Analyzing a Moment: How the T-Wood Bomb Was Detonated 2016 hasn’t been a kind year to UFC champions. After two successful defenses of his welterweight crown, Robbie Lawler was beginning to grow on us as the closest thing to stability outside of "Mighty Mouse" and a certain Joanna "Champion." Unfortunately for those hoping to see Lawler successfully defend his belt for a third time, the MMA gods are ruthless (in an almost Lawler-esque way, even) and seem to love chaos – so they quickly launched a right hand that would sink that ship and descend the combat sports world into darkness yet again. That said, if you are a Tyron Woodley fan, Saturday was a good night. However, if 2016 has taught us anything, I wouldn’t sleep too easy. MMA is as fickle a sport as they come. The unpredictability of it stems from its many disciplined nature. In most sports you aren’t being punched at. But if you are, they probably aren’t kicking you. Okay, if they’re kicking you, at least you don’t have to worry about being slammed on your head and tapped out, alright? So many ways to lose. Equally many ways to win. And all the countless variables between here and there that can determine the very outcome of a fight. Many, we will never, ever know about. Some are invisible: lost in the background, they are pieces of information to which we are not privy; what’s more, even if we had access to this information, these are the type of variables that are difficult to quantify. Someone has an injury. They got food poisoning during fight week. They had a bad weight cut. Their girlfriend broke up with them during camp. No one can ever know how much of an affect any one "excuse" actually has – all we know is that it does, in fact, have an effect. Then there are the variables we can see inside the octagon. These are things like technique, strategy, and the skill that is being employed in a given contest. While still an imperfect representation of a fight in their own right, they remain more readily quantifiable than their intangible counterparts. In this piece we will be examining the former rather than the latter as we try and figure out exactly how Robbie Lawler succumbed to the utter madness that is 2016. UFC 201 Lawler vs Woodley Breakdown For a less-detailed audio version, check out the analysis I did on Youtube directly after the fight. The Breakdown Firstly, let’s go ahead and address one of the most obvious, yet important aspects of this fight and get it out of the way. Robbie Lawler is a southpaw. Tyron Woodley fights out of the orthodox position. This brings us to a classic battle of opposing stances. This can make a world of difference. Most notably, it places the lead hands in contention with one another while freeing up a clear line-of-attack for the rear hand. In this fight this is particularly relevant because of Tyron Woodley’s obsession with his right hand (in his case, the rear) and because of the subsequent devastation it inflicts when it lands. Woodley is an excellent wrestler with a reputation for being able to explode into power doubles – now, he has become equally renowned for his ability to translate this innate physicality into springing forward with that thunderous right hand, covering a surprisingly huge amount of distance in the process. This information serves as the basis for what we saw happen on Saturday night, but it’s not the whole story. You see nothing in MMA is ever quite that simple. Woodley’s ability to control the center of the octagon was crucial. Lawler, who likes to go toe-to-toe, found himself moving laterally instead of pushing forward and being the aggressor. Woodley mirrored his lateral movement, cutting him off with patient, calculated efficiency. Lawler found himself dancing around the outskirts of the octagon trying to keep his back off the cage against the decorated wrestler. In doing so, he would circle out to his left to break the line-of-attack. Circling left against an orthodox fighter is circling into their power. As a southpaw facing an orthodox, doing so concedes the more dominant, outside angle that exists when your opponent’s lead foot is outside of your own lead, thus shortening the distance for the rear hand to travel in order to connect. If done strategically amidst a variety of other movement, it can be pulled off effectively while minimizing risks. When Lawler’s back was to the cage and he was running out of space, he circled left every time. Woodley’s game exists somewhere in between looking to secure the takedown, making you think that he is looking to secure a takedown, and hitting you with that overhand right while you are busy thinking about him securing said takedown. He is a minimalist: one big, scary weapon with a few setups that he is really committed to. For more information on those setups, I highly recommend checking out Jack Slack’s prefight breakdown of Woodley in this piece here. In it he discusses what he calls the "stutter-step double shift." This is a movement that involves him essentially feinting a 2-1 while shifting to a southpaw stance, only to shift back to an orthodox position, using the momentum of the movement to propel him into a right hand that covers a truly remarkable amount of distance. He uses this setup to knockout Jay Hieron and has attempted it on countless others to no avail. It is his go to setup for the right hand. Keep this in mind. The Moment So, what exactly happened in that moment where Robbie Lawler got caught by the infamous T-Wood bomb? Woodley pushed forward, advancing while pawing with the left, feigning the jab. The fake level change that immediately followed kept Lawler on his toes, guessing as to the method of his attack. Lawler conceded ground and quickly ran out of space. He broke the line-of-attack in the same way that he had been doing all night: he circled left. Woodley knew what to expect. The trap had been sprung. When Lawler went off-line, Woodley didn’t follow or cut him off. Instead he planted his feet and went to his bag of tricks. As Woodley was rewarded the dominant, outside angle by virtue of the circling, he called upon old faithful: the aforementioned "stutter-step double shift." He pumped a 1-2-1 feint and then, instead of shifting as per usual, amid the chaos of movement he merely launched into position with a powerful forward shift before sitting down on a hellacious overhand right. His rear hand lined up perfectly with his opponent’s now exposed center-line. Lawler, not knowing what to expect, extended both arms in the hopes of either parrying a punch, or perhaps defend a takedown. Wrong response: it lands. We have a new welterweight champion. Tyron Woodley Highlight Check out Tyron Woodley knock people out and stuff. In Conclusion 2016 hasn’t been a kind year to UFC champions. But is any? One little mistake in this sport and it will cost you. In Saturday night’s contest we saw the predictable become unpredictable and vice versa. The technical habits discussed in this article are only a handful of factors that went into deciding the outcome of this two minute and twelve second contest: how many more determined its fate without us ever knowing? And more importantly, what pieces of information will go about determining future contests? As always, I will make it my mission to do my best to find out. But one can’t help to do much better than fail miserably in this regard. After all, mixed martial arts by its very nature, is unpredictable.