To me, controlling the octagon serves the purpose of helping hit your opponent in the face without repercussion. As a added bonus, it can add points to your judges scorecard. Today, I give a few of my thoughts about cutting off the cage, or fencing in your opponent.
In essence, it is just removing your opponent’s ability to escape your danger zone. Let me explain by way of pictures.
Between your feet, looking down at the mat, you have a light-bulb shaped area where your strikes have power. If your opponent is on the outside of it, you’ll find its difficult to hit him/her with power, if at all.
Above, a common scenario – you and your opponent both have strikes that are in range (standing inside/on the edge of the pocket). Both of you are at more or less equal turf to strike one another. For sake of argument, lets say that your opponent doesn’t want to continue trading strikes with you and feels it too dangerous to press forward; there are only a few options to get out of your danger zone.
If they retreat straight back, they get closer to the cage wall and more fenced in. The lateral escapes are more interesting, and cutting off the cage involves making these two options either impassible or very dangerous.
Pretending you and your opponent are orthodox stance fighters, if they move to your left you can beat them with your footwork – getting your left foot on the outside of their right foot-and can shut down that particular escape path. This will more or less guarantee they’ll try to escape towards your right … directly into your power punches AKA the hammer. A lot of fighters will try to avoid getting hammered by circling to your left, so cutting them off as shown above is a good thing to get good at.
Remark: I’m aware that to side-stepping to your left potentially exposes you to your opponent’s power hand. However, we’re looking to cut off the cage and that comes with risks and rewards.
More often than not, your left hand will be the fence, your right hand will be the hammer. Your jab, left hook, and stepping to the outside (cutting them off) fences them in. Your right cross, overhand right, and right kick or knee are collectively, “the hammer”. Occasionally, a right uppercut or hook can also work. While you can pick any target on your opponent, I know many boxers like to keep an enemy on the ropes via body shots. The premise is that if your headshot is dodged, your opponent escapes to freedom (and is no longer fenced in). Body blows, on the other hand, keep escape routes shut down even if they are blocked. See this video on cutting off the ring for a little more about that.
There are a few variations of note. You can fence opponents in either with actual strikes or fakes; if you’ve pounded a guy with a solid back-leg knee, they’ll fear the fake and react to it (see Lyoto Machida vs Randy Couture).
You can cut off the cage to your right side too – it just means your hammer will have to be the front leg karate style kick (no wind up, as a thai kick would be too slow to keep them fenced in) and the leaping left hook.
I’ll leave you with this video that shows Frankie Edgar keeping an opponent on the cage wall.
Let me know your thoughts, tips and tricks in the comment section below.