Posts tagged: Strikeforce

Inside The Guard, A Versatile Position

Usually the starting point of grappling action in MMA matches, the guard is often overlooked by fans and even fighters, but a fighter using proper technique can prove the position dangerous.

Ortiz inside the butterfly guard of Griffin

The goal of the top fighter in the guard is to utilize ground-and-pound striking while aiming to improve their position. The top fighter also has the option of opening the guard and going for submission attempts.

The goal of the bottom fighter in the guard is most commonly to attempt various submissions off of their back or to escape using sweep techniques to return the fight to their feet. However, there are a few effective strikes from the bottom as well.

There are two basic forms of the guard: the closed guard and the open guard. In the closed guard the bottom fighter has their legs wrapped around the top fighter’s back, as well as their arms in cases. The aim of the closed guard is for the bottom fighter to keep the top fighter’s body as close to theirs as possible, limiting range in order to prevent devastating strikes and set up submission attempts.

In the open guard the bottom fighter uses his legs to control the opponent with the goal being to keep the opponent further away rather than close, because the bottom fighter becomes more vulnerable to strikes. The open guard can be used by the bottom fighter to set up submissions, but is most commonly used to create a sweep in order to return the fight to the feet or transition to the top position.

Alan Belcher trapped in Jason Day's rubber guard at UFC 83. Day lands 10 elbow strikes and 17 unanswered punches

There are various forms of the open guard such as the butterfly guard, the rubber guard, the x-guard, the spider guard, De la Riva guard and 50-50 guard. Arguably the most common in MMA are the butterfly and rubber guard.

The butterfly guard is a position in which the bottom fighter’s legs are hooked with their ankles inside the top fighter’s thighs. This allows for good control of the top fighter’s movements and distancing and allows for effective sweeps.

The rubber guard, created by Eddie Bravo, is gaining popularity and becoming more common in the MMA world. The bottom fighter uses a leg to trap the top opponent in their guard, opening up possibilities for submissions, sweeps and even effective striking from the bottom. Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki has developed one of the most effective rubber guards in MMA along with UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn.

The main goal of the top fighter in the guard is to advance his position. However, striking can be effective. Tito Ortiz is among one of the most effective strikers from the guard in MMA, in great part due to his devastating elbows. Elbows, hammer fists, closed fist strikes, and even Royce Gracie style palm strikes can cause damage from the guard.

Mousasi KO's Jacare via up-kick

Fighters inside an opponents open guard also have the option of standing in the guard to attempt various leg locks, such as knee bars, heel hooks and achilles locks. However, this can make them vulnerable to commonly the most devastating strike from the bottom guard.

Up-kicks have proven to be extremely effective in MMA and are a good tool for fighters on their back. Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi knocked out Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in dramatic fashion with a single upkick in the final round of the Dream middleweight grand prix at Dream 6 on September 23, 2008.

The bottom fighter has a clear advantage in the submission game from the guard. The most common submissions pulled off from guard are the guillotine, arm bar, triangle choke and kimura. Other popular submissions are the omoplata and gogoplata, but these techniques are most often used as a sweep to simply transition to the top or a standing position. However, they can be very effective when used from the rubber guard.

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The top fighter must aim to improve his position above all else while in the guard. A ground-and-pound fighter must move out of harms way against a submission specialist rather than being contempt to strike from the guard. Mark Coleman learned this lesson not once, but twice when he was submitted from within WAMMA and former Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko‘s guard during Pride FC competition in 2004 and then again in 2006.

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AKA Fighters, Staying Hard at Work

Fighters at the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) have been very busy in the past month, many making a name for themselves, as fighters, in mainstream MMA, and others hope to improve their reputation in upcoming months.

Javier Mendez

The American Kickboxing Academy is a gym located in San Jose, California.  AKA’s training staff members have diverse sets of martial skills and come from very different backgrounds.  This diversity is the gym’s greatest strength, because it allows for the development of more well-rounded and intelligent MMA fighters.

AKA gained notoriety due to its talented and experienced training staff, as well as Javier “Thunder” Mendez’s success as a kickboxer and MMA trainer.  Mendez, the owner and head trainer at AKA, is a former ISKA World Kickboxing champion and Martial art practitioner with over 25 years of experience in various martial arts.

One fight UFC veteran “Crazy” Bob Cook is the head MMA trainer and head manager for MMA fighters at AKA. Cook holds a 5-0 undefeated record in MMA.  His last fight was at UFC 24 in March of 2000 in which he submitted Tiki Ghosen by rear-naked choke.

Head grappling coach David Camarillo is a black belt in both judo and brazilian jiu jitsu.  Camarillo holds various accomplishments, including winning several high-caliber grappling competitions and even winning the 1998 Folsom Free Fighting Challenge, a no holds barred fighting competition.

The remaining instructors at AKA vary in discipline and experience from professional MMA fighters to former professional boxers and kickboxers, muay tai practitioners and grappling specialists.  They include Jerome Turcan, Travis Johnson, Mike Sotelo, Andy Fong, Derek Yuen, Josh Thomson, Gary Owens, Stacey D. Dupree and Daniel DeTagle.

AKA Fighters

Herschel Walker

AKA holds a roster with considerable talent and a diversity of fighters in terms of martial strengths.  Its current roster includes numerous UFC veterans, including Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick, Phil Davis, Josh Thomson, Cain Velasquez, Paul Buentello, Trevor Prangley, Christian Wellisch, Richard Crunkilton, Bobby Southworth and Kyle Kingsbury.  AKA also has many Strikeforce veterans, including former Middleweight champion Cung Le, Herschel Walker, Billy Evangelista, Daniel Puder, Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold, Justin Wilcox and Nate Moore.

AKA trains several fighters, competing in top-level organizations, who hold undefeated records.  These fighters include Phil Davis, Cain Velasquez, Billy Evangelista, Daniel Puder, Daniel Cormier and Herschel Walker

Phil Davis at UFC 109

Heisman trophy winner and 12 season NFL veteran Herschel Walker made his MMA debut on Jan. 30 at Strikeforce: Miami at the age of 47.  Walker took down and pummeled Greg Nagy, achieving a technical knock out in the third round (2:17).

Penn State graduate and NCAA wrestling champion Phil Davis won his UFC debut on Saturday at UFC 109.  Davis controlled the fight, dominating Brian Stann on the ground, and earned a unanimous decision victory.

Cain Velasquez will face off against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the main event of UFC 110 in Sydney, Australia on Feb. 21.  The winner will likely be a top-contender for the heavyweight title.

Cain Velasquez, Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck at AKA

UFC welterweight contender Jon Fitch is scheduled to meet Thiago Alves at UFC 111 in Newark, NJ on Mar. 27.  Fitch is on a three fight win streak after losing a unanimous decision title match to Georges St. Pierre in August of 2008 at UFC 87.  Fitch defeated Alves by knock out in the second round (4:37) of their first meeting at UFC: Ultimate Fight Night 5 in June of 2006.

UFC welterweight contender Josh Koscheck is set to fight Paul Daley at UFC 113 in Montreal, Quebec on May 8.  Koscheck and Daley each hold a two fight win streak in the UFC coming into the fight.

AKA Fighters – Highlight Video

Coleman attempts to put Team Hammer House back on center stage

Mark “The Hammer” Coleman’s Team Hammer House has fallen on hard times as of late.  However, Coleman hopes to turn the trend around as he meets another MMA great and fellow UFC Hall of Famer Randy “The Natural” Couture this weekend at UFC 109 Relentless.

Team Hammer House is a MMA team operating out of Columbus, Ohio, focused on amateur wrestling, and made up of mostly former NCAA wrestlers.  The team has cross training deals with notable fighters and camps such as Matt Serra, Pat Miletich, and Xtreme Couture MMA.

The main strengths of Team Hammer House are its wrestling and ground-and-pound.  Coleman is credited with being one of the first American MMA fighters to successfully use the strategy of ground-and-pound, which has earned him the nickname of the “Godfather of Ground-and-Pound.”

Coleman, the founder of Team Hammer House, holds numerous accomplishments in the world of professional MMA.  He is a UFC Hall of Famer, the first ever UFC heavyweight champion, and the winner of the UFC 10 tournament, UFC 11 tournament, and 2000 Pride openweight GP tournament.  Coleman, like many of his teammates at Hammer House, is a former NCAA collegiate wrestler.

Team Hammer House holds a roster with several prominent fighters, including four UFC veterans: two of whom are former UFC champions. The team’s notable fighters include: Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Wes Sims and Branden Lee Hinkle.  Phil Baroni, a UFC, Pride and Strikeforce veteran, is a former member of Team Hammer House.

Former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman is a senior member of  Team Hammer House. Randleman, a former collegiate wrestler and two time Division I NCAA champion, was defeated by Mike Whitehead via unanimous decision in June of 2009 during his Strikeforce debut at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields.  The fight marked his first fight in over a year due to a shoulder injury, as well as his first fight in America in nearly seven years.  In his most recent fight Randleman was defeated by Stanislav Nedkov via split decision at World Victory Road Presents: Sengoku 11.

Wes Sims, three-fight UFC veteran  and The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights cast member, recently fought Bobby Lashley on the main card of Strikeforce: Miami. Sims was stopped in the first round via technical knock out (2:06).

Branden Lee Hinkle, three-fight UFC veteran and NCAA Division II national wrestling champion, was stopped by Chris Tuchscherer in round 4 (4:43) of his most recent fight at SNMMA: Beatdown at Four Bears. Hinkle has lost four of his last five fights after going undefeated in his previous nine matches.

Coleman scored a unanimous decision victory over Stephan Bonner in his last fight at UFC 100 after falling to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua via technical knock out in the third round (4:36) at UFC93.  He is currently training with Team Hammer House in preparation for his match with Randy Couture this Saturday Feb. 6 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV.

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Live pay-per-view coverage of UFC 109 will begin at 10 p.m. EST.

Fighters Shine at Strikeforce, Team Continues to Gain Credibility

Strikeforce: Miami saw a nice reception in the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla. The Showtime spectacular featured many up-and-coming fighters, but one team, and one particular fighter, is standing out.

Rated as the number one grappling competition team in Florida since 2000, and, according to UFC commentator Joe Rogan, “the best MMA camp in the country,” American Top Team (ATT) continues to grow.

American Top Team Facilities. Image Courtesy of ATTAltitude.com

American Top Team Facilities

With a headquarters in Coconut Creek, Fla., ATT has over 1,000 members, including names like Jorge Santiago, Hector Lombard, Kimbo Slice, Mike Brown and former professional wrestler, Bobby Lashley. To top it all off, the team is built around a core group of instructors with impressive resumes – a defining factor in the notoriety and credibility of ATT.

Founded by former Brazilian Top Team members Ricardo Liborio and Marcus Silveira, and financed/oversaw by Dan Lambert (a hotel executive), ATT built a 20,000-foot headquarters, and has expanded to 20 franchises and affiliate gyms. Liborio, a NAGA Grappling hall-of-famer, remains the Head Instructor. He is backed by 1976 Olympic Gold Medal boxer, Howard Davis Jr. (Head Boxing Coach), Strength and Conditioning coach Stefane Davis, who has a masters degree in Strength and Conditioning Preparation of Elite Athletes, and BJJ instructors Jonatas Gurgel and Marcos Da Matta.

Da Matta, along with Lashley and two other competitors were recently sent to Strikeforce: Miami to compete.

In the undercard, two welterweights from ATT competed, splitting 1-1. Sabah Homasi (2-1-0) was defeated for the first time by John Kelly via submission on a rear naked choke in the second round (2:48).

Also in welterweight action was Hayder Hassan (3-1-0), who handed Ryan Keenan his first professional loss with a technical knockout in the second round (2:42). All three of Hassan’s victories have come by technical knockout, showing his fine ability to pummel his opponents with his hands.

In featherweight action, Da Matta, who was undefeated prior to the event, fell to Pablo Alfonso, submitting to a straight armbar in the first round (1:47). Da Matta was able to bring the fight to the ground, but was quickly put in the defensive, where Alfonso moved from a guillotine choke to the armbar that decided Da Matta’s fate.

Finally, and most notably, Bobby Lashley competed in the heavyweight main card event, squaring off against Wes Sims, who was most recently featured on the television series The Ultimate Fighter. Lashley (5-0) remains undefeated after taking Sims out with a technical knockout in the first round (2:06). The fight was stopped after Lashley put Sims in the defensive and delivered a round of blows.YouTube Preview Image

U of Combat will surely be following ATT competitors very closely in the coming months, as they are proving to be among some of the elite in the nation. You can visit their website by clicking here.

Red Devil Sport Club

Ever wonder what gym Fedor Emelianenko calls home?  Based out of St. Petersburg, Russia, Emieianenko, his brothers Aleksander and Ivan, his childhood coaches Vladimir Voronov, and Aleksander Michkov, and many other Strikeforce favorites call Red Devil Sport Club home.

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Red Devil Sport Club began as a Combat Sambo training ground and as recently as the union of Red Devil and the Emelianenkos in 2005 has migrated with quick succession in the direction of mixed martial arts.  Most of the athletes are Russian or Armenian and train in a variety of specialties ranging from Sambo to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to Muay Thai to MMA.  Founded by Vadim Finkelstein, also the creator of M-1 Global, an MMA promotion naming stars such as Arman Gambaryan and Ibragim Magomedov.

With the strength of F. Emelianenko and currently the rise in fame of his brothers, many MMA stronghands (Victor Nemkov (below) and Aleksander Garkushenko, for example) were drawn to train at the Red Devil.  The team has created a strong name for itself by consistently performing as one of the top MMA teams in Russia since the start of M-1.

For spiritual reasons, F. Emelianenko requested that the Red Devil Team be referred to as the Imperial Team.  The name stuck around after due to Emelianenko’s excessive fame.  He is easily considered the top MMA artist in the sport.

In 2009, A. Emelianenko left Red Devil with little to no explanation but continues to practice with is brothers, coaches, and family friends.

As 2008 M-1 Challenge Champions, Imperial Team entered the 2009 challenge looking for success.  They came up short, failing to win the competition this year, largely due to the constant change in fighters.  Imperial Team often encourages newer fighter to be entered into the fight so that they may gain experience.  While this is a kind gesture and good training strategy for the athletes, it is not helping the team overall.  The team will be looking to reclaim their title in 2010.

Styles Make Fights – Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields (Striker vs. Submission Wrestling)

Jake Shields challenged Cung Le for the Strikeforce Middleweight title after submitting Robbie Lawler.

Jake Shields challenged Cung Le for the Strikeforce Middleweight title after submitting Robbie Lawler.

In a catchweight superfight, former EliteXC welterweight champion Jake Shields scored a significant upset by submitting former EliteXC middleweight champion Robbie Lawler with a guillotine choke in the first round of their main event fight.

Shields, who moved up in weight to fight Lawler, went for takedowns immediately after the opening bell, but Lawler threw them off with relative ease. Despite being known for his heavy strikes, Lawler never threw anything dangerous and chose to clinch with Shields instead. Shields, the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt and former All-American wrestler, got a hold of Lawler’s neck in the clinch, pulled guard, and locked in a guillotine choke which had Lawler tapping two minutes into the first round.

It was a great display of reflex by Shields, who was earlier frustrated in his takedown attempts but needed no second time of asking when presented with a submission opportunity. For Lawler, it was a disappointment to be submitted by a smaller man while not being able to showcase any of his own skills.

Styles Make Fights – Strikeforce: Arlovski vs. Rogers (Striker vs. Striker)

The Grim made his case as a top-tier HW at the expense of Andrei Arlovski

"The Grim" made his case as a top-tier HW at the expense of Andrei Arlovski

In an inter-promotional heavyweight bout set up by Strikeforce and Affliction, former UFC champion and world-ranked heavyweight Andrei Arlovski lived up to his reputation for having a weak chin by getting run over by Brett “The Grim” Rogers in the first round of their fight at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields.

Arlovski got two tentative leg kicks of offense in before Rogers charged him while throwing huge punches. Arlovski was pressed against the cage wall before getting smashed with three clean shots to the face by Rogers and was down and out just 22 seconds into the fight.

It was a sweet introduction into the big time for the undefeated Rogers, who has never fought outside of the first round in an MMA and is still untested defensively or on the ground. Arlovski’s tentative start let the youngster Rogers seize the initiative, and with a flurry of pure aggression Rogers likely put paid to Arlovski’s days as a top heavyweight fighter.

Styles Make Fights – Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Smith (Freestyle vs. Striker)

MMA bad boy Nick Diaz used his reach advantage and superior technique to pick apart Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith, eventually finishing Smith via submission in the third round of their catchweight fight at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields.

Nick Diaz: title threat at both welterweight and middleweight?

Nick Diaz: title threat at both welterweight and middleweight?

Diaz peppered Smith with punches and jabs in the first round, but Smith responded to Daiz’s taunting by throwing his trademark power punches, catching Diaz more than once. It was more of the same in the second round, with Smith’s lack of defense (no head or hand movement) allowing Diaz to continue to smash him with strikes at will, letting the slight punches take their toll.

A desperate Smith swung for the fences in the third round, but was felled by a punch to the body by Diaz. On the ground, Diaz used his black-belt-level BJJ skills to quickly lock in a rear naked choke, leading to a quick tap by Smith.

It was a clinic in technique by Diaz, who used patience and precision to neutralize Smith’s vaunted power strikes. Smith’s lack of technique or accuracy made things too easy for Diaz after the first round.

Styles Make Fights – Strikeforce: Mike Whitehead vs. Kevin Randleman (Wrestler vs. Wrestler)

In a clash of two accomplished wrestlers, ex-PRIDE star and

Randleman let another one get away

Randleman let another one get away

former UFC champion Kevin Randleman grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory by letting Mike Whitehead take a decision victory at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields

After two uneventful rounds where Whitehead laid on Randleman, Randleman smashed Whitehead with an overhand left in the third round, but somehow failed to finish Whitehead. Whitehead eventually recovered and rode out the rest of the round.

Randleman’s handling of Whitehead after that left hook was a prime example of why a modern MMA fighter needs to cross-train many disciplines. Randleman could’ve had any submission he wanted but didn’t even try for one, allowing victory to one again elude him.

Styles Make Fights – Strikeforce: Phil Baroni vs. Joe Riggs (Brawler vs. Freestyle)

Jack-of-all-trades Joe “Diesel” Riggs outclassed Phil “The New York Badass” Baroni both standing and on the ground en route to a decision victory at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields.

Riggs would like to meet Jake Shields next

Riggs would like to meet Jake Shields next

On this night Baroni simply didn’t have the necessary tools to deal with Riggs, who controlled most of the action on the ground. While standing, Riggs threw mixed combos of punches, flying knees and kicks, punishing Baroni’s one-dimensional jabs.

Much like Randleman before him, Baroni simply seems to be a relic from MMA yesteryear, where his simple punching power and slightly-above-average wrestling doesn’t stand up against a well-rounded opponent.

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