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Around SBN: 'We Kicked Their Ass': An Interview With Barry Switzer

Out-Striking Frankie Edgar


Floyd Patterson, former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, decreed that to win in boxing all that is required is speed; speed of hands to win exchanges, and speed of foot to dictate when they take place. Frankie Edgar has both of these qualities and as the UFC lightweight division's "Cinderella man" upset BJ Penn twice before having two back and forth matches with the gigantic wrestler, Gray Maynard. Frankie Edgar is always entertaining to watch, but he is never going to be a big draw such as Anderson Silva or his predecessor, BJ Penn were - he is neither a submission finisher or a knockout artist. What is unique about Edgar, however, is his method of taking apart lightweights - exploiting the same lack of striking confidence and experience in the lightweight division that Bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz does in his own weightclass: a lack of ability to deal with lateral movement. Is it possible for Benson Henderson to out-strike Edgar? Of course. Will he actually out-strike Edgar? That remains to be seen, but the opportunities do exist to pick Edgar apart, it is whether Henderson's coaches have noticed this and whether he can focus when he is face to face with Edgar's perpetual motion style.

To understand how one might beat Edgar on the feet it is important to note his greatest successes and the times which he has shown weaknesses. In looking at Edgar's fight tape and record, nothing stands out more than his defeat of then number one lightweight in the world, BJ Penn. Penn was touted as a phenomenal boxer with a counter jab that jacked his opponent's head back, slick counter-punches and power which is rarely seen at lightweight. What Edgar exposed in Penn, however, was an inability to deal with lateral movement. Just as Nick Diaz does, Penn often stands in a boxing stance with his front foot turned in to maximize the reach on his dipping counter jab. This does, however mean that circling to the outside of this foot makes it hard for him to set up his punches and exposes the back of his leg for low kicks and his jaw for right hand leads. This circling is Edgar's modus operandi, and against Penn - whose dipping jab and emphasis on head movement is tailor made for inexperienced opponents who are willing to run straight at him, hoping to overwhelm him with combinations - it worked a treat. The fact that he kept having to turn and face Frankie meant that he was often unprepared from Frankie's own charging combinations.


Edgar's weakest showings on the feet have been his slow starts against Gray Maynard. Though traditionally not a big finisher (his only notable KO coming over himself), Maynard caught Frankie hard in the opening rounds of both of their title fights. In the first of these two title fights, at UFC 125, Edgar was caught with a slapping left hook, which did not carry a full rotation of Maynard's hips, but caught Edgar so off guard that it was enough to send him stumbling backward and almost cost him his hard earned UFC title. In watching this knockdown, Frankie is circling away from Maynard's left hand, then pauses as if he is ready to circle back the other way, in traditional Edgar fashion - unfortunately his right hand is down by his chest when he intends to change direction so he meets the full force of the left hook while leaning into it.

More including animated gifs after the jump.

Star-divide

Edgar's habit of dropping his hands as he circles is a bad one, and while Penn was inadequate at chasing him, instead trying to bait him in, Maynard's aggressive pressure in the first rounds of both of their title fights put him in position to punch into the space into which Edgar was moving. Circling into the left hook without adequate protection has produced some fantastic knockouts in the past, despite the hook lacking power it is hard to see coming and much of the force is provided by the opponent's movement into it. Here is Mitsuhiro Ishida, whose chin is fairly solid, circling into a short left hand of Hirota (the arm which Aoki went on to savagely break). Notice how Ishida is almost immediately out cold, and that the hole through which Hirota's punch entered was not especially large - Ishida could still be seen to have his hands up, but still lacked protection.

Edgar showed the heart which has come to be recognized as his trademark in gritting his teeth and fighting to the draw in his first title fight with Maynard. He also showed a brilliant ability to change strategy on the fly - while he did not change his hand positioning in circling to the left, he pretty much abandoned circling into Maynard's left hook and instead dashed straight in, throwing combinations, before ducking out to Maynard's right side. As Maynard fights squared up, putting power in his left hook most of the time, his right hand lacks the power of his left as well as the room to loop in from the side, making exit to Maynard's right side a much safer option.

That is not to say that Edgar could avoid the circling which had been hardwired into him from training, or that Maynard didn't catch him with good right hands once he realized Edgar had simply changed direction. Frankie's habit of dropping his outside hand on the side to which he is circling is very dangerous for someone who is fighting much bigger, heavier men.

In their second title match Maynard was less able to take advantage of the left hook, but he did find massive success in another hole Edgar's new game exposed. Edgar, not wanting to take the punishment of the first fight, was no longer circling into Maynard's left hook, but firing combinations, ducking and circling into Maynard's right hand. Maynard's coaches had picked up on this from the latter half of their first title meeting and Maynard was stood more side on, waiting to throw a powerful right uppercut rather than his typical left hook. It met with Frankie's chin several times, and once again Edgar was forced to change up his style. Reverting to more wrestling, clinch boxing and even switching to southpaw, Edgar never looked truly comfortable on the feet in his title fights with Maynard as he did with Penn. In fact it was out of a sprawl which Edgar caught Maynard his own uppercut to rock Maynard before finishing him against the cage, rather than in a pure stand up domain.

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Of course these are only ways to exploit Edgar's circling, and Maynard got hit plenty of times while attempting to herd Edgar into his punching power. A factor which has been overlooked by many of Edgar's opponents is why he is able to circle so freely - something which also applies to UFC Bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz. In high level kickboxing and Muay Thai you will never see men circling as freely as Edgar and Cruz because they eat low kicks - something which neither of Edgar's recent opponents have brought to the table. In order to stop Edgar circling, it is important to kick his lead leg, particularly when he is circling to his right - which would make his lead leg the trailing leg and allow a sizable amount of damage to be done to the inner thigh as well as to slow him down.

The objective of kicking Edgar's lead leg need not even be to hurt him, in order to shin check low kicks he will need to stop moving to lift his leg , and that is the time to barrel in and take him on in head to head exchanges where his lack of size and power will work to his detriment, rather than in the open where they simply make him a smaller, faster target. Even BJ Penn, who has reportedly never formally trained kicking in his camps, found remarkable success stifling Edgar when he attempted some kicks in the later rounds of their second fight. Being BJ Penn however, he was reluctant to acknowledge any success that he had which wasn't boxing related and so it was pursued no further. Benson Henderson, however, has decent kicks, and perhaps the defensive wrestling to stave off Edgar's trademark running knee tap takedown should he get his leg caught.


Whether anyone will take advantage of these holes in Edgar's much vaunted footwork remains to be seen. It is unlikely that he will be matched with Maynard yet again, who seemed to be making decent progress in sussing out the champion, so it is up to the rest of the lightweight field to learn from Maynard's successes. Edgar and Cruz are not excellent strikers in terms of technical proficiency, but have found a gaping chasm in the understanding of striking in mixed martial arts circles and are able to move around their opponents on the feet in a manner which no experienced boxer or kickboxer would allow. It is ultimately Edgar's choice to stand most times, having the wrestling to take down even notable grapplers such as Maynard, Penn and Franca, and if he is being out-struck he has the good sense to adapt and avoid the tactics which are getting him hurt. What will be intriguing about this match is that Edgar has fought the same two opponents for the past two years, with his better performances always being in the rematches, it should be interesting to see what Edgar can do against Henderson with no previous experience against him.

Jack Slack breaks down striking strategy and technique at his website www.fightsgoneby.com

He can also be found on Twitter @JackSlackMMA

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You do some of the best standup writing

I’ve seen. Excellent summation

The artful muppet formerly known as KrmtDfrog.
Please read my sardonic wit and over-blown sense of self over at http://www.headkicklegend.com
"What if Lin was a Water Polo star?"
"I would dress as a seahorse and let him ride me until his thighs are bleeding" - nywins46

by Cory Braiterman on Feb 18, 2012 10:50 AM EST reply actions  

Cheers man!

I really need to start planning these out first though… They end up meandering all over the shop.

by Jack Slack on Feb 18, 2012 11:00 AM EST up reply actions  

I had that problem when I was writing papers in college

What helped me was keeping about 4 or 5 word documents open at the same time. Any time my thoughts would jump too drastically, I’d just start writing in another doc. Once I was done, it was a simple matter of looking at what I had and putting them together.

Not that I noticed the meandering; your writing is very coherent. It’s just a tip that helped me out a bit when I needed it.

by Shaun32887 on Feb 20, 2012 11:49 AM EST up reply actions  

Hah
What will be intriguing about this match is that Edgar has fought the same two opponents for the past two years, with his better performances always being in the rematches

I always say he’s MMA’s sayajin(sp?). If you beat him he always comes back stronger.

by HaterSlayer on Feb 18, 2012 11:53 AM EST reply actions  

BJ Penn doesn’t train kicks? He sure did a number on Diego Sanchez with one. Not saying you’re wrong, just saying it’s funny he would ignore that.

Great article, maybe next time you could write about what he does that works? I’m sure he’ll give you plenty to write about when he beats Ben Henderson tonight. (I hope). Fan of both guys, but Frankie will always be the man.

I'd rather be trollin'.

by thirdparty on Feb 18, 2012 12:44 PM EST reply actions  

BJ said in his book that he doesn’t train kicks – which I’ve always thought weird for someone who isn’t afraid to be on his back and has mad flexibility.

Hopefully Frankie gives us a highlight filled fight, I’ve always wanted to do a piece about how he blends his striking with takedowns.

by Jack Slack on Feb 18, 2012 12:50 PM EST up reply actions  

That high kick, as far as I remember, was literally the only one BJ has thrown in his entire career. It was also terrible, from a technical standpoint. It worked because BJ used his boxing to lead Diego right into it.

Share for share, share alike, you'll get struck each time I strike.

by gzl5000 on Feb 18, 2012 12:58 PM EST up reply actions  

Ahh, okay, thanks.

I'd rather be trollin'.

by thirdparty on Feb 18, 2012 1:20 PM EST up reply actions  

Technically that kick was hilarious

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so little hip rotation in a kick before, but damn was it effective

by Shaun32887 on Feb 20, 2012 11:53 AM EST up reply actions  

Nice breakdown!

As exciting as the striking aspect of this matchup is, I’m almost hoping his turns into a grappling match. Both Edgar and Bendo excel so much in scrambles, I think it could be super crazy.

Share for share, share alike, you'll get struck each time I strike.

by gzl5000 on Feb 18, 2012 1:01 PM EST reply actions  

They're both so strong in transition

I think we’re going to see some awesome modern MMA action.

There's no moral order at all. There's just this: can my violence conquer yours?

by ElliotMatheny on Feb 18, 2012 1:15 PM EST up reply actions  

great write up man

I really want to learn more about the striking aspects of MMA, and this is fantastic

To have a Cannae you must have a Varo
-George Patton
"The complete man must work, study and wrestle."
-Aristotle

by T.P. Grant on Feb 18, 2012 1:25 PM EST reply actions  

Great breakdown of Edgar's weaknesses here.

I feel like I pick up new ways to think about MMA striking every time I read one of your pieces.

by Sabate on Feb 18, 2012 1:36 PM EST reply actions  

Another fantastic piece

You are my favorite writer, thanks for all the work you do man.
Who are you looking at next?

by ElvisIceman on Feb 18, 2012 2:44 PM EST via mobile reply actions  

Great breakdown

I think it’s also worth noting that in the BJ Penn fight one reason Penn wasn’t kicking more was because Edgar was landing more low kicks and better low kicks in the second fight. As you said, Penn doesn’t have very technical leg kicks and a few of the ones Frankie landed were good enough to scare Penn off IMHO.

Always love your pieces and look forward to the next. Keep cross-posting to BE and don’t let anyone give you crap about it.

by Scott Whitaker on Feb 18, 2012 4:11 PM EST reply actions  

Agree with everyone saying this is awesome.

New author at Head Kick Legend
Reach me here: LukeNelsonMMA@gmail.com

by Luke Nelson on Feb 18, 2012 4:47 PM EST via mobile reply actions  

One thing about the Hirota Ishida knockout you showed to illustrate circling into the left hook.

I think it’s the straight right that knocks him out following the hook. He looks to be stunned by the hook and put out by the short straight that followed in combination.

Just from the gif thou, I haven’t seen multiple angles.

New author at Head Kick Legend
Reach me here: LukeNelsonMMA@gmail.com

by Luke Nelson on Feb 18, 2012 10:39 PM EST reply actions  

Henderson is a TKD black belt, way past "has decent kicks" league.

Edgar’s gonna have a hell of a night… still as we all know, counting Edgar out is a stupid thing to do ;)

by Steff_66 on Feb 18, 2012 10:57 PM EST reply actions  

From his youth, I believe

His kicks are solid, but it seems to me that he has trouble finding the range and integrating them into his overall gameplan.

Proud member of The Voices in Paul Harris' Head, BECW Season 2.
"By doubting we come to inquiry and by inquiry we perceive the truth." -- Abelard

by Patrick Wyman on Feb 19, 2012 5:42 PM EST up reply actions  

Great write-up

Proud member of The Voices in Paul Harris' Head, BECW Season 2.
"By doubting we come to inquiry and by inquiry we perceive the truth." -- Abelard

by Patrick Wyman on Feb 19, 2012 5:41 PM EST reply actions  

Great Article

considering you feel that no experienced kickboxer would allow the things edgar does in relation to striking it’ll be very interesting to see what Barboza would do with a guy like Edgar

I’m not resting until I’m officially Anderson Silva status.- Jon "Bones" Jones

by AfroSamurai on Feb 19, 2012 10:13 PM EST reply actions  

my guess would be

stare up at the lights after Edgar takes him down repeatedly

The artful muppet formerly known as KrmtDfrog.
Please read my sardonic wit and over-blown sense of self over at http://www.headkicklegend.com
"What if Lin was a Water Polo star?"
"I would dress as a seahorse and let him ride me until his thighs are bleeding" - nywins46

by Cory Braiterman on Feb 20, 2012 1:32 AM EST up reply actions  

MMA Quote of the Day
Edgar and Cruz are not excellent strikers in terms of technical proficiency, but have found a gaping chasm in the understanding of striking in mixed martial arts circles and are able to move around their opponents on the feet in a manner which no experienced boxer or kickboxer would allow.

--------
"I still think I can win my title back, and I still think I can even win it back from Jon Jones" . . . Rampage before UFC 144

"When I watched it, it's like I became a fan of myself, too" - Frankie Edgar on UFC 136

by VeeisAnimated on Feb 22, 2012 2:58 PM EST reply actions  

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