Strategy 101 for Pugilism and MMA
What you don't know CAN hurt you / Pictured: Jake Matthews up against Li Jingliang at UFC 221 Perth | Pic: Emanuel Rudnicki/FIGHTMAG

Opinion: What you don’t know can hurt you

“When you engage me, I pull slightly then angle off. If I push and you pull I sidestep in the predisposed knowledge of where you will be. This game of chess demands a cerebral approach and our dance place out as a cold and calculated little drama,” – Kuya.

Many aspiring young MMA fighters spend hour after hour, training, conditioning and preparing for their first bout only to be feeling left that despite their efforts something is missing from their arsenal. For many, this “missing ingredient” boils down to basic strategic-understanding. When, why and how.

You see, the fast growing of popularity has bred many great coaches and technicians, but few teachers or “strategists” if you will. This is an area where even accomplished fighters who open gyms often fall short; strategy and minutia. To this end, I will offer the following to aspiring competitors:

Fight Day

Continue to drink water and hydrate even if your thirst has passed, eat a balanced breakfast and relax focus, but do not overthink. Make a ritual of every aspect of your fight day process. Do not discount the process of wrapping your hands, this is your time to get into your zone.

Why do you fight? Visualize the short wait before the curtain opens and the walk begins, the lights, the crowd. Imagine the fight playing out, your hand being raised.

Upon entry to the MMA cage I like to encourage my guys to take a lap around feeling the chain link and getting suited to the size of their “office for the night.” Knowing the dimensions of the space you have to work with is critical.

Ding Ding

It is important that you have warmed up sufficiently to allow your lungs to open and breathe, jitters and fear are normal but do not misinterpret them for fatigue it is normal! Everything you are feeling your opponent is as well. Adrenaline is a chemical to keep you sharp and focused nothing more, once passed through your system it will clear and you will eventually get your second wind but this is where so many entry level fighters lose the battle. They find that they’ve lost not to a better opponent, but to themselves.

Be first and control the center

This is not only ring generalship 101 but by jabbing him immediately out of the center – he is both having to react to your offense as well as having to constantly gauge how far the fence is behind him. Use fakes and feints often set up combinations of attacks change their angles as well as the levels to keep your opponent guessing.

Isolate your opponent from his coaches

Many fighters draw strength simply from the name who is working their corner, and you will find that they will ultimately break if lose the ability to communicate with them. Take your opponent down in your corner where your coaches can see what you are unable, use the cage as a tool to break his posture shut down his hips and maintain heavy pressure to keep him there.

Poor posture will kill you

With fatigue comes low hands and poor posture that’s a given. Do your best to minimize this. Poor posture shooting a takedown will get you sprawled on and punished, if this is taking place on the cage it leaves you vulnerable to the guillotine. On the ground, leaving your neck hang is a recipe for disaster.

Post fight

No matter the result there are only two athletes in there and only one can win do either with grace and humility. Pay homage to your opponent and his coaches by shaking their hands, these impressions of your character will resound much longer than an impressive victory.

Do a post fight analysis, what can you improve on? How was your weight cut? What can you fine tune before your next opportunity.

Remember, we are building an honorable sport together. Let’s give it the respect it so deserves.