Michael Farrow's sports blog

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…on leghumping

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Nik Lentz - Should have been looking at a draw at UFC 118, not a decision win.

Sometimes, wrestlers feel like the scourge of mixed martial arts. The guys who worked out ground-and-pound and headbutted you until you bled. The guys who worked out how to pin you against the cage. The guys who took you down and laid on you to grind out a decision. It seems like every cheap way of winning was invented or innovated by wrestlers. Eventually, headbutts were banned, inactive fighters were stood up and stalemates in the clinch were broken up. However, there’s now a far more insidious problem that is increasing in MMA; leghumping.

Watching UFC 118, it struck me that leghumping is now at epidemic proportions in the cage, especially at lightweight. For those who may not use this vernacular, leghumping is the act of going for a takedown and holding it until it either produces a takedown or until the opponent stuffs it. When it is a single-leg rather than a double, it tends to produce a position akin to a dog trying to do the wild thing with somebody’s leg. Previously, most takedown attempts were abandoned if they didn’t produce a takedown straight away but with the success of guys like Clay Guida, the king of holding a position until it produces a result, and the vast overall improvement of takedown defence, leghumping is now becoming the tactic of choice for decision monkey wrestlers to grind out a result in their favour.

Most horribly, this affected Andre Winner in his fight with Nik Lentz. Andre, working with some of the smarter fighters in the UK, has worked on takedown defence. Lentz, a collegiate wrestler at the University of Minnesota, comes out of the wrestling-focused Minnesota Martial Arts Academy camp, along with Brock Lesnar and Sean Sherk. The problem is that Lentz simply wants to secure a takedown. In the fight, all the effective striking is done by Winner but Lentz’ takedown attempts seem to trump any and all attempts by Winner to stifle them. According to the MMA judge Jeff Mullen, after effective striking or grappling, you then look at aggression and octagon control.

I’m not about to suggest Winner won the fight but it’s frankly disgusting that Lentz does nothing but stifle and ends up with two cards calling it a shutout. In the first round, the only effective anything that was done was the hurtful strikes by Andre Winner. He won that round by virtue of effective striking. In the third, Lentz managed to get Winner down and establish himself. He won that round by virtue of effective grappling.

However, the second round is effectively a draw. Lentz can’t complete a takedown and Winner is so smothered, he is virtually a spectator in the round. However, Lentz is not being aggressive and what he is doing qualifies as octagon control by semantics alone. Let us say Lentz had completed a takedown, did nothing and was outworked by Winner off his back, he would have lost the round. What’s the point of takedown defence if your opponent gets an advantage with the judges for your good work stopping the takedown? Lentz takes the round on aggression and octagon control because he controls where the fight takes place by repeatedly going for a takedown that he cannot complete. It’s not aggression to do that, it’s just plain cheap. If you cannot complete a takedown, put a guy on his back and establish your game, it’s not a complete takedown and shouldn’t count. It’s a sly defensive tactic because it looks like an attacking tactic, when it’s simply stopping the other guy from establishing his game. It’s like the really boring MMA equivalent of Spain’s ticky-tacky in the World Cup.

Worse still, two judges gave Lentz the first round, which he clearly lost by any reasonable judging criteria. There needs to be a change in both judging and refereeing. As I said, there was once a situation where a fighter could take an opponent down and stick his head in the chest of an opponent to win a round. Once stand-ups were introduced, a fighter could win a round by repeatedly taking his opponent down, doing nothing and getting stood up. When judges started to reward the bottom fighter for outworking the opponent, we started to see a sea change and lay-and-pray now involves some element of working for it, be it trying submissions or out-striking your opponent on the ground. If a fighter cannot complete a takedown, it should be treated like a stalled clinch and broken up. It should not score with the judges nor should it score when a fighter gets his opponent down to his knees and he then pops back up. With the right combination of judging and refereeing changes, we could remove this cheap and awful tactic from the repertoire of wrestlers and, well, make them innovate a new cheap way to hold on for 15 minutes.


Written by Michael Farrow

September 3, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Posted in MMA

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Farrow, Big Nige. Big Nige said: Leghumping – the new non-aggressive, attacking-but-really-defensive scourge of MMA: http://wp.me/pYYZG-4D #mma #ufc […]

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