A tall new fighter came and into training the other day and put a decent beating on my friend during sparring. He utilized his length to keep my buddy on the outside, at the end of his punches, smashing up his face pretty good. Knowing a similar fate could befall me when I went the rounds with him, I decided to avoid his standup altogether and take him down. Luckily, I landed an early single-leg takedown and kept dominant position while giving a light serving of ground & pound*.
I took the easy way out, I know it. I’m guilty. So when I got home, I decided to repent** and study up on the question of the hour: How do you beat a taller a taller fighter? How do you compensate for a reach advantage in striking?
I’ve put together some sound advice from around the web, coupled with my two cents.
Killer footwork is genesis of so many delicious things -it creates power and speed; it is fundamental to solid defense or offense. Jason Van Veldhuysen has a solid instructional video, boxing footwork, that shows a sneaky way to get past a reach advantage.
Instead of closing the gap yourself, why not have your opponent do it for you? As shown in the first vid, when you directly advance, expect that your opponent can easily move back out of the way. With a reach disadvantage, expect to get peppered with shots and not be able to hit back.
Local MMA teacher Brian Yamasaki fixes the problem of a reach advantage by cutting angles and counterattacking: catching kicks then punching, evading punches and kicking. Brian wrote an entire article about short vs tall, and I leave one video below.
In a similar vein, check out Chad Howser’s boxing video on closing the gap by timing the jab. A variety of counter attacks could be utilized; the basic idea is get them to come forward (or plant their feet so they can’t retreat) and take a counter shot.
Many non-MMA boxers don’t account for another problem in the tall vs short puzzle. Tall guys have the advantage on the inside with the Thai clinch. Getting on the inside doesn’t automatically create victory. In fact, a classic way to squelch a shorter fighter’s attempt is to hone your uppercut. Keep ‘em at bay with the jab, sucker them in and shovel their brain into uppercut oblivion.
That aside, clinching may be an option if executed well. Keep their arms tied up, your head under their chin, work for a takedown, etc. Watch Jon Jones fights to understand the limitation of this strategy.
Chop Down the Tree
When the arms just won’t do the trick, try the legs. A disparity in arm length may not always exist with the legs; you may be able to land low kicks and still avoid the hands. I’ve even seen a few guys use foot stomps and low leg kicks targeting the ankle to sneak by the range of a longer fighter.
The Overhand Right
Some experts may say that taller fighters aren’t used to seeing strikes come down at them and ergo don’t see it coming. Regardless, sometimes its the only strike long enough to get to their head.
Feints, Fakes and General Snitchery
In competition, if I know a guy has a longer reach and better striking skills I’m not going to be a silly goose. I’m going to try to take him down and defeat him where I have advantage on top. Fake with my hands, get him to plant for his counter attack, change levels and shoot in. The striking feints are even more important when there is a disparity in length; long arms can fence you off before you can even get a good grip on a leg, so make sure they are busy with something else.
Again from Chad H. “Tip: feint a lot. Really mix things up, but feint then throw a punch. Keep the bigger guys off balance. It’ll annoy the hell outta them and you’ll land clean punches. When you get inside, get and stay busy.”
While I wouldn’t suggest it as a primary strategy, I have been told that if you adamantly keep your chin tucked down you can “catch” a lot of strikes on the top of your head. If you have a high guard, the theory is that you KO spots are well protected and you can eat some shots and then exchange blows that matter. You may even be able to hurt your opponent’s hand via you chrome dome. When I have been with much taller fighters, I have noticed their downward angled punches don’t zing me like those coming from underneath me. Personally, it felt like a dull pounding instead of the sharp strikes that make your vision fuzzy.
You Tell ME!
I’ve listed a bunch of ways I’ve read, heard, or experienced to deal with a taller and longer fighter. I’d love to know the tricks you know about in the comment section.
* When sparring with friends and acquaintances, I don’t really ground & pound – I just let them know my hands are working without delivering too much damage. I’m not sure what you’d call it – mat & slap? floor & fondle? tap & tickle? – but we remain friends and don’t get any uglier in the process.
** Next time the giant comes in, I’m going to keep it standing. If I get KTFO’d, then so be it. If I slay him via knowledge, there will be much rejoicing.
Seagal was recently on “The Voice” for a for a full hour interview. All in all, it was pretty entertaining and if you can use your internet skills or Tivo’d it, its worth a watch.
Seagal talked about his training history, his time in Japan, getting into movies etc. This part is pretty cool – Seagal is a legit aikidoka and has some depth in traditional martial arts. At one point, he mentions that Lyoto Machida’s dad is a bit envious of his trainers and vice versa.
Steven alludes to having to use his skills “hundreds” of times, also suggested that he may have actually used the cue-ball-in-the-bandana weapon (from his movie Out for Justice). Moreover, he jabs at Micheal Jai White and Jean Claude Van Damme (The Voice asks if they are real martial artists and he responds, “Can I laugh in your face?”). He does give a nod to Jet Li and a begrudging acceptance of Chuck Norris as a “tough guy”.
On the Judo Gene Label story – where Gene chokes out Seagal and Steven poops his pants – Steven says it is hogwash and Gene’s a liar. I’m not normally with Seagal’s worldview, but the choke-crap-caper is a bit too … mythical? Much like Steven’s magic powers.
On training Lyoto an Anderson Silva: his official record is that one of Anderson’s guys phoned him, knowing about Seagals “lethal stuff”, and started teaching him. Yes, he acknowledges that people have seen the front kick, but they way he teaches it is different in some important [mystical?] ways. I’m totally going to write a whole post about this front kick.
On being one of the first Mixed Martial Artists; sure he was studying all sorts of different systems and mixing it up, but so were thousands of other guys. The notion that MMA is somehow new doesn’t fly with him; Seagal also makes distinctions between fighters, warriors, athletes and true martial artists.
Seagal acknowledges that he’s made some good movies and some terrible movies; he’s not too broken up about admitting that; this seems like a pretty grounded thing to say, +1 to you Steven.
Seagal thinks that he may be faster now than he was a two decades ago; – 1 to you Steven.
Of all the things he’s done, he seems to enjoy helping people – especially with his law enforcement and humanitarian work.
In summary, if you hate the guy, you’ll find plenty more to latch onto. If you like him, you’ll find enough here to substantiate that too. Personally, I like the guy. He’s weird, exaggerates and is a bit deluded – but he really does love traditional martial arts and is both knowledgeable and passionate.
On the bizzaro spectrum, Steven Seagal is more normal than Mayhem Miller and Bob Arum, but crazier than Diego Sanchez and Tito Ortiz.
You my not know that I have a twitter account; or if you do, you know that my twitter has been dead like a run over buzzard. However, I’m turning over a new leaf and going to start tweeting on a semi-regular basis.
Nothing feels as good as smashing an uppercut square into your opponent’s grill. Conversely, nothing feels worse than having it done to you – assuming you don’t get knocked out brutally and avoid “feeling” it at all. In that case, good night sweet prince.
In this uppercut strike, you really see a nice corkscrew as Brad twists and pushes from his back leg.
Say what you will about will about Chael, he’s a mildly entertaining dude who has shown that Anderson Silva isn’t immortal, just bad-ass. Sonnen has more or less given the blueprint to world on how potentially to beat Silva:
Have a good power double.
Nobody is immune to a good double leg takedown.
Keep smart pressure on Silva and don’t allow him his choice of range and foot placement.
In the first fight, we noticed Silva and Sonnen exchanging blows – something very rare for the elusive Spider. Anderson’s timing and footwork are generally immaculate. When allowed to setup his feet and get his range down, he becomes a master at picking shots and avoiding any return fire.
Keep Silva down (but actually hurt him when he is there).
With solid wrestling, I believe the advantage is sided with the man on top. Chael’s problem is he just doesn’t do any damage when he’s pounding. I’m not sure I fully understand it yet, maybe its posture, maybe its the endurance vs explosiveness in his muscles, maybe its the caution to hold a guy down and not open up a can upon your opponents face – Chael doesn’t seem to give the umph in the ground and pound department that someone like Mark Munoz does.
Do not do silly things, do not take a break.
A spinning backfist is something you have to kinda catch guys unaware with. Unlike various kicking + punching combos, where you can almost force an opponent to each or exchange punches, the spinning backfist isn’t a high percentage technique. Pair that knowledge with the fact that Anderson Silva is clearly one of the most superior strikers in MMA and you get silliness. There is no time to give Silva room to set up shop (read: the spider-web) and pick you apart. There are times when various fighters have had moments of success against Silva. They all involve pressuring him into their game and not standing in the middle of the octagon. Relentless attack seems like the way to go if one hopes to beat the champion.
Anyway, what are your thoughts? What fighter or gameplan would you construct to put an end to Silva’s reign?