Arlovski vs Fedor strategy or crime of opportunity?

MMAPlayground.com » MMA General » General MMA Talk » Arlovski vs Fedor strategy or crime of opportunity?
Aether
1/25/09 8:29:49PM
DISCLAIMER - THIS IS GOING TO BE VERY LONG! (but hopefully interesting.)

While I was watching the fight I think, like most people, I was a bit surprised at how Fedor was handling the first couple of minutes. After rewatching it, rewatching previous fights from both fighters, and reading different opinions of what happened I started to think differently for a few reasons.

First take a look at Andrei's career. Notice that all but one loss are by KO, and several of them are genuine KOs where he is completely unconscious. I wouldn't say that he has a glass chin but history has shown us that a hard shot on the chin will put him away almost guaranteed. Then take a closer look at his fights... He has a history of fighting fairly defensively until he can get an opening, and then when he feels he is in control, he starts swinging wild and leaving himself wide open. It happened in his first fight against Viacheslav Datsik, against Tim Sylvia in the second fight, and again against Fedor. It also happens in several fights that he wins. The rothwell fight, the Nelson fight, it's just that these people turtle up and take the punishment instead of throwing straight down the pipe to capitalize on the openings he leaves.

If he isn't entirely confident though he uses crisp boxing, long reach and incredible speed to keep people at bay as he did against werdum, rizzo, and the vast majority of his fights until he smells blood. Andrei's problem seems to be that when he smells victory he gets over excited, goes into kill mode, and forgets completely about defending himself. Jackelope also pointed out in another thread that he has thrown a couple of flying knees when he gets people backed into the corner of a ring. We didn't see it in an octagon because it's much harder to trap someone in a corner.

All that being said it seems like a trend that Arlovski fights tactically for a period of time, almost always outpointing his opponents, and when he senses victory may be close he tends to let go of his defense completely.

Then let's look at Fedor. One of the things that is unique about Fedor is his ability to come in with a completely different gameplan for each fighter he faces. It seems clear that he studies his opponents and comes up with a specific gameplan for each one. Against Crocop he pushed the action on the feet to prevent him from getting his footing and rhythm, preventing him from being able to use his most powerful weapons. Against Nogueira he completely controlled the fight on the ground, shrugged off all submission attempts and pounded his way to a win both times.

Two things I notice about this:
1. he understands his opponents strengths and weaknesses very well.
2. they are unexpected strategies.

I'm sure that like the rest of us, crocop came into the fight expecting to get taken down. He probably practiced sprawl and brawl tactics to try to catch Fedor on the way out after stuffing takedowns. But those takedowns never came and Crocop didn't know what to do. Similarly Nogueira most likely thought he would want to keep it on the feet and that he would try to get top position by playing it safe and trying to take him down off of a missed strike. Instead Fedor took the initiative and put Nog on his back where his only real option is to repeatedly throw triangles and armbars or work for a sweep. Fedor put himself in a position where he knew exactly what to expect, and so as opposed to trying to avoid nog's ground game he stifled it.

He and his trainers seem to have a far better understanding of strategy than most people realize. They think 3 steps ahead instead of just 1. Why do what your opponent expects you to do when you can take away their main tools in a manner they never considered? If he simply tried to take cropcop down, tried to stand with nog, he is playing to his strengths but doing it in a very predictable fashion. He isn't just outstrategizing people he's doing it by putting them into a situation they never prepared for. He doesn't avoid his opponent's strength, he takes it away from them.

Also take a look at his ring control. Fedor has fought almost all of his fights inside of a ring, and how often do we see him moving towards a corner instead of circling away from them? He spends the whole fight backing into the same corner against Arlovski repeatedly and leading up to the KO instead of using lateral movement to get out of the corner he waits for Andrei to charge him and does this:

Fedor Arlovski

Look at how much time and space he has to circle out of the corner. Instead he puts his hands up and shuffles forward in preparation to throw a punch. Like cmill said in another thread, this is classic rope-a-dope... Andrei gets overconfident and throws the exact same knee he threw against rothwell when he backed him into a corner in the only other fight he has fought in a ring instead of a cage.

Seems like a big pile of coincidences to me. Either Fedor is ridiculously lucky with 30 wins or he is meticulously planning each of his fights not only to exploit his opponent's weaknesses, but to do so in a manner they would never expect. Not to avoid his opponent's strengths but to TAKE their strengths away from them.

I really think Fedor was just allowing Arlovski to get overconfident because he knows that that's when he leaves himself completely wide open. I also believe he knew that if he continued standing in the corner Andrei would try to throw another flying knee. If it were any other fighter I would say that he took advantage of an opening when it presented itself, but at 30 wins with most fights ending in the first round and no legitimate defeats, plus a history of in-depth gameplanning... It really seems like this entire fight went exactly according to Fedor and his trainers' plan. Andrei's biggest strength is his clean combos, speed and reach. All of that went straight out the window when he got overconfident and charged head on with a flying knee, it seems like Andrei walked straight into a trap to me. It really looks like Andrei was being fed rope specifically to take his strengths away from him.

Thoughts?
4u2nv
1/25/09 8:51:17PM
After reading this wonderful post and thoughts of Fedor i believe that maybe this is the way he fights and its amazing and smart as crap. It should be how everyone should fight and if he baits people and his game plan is wait and bait maybe everyone should start thinking outside of the box and catch Fedor with something completely out of the norm. But again it was a wonderful POV and well written.
soundboy1
1/25/09 9:24:22PM
Very astute analysis. I am a huge Fedor fan. Watching him fight in Pride got me hooked on mma so I really wanted him to win. While I was watching the fight I was so nervous that every jab arlovski landed completely freaked me out. I though every echange was Fedor getting knocked out. So my initial reaction was that Fedor looked a little soft and had gotten very lucky.
Then I watched the fight again. With a fresh perspective it seemed like Fedor was definitely being challenged but was not even beginning to break a sweat! Then AA totally screwed up and boom History.
Great Post!
loller90278
1/25/09 9:49:36PM
while i dont agree fedor chose to lose the exchanges on the feet, i do agree that he definitely used the rope-a-dope to get arlovski to drop his hands and KO him. i was in the stands that night and i was shitting bricks the first minute. im as big a fedor nuthugger as the next pride fanboy, but on a kickboxing level, arlovski was outpointing him. but thankfully, fedor proves again why hes the number one fighter in the world. as for the people SURPRISED that fedor is human, we've all seen him in much more danger than the arlovski fight. fujita had him dancing like michael jackson, crocop missed his infamous LHK by an inch, randlemen almost took his head off, hunt almost pulled a keylock on him. it's not flawless fedor is, it's how he can adapt to any situation better than any other fighter that makes him so great.
Jackelope
1/25/09 9:58:33PM
Great post. I really enjoyed it

I think your analysis is nearly right on the money. There's another person who is known for doing this- Randy Couture. He used it to knock Timmah on his butt in the first couple seconds, and he used it to defeat Chuck Liddell when he outboxed him on the feet. Liddell is even on video saying he didn't expect Couture to come up boxing. But lo and behold- history was made.

Another thing with being deadly calm in a fight like Fedor always is provides him with an opportunity to see weaknesses as they happen DURING the fight. When you're all pumped up and nervous your mind is thinking two steps ahead instead of reacting in the moment. Fedor's unbelievable mental strength lends him the ability to adapt and overcome during fights. It is a big part of the reason why I believe he is and will be the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.

Great post, wish I could give props lol
cmill21
1/25/09 10:22:48PM
Proppage. AA came out agressive like he needed to, he landed and did everything he had to do to win that fight...but he was fighting a truley better fighter who took advantage of the first mistake AA made.
Aether
1/26/09 12:15:01AM

Posted by loller90278

while i dont agree fedor chose to lose the exchanges on the feet, i do agree that he definitely used the rope-a-dope to get arlovski to drop his hands and KO him. i was in the stands that night and i was shitting bricks the first minute. im as big a fedor nuthugger as the next pride fanboy, but on a kickboxing level, arlovski was outpointing him. but thankfully, fedor proves again why hes the number one fighter in the world. as for the people SURPRISED that fedor is human, we've all seen him in much more danger than the arlovski fight. fujita had him dancing like michael jackson, crocop missed his infamous LHK by an inch, randlemen almost took his head off, hunt almost pulled a keylock on him. it's not flawless fedor is, it's how he can adapt to any situation better than any other fighter that makes him so great.



I'm not saying really that he lost the exchanges on purpose, but that he probably knew arlovski would be able to win them and that when he did he acted much more confused and hurt than he actually was, drawing him in for a finish.

I give Arlovski total credit for his standup skills, I just think that they were factored into a carefully planned strategy. They probably thought that given Andrei's knowledge of Sambo it would be much easier to play possum after a few exchanges than it would be to take him down and submit him.
Drudinh
1/26/09 7:18:16AM
Mad props to a great post. you are right on the money
tdietel01
1/26/09 9:23:53AM
Didnt Fedor say he didnt game plan, he just watched his opponent really close during the fight? though it appears you could be right on the money. i think he may have a gift that few people have. some sort of spidey type of sense, no im not trying to be funny. it is the same ability that makes a hockey game slow down for a truely great goalie. they see it in a different light than regular goalies. Fedors skill may be a seeing a slower fight than others. now i sound like a comic book nut
jomatty
1/26/09 10:07:43AM
i think that he not only has great "spidey sense" as you point out but also people forget just how damn quick his reflexes are. thats what he uses to knock sylvia down or beat cro cop in a kickboxing match. Clearly they are better technically on the feet but he has the speed and reflexes that make any technical advantage null. think of how often people throw flying knees. they usually dont work that great but im having a hard time remembering a time when the person on the receiving end of the knee has the reflexes to actually fire back like fedor did. not only did he see it coming but he had the reflexes to capitalize...great post...
burialchamber
1/26/09 1:26:00PM
Props for this

Just like pretty much everyone else, I thought Fedor seemed in trouble the first time I watched the fight. The very first exchange they had AA landed a right hand that looked like it rocked Fedor pretty hard because he looked like he got wobbly and lost balance, and I was having Fedor/Fujita flashbacks and hoping that it wasn't going to be the beginning of the end... But then Fedor seemed to not actually be wobbly, and I realized after he did the same thing a couple more times he was using that head/body movement as a strategy. I don't remember seeing him do that in any of his other fights. But yeah, I thought he was getting beat up when I first saw it, and watching it again it's clear that while he was hit hard a few times he was never in any big danger.

Another thing is that I would have never gotten the idea that Fedor was "flustered" if Tito hadn't made that comment, and I doubt as many other people would be saying it either. Fedor got outpointed on a few exchanges, he was using the loopy head/body movement that made him look wobbly, and right after Tito said that he looked flustered he ate a few more shots, so through the power of suggestion people thought they were seeing a frustrated Fedor getting his ass kicked. Watch it again though, because it's clear to me that as far as heavy shots go AA only landed only about 1 or 2 more.
swyftdahoe
1/26/09 1:33:51PM
Great post OP. I've been slowly trying to convince my friends who upon first viewing considered Fedor's win a lucky punch. It was no such thing if you've followed his career.

The greatest thing about Fedor is clearly his mind. He's a thinking man's fighter. Like Muhammad Ali, he's beaten opponents with his mind first and fists 2nd.
Related Topics