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“Top of the Food Chain Series” Volume 5: Best Overall Movement

Derek Bowe

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Movement is the one of, if not the most important, tool for a fighter to possess in mixed martial arts and it is also an aspect which is the least discussed. Nearly every fighter moves differently in the cage, and there are reasons for such. Different martial arts disciplines employ movement styles based on stance, and striking approach. Wrestlers move differently than Muay Thai fighters, Karatekas move differently than Boxers, and so on. The term “styles make fights”, is commonly thrown around, and movement is the most essential form of any style. Each of the fighters on this list use their movement to the pinnacle of effectiveness, while they are all different, they are the very best at what they do.

 

#5 Demetrious Johnson, Flyweight, UFC

Demetrious Johnson has stellar movement. Period. The Flyweight Champion has looked unbeatable in his reign over the 125-pound division. Much of that praise goes to incredible athleticism, and speed which the champion shows each time out. While that is true of Johnson, he is a superior athlete, his footwork is painting the canvas. Johnson is very lateral in his movement, as lateral or more than anyone in the game. Johnson attacks from angles and circles out of danger with ease. Johnson’s angles are what allow his to secure his takedowns with little resistance, as he catches his opponents off balance when he shoots in a la Georges St. Pierre. Johnson also switches stances frequently keeping his opponents guessing where the strikes and takedowns will be coming from. Everything the champ does to set up his attack stems from his mastery of cage coverage.

#4 Anderson Silva, Middleweight, UFC

While Anderson Silva has some of the most flashy highlights the sport has seen, those high-level techniques were made possible by the Spider’s outstanding movement. Anderson has been both applauded and critiqued over his “cage antics”, yet there are few who recognize that there is a method to all that madness, and it is not simply games being played. Silva uses his feints, the hands down, stance switches, and dancing as a diversion to mask his strikes coming in, catching his opponents off guard. Silva is another fighter who moves very lateral, yet he does not move particularly lateral to close distance, rather, as a counter striker, Silva circles out of danger and invites opponents to engage him while moving backward. That is where the arsenal is unleashed. Silva’s leg length allows him to cover great distances, evade danger, and return fire with deadly results. Arguably the best counter-striker the sport has seen.

#3 Chris Weidman, Middleweight, UFC

The middleweight champion is one of the most aggressive movers in mixed martial arts. Chris Weidman does not take a step back. What Chris Weidman does better than anyone, while different, is he places his lead foot in the middle of his opponent’s stance as they attempt to retreat or circle away from Weidman’s attack. Weidman also executes his level change feints to perfection, threatening the takedown, then throwing a lead strike. Weidman sells that particular level change by completely dropping his shoulders as his knees are bending, forcing his opponents to drop their hands, preparing to defend the shot, when Weidman commits to the punch or kick up top, his attempt is met with little, to no resistance, or return fire. Weidman is not the quickest mover or striker, yet his deceptive nature, and ability to cut off the cage more than compensate for his speed and make his attack all the more dangerous.

#2 Conor McGregor, Featherweight, UFC
The man who obsesses over movement, and speaks on it at any chance he gets, displays its effectiveness in increasing mastery each time he steps into the Octagon. Conor McGregor has a stance similar to that of a karateka, a wide base,  and darting in and out of attacks like a fencer. McGregor leaps into strikes, mainly his left straight from safe distances where his foes cannot reach him, the range management he employs is the very best. Another aspect to Conor’s movement is angle cutting, like mentioned with Weidman above, he cuts down angles disallowing other fighters the chance to escape from his pursuit. Conor is another fighter who does not move backward, he smothers and makes the cage seem much smaller than it actually is. This entrapment causes fighters to panic many times, attempting to punch their way out of a paper bag if you will. This moment is when Conor is most dangerous, as that is exactly what he wants, it opens up his chance to pounce, and when he sees the opening he enters. With technically precise footwork, Conor is aggressive in his advancement, and confining in his control, and getting better each subsequent bout.

#1 Dominick Cruz, Bantamweight, UFC

The maestro of the canvas, the Michaelangelo of movement, Dominick Cruz has the most deceptive and vastly different footwork of anyone on the sport, and that is putting it lightly. He dips, bobs, weaves, bounces, and dashes in and out. Cruz does it all. In addition to his fluid movement, he is extremely quick, making his deception all the more effective. Cruz has the ability to make fighters miss, as well as hit them whenever he wants. The frustration level which builds when opposing Cruz is overwhelming. There is no way to predict how he will enter and exit the pocket, and timing in his approaches is near impossible to detect as well. Dominick also does not only move linear, yet he works his angles as well. Cruz’ movement has been so effective, the current bantamweight champion, minted in Dominick’s absence due to injury, T.J. Dillashaw brought forth a very similar style in his fight against Renan Barao. A testament to just how effective Cruz is, seeing Dillashaw hails from a rival camp, Team Alpha Male. Cruz, when healthy is easily considered a pound for pound elite, largely due to his unorthodox ability. His furious pace, and active footwork make him a lock for the top spot amongst the very best movers in the sport.

Honorable Mentions: Lyoto Machida, Carlos Condit, T.J. Dillashaw, Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway

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Announcement

Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223

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UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.

 

Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.

After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.

A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.

Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.

Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.

A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.

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Bellator

Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Fight Announcements

Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April

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MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.

 

The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.

Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.

An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.

His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).

Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.

PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.

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