Breakdown of Fedor’s Superman finish of Pedro Rizzo

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fedor Emelianenko has just surprised no one by knocking out a much aged and worn down Pedro Rizzo. But Rizzo is still no slouch on the feet, and the The Last Emeperor’s striking discipline continued along its upward trend.

While many of his hardcore fans would like to see Fedor return to his varied striking to grappling style, Fedor did fight exactly as he should now that he is past his best. Fedor fought intelligently, in a measured manner, and out thought Rizzo. Fedor looked every bit the technical striker, even hooking off of the jab. The finishing combination was a perfect example of a set up immediately paying dividends, and effective set ups are something we see far too little of in MMA.

Fedor threw a hard low kick at the Brazilian, coincidentally a man known for his own, powerful low kicks. Then Fedor lifted his foot, faking the kick but instead stepped in with a powerful right hand. Similar to a superman punch, but accomplished with a step forward rather than a hop into the same stance.

The act of establishing the low kick (a fairly safe technique when thrown appropriately), then using this to set up meaningful punches is one that is still underutilized in Mixed Martial Arts. Rizzo was circling away from the Russian’s legendary right hand, and yet the appearance of an approaching low kick made him lift his leg to check, allowing Fedor to strike him down.

In MMA, the gloves are much smaller than in boxing, so many intelligent fighters learn to move away when the opponent is stepping in rather than trying to block (Dominick Cruz, Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva are all masterful at this). At lower levels (though still in UFC fights, Matt Riddle vs Sean Pierson being a great example) this leads to fighters running at each other with flurries, falling short on every punch, then running backward away from the opponent’s own attemps at an offensive flurry. A great way to make the opponent stand still is to low kick.

The threat of a low kick forces the opponent to:
°Check the kick – taking one foot off of the floor and stopping his backward movement.
°Set his weight on the front foot to take the kick, also preventing backward movement.
°Should the opponent retreat, he will take the brunt of the kick while out of position, fall off balance, and risk injury.

The most basic level of low kick to punching set ups is the superman punch – responsible for a great many knockouts of even experienced fighters. Georges St. Pierre still establishes his inside low kick, then uses his superman jab to enter for his takedowns in almost every fight. Jon Jones also distracts better punchers with solid kicks, and is then able to catch them unawares with hand strikes as their footwork slows in anticipation of taking low kicks. Another fighter who, when he is on form, blends kicking with his punching strategy excellently, is Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua.

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