Sunday, 10 July 2016

UFC 200 Weekend Breakdown Part 2 - Triumph of Former Kings

The return of TJ Dillashaw seems to have been overlooked amidst all the hubbub of UFC 200, but he looked as good as ever against Raphael Assuncao.  Their first fight ended in a controversial decision win for Assuncao, but Dillashaw put a decisive stamp on his victory this time.

This breakdown is split up into two parts because it has too many gfys for one page to handle, click here for part 1.

Dillashaw had trouble hitting Assuncao in the early going, due to Assuncao's active head movement and habit of giving ground whenever Dillashaw advanced.  Dillashaw was able to capitalize on Assuncao's active, but exaggerated head movement by faking a blitz and coming in with his trademark over the shoulder high kick/knee as Assuncao ducked right into it.

Assuncao was looking to counter and land the inside angle straight he had success with in their first fight.  Here Dillashaw steps his lead foot outside Assuncao's to land his straight and Assuncao frames on his face and pivots into him, looking for the inside angle.  Dillashaw is too close for him to land the straight, but Assuncao's frame blinds Dillashaw to the hook that comes behind it.  TJ steps forward and Assuncao lands an overhand over top of his jab.

Dillashaw came prepared with a few tricks to deal with Assuncao's inside pivot.  In the first sequence, he times Assuncao stepping forward and feinting a jab, slapping down the hand upon entry.  Caught mid-step, Assuncao doesn't have enough time to pivot and catch TJ coming in, and by the time he slips the straight and starts to pivot, Dillashaw is already shifting out.  In the second sequence, Dillashaw flashes the straight and the step outside, before leaping to his left on his right leg and kicking out Assuncao's leg on the pivot.

Assuncao had some success catching Dillashaw on the way in.  Here Dillashaw misjudges the distance and fires an overhand from too close, expecting Assuncao to back into it.  Instead, Assuncao takes a short hop-step back and plants his feet, slipping the overhand and countering with his own.

For the most part, however, Dillashaw's feints made counterpunching a daunting task for Assuncao.   Dillashaw was constantly feinting entries and giving Assuncao different looks, allowing him to draw out reactions and move in as Assuncao is out of position.  They also serve to dull the counterpuncher's reactions, leaving him simultaneously too desperate to land and too tentative, as he doesn't know when an actual strike will rear it's head through the feints.  Many fighters (Assuncao included) will move their lead hand up and down at range a lot, but TJ's feints are so effective because they look exactly like his entries.  He'll enter with a drop step and a jab, then he'll drop step again, wait for you to swing at air, and hit you.  Assuncao was visibly frustrated later in the fight after biting on feints and swinging at air so much.

Assuncao threw plenty of poorly set up leg kicks in round one, but they came back to bite him in the second round as Dillashaw got his timing down.  His timing got so predictable on the kicks that Dillashaw was able to clock him before his back foot even left the ground.

Assuncao found success using side kicks to jam Dillashaw's blitzes.  Here Dillashaw runs in with a leg kick and Assuncao counters with a side kick, knocking him off balance, and uses a low-line side kick to jam Dillashaw's lead leg.

Assuncao began overusing the low-line side kicks and got predictable with his timing, throwing two more in the next 10 seconds.  Dillashaw feints a step in and Assuncao picks his leg up to throw the side kick.  Anticipating it now, Dillashaw bounces diagonally forward and to his left, taking his lead leg out of the side kick's path while parrying with his left arm, and lands an overhand as Assuncao is out of position.

Assuncao mostly abandoned them after that, but he had success in the third round using one to disguise his entry on a combination and to jam Dillashaw's leg on a rush.

Near the end of the fight, Dillashaw hit a takedown and Assuncao used an interesting technique to escape.  From half guard, Assuncao reaches across his body to frame on Dillashaw's right arm.  As Dillashaw lifts the arm to throw a punch, Assuncao swims his right arm through and gets up on his left forearm, entering octopus half guard.  From there, he gets up on his left hand and walks his hips back, while keeping Dillashaw's posture broken with his right arm.

Dillashaw initially made the same mistake he made against Cruz - focusing his combinations around landing one big shot rather than staying in position to follow up.  He was able to adjust after a few minutes of difficulty and start landing more often.  Dillashaw's ability to neutralize Assuncao's counters speaks to the skill of Dominick Cruz, who took an incredibly close fight from Dillashaw largely on the effectiveness of his counterpunching.  This victory sets Dillashaw up perfectly for a well-deserved rematch with Cruz.

Jose Aldo has dominated the featherweight division since he took the title from Mike Brown back in the WEC, but his recent knockout loss to Conor McGregor left many fans and pundits with questions regarding his mental state and ability to take a shot.  His rebound fight would be a rematch with the former lightweight champion and the man who gave him one of his toughest title defenses, Frankie Edgar.  Many thought Aldo was starting to fade, but he looked better than ever against one of the best fighters in the division.

The fight started out as all Frankie Edgar fights start out, with him circling around and feinting, looking for an opening to attack, but Aldo didn't give him many.  Aldo tracks Edgar's motion with his lead foot to keep him lined up as he circles.  Here Edgar circles in a wide arc looking for an angle of attack, but a tight pivot from Aldo leaves Edgar out of position to attack.

Aldo spent the whole fight looking to keep Edgar lined up with his lead foot and shoulder, while only briefly stepping off line to attack.  When Edgar started to find an angle to rush or throw his right hand, Aldo would counter, retreat and reengage, or pivot away.  Here Edgar starts to move past his lead foot and Aldo threatens the elbow counter, before resetting.

Edgar circles to his left looking for an angle to come in, and Aldo makes small adjustments with his lead foot, while flicking out his jab and pivoting away.  Edgar's predictable circling make it easy for Aldo to time his movements and he lands his jabs while Edgar is on one foot, mid-pivot.

Here Aldo catches Edgar stepping across his body with his lead leg.  This puts him out of position to defend strikes until he moves his back leg back into his stance, and Aldo tags him with the straight as he steps out.

Edgar committed to throwing leg kicks much more this time around.  Not wanting to commit to punches due to the threat of Aldo's counterpunching, he would enter with non-committal punches and feints to drive Aldo back and throw the leg kick as Aldo exited.

The trouble with this is that Edgar had difficulty getting close enough to Aldo to make the leg kicks work.  According to Fightmetric, Edgar landed 23 leg kicks, but only a handful of them landed with any significant impact, with most grazing or landing with the foot.

It didn't help that Aldo is very difficult to hit clean with anything, including leg kicks.  In the first sequence, he turns his shin inward to check to kick while keeping his foot planted and remaining in his stance.  In the second sequence, he withdraws his lead leg as Edgar kicks, causing it to land with the toes and taking a lot of power off of it.  In the third sequence, he braces for it by squatting down and turning his knee toward it.

Edgar was able to bait Aldo's leads using feints and movement at the end of his range, but he didn't have much success capitalizing.  Aldo's positioning made it difficult for Edgar to follow him back with counters, and Edgar wasn't comfortable staying in range to attempt simultaneous counters often.  He did manage to land a pair of overhands as Aldo jabbed, however, and sneaked in some jabs on the counter as well.

For all the movement Edgar does on the outside, he still tends to enter on a straight line.  Aldo used his positioning and jab on the outside to keep Edgar off him, but when Edgar was able to blitz, Aldo would kill it by pivoting away.  Pivoting away from Edgar's rushes forced him to stop punching and turn with Aldo to avoid giving up a dominant angle.  Aldo landed the left hook while pivoting away throughout the fight, and occasionally he'd stand his ground and let Edgar run onto a counter.

Shifting stances mid-attack allows an attacker to cover distance rapidly and keep up with an opponent as they pivot and move laterally, and Edgar had some success with that.  He used it sparingly due to the threat of Aldo's counters however, as shifting squares you up and puts you out of position briefly, exposing you to counters.

Aldo would jab often as Frankie came in, which allowed him to duck behind his lead shoulder and avoid the counter overhand even when he missed.

Aldo would occasionally step across Edgar's body to take the angle Edgar was constantly searching for and open up on offense.  Note how Edgar responds by backing up, but stays in Aldo's range, whereas Aldo looks to immediately pivot away, counter, or disengage.

Edgar has a habit of leaning in and hanging his chin over his lead foot when boxing in close.  In the first fight Aldo exploited this with a front kick to the face, and in this fight he timed counter knees when Edgar ducked down.

The same footwork that allows Aldo to pivot away from Edgar's rushes facilitates his takedown defense.  He violently pivots away as soon as Edgar shoots, often ripping his leg out and sending Edgar's momentum flying past him.  The lack of Aldo's trademark leg kicks was noticeable in his performance and likely an adjustment to deny Frankie the opportunity to take him down off a caught or countered kick.

It remains to be seen if Aldo will get his rematch or McGregor will vacate the belt.  Depending on whether McGregor still wants to make the cut to 145 and how many times he insists on fighting Nate Diaz, Aldo might have to be content with continuing to defend the belt while McGregor tries his hand at lightweight.

Aldo's skills looked sharper than ever, but the habit of overextending on his punches at range - the one that got him knocked out by McGregor - still exists.  Aldo does a lot of things that can give McGregor trouble as well that he didn't get to show off in the first fight.

The pacing of UFC 200 felt slightly off, as the fantastic 5 round battle was followed up by a couple lackluster three-round decisions, but Amanda Nunes capped it off with some excitement as she dismantled Miesha Tate in the first round.

UFC 200 may not have been everything it could've been, but the UFC's effort for international fight week brought us a month's worth of exciting fights, two new champions, and hopefully some new eyes on the sport.

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