stoppage. It was beautiful to watch, and should Jon Jones defend his belt again, I can’t wait until their dynamic rematch.

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