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One Punch Max Out
The Power Max 360 is a resistance-based machine with hydraulic handles that can swing in every direction. UFC bantamweight Brad Pickett uses it to simulate punching, pushing, pulling, and clinching.

Pumping Pumpkin
Don’t give in to the temptations of high-sugar pumpkin lattes, muffins, and sweet breads that show up in grocery stores and coffee shops this time of year. Instead, use canned pumpkin as a flavor booster to your favorite pancake recipe or protein shake. Pumpkin is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and beta-carotene.

The Juice Is Loose
Watermelon juice’s sterling reputation among athletes is getting scientific support in a new study, which found that juice from the lush melon can relieve post-exercise muscle soreness. The report attributes watermelon’s healing effects to its high content of the amino acid L-citrulline. For a rundown on other nutrient essentials that can help you recover after a tough workout, flip to page 80.

Mouth Guarding
To keep your mouthguard germ-free, use a clear or white one so you can see any dirt or debris that is lodged in the crevices, and clean it with soap and hot water after every use, then rinse it with mouthwash.

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You’ll notice plenty of talk and press about anti-inflammatory foods, supplements and medications these days. Inflammation certainly sounds bad, but is it always so? And what exactly is this seemingly pesky thing? Inflammation is part of our body’s innate immune response—we’re born with it. Without it, we wouldn’t heal. When something harmful is irritating your system or a body part sustains a blow, the signs of inflammation are ready and on the scene to attempt to remove, care, heal and protect.

Acute inflammation due to things such as intense training, a cut on your skin, or a banged up knee will show symptoms of rapid onset, lasting for a couple days to maybe a week or two depending on severity (Just how banged up was that knee?). Symptoms include pain, redness, immobility, swelling and heat. Chronic inflammation on the other hand, lasting a few months to several years, is seen in conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and asthma, or when acute issues become chronic. Although a certain amount of inflammation is needed to heal, the continual onslaught over time will start to damage and destroy cells and tissues. More and more research is indicating links between chronic systemic inflammation and conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, allergies, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.

Hopefully most of the inflammation you’re dealing with is acute inflammation stemming from things like a tough training week, a strained joint that won’t keep you down long, skin irritation due to a new laundry detergent, or a random sinus infection. To keep acute inflammation acute, and to keep chronic inflammation from wreaking havoc on your system, make sure you stack your diet with healthy, clean anti-inflammatory foods and nutrients from the list below.

WILD CAUGHT SALMON
Wild salmon is packed with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), two polyunsaturated fatty acids considered essential as we cannot make them ourselves. We must consume them either via food or supplemental sources. Along with salmon, oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, tuna, trout, and anchovies also make the list, with wild salmon usually winning the title of most popular and appetizing with fewest toxins. Along with being anti-inflammatory, wild salmon also supports cardiovascular, cognitive and immune function.

TURMERIC
This spice is found predominantly in Indian and Asian cuisine and can be identified by its bright orangey-yellow color and slightly bitter, peppery warm flavor. Curcumin, one of its major compounds, should be of interest to athletes as well as anyone dealing with pain and inflammation, due to its ability to mimic the power of popular anti-inflammatory meds without the negative side effects. Other benefits include antioxidant, immune and cardiovascular support.

BERRIES & TART CHERRIES
Blueberries may be small in size, but their phytonutrient content keeps them standing with the big boys, thanks in great part to their powerful antioxidant rich anthocyanins. All berries show promise, so include a variety in your diet, but blueberries most likely take top spot. Not as sweet as berries but just as potent, tart cherry juice has been shown to help reduce post-exercise pain and soreness leading to shorter recovery times.

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Long revered as an important part of the Mediterranean style diet (known to decrease risk of heart disease), olive oil’s extensive list of polyphenols make it a major contributor in the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory departments. Although its weaker tolerance for heat may not make it the best cooking oil (go for higher smoke point coconut oil and avocado oil instead), drizzle garlic infused olive oil over your steamed greens to make your possibly picky taste buds quite happy with that broccoli.

ON THE FLIP SIDE…You want to cool inflammation, not fuel it! The following are some pro-inflammatory foods that are best to avoid/minimize.

Foods containing trans-fats:Avoid these as they’re known to increase bad cholesterol and triglycerides, lower good cholesterol, and cause increased general inflammation.
Foods containing high sugar levels:Minimize foods containing high levels of added sugar, as it can increase inflammation and stress the immune system.
Conventionally raised, grain fed meats:Go for organic/grass fed/pastured instead.
Processed foods:Check any bag of cookies, crackers or packaged snack items in your pantry, and you’ll see that they typically contain high levels of omega-6 rich safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, etc. When eaten in abundance without the regular balance of omega 3’s (like those in wild salmon) inflammation is increased.
Gluten and Dairy:For some individuals, gluten (wheat, rye, barley, spelt, possibly oats) and dairy can be pro-inflammatory. Whole, unprocessed gluten free items such as sweet potatoes and quinoa as well as low sugar milk substitutes like unsweetened almond and coconut milks are great alternatives.

FIGHT! RECOMMENDS
In addition to a proper diet, adding a high quality glucosamine & chondrotitin supplement will help keep your joint inflammation down. Just ask Don Frye, Duane Ludwig, or any of the members of Team Alpha Male. They all rely on GLC 2000 to keep their mobility smooth. A 90 Day Supply is $56.95. Buy online at www.glcdirect.com

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Just over a year ago, I began a steady and consistent practice of Bikram yoga. The 90-minute beginning class consists of 26 postures, each performed twice and held for up to 60 seconds. The room is a stifling 105 degrees, with 40 percent humidity, which is much too hot for someone born in a country that gets five days of sun each year (but I do love the British summertime). There is only one thing that would keep me going back into that room over and over: the benefits seen and felt almost immediately in my training camp. This was the first time I had introduced training sessions into a fight preparation that were dedicated entirely to recovery and physical wellbeing.

This particular practice was derived from a selection of traditional Hatha yoga postures. It was Bikram Choudhury who formulated this approach to the practice, before his moral and ethical devolution once his brand was established and he became famous and wealthy. I had tried a few different types of yoga throughout my martial arts career in my endless and seemingly impossible quest for flexibility. Bikram yoga was new to me—I had not heard of it until my friend and coach Alder Hampel suggested it to help with my leg dexterity for jiu-jitsu. We did two sessions (one week apart), and I spent a good portion of the class lying on my mat trying to stop my limbs and abdominal muscles from cramping.

My brief experience had been thrown in the draw with all other yoga that didn’t seem to fit with my training camp. It wasn’t until I spent a couple of weeks in Peru that it came to mind again, and I felt an immediate pull to start back upon returning to Las Vegas. I think I may have left a chunk of my ego in the Amazon because I no longer cared if the 80-year old woman on the mat next to me was kicking my ass, while I was sitting in a sweaty mess on my sodden towel. Finally, at age 30, I had committed myself to getting flexible, before my joints started to creak when I got out of bed in the morning.

The first few weeks were tough, and I occasionally had to leave the room to let nausea pass or take a few minutes off to stretch out a cramped muscle. Eventually, my diet adjusted, and I knew that the three-hour window before class started was a water-only time. I noticed right away that certain foods couldn’t be eaten on days when I practiced, so they eventually became excluded all together. I was craving a lot more fresh food, fruits and vegetables, and less animal products. I was adding salts to my water and keeping a constant watch on the volume I was drinking. I began to find my rhythm, feeling hydrated throughout the class even after sweating an average of seven pounds each session. I was able to focus on my physical improvements, keeping a mental note of my capabilities in each posture.

BY DAN HARDY // PHOTOS BY PAUL THATCHER

Becoming The Yogi

From years of keeping my chin tucked, I had developed a slight forward head posture, which made it uncomfortable to sit for long periods or sleep on my back. With the strong focus on back bending throughout the series, my posture began correcting itself. As you can see in Half-Moon Backbend (Photo A), my spine flexibility is starting to improve, allowing me to look at the wall behind me. This was impossible 12 months ago. The key for all of these postures is the movement into them—it has to be gentle and mindful. In Half-Moon Backbend there should always be a lifting out of the waist to elongate the spine. I still have a very ridged mid-spine, so I put my mind in that part of my body during the stretch and try to relax into the posture a little more.

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Aside from the flexibility gains, I found that the stability in my knees and ankles improved. For a posture like Standing Head to Knee (Photo B), flexibility in your hamstrings is not enough. Entering into the position, you have to extend your leg, while keeping the standing leg locked, then round your back and bend your arms down to place your forehead high on the knee. Although the contracted quadriceps on the standing leg does most of the work, there are a lot of supporting muscles holding steady to prevent any sideways movement in the joints. I enjoy visualizing my standing foot as a magnet that I cannot separate from my magnetic yoga mat, focusing on driving down into the ground and using that energy exchange to root myself.

This is a fairly recent posture for me, as I struggled a lot with balance when I began rounding my back and stretching forward. There is also an emphasis on pulling the toes back toward the head and keeping the extended leg locked. The advancement of this position is removing the hands from the foot whilst keeping the forehead on the knee. It was this posture that taught me about the value of a meditative state during practice. I found that if I wasn’t mindful of my breathing and focus, my balance would only hold a few seconds once my leg was extended. With a calm and focused approach, I can hold fairly comfortably for much longer. Think of being mindful as filling the stretched or unstable body part with your mind. Be present in that space within yourself and learn to support in with your focus.

Tree Pose (Photo C) and Triangle Pose (Photos D) have been very useful in opening up my hip muscles. I always think of these as the “guard” muscles—the ones that have to do so much work to control an opponent in your guard. All of the grappling arts demand strong and powerful hips, but the danger is that it can lead to a tightening of those muscles if they aren’t stretched a lot. My hip flexors have been tight from years of kicking and kneeing, even to the point where sitting cross-legged can be uncomfortable. Tree Pose (Photo C) is much more gentle and didn’t take too long to improve my front and inner hip muscles (adductor brevis and longus, pectineus, and iliopsoas). I started by holding my foot high on my thigh and driving my hips forward, until my flexibility allowed me to remove my grip without the foot slipping at all. Once I have my balance and my foot is high on my thigh and my hands are in prayer, I role my hips forward and lengthen my spine like a child trying to appear taller than they really are. The following posture in the series is toe stand, which I am still struggling with. It is basically the same posture except the base leg is bent so it seems like you are sitting on your heel.

Triangle Pose (Photo D) opens up the whole body, from the foot of my straight leg to the hip and glutes of my supporting leg. The simultaneous upward and downward reaching elongates the muscles in the torso and creates a twisting stretch that lengthens the hip flexors and adductors.

Photos E, F, and G are some of the advanced 84-posture series, most of which are a real challenge for me at the moment. Finger Stand (Photo E)—and thanks to Bruce Lee I did hundreds of fingertip pushups over the years—is fairly comfortable for me. Keeping your legs locked and strong makes a huge difference here. After that, the effort is predominantly in the core, keeping the whole body tight and the legs raised.

Peacock (Photo F) requires more core strength and muscular endurance than flexibility, whereas Upward Stretching (Photo G) requires good core strength, but also a fair amount of suppleness in your hamstrings. I found that this posture needed less effort from contracted muscles as my hamstring flexibility increased.

Fortunately, the popularity of yoga is widespread now, and in many cases there are several options of styles and studios. I enjoy the Bikram style because I feel it’s a little easier to stretch in the heat. Other styles of yoga aren’t quite as uncomfortable but will still be very beneficial. If you can’t get to a class, there is a wealth of information online to draw from. Try taking a few minutes each day to stretch out and reconnect with yourself. Even if it’s just some basic stretches, be gentle and explore your body’s capabilities. For me, yoga is about awareness of self, appreciation of the vehicle you have for this human experience, and understanding the potential and adaptability of the body. After these practice sessions, I feel lighter, motivated, and focused. I have been a lot more productive, healthier, and felt more alive than ever before.

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Heating Up

I know that a lot of people, particularly at the start of their practice, will find the heat to be too much. One of the flaws in Mr. Bikram’s attitude toward teaching, and something that has been passed on to some teachers, is this ego about the heat of the room. The benefits of the heat are that your body will naturally be more supple and it will be easier to stretch to your maximum in the postures. However, if you find that the heat is causing you to spend a lot of time on your mat feeling nauseated, then it is counterproductive. Ask the teachers at the studio where the cooler spots in the room are. Your practice will only improve if you can do the practice. If you are unlucky enough to find yourself with a heat miser for a teacher, use the cooler spot or find a studio with less ego.

Food For Thought

Since beginning yoga, I primarily avoid dairy, pork, processed foods, and fast food. I usually have one animal product each week, but only in the evening, and never before practice. The last time I ate fast food was January 2. I ate lemon chicken from a Chinese takeout, and in my next yoga session (which wasn’t for another week because of travel), I lay on my mat for most of class feeling nauseous and reliving every bite of that meal.

I’ve developed some kind of new internal sense that tells me what is and isn’t welcome in my diet. I don’t even crave that stuff any more. I know that the immediate gratification is not worth the stress it puts on my body.

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Kenda Perez

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As the new striking coach for Team Alpha Male, former UFC fighter Duane “Bang” Ludwig has come out of the gate firing. Three of his Team Alpha Male fighters (Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes, and TJ Dillashaw) earned knockouts on the UFC on Fox 7 card, while Urijah Faber’s crisp striking helped him earn a submission win at the TUF 17 Finale.

With more than 50 kickboxing bouts and 30 MMA fights under his belt, Ludwig knows a thing or two about the striking game, and his BANG Muay Thai affiliate gyms are popping up all over the country (www.303kickboxing.com). “The team is doing all the hard work,” says Ludwig. “BMT is just helping them become even more badass ninjas.”

Ludwig and Team Alpha Male bantamweight TJ Dillashaw show readers a combo from the BMT System. Follow closely, as BANG Muay Thai has its own terminology. Leave it to Ludwig to create his own codes.

// PHOTOS BY PAUL THATCHER

The BANG Muay Thai System

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(1) Duane and TJ square off in orthodox stances.

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(2) TJ begins his BANG Muay Thai “3-Shake-Fit In” combo by throwing a left jab. The goal is to get your opponent’s attention by attacking upstairs. It’s important to keep your feet in sync with your hands.

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(3) TJ throws a right cross, while protecting his chin with his left hand.
(4) TJ finishes his initial combo with a left hook.
(5) TJ changes levels and begins his “shake” (shaking his head to the outside) and “fit in” (stepping with his left leg to the outside of Duane’s right leg for a fake shot). Now TJ’s head is to the outside and “off the tracks,” which keeps Duane from connecting with across or overhand.

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(6) As Duane’s hands drop to counter/defend the shot, TJ drives forward in a southpaw stance, as if he is finishing the double-leg takedown.
(7) TJ explodes upward and throws a left cross.
(8) TJ finishes the combo by throwing a right hook.

Optional Double-Leg Finish

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If Duane doesn’t counter/defend the shot correctly in #6, TJ can finish the double-leg by cutting the angle and driving Duane 45 degrees to end up in mount or side control.

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Athletes are always looking for ways to maximize their return on investment in the gym. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to combine strength and endurance training into a full-body workout. If you are looking to improve muscular strength, muscular endurance, and overall fitness, give this workout a try.

CIRCUIT SIX

1) Medicine Ball Throws: 20 reps (10 each side)
2) Jump Squats: 25 reps
3) Wide-Grip Pull-Ups: 6 reps (overhand grip)
4) Dumbbell Squat-to-Overhead Shoulder Press: 15 reps
5) Chin-Ups: 6 reps (underhand grip)
6) Sit-Ups: 30 reps

Each exercise will begin “on the minute.” When you begin the main workout, start your stopwatch and immediately begin knocking out the medicine ball throws. Let’s say the 20 reps takes you 30 seconds. This leaves you 30 seconds to rest before you begin the jump squats. Now, let’s say the jump squats take you 40 seconds to complete. This will leave you with 20 seconds to recover before you begin the wide-grip pull-ups. Each exercise starts “on the minute.”

Keep your stopwatch running the entire time in order to be exact with your rest intervals. Once you complete all 6 exercises (6 minutes), this is 1 circuit. The goal is to complete 3-6 circuits (18-36 minutes). These are non-stop circuits, so you will be “on the minute” the entire workout. There is no additional rest after completing a circuit.

This type of workout is going to circulate blood to the working muscles, create an amazing pump, get your heart rate jacked, and generate a lot of muscular fatigue. To be successful the first time trying this workout, err on the side of using lighter weight. Also, perform each exercise quickly and e ciently—think rapid-re repetitions (still maintaining good form, of course). The rapid- re repetitions will maximize the work, as well as maximize your rest intervals.

Perform this workout once or twice per week, leaving at least two days in between the workout. After completing this workout a few times, you can get creative and insert other exercises into the circuit, such as burpees, power cleans, pushups, jump lunges, dips, and reverse abdominal crunches.

// PHOTOS BY WILSON FOX

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>> MEDICINE BALL THROWS: 20 reps (10 each side)

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>> JUMP SQUATS (left): 25 reps
>> WIDE-GRIP PULL-UPS (right): 6 reps (overhand)

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>> DUMBELL SQUATS-TO-OVERHEAD SHOULDER PRESS (left): 15 reps
>> CHIN-UPS (RIGHT): 6 reps (underhand)

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>> SIT-UPS: 30 reps

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Gray Maynard & Nate Diaz  // PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER
Gray Maynard & Nate Diaz // PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER

Not all takedowns are created equal. Some are dragged-out wars of attrition that end with a whimper, while others are explosive feats of athleticism that end with a bang. “Slams” on takedowns are a recorded metric in MMA, categorized by what types of takedown it accompanied. Slams have their own subtle patterns that can cause damage, end fights, and win points in the judges’ eyes.

The most famous practitioner of the slam in his PRIDE days,” Quinton “Rampage” Jackson never actually used the maneuver to win a UFC fight. However, slams have resulted in TKO/KO finishes on eight different occasions in UFC history.

The first UFC slam knockout occurred at UFC 16: Battle of the Bayou on March 13, 1998. Frank Shamrock retained his UFC Light Heavyweight Title against Russian born Igor Zinoviev by slamming him into unconsciousness just 22 seconds into the fight. The slam also broke Zinoviev’s collarbone, and he never again competed professionally. This brutal debut of the slam ended a fight, ended a career, and won a championship belt in less time than it takes to make toast.

That wasn’t the only time a UFC title came down to a bang. At UFC 134 on November 2, 2001, Matt Hughes took the UFC Welterweight Title from Carlos Newton with a cage fence slam that is controversial to this day. Having already landed a couple of slam takedowns in round one, Hughes got caught in a tight triangle choke in round two. Hughes used his famous country-boy strength to lift Newton up against the top of the cage and slam him down into a power bomb. Newton went out cold on impact, and while Big John McCarthy tended to Newton to confirm the finish, he missed the fact that Hughes was essentially choked out as a result of the triangle. When Hughes snapped back to reality, he was the new champ.

Breaking Down The Data

So, what’s with these slams? Don’t think they can hurt all that much? Let’s run a very simple thought experiment. Consider Tim Kennedy’s slam of Ronaldo Souza at Strikeforce: Houston as an example.

During this slam, Souza’s torso fell almost five feet to the mat. It could have been higher given the angles and initial lift involved, but we’ll be conservative. In many cases, a fighter will carry an opponent over his shoulder in a “fireman’s carry” before leaping and diving into a slam. In this sense, a slam victim (“slamee”) usually falls at least from the shoulder height of a fighter. Two basic equations for falling bodies to determine the speed of Souza’s impact with the ground are used.

With some very rough rounding, let’s estimate that Souza was traveling at 10 miles per hour when his back and shoulders hit the ground (thanks to a full second of gravitational acceleration)—except Souza wasn’t just falling with the aid of gravity. Kennedy’s muscles were likely working to accelerate Souza even faster toward the mat. So Souza was traveling faster than 10 miles per hour, which means he’s approaching the speed at which a normal person can sprint (roughly 12-15 mph on average). In the case of a fireman’s carry drop of six feet with no additional downward acceleration beyond gravity, we also get to 12 mph on impact.

Now, imagine sprinting full speed into a wall. Sound like it might knock the wind out of you? You bet. That running speed of impact could easily knock someone out, as wide receivers in the NFL frequently find out. Slams are no fun, even if they don’t result in such a brain-bouncing jolt as to render the recipient unconscious.

Some slams are easier to come by than others. Because FightMetric differentiates between three flavors of takedown and slams, we can see which types of takedowns are most likely to end with a bang. It turns out, there is a difference.

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Not quite 1 in 10 successful takedowns will have a slam, but given how often takedowns occur, that’s still an appreciable amount of slamming going on in the UFC. The chart clearly shows a difference in the slam rates for each takedown type relative to the overall UFC average of 9.4%. A shooting takedown rarely ends in a slam, while clinch takedowns have double or triple the slam rate of shots, depending on the body grasp.

Strategically, slams emphasize cage control and put the exclamation mark on takedowns. This could be important for affecting a judge’s perception of who is winning a round. The loud crash, the “ohhs” of the crowd, and the temporary stunning of the opponent that could lead to a quick position gain by the advancing fighter all mean that slams should not be overlooked as an influencing factor in the takedown game.

Finally, it’s important to note that some fighters are clearly better at this than others. Here’s a short list of some of the UFC’s most prolific slam artists.

Screen shot 2014-04-15 at 12.41.44 PM The most prolific slammers have had enough appearances in the Octagon to rack up career stats, but within that list, some guys have outperformed others on a per takedown basis. Notably, Tyson Griffin added a slam to 40% of his landed takedowns, with Mike Pierce, Aaron Simpson, and Josh Burkman all surpassing a slam rate of at least 30%. While many of these career leaderboard fighters are no longer with the UFC, there’s enough slamtastic talent floating around to ensure the violent artistry of the slam will not die anytime soon.

Keeping The Slams Alive

Slam fans should look no further than UFC lightweight Rustam Khabilov, whose suplexes earned him a slam TKO-victory over Vinc Pichel in his UFC debut at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 16 in December 2012. Beginning his UFC career 2-0 with two finishes, Khabilov also used takedowns to injure his second Octagon opponent, Yancy Madeiros. image desc Despite not having enough career slams to show up on the career leader board, his slam rate is an impressive 50%. Just two fights into his career, Khabilov’s takedowns and slams appear to be as dangerous a weapon as any inside the Octagon.

One last consideration on the subject of slams: are some fighters more likely to get slammed than others? If so, then we should keep an eye on these frequent “slamees,” who all tend to get planted at twice the UFC average slam rate or more.

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FIGHTNOMICS Hits Bookshelves

MMA finally gets the analysis it deserves in Fightnomics by Reed Kuhn. Common theories about the sport get put to the test with a little bit of science and a whole lot of numbers. The fight game will never look the same after you discover what really matters in the cage.

For more info on ordering the book, visit fightnomics.com.

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Fighters are shrinking their waistlines thanks to the perpetual arms race that motivates them to become champions.

In 2005, Kenny Florian made his Octagon debut at the finale of the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter. Weighing in at 183 pounds and competing at middleweight, Florian went on to suffer his first (and only) TKO-loss at the hands of Diego Sanchez. After the defeat, Florian went on a diet, returning to the Octagon later that year 15 pounds lighter as a welterweight, and rattling off two quick stoppage victories. But Florian wasn’t done shrinking. In 2006, he dropped another 15 pounds for his lightweight debut. He would stay in that division for four years, amassing an impressive 9-3 record, with his only losses coming in title fights or title eliminators.

In 2011, with the lightweight title picture clogged by the Maynard-Edgar battles, Florian tightened his belt by 10 more pounds and moved down to featherweight, now weighing in 40 pounds lighter than in his UFC debut six years prior. When he retired two fights later, Florian was the only fighter to have competed in four different UFC divisions. Florian was an extreme case of a subtle underlying trend in the UFC. Let’s take a step back and ask ourselves: how often do fighters switch weight classes, and how has the average size within a division changed over time?

Screen shot 2014-05-06 at 5.30.30 PM Analysis of UFC fighters from 2002 to 2013 with at least two Octagon appearances found that 38% of them had competed in at least two different weight classes. If we change the sample size to fighters with at least four appearances, then the metric leaps to 56%. That means more than half of all UFC fighters will drop a division if they compete for at least four fights. Size is an advantage in MMA, and the overall trend in the UFC is for fighters to get better at managing their weight and compete in lower divisions. When a fighter moves down a division, he is suddenly facing smaller opponents. There’s a cost to this weight cutting, but on fight night, the payoff remains. Bold moves that size advantages are rewarded, while those who persist in a disadvantaged state get punished harshly. Regardless of whether a fighter moves down a division to gain a size advantage over future opponents, or is forced down due to an existing disadvantage against his current division’s opponents, the net improvement appears to be worth the move for the majority of UFC fighters today.

Competition is a powerful force, and MMA perhaps more than any other sport is an unforgiving cauldron of competition. Skills get put to the test, conditioning gets pushed to extremes, and any hole in a fighter’s game will get tested and exposed. The UFC has evolved rapidly under these pressures. Today’s top MMA athletes are full-time fighters with cutting-edge training camps. They have dieticians, nutritionists, and supplement sponsors. During fight week, they may even have a personal chef to travel with them to help manage the weight cut and rebound. All of this means that the amount of raw athlete packed into each pound that steps on the UFC scale at weigh-in time is as at an all-time high, but it could go higher.

If these trends are real and all the emphasis on size management is working, then we can assume that fighters in prior years may not have been optimizing their size as well as fighters do today. With the right analysis, we should be able to see evidence of that. Here’s how average fighter size (height and reach) by division has changed over the last decade.

UFC Changes in Division Size by Era

The graph shows that the average size of each legacy UFC division (that existed before Zuffa’s addition of the WEC) has grown in average height and reach over time. I’ve used a weighted average that simply looks at any fighter appearance in the Octagon by weight class and captures the height and reach. The reality isn’t just that modern fighters are taller and longer than fighters a decade ago, it’s also that the very same fighters weigh less than they once did. Fighters have shrunk their waistlines, while divisions have sprouted vertically and horizontally—all thanks to the perpetual arms race that motivates athletes to become champions.

In smaller weight classes where the weight cut to drop a division is also smaller, we see larger relative changes in size. Lightweights didn’t even have a division they could move down to until the WEC merger in 2011, so plenty of fighters who could have competed below lightweight were hanging out in a larger division simply because it was their only opportunity to compete in the UFC. While this analysis used larger sample sizes to ensure the hypothesis was well tested, it also isolated the same size values for even more recent periods like 2011-2013 or just 2012-2013. It seems the divisions aren’t done growing. The more recent the period of data used, the larger the legacy divisions get. It’s an arms race, and it’s not over yet.

Let’s return to the case of Kenny Florian, who migrated 40 pounds and four weight classes down the UFC divisions with the same-sized frame that was 5’10” tall with a reach of 74 inches. According to the chart, he was a tiny middleweight, but a fair-sized welterweight. At lightweight, however, Florian had a size advantage over the average division opponent, so it’s no surprise that he found a home in this division for most of his career. When Florian cut down to the next division, he was huge by comparison. He had a big size advantage over most featherweights who averaged 5’8” tall with a reach of only 70 inches. Now retired from fighting, but having clued us into an important competitive trend in MMA, here’s hoping that Kenny is enjoying many satisfying meals at all-you-can-eat buffets.

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FIGHTNOMICS Hits Bookshelves

MMA finally gets the analysis it deserves in Fightnomics by Reed Kuhn. Common theories about the sport get put to the test with a little bit of science and a whole lot of numbers. The fight game will never look the same after you discover what really matters in the cage.

For more info on ordering the book, visit fightnomics.com

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Photo by Landry Major
Photo by Landry Major

The last time Cub Swanson stepped into the Octagon was July 6, 2013. MMA fans may remember that as the night Anderson Silva’s long reign as UFC middleweight champion came to an end at the hands of Chris Weidman. They may also remember that Swanson earned an extra $50,000 for his Fight of the Night performance against Dennis Siver that evening.

On June 28 Swanson will face Jeremy Stephens in the main event of a UFC Fight Night card in San Antonio, TX, and as Swanson sees it, a win inside the AT&T Center should be enough to earn him a shot at UFC gold in the 145 pound weight division.

cubswanson
//PHOTO BY LANDRY MAJOR

How is your golf game going?
I’ve only been playing about seven months now on and off, but Powerbilt Golf given me my own coach and clubs so I don’t have any excuse, so I’m feeling pretty good.

Do you get frustrated easily on the course?
I did at first, but now that I can come back from it, I don’t as much. From all the training in fighting, I’ve got enough self-control that I can bring my self back, but it definitely can be frustrating.

I saw on Instagram that you have a new dog. How old is Danger?
He’s about six months old right now, and he’s a half Maltese half Silky Terrier.

Have you always had dogs?
I did growing up, and then my brother and me had a really cool pit bull. About ten years ago he passed away, and I didn’t want another dog – I couldn’t get close to another animal for a long time. With being in the fight game, and not really making money and living in apartments, I really didn’t feel like I should have a dog, but I finally bought a house after the (Dennis) Siver fight and my brother said “get a dog, get a dog”. I couldn’t do a big dog any more. When I get home from training I don’t want a big dog jumping on me. A little dog is cool.

How thankful are you to Ramon Diaz and Joe Stevenson for working with you early on?
Very thankful. Ramon Diaz is the one that gave me my start. He was just such a cool guy – an awesome person. He showed me what a real martial artist is, and he said “Just learn as much as you can from me, and when you have to move on, you move on,” and I did.

Joe Stevenson was the first fighter to reach out to me that I looked up to and I drove out to meet him and he just trained me and as it went on he started using me for training camps and we became really good friends.

Do you think without Joe you would have not gotten into MMA?
My whole goal was to get into MMA, but he definitely started introducing me to people, and showing me how easy it is when you know the right people. I think when people chase their dreams they don’t have any direction or watch anybody do it before them that they kind of don’t have an understanding of how to make it there. So, meeting people that want to help you out and guide you – you learn how to make the right moves, and that’s pretty huge.

What’s your relationship with former WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley?
We went to high school together. We weren’t really good friends then, we were in different crowds, but everyone knew who he was. He was the guy that was going to school and running the track an hour before school started. I couldn’t even fathom that because I had a hard time making it to first period. He was trying to make the Olympic team and doing big things back then, and I didn’t start MMA until I was 19.

When I moved back to Palm Springs I made it into the same boxing gym, and they all respect what I was trying to do and we just became close because we’re two guys doing good things from a place where not a lot of people come from.

Do you agree with his assessment that you deserve a title shot?
I really do feel like I deserve another shot. I’m in the zone for what I have ahead of me. I believe that me getting the shot is inevitable. I feel like the way my career has gone, it’s destiny.

What do you think about UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo saying he wanted a rematch with Chad Mendes and not you?
I think he said that because he knew. I had already been told that he (Mendes) was going to get the shot and they were looking for an opponent for me. So, I think he said that because he already knew that that was the fight they were going to give him.

Is it about getting another shot at Jose Aldo or about getting a shot at the title?
It’s to be number one overall, but I couldn’t imagine a sweeter way to get it than to avenge that loss. He’s the reigning champ. I feel like if he moved up to 155 and I became the champ it would always kind of be like, “Oh, you couldn’t beat Aldo.” I think that would be the best-case scenario.

Would it have been a little bittersweet if Aldo had moved up and you and Mendes would have fought for the vacant title?
Mendes and me have unfinished business too. So, that would have been fine because the way I saw it, was I’ll fight Mendes and I’ll win that fight, and Aldo could be coming right back down. How crazy would that be and I had the belt and he was fighting me for my belt. All that intrigued me, but the thing I was getting kind of frustrated with was that there were no answers. I wanted to get the ball rolling,

What did you learn from the Aldo loss?
I learned to just be myself. I felt that in order to win that fight I needed to be something that I wasn’t, and I felt I went into it with the wrong mentality. I learned a lot, and that’s one of the fights that really changed me as a fighter. I know I can beat him. I know that at this point in my career – my weapons have grown. I still think he’s an amazing fighter, but I think that I’ll win the rematch.

Do you go back and review your fights with your camp?
I watch them by myself mostly, and with people close to me and then I’ll have my coaches watch film then I’ll tell them what I think, and I’ll ask for their opinions on top of it. I’ve learned that that works out better.

You said your injury layoff between 2010 and 2011 allowed you to refocus, what changes did you make during that time, and what changes have you continued to make?
It was a pretty serious injury, and I kind of took it as just another injury, but my mom and stepmom were both there and really drove home that I was crazy and that I needed to take a good look at what I was doing in life and really assess if I could live with the consequences of the job. They really didn’t want to see my fight anymore.

I really dug deep and thought if I wanted to continue. I thought, “What’s my legacy if I retire right now?” And I said, “It’ll be the kid who had tons of potential that didn’t live up to it.” That really burned me and I just felt that I could do better and that just kept going through my mind. So, I reevaluated the way I thought about fighting, the way I prepared for my fights.

I started talking to my coaches and coming up ways to improve, and it’s been working.

Have your mom and stepmom come to terms with your job?
They are a lot better than they were at that moment, because I have been able to come back and shine and do really well, and I think that helps. They’ve always wanted me to do something else, but they know how stubborn I am, and they know they can’t tell me anything because I’m going to do what I’m going to do, and they support me as much as they can, but they are very proud of me.

What have you been up to this layoff, which began, with your win over Dennis Siver in July 2013?
I’ve been training the entire time. I think I may have taken off two weeks here and there. I was bugging (UFC matchmaker) Sean Shelby, and me and Sean went down the list many times, and he explained to me why I couldn’t fight this person. I just had to play the waiting game, but I’ve been training the entire time.

Has that been frustrating?
It was always frustrating, but I do understand their side of it. As a fighter when people are calling me out and thinking I’m scared, it really pisses me off, but everybody who called me out I asked for and they (UFC) said “No.”

I got asked eight times a day, “When are you fighting again?” I would explain that they are waiting for the right people, but it’s a good problem to have.

Dustin Poirier called you out on Wednesday night after he defeated Akira Corassani, which made it two fights in a row he’s called you out. Why do you think he is so focused on getting that rematch with you?
Because he thinks he can win, that’s the only reason. I think that’s the only reason people are calling me out, they think they can beat me. I think it’s funny. I asked for the Poirier rematch, but they said they don’t like having rematches unless it’s for the title, and I get what they are saying.

Me and him are going to be around for a while, and we will fight again at some point, it just doesn’t make sense now. I know I will beat him again.

I’m a fan of his – if I beat him again where does that put his career? He’s still a big up and coming star, so it puts a big damper in his career.

Does the talk from Conor McGregor bother you at all or do you see it as part of the game?
It’s just funny to me. He’s not top 15. He could not beat a single person in the top 15. I asked for that fight – I begged for that fight just because it was easy money. I’d fight that dude with one hand, no problem, but they just wouldn’t do it.

Do you agree with your ranking as the No. 4 featherweight?
I don’t think Frankie Edgar (No. 2) or Ricardo Lamas (No. 3) should be ahead of me.

Why do you feel that way about those two?
Well, Frankie Edgar is 1-1 in our division and he barely beat a guy that I beat in the first round (Charles Oliveira) and I think Lamas beat some tough guys, but his best fight was against me. I was winning that fight the whole time and I got caught.

I asked to fight him again, and he refused to fight me. He held out for the title fight (against Aldo) for over a year, and I think he’s a top ten guy, I just don’t think he’s that high.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned from working with Greg Jackson?
Probably to believe in myself, and to be creative and be my own fighter and don’t worry about anybody else.

Speaking of being your own fighter, you’ve said you get bored in the Octagon and like to have fun. What was the most fun you’ve had in a fight and what was the riskiest move you’ve ever done during a fight?
I remember having a lot of fun in the Mackens Semerzier fight just because we were just going at it the whole time. I had a lot of fun in the Poirier fight too, and that was the reason I was open to fight him again. I knew that when I looked him in the eye that we were going to fight the next day, and that made me happy.

The riskiest move was the first time I did the handstand kick in the WEC against John Franchi because I really hadn’t done anything that crazy before, but I had both my hands broken so I just figured I might as well start throwing everything I can.

Does your riskiness bother Jackson?
No, he’s got a couple rules for me, and basically he’s saying, don’t be boring, bit don’t be too crazy – be creative and crazy, but he wants there to be some sense behind it.

Does he ever have to rein you in?
Yeah, he’ll tell me – he’ll let me know.

Four of your last five fights have ended by knockout or TKO, where has this power come from?
When I had my jaw wired, I thought about cutting to 135, and I just started to get really weak and everyone was telling me I couldn’t do it, and that made me want to do it even more, but after feeling like crap I decided that I just needed to bulk up.

I got with a strength and conditioning coach and started lifting, but I didn’t like the way I felt. After talking to him I figured out a way to lift and not lose speed, and that’s been part of it – putting on some size. I used to walk around at 160, and now I walk around at 175.

The other part of is that I have confidence and I throw hard. Before I just tried to be accurate and punch the other guy in the face all the time, but never tried to throw as hard as I could because I didn’t want to gas out. Now I just throw like I want to break the guys face.

Is there anything you’ve been working on heading into the Jeremy Stephens fight in June?
I’m just progressing. My takedown defense has been on fire. The only times I’ve been taken down have been when I’m throwing something crazy and I put myself in a bad spot. We’re still working on my offense. My jiu-jitsu game is getting strong again – getting back to my roots of high submission percentage in training, and always trying to grow as a stand up fighter as well.

I pride myself in not being one-dimensional and approaching every fight differently so that they can watch all the film they want and they just won’t figure me out.

Where do you think a win over Stephens puts you?
I think I’ll get a title shot after this fight I just need to go out there and put on another performance like I did my last one. I think I’ve proved that I belong at the top, and it’s just a matter of time before they say “Alright, we can’t deny you at this point.”

Any closing comments?
A lot of people have been asking me why this fight (Stephens) and I think since I didn’t get the title fight that this is really the next big thing for me. I needed a little bit more exposure. I’m a fan favorite, but I’m not a household name and I think a main event on a Fight Night card is perfect for me to go out there and perform well and really get the fans behind me – get a little bit bigger of a fan base.

I’ve been growing my fan base rapidly with these wins and I think this is the biggest stage I’ve been able to get, and I’m just happy to get the chance to put on a good performance for such a big audience.

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Approximately 70 percent of all serious knee ligament injuries (ACL/MCL) occur during non-contact situations, such as plyometric exercises, landing from a jump, or twisting/ turning movements that cause a sudden imbalance in your lower extremities. However, these non-contact injuries are more preventable than injuries that occur during competition and sparring.

Dominick Cruz, Georges St-Pierre, and Conor McGregor are just a few fighters who have torn their ACLs while training and competing. And, as all three fighters will tell you, ACL surgery and rehab is no picnic.

While many knee injuries aren’t preventable, there are ways to reduce your chance of injury: (1) Increase the strength of your thigh muscles (2) Improve your flexibily (3) Maintain a proper “Power Position” when you perform exercises that involve jumping, including box jumps and burpees.

Begin In The “Power Position”

• Keep your knees and feet directed forward and in alignment with your hips.
• Keep you back straight with your chest open, shoulders back, and head and eyes forward.

// PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER
// PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER

Taking Off and Landing

• Take off and land without excessive side-to-side or forward-backward movements of your upper or lower body.
• Maintain a soft landing throughout your entire foot to reduce ground reaction forces (the force the ground exerts on your body).

// PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER
// PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER

3 Bad Landings To Avoid

Landing in any of these three positions puts added stress on your knees, making you susceptible to ACL/MCL damage. Avoid these landing positions and focus on landing in the “Power Position.”

// PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER
// PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER

• Valgus Collapse: knock kneed position as you sink down into a squat or landing position.
• Imbalance: unequal stress to one side of your lower extremities.
• Shearing Force: decreased knee flexion with forward body lean (knees extend in front of toes).

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