This past Saturday featured one of UFC's top cards of the year with Conor McGregor keeping his promise to KO Jose Aldo in the very first round. In fact, it took him just 13 seconds to KO the reigning champion, making it the fastest KO in title fight history. If you feel like you flushed $60 down the drain because it was such a quick fight, watch Jack Slack's breakdown of Conor's technique:
One fight that I was looking forward to was the fight between two of the top grapplers in the UFC: Demian Maia and Gunnar Nelson. I first saw Gunnar Nelson at the 2008 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Pan Am's where he faced one of my training partners, Kale, defeating Kale on points. I was impressed with Gunnar's skill as Kale is no pushover.
Flash forward to this past Saturday and Demian Maia dismantled Gunnar's grappling, dominating from bell to bell landing vicious ground and pound. Knowing how tough Gunnar is made me appreciate Maia's mastery of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu even more.
During the fight Maia kept having a lot of success with his underhook half guard position.
This is a position made famous by Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion Lucas Leite that we covered in our half guard study. If you haven't seen it, check it out here.
Maia was able to set this position up off of the single leg. He most commonly shot a double leg from the open then transitioned to a single leg once Gunnar defended. From the standing single leg position Maia would reach for Gunnar's far hip with his left underhook and attempt a back trip.
The first few times, Gunnar was able to sense the trip coming and did a hip heist as soon as Maia hit it, but because of the underhook, Gunnar was forced to quickly back step to avoid exposing his back. This was a series of moves and countermoves in which timing was critical, and as the fight wore on, Gunnar started losing the timing.
Gunnar defends the trip by hip heisting to a back step
Stuck in a reverse half guard, Maia doesn't have too many attacks and must force Gunnar back into the standard underhook half guard to begin attacking again. To do so, Maia holds Gunnar's upper body tight in an head and arm to prevent a guard pass. When feeling a moment of opportunity, Maia frames Gunnar's face and shrimps his left knee out. Gunnar must now square up to avoid exposing his back and Maia is back in the underhook half guard.
Maia recovers the underhook half guard
The second time Gunnar attempts to back step, Maia catches him just in time by shooting his underhook low and sitting up. If you remember from the 1/2 guard study of Lucas Leite, the back step is a solid counter to the underhook that the man on bottom must address or get his guard passed. From this point on, Maia is aware of Gunnar's back step and counters it well.
This time Maia prevents the backstep
Almost like clock work immediately after Maia snatches the single leg off the underhook, Gunnar turtles with his whizzer to defend the takedown. And like Lucas Leite, Maia performs an outside attack by climbing the back and throwing in the far hook to weaken the whizzer.
Far hook to defeat the whizzer
After the first round, with blood dripping from his nose, Gunnar's corner tried to fire him up saying Maia is now exhausted and it's his time inflict damage of his own. But once again after a few exchanges of straight punches, Maia shoots into a single leg and begins to set up the half guard from the feet, controlling Gunnar's far hip and trying his back trip to running the pipe combination.
Time and time again Maia was able to hit the same move, and when Gunnar would defend with a whizzer, standing to his feet, Maia would throw in the far hook and take the back. Even when Gunnar ended up in Maia's guard after escaping from Maia's back control, Maia would force the underhook half guard and sweep Gunnar with the single leg.
By the third round, the damage took a toll on Gunnar. Unable to defend the single leg, Gunnar was left to fight from his back while Maia's dropped heavy elbows from the top ultimately winning him the fight. In an era of Jiu Jitsu fighters transitioning to strikers, it's nice to see Maia still carrying the Jiu Jitsu flag while being able to dominate at the highest levels.
Stay tuned for our next article where we breakdown how Maia likes to control the butterfly and pass to mount from the smash.