Henry Cejudo and the development of a wrestle-boxer

Discussion in 'Standup Technique' started by The MM Analyst, Sep 12, 2017.

  1. The MM Analyst Blue Belt

    The MM Analyst
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    Henry Cejudo‘s game has historically fit into the traditional wrestle-boxer mold. His high-volume, meat-and-potatoes boxing game allows him to strike his way in and out of the clinch, though he’s also active with kicks at distance. Despite winning an Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling (for those of you who haven’t yet heard), Cejudo has always trended more toward the boxing side of the style. UFC 215 saw more of the development of a wrestle-boxer

    Making his top game work in MMA has been a struggle for Cejudo, as has controlling the clinch against strong competition. Although many were surprised when flyweight champion and pound-for-pound king, Demetrious Johnson, sliced Cejudo up in the clinch, the openings were visible even before Johnson ruthlessly exploited them. Re-visit Cejudo’s fight with Jussier Formiga and you’ll notice that he gives Cejudo fits in the clinch by digging his head in, angling off, and going to work with knees.

    His failure to dominate with grappling lead to a sort of identity crisis. His boxing was designed to take him into the clinch with consistent flurries, but he often struggled once he got there. His kicks on the outside were sound, but not strong enough to decisively win fights on their own merit. Henry Cejudo was good everywhere, but no particular area of strength stood out. This can be seen in close fights with Formiga and Chico Camus, in which Cejudo outstruck his opponent but failed to put a decisive stamp on his victory. It would come back to hurt him later in his career against Joseph Benevidez, when two of three judges decided that his offense hadn’t been enough to win the fight.


    It’s important to keep in mind that Cejudo only has four years of professional competition under his belt, and his title shot came just past the three-year mark. This means that he isn’t even close to a finished product and will likely be making large improvements and alterations to his game in between fights. Cejudo’s thorough drubbing of a top-five opponent in Wilson Reis at UFC 215 marked one of these great leaps forward.

    Cejudo abandoned his narrow stance and tight guard in favor of a wider, more bladed stance and an extended lead hand. As someone who has often had trouble closing distance safely, Cejudo’s longer stance left his lead hand closer to Reis and put more distance in between his head and Reis’ punches. Maximizing his distance allowed Cejudo to sit back and lead Reis onto him, opening up counter opportunities when Reis took the bait.

    The extended lead hand allowed Cejudo to hand-fight effectively. In a match between an orthodox opponent and a southpaw, the lead hands fall on the same side, making it more natural to jostle with an opponent’s hand for position. Hand-fighting can serve many purposes – measuring distance, removing the threat of an opponent’s lead hand, distracting them, or flinging their guard away to create an opening. Cejudo used his lead hand to frustrate Reis. He was constantly controlling and stuffing the lead hand, denying Reis the ability to measure distance and set up entries with it.



    Cejudo’s extended lead hand encourages Reis to jab into it. Reis seeks to measure the distance between him and Cejudo, but Cejudo’s hand is extended far away from his face. As a result, Reis doesn’t have a good read on how much distance he needs to cover in order to reach Cejudo’s head. However, jabbing into the lead hand does give Cejudo the knowledge of how far Reis’ jab can extend and how much distance he needs in order to remain safe. As soon as Cejudo retracts his lead hand, Reis springs in with a jab that falls short. Confident in his distance, Cejudo stands his ground and parries the jab, landing a sharp counter straight behind the ear as Reis leaps in.

    In his fight with Benavidez, Cejudo would often retreat straight backwards when pressed. He did a much better job of angling off against Reis, particularly to the inside angle. The inside angle is often readily available in a southpaw/orthodox matchup. A common tactic in open guard engagements is stepping outside of the lead foot, and this can expose the inside angle if one isn’t careful.



    Reis steps outside Cejudo’s lead foot, thinking about throwing the straight. Cejudo bounces toward Reis’ center line, squaring him up, and counters.



    The knockout came in a similar manner. Cejudo didn’t get his lead foot on the center line, but his constant circling toward the inside forced Reis to turn and keep up with him. A quick straight while Reis was turning put him on his back and Cejudo followed up on the ground for a knockout victory.

    The inside-angle straight is a favorite of Conor McGregor, and Johnson used it to great effect in his recent title defense against Reis. McGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh, even commented on the similarity to McGregor in Cejudo’s new style:

    Something about Henry reminds me of someone's style…

    — Coach Kavanagh (@John_Kavanagh) September 10, 2017

    The kind of bouncing footwork you see from a lot of fighters with backgrounds in traditional martial arts is useful in many respects, but also risky. It can be used to disguise the rhythm of entries, draw opponents onto counters, and quickly close or create distance. If you need to be convinced of its utility, go watch Kyogi Horiguchi get the better of everyone he’s ever fought on the feet, including pound-for-pound king, Johnson.

    But it also has drawbacks. Bouncing with a wide stance–not the short, tight hop-steps of boxing–necessitates taking both feet off the ground briefly. This means that, if a fighter is caught mid-bounce, he won’t have the positioning or stance to react. Closing distance as an opponent bounces in, or kicking the trailing leg as they bounce out are high-percentage solutions.



    Shortly after Cejudo landed his first inside-angle straight of the fight, Reis adjusted and kicked his trailing leg as he bounced out. For his part, Cejudo immediately took it back by countering with his own kick.

    Before his fight against Reis, Cejudo would often eat shots due to standing in front of his opponent after entering with punches. Here he was much more disciplined about exiting on angles.



    As Cejudo throws his straight right, he steps his rear leg in behind it at an angle, exiting on a different line than he entered on. When he throws the leg kick, he turns his foot out to open up his hips and steps directly behind it to a new angle instead of pivoting his lead foot back to its starting position. As a result, Reis has to turn to line him up and is unable to land counters as he exits.

    Continue reading...
     
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  2. Paradigm Gold Belt

    Paradigm
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    If he keeps striking like that, not sure you can call him a wrestle-boxer from this point on...

    Was very impressed by his performance last Saturday.
     
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  3. feelinCrisp Yellow Belt

    feelinCrisp
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    I'm surprised you don't have more likes, your breakdown was excellent.
     
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  4. ctrlaltdelete Purple Belt

    ctrlaltdelete
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    Good read, I didn't pick up on Henry using his rear foot ( trailing ) to reposition and exit on an angle after he threw it.

    You hear " don't keep your rear foot in a bucket " in gyms a lot, this is cool way to show one of the reasons why.
     
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  5. Aleksander_Kharitonov Orange Belt

    Aleksander_Kharitonov
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    Good break down
     
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  6. devante Silver Belt

    devante
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    his work w/lyoto paid off, plus he spent time w/the pitbull bros who have also taken to using a karate instructor for the distance management accuracy and tech/rhythm disguising aspects of it.

    bethe did a lesser version of this v reneau
     
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  7. The MM Analyst Blue Belt

    The MM Analyst
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    Did he train with Lyoto? It makes sense. There was a karate-esque tint to his distance management.
     
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  8. Paradigm Gold Belt

    Paradigm
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    I figured he trained with Lyoto based on how he looked but aside from Cormier mentioning his friend texting him during the fight, I've seen no mention of Lyoto anywhere by Cejudo. He mentioned the Pitbull bros in his post fight interview but it seems strange that he'd intentionally omit training with Lyoto if he had actually done so.
     
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  9. devante Silver Belt

    devante
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    its what i heard, but i think alot of the finer points were him working w/a karate instructor coach individually...as the pitbull brothers have added one to their camp for particular fighters..so i know that was something he took full adv of
     
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