Adesanya vs Tavares Breakdown: The Birth of a Star

Discussion in 'Standup Technique' started by The MM Analyst, Jul 8, 2018.

  1. The MM Analyst

    The MM Analyst Blue Belt

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    The process of star-making in MMA is fraught with vagaries, contradictions, and absurd truths. A cursory glance at the buy-rate of pay-per-views headlined by the most skilled fighters in MMA will tell you that being the best isn’t enough. Foreignness can help create an air of mystique around a fighter, but its effect is somewhat diminished by the necessity of appealing to an English-speaking audience.

    You can’t be too small, as the lower weight classes have proved historically abysmal draws. Hell, venture below bantamweight and you’ll have to deal with an employer seemingly intent on sabotaging the growth of your weight class.

    What does seem to do the trick, however, is a confident, larger-than-life personality and a magnetic presence in the Octagon. From Conor McGregor to Ronda Rousey, the biggest stars in the industry are marked by their ability to inspire emotion outside the cage and leave fans breathless with their presence inside it.

    Israel Adesanya has that first criterion down pat. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this FloCombat interview in which he criticizes the UFC brass for their irritation at one of his post-fight celebrations. In his own words, the celebration consisted of Adesanya “pretending to whip an imaginary dick out and pee everywhere to mark [his] territory.” If that doesn’t scream personality, I don’t know what fans are looking for.

    On the other hand, Adesanya’s performance has lagged behind his personality since his UFC debut. He spent significant portions of his first two fights tied up in the clinch or on the ground. At range, his striking looked exponentially more skilled than his opponents, but he struggled to press his advantage to the fullest.

    That all changed at the TUF 27 Finale, where Adesanya systematically dismantled a top-eight middleweight in Brad Tavares. Tavares had been slowly but consistently working his way up the rankings since his UFC debut in 2010, losing in recent years only to the middleweight elite, and Tim Boetsch. Coming off the best win of his career against Krzysztof Jotko, Tavares seemed poised to put together a run toward the top of the division, but his momentum came to a crashing halt against Adesanya.

    The Stylebender
    The first thing that stands out about Adesanya’s striking game is his unparalleled skill at playing with his opponent’s expectations. Every action he takes is designed to catch the eye and distract in order to set something up. Adesanya tends to fight cautiously in the early rounds, probing with non-committal feints and punches to get a read on his opponent’s reactions and train their eye to his subtle motions. As the fight progresses, he’ll build off those setups and exploit those reactions.

    Constant hand and foot feints serve to dull an opponent’s reactions. If you jab every time your elbow comes away from your ribs or your lead foot steps forward, your opponent will start picking up the timing in short order no matter how fast or technically sound the delivery is. Commit to only a quarter of those shots, however, and differentiating between a legitimate counter opportunity and a feint becomes much more difficult.



    When these feints are as convincing as Adesanya’s, the opponent is forced into the uncomfortable choice of either attempting to counter punches that aren’t, or instead, letting actual strikes go unanswered. Note that Adesanya’s feints look like his punches. He doesn’t merely flick out his arm, he rotates his hips into the feint, while still avoiding the commitment that would expose him to a counter.



    Adesanya’s snappy jab is hidden behind layers of feints. Along with his constant hand and foot feints, Adesanya’s low lead hand gives his jab an element of concealment, rising up from below from below his opponent’s field of view. He’ll intensify this effect by leaning over his lead hip, drawing attention to his head, while the lead hand lies coiled out of view and waiting to strike.



    Alternatively, Adesanya will draw attention to his lead hand by probing lazily or just sticking it right in his opponent’s face, before launching an attack off the rear side.



    If I can offer any criticism of Adesanya’s jab, it’s that he seems more reluctant to build combinations off it than he needs to be. Many of his cleanest shots in the fight came off the jab, but it was mostly kept to a pot-shot even though Tavares presented little counter threat. When he did use his jab to close distance, Adesanya would an angle inside of Tavares’ stance to take his head out of the path of counters and shorten the path of his right hook.

    Adesanya’s straight is just as difficult to read as his jab. He constantly pumps his hips and shoulders, giving the appearance of sitting down on the straight without any of the commitment. Because the rear straight and round kick use the same preliminary hip motion, these hip fakes add another layer of disorientation. Tavares not only has to guess whether or not Adesanya is really throwing a strike, but whether it’s a fist or a shin about to fly at his head.



    When Adesanya throws his straight, the delivery is blindingly fast. The speed of his straight stems not only from athleticism and tight mechanics, but he makes the trade-off of building speed into his punching form. Adesanya completes most of the delivery before throwing the punch, shaving time off but losing the massive power generated by hip connection. He’ll start with his weight already transferred forward, his rear shoulder rotated inwards, and his rear foot picked up on its ball. From there, all that’s left is a very slight rotation of the hips and shoulders to push the arm toward its target. This shortened straight is a classic tactic favored by boxing greats such as Roy Jones and Floyd Mayweather.

    Along with concealing his punches, Adesanya’s hip feints allow him to play with his opponent’s sense of anticipation. A crucial part of a fighter’s defense lies in his ability to predict and anticipate his opponent’s likely move based on their positioning.

    When a fighter is coiled over the rear hip with weight loaded on the rear leg, a la Dan Henderson, he is in perfect position to transfer weight explosively forward into a rear straight or overhand. Likewise, when a fighter is coiled over his lead hip, his opponent will generally be expecting a lead hook. By leaning over his lead hip and firing off the straight, Adesanya makes it more difficult to anticipate. If his opponents get too comfortable waiting on the straight when he’s on his lead hip, the threat of the up-jab exists to keep them honest.

    https://gfycat.com/untriedpolitealtiplanochinchillamouse

    Adesanya will use these hip feints to close distance, falling in behind them directly with a hop-step and firing off a strike without resetting his hips. The hop-step allows him to sneakily close distance without the tell carried by stepping forward, while maintaining a strong stance. In each sequence, Tavares has no idea what to expect and resorts to backing right into Adesanya’s strikes.

    Continued here, where we take a look at Adesanya's inside game and see whether or not his grappling is up to snuff
     
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  2. Sano

    Sano Black Belt

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    Framing seems to be the name of the game for Adesanya atm, both when it comes to the clinch, takedown defense and overall ground game. It makes sense given his frame, and he had some really sweet trips. Nice part about keeping your forehead close to the opponents head and having a more tucked head posture during the thai clinch, it makes sense as many guys get hit and are vulnurable when seperating.

    At distance Adesanya is a master. I find him a little off putting personality wise, a little odd, but man was it a pleasure watching him work the other day against Tavares. The feints, the setups, the creativity. It was amazing. I really like, as you pointed out, the way in which he uses the creative stuff to set up the bread and butter stuff, much like Conor used to do. That's the problem with someone like Lando who has creativity and flashyness, but no good fundamentals to back it up with.

    Adesanya is so hard to read and almost never does the same thing twice. If he is allowed to get in the zone and given space to work, I don't think anyone could beat him on the feet right now. Well, he does have two apparent weaknesses (putting wrestling aside). His arrogance, which could lead to a brutal KO loss, and constant pressure, which shuts off some of his offense. Costa vs Adesanya would be a great fight, although I suspect Adesanya can catch him coming in and move around the ring. Can he hurt him enough to not get pummeled though....
     
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  3. The MM Analyst

    The MM Analyst Blue Belt

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    I'm often critical of the UFC's booking, but I'm gonna be hypocritical for a minute and say that I hope they just feed him strikers en-route to a title shot. We need to see how he fares against a good wrestler eventually, but more importantly I need Izzy/Bobby in my life. They can give him Weidman/Jacare/Brunson afterwards. If that fight doesn't eventually happen I swear I'll cry.

    I had mixed feeling when he debuted in the UFC because I'll miss seeing him fight world-class kickboxers, but it's worth it if we keep getting performances like this out of him.

    Be interesting to see how Paulo's body work (and dick punches) fares against him. His work in the open is pretty lackluster though and he needs guys on the fence to really open up. I think Izzy leads him around and picks at him with counters, makes him hesitate with feints, etc. And those collar ties and knees make it dangerous to keep level changing in front of him.
     
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  4. ArtemV

    ArtemV Gold Belt

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    Gifs claimed by UFC :(
     
  5. The MM Analyst

    The MM Analyst Blue Belt

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    This is all the clips I used, but not quite the same without being able to see them along with the words. I'm in the UFC intern's head.

     
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  6. never enough

    never enough Colour my life with the Chaos of trouble

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    Adesanya is definitely a great fighter to watch. I hope he goes far in the sport. His TDD is getting better and I think hes a great striker.
    He just cocky and flamboyant enough to be entertaining and not annoying
     
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  7. Sano

    Sano Black Belt

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    Most likely he will, the only reason I'm a bit hesitant is that Vetorri had good success with pushing him back and pressuring him, and Adesayna didn't really make him pay for it. Costa is much more dangerous, but at the same time, he doesn't employ a grappling heavy offensive style so it's hard to say. Adesayna also looked much better against Tavares. I guess we'll see.

    Whittaker vs Adesayna would be nuts yeah, a few more wins and I think we'll see it!
     
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