Muhammad Ali was once the most famous man in the world. He was and remains famous for a style of fighting termed 'Rope A Dope' in which he lays on the ropes, taunting his opponent, absorbing shots, until he finally strikes back with devastating effect.
Rope A Dope was invented on October 29, 1974, in the ring. Ali's trainer had spent months working on striking from the outside vs. the then terrifying George Foreman, lifetimes before he was a pitchman for a grill. As Ali warmed up, he decided that dancing all night in the Central African heat was not going to work, so he invented Rope A Dope.
On Saturday at UFC 172, Jon Jones had spent months preparing to fight Glover Teixeira from the outside, but in the opening moments of the fight, he saw that Glover was throwing his shots wide, and determined to fight him from the inside.
Then in the first he secured an overhook, and did something he had never worked with trainer Greg Jackson on, but had wanted to do since wrestling in high school. He cranked on a Whizzer, injuring Teixeira's shoulder. And he then dominated his opponent for the rest of the fight.
In an interview with MMAJunkie, Jackson talked about Jones' improvisation.
“The thing with Jon is that you have to gameplan for creativity,” said Jackson. “What that means is you identify the safety zones that Glover has, and then I leave it to Jon as to what he wants to do.
“Now, the double handgrabs and the elbows are all protocols that we do. Did we specifically say, ‘Do this to Glover?’ Absolutely not. But I never want to put a fighter like Jon in a box; ‘This is exactly what you have to do and how you do it.’ I think that’s a disservice to what makes him great. I think you put him in a position to where he understands what’s going to happen in a fight, he understands he needs to be in great shape, and then you give him positions and let him work and be creative and flow.
“It’s hard to have a definition of a gameplan. A gameplan isn’t always, ‘Do this specifically and do that specifically.’ It can be, ‘You need to avoid these things, and then you need to take control in these certain positions and then flow, and mix it up.’ I think that’s one of the things that makes Jon so incredible is his ability to improv. You teach him the notes, and then you let him do improvisational jazz to his heart’s content.”
“It reminds me a lot of Georges (St-Pierre), who I was lucky enough to work with for a lot of years. GSP had that same kind of (versatility to where) if you shut down his takedowns, he’d blast you with his jab and his nice right hand. He’s very versatile.
“I don’t want to say that he’s the greatest fighter of all time until he’s closer to the end of his career But he’s certainly on his way of being so.”
“You have to be able to push the envelope a little. You have to be able to do new things, and morale is such an important part of fighting. So we could just jab and move the entire fight, and we’d probably win, but that’s not fun for the fans, it’s not fun for the fighter; there’s just not a lot in it. So it’s much better to try to push the envelope to see what you can come up with, to use these different protocols in different places.
“Some fighters aren’t like that at all. They want to know, ‘I need to know a, b and c, exactly where I need to be at all times,’ and that’s fine, if that’s that kind of fighter. But a very creative and flowing fighter like Jon, you need to give him strong positions to move from and let him have free reign to do what he wants.”
Listen to entire interview...
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