Frankie Edgar put on a masterclass in making an opponent swing at air against Urijah Faber at UFC Fight Night 66. Through his excellent use of feints, Edgar had Faber continually anticipating an entry and attempting to counter before Edgar stepped in.
Earlier in the day, Jon Delos Reyes overcame Roldan Sangcha-An in a bloody brawl complete with exciting grappling exchanges. The combinations from both men were wild and frantic, while the ground potion of the fight was a little more technical but every bit as fast-paced and high energy.
Here Delos Reyes attempts an armbar, but Sangcha-An is able to pull his arm out before it's locked. As Sangcha-An comes back in with a punch, Delos Reyes underhooks the leg with his right arm and shifts his hips to the left while using his legs to push Sangcha-An off balance. Delos Reyes keeps his left foot on the face to prevent Sangcha-An from regaining his base and slips in an omoplata on the near arm. Sangcha-An steps over to defend the omoplata, but Delos Reyes is able to bring his left knee under him and stand, which throws Sangcha-An into the cage. As Delos Reyes stands, he underhooks the leg and takes Sangcha-An down, then uses his control of the leg and a crossface to open up space for a knee to the chest.
Near the end of the first round, Sangcha-An caught Delos Reyes in an interesting neck crank from the clinch. He had a single underhook, then wrapped his other arm around the head and dug an underhook with it, ending up with double underhooks and Delos Reyes' head trapped in his armpit. Delos Reyes initially gestured to the referee looking for a break, but Sancha-An used it to stuff a takedown and end up on top before moving to mount.
As far as I know, this move has only been finished once in MMA. I came across this on an MMA Surge highlight video, but have been unable to find the names of either competitor. Notice how the fighter on top gets grapevines on the legs and sinks his hips down and back into the crank.
Sangcha-An was unable to get his hips into it because the cage was in the way. Delos Reyes Escapes by freeing his right arm and using both arms to push up on the shoulder while popping his head out and follows that up by bridging to end up on top.
The finish comes right after Sangcha-An has been dropped with a huge right hand that sent his mouthguard flying. He throws an upkick that grazes Delos Reyes' forehead and attempts to escape by rolling backwards, but Delos Reyes follows him and slips in a hook with his right leg. He posts on the mat and attempts to shift his weight on top of Sangcha-An to secure the other hook. Sangcha-An attempts to remove his posting arm, but he avoids it and drags Sancha-An down while he's reaching for the arm. From here, he applied a rear naked choke with a palm-to-palm grip, which Sangcha-An is able to grit out, but switches to a bicep/head grip and quickly gets the tap.
Jon Tuck has been the sort of fighter that demonstrates flashes of brilliance, but struggles to put it all together since his loss to Al Iaquinta on The Ultimate Fighter: Live, in which he beautifully transitioned to a calf slicer attempt and took the back off a failed armbar. His occasional surges of innovation and slickness are tempered by defensive lapses and a general lack of urgency. Against Tae Hyun Bang however, Tuck looked like a new fighter. He was moving his head well, defending much better, and countering more effectively. In addition to this improved skills, his move to Alliance MMA seems to have given him a physical presence as well - he now throws strikes with the intention to hurt rather than land, and he shot a takedown on Bang with an intensity I haven't seen from him previously.
Here, Tuck checks the leg kick and pivots on his back foot while stepping out with his lead foot and throwing a left hook as it comes down. Bang also lands a left hook after the kick, but it is ineffective as he was bringing his leg and the weight behind it backwards, while Tuck's was moving to the side.
Tuck throws a reverse crescent kick and Bang avoids it by changing levels and stepping in behind an overhand right, which Tuck slips. Tuck puts his kicking leg down and takes a short step with his back leg to transfer his weight before throwing a right hook, which lands as Bang is in a bad position to take a punch. Bang stepped in with his right foot as he threw the overhand - his legs are too close together to throw an effective strike, so he steps his left leg back into southpaw. The hook connects right as he's in the middle of transferring his weight to his left foot and, as he's already prepared to throw a left, his weight falls onto the ball of his left foot. Poor foot positioning and the momentum of his own left hand cause Bang to spin, nearly injuring his ankle in the process. From here, Tuck follows up with punches before jumping on Bang's back, punching out his posting arm, and locking up the choke.
Luke Barnatt showed an almost Struve-like ability to flub a large reach advantage against Mark Munoz. Plodding forward with non-committal punches and half-feints, Barnatt spent most of the fight within punching range of the shorter man eating overhand rights or underneath him eating those trademark "donkey kong" punches, although he had a bit of success timing the level changes of Munoz with knees and uppercuts.
For his part, Munoz looked sharp and closed the distance well. He would stay just outside of Barnatt's reach, wait for him to step forward, and meet it with a forward step of his own and either an overhand right or a takedown.
This happened a lot.
Munoz ended up in trouble early after Barnatt intercepted his takedown with a knee and threatened a guillotine, but he managed to bounce off his head and bring his legs over to the other side of Barnatt, removing the threat.
Barnatt attempted to take the back from de la riva guard multiple times throughout the fight. It's difficult to hit this move without a gi and incredibly difficult to hit it without controlling the near arm, but Barnatt managed to throw Munoz off balance and create enough space to stand up. He also hit a tripod sweep to stand up.
Frankie Edgar forced Urijah Faber to fight off the back foot and react to him constantly with feints. Anticipating Edgar stepping in, Faber would sit back and pot shot with counters, but found himself attempting to counter Edgar's feints, upon which Edgar would often step in and land a strike once Faber reacted. Faber attempted feints as well, but he was often too far away and Frankie would just back up slightly, or they weren't convincing enough, as his feints often consisted of throwing his hands toward Edgar, allowing him to read it, while Edgar's feints were more advanced - level changes, mimicking a step in while feinting punches, or taking a short step in before retreating quickly.
Although Edgar is very diligent about exiting on angles and changing levels, he is hittable on the way in when he fails to disguise his entry with feints or his opponent is able to read them. Faber had some success timing him on the way in and countering.
Faber also showed some creative offense - here he fakes a takedown into a knee and shoots a takedown which Frankie defends, but uses it to turn him around and hit him on the break.
Frankie also used his feints to draw a counter, which he would then shoot underneath.
Edgar's level change is so effective because it presents multiple threats. His body strikes appear very similar to his knee pick until it's too late to react to either one and once his opponent is wary of the level change, he'll start faking it and going upstairs.
The early rounds were close, with neither man being able to get off much offense, but the turning point came midway through the third as Edgar hit a takedown and passed Urijah's legs to avoid the guillotine. From this point on, Frankie took over and began overwhelming Urijah with combinations and takedowns.
During the later rounds, Edgar started opening up with combinations while Faber continued looking for predictable single shots. Edgar would often miss the first strike, but land one or two successive blows.
Faber had no answer for Edgar's feints and combinations and was content to back up and look for counters, occasionally charging forward and missing, en route to being comfortably controlled for a unanimous 50-45 decision loss.
Elsewhere on the card, Dhiego Lima, in typical fashion, backed himself up against the cage and got knocked out attempting to strike with his feet square for the third time in four fights. Neil Magny proved himself deserving of a top 10 opponent. Gegard Mousasi dominated Costa Philloppou on the ground, displaying improved wrestling and killer instinct, and Kajan Johnson continued the exciting if strange trend of rolling for calf slicers for the second week in a row.
Who's going to attempt a calf slicer next week? My money's on Cormier.