Thursday, September 3, 2009

UFC 102 Analysis Part 2: Leben vs.Rosholt

Moving right along to the Middleweights!

Chris Leben vs. Jake Rosholt

Prediction: Rosholt, Rd. 3 by Unanimous Decision

Result: Rosholt, Rd. 3 by Submission, Arm Triangle

As I thought, Rosholt did have the better of the wrestling game, and didn’t have enough power to finish Leben off with his fists. However, instead of continuing to pound away, I was surprised to see Rosholt come out with some submission attempts! They weren’t as clean or technical as Maia or Nogueira, but he’s still new and still improving. And even if it wasn’t a beautiful choke, we can clearly see it was very effective.

The fight began with both of them just feeling each other out, neither willing to be aggressive right off the bat. It was good to see the kicks being used, both Leben and Rosholt were working low kicks right from the start. Neither seemed to use them at full strength, but we did see some damage to Leben’s shin as the fight wore on. I’m not sure if those were from kicking or being kicked, they looked more like scratches than bruises to me.

Rosholt eventually started warming up to the fight, getting inside to throw some punches, then some kicks as Leben backed away. Leben nabbed a leg in the first round, though, and managed to topple Rosholt over. I hesitate to call it a real takedown, but it got the job done. Leben had a tough time posturing up, Rosholt kept him down pretty easily, although he ate a lot of body punches. I’m not sure how effective those must be, seeing as very few fighters seem to be affected by them, and I’ve never seen a fighter tap out or get TKO’d from them. Rosholt was quick to get out from underneath as well, working that wrestling explosiveness in the scramble. Leben tried to clinch it up, but Rosholt quickly got the takedown. He got on top and tried working a choke, this was probably the first indicator that his submission game was better than I gave him credit for.

As round two got started, Leben managed to find his range and knocked Rosholt down with some good straight punches. Leben doesn’t use his jab as well as he could, and if he did I think his striking would improve drastically. He was moving it in and out as a range finder, using his leg kick more like a jab than a kick. It’s certainly a different strategy, and it’s not without its benefits, as we’ll see. However, a lead jab is undeniably quicker and more accurate; it would probably increase his chances of landing that big left he loves to throw.

Back to flicking that leg kick out: Leben did use it very effectively, especially as he switched it off with a high kick, followed up by a powerful left straight.

As they clinched up, Leben also utilized the foot stomp a lot, something I think isn’t used as much as it should be in the UFC. I’ve heard stories about people walking out of fights with broken toes and feet from those strikes, although it should be noted that I don’t recall ever seeing someone limp after getting some. As a judoka, I wonder if it would be good to use foot stomps to get people on one foot and set them up for throws. I have yet to see it in MMA competition, but it could work in theory.

Aside from the couple big shots, though, Leben couldn’t hurt Rosholt very much at all. On the bottom, Rosholt kept Leben’s posture down throughout the fight, preventing him from mounting any significant offense from guard or half-guard. Turn it around, though, and Rosholt shoots and scores for the takedown with ease, once at the end of the second round, then again at the top of the third. The third round one was an incredible counter to one of Leben’s low kicks, a great display of timing and execution.

As Rosholt moved effectively through Leben’s half-guard, mount, and side-mount, he was landing big punches from the top and I already knew the fight was going to end soon. Leben was turning his back, a sure sign that the punches are starting to hurt. Then he started putting his arms up in and effort to stop the punches higher up, another signal that the fighter is hurt. Safe fighters “intelligently defend themselves,” meaning that they cover up and keep moving to find a better position. Putting your hands up like Leben was doing is a natural response to pain that humans have, even if it puts us in a more vulnerable position. Rosholt capitalized on this vulnerability and caught one of Leben’s arms, trapping him in the arm triangle and easily moving into side-control.

As for referee Yves Lavigne’s lack of action at the tap, I don’t think he’s entirely at fault. The rule for tapping out is three taps in quick succession and Leben (and if you look back, Brock too in his first fight against Mir) only tapped twice. Then you have to consider Leben’s kicking legs right after the taps. Lavigne is clearly seen getting out of the way, either to protect himself or to allow Leben room to escape (which it may have looked like from the ref’s position). Either way, it was unfortunate that Leben got put to sleep, but it’s not like it’s a real injury. You tap, you nap, then you wake up and everything’s better.

Next time: Marquart and Maia!

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