Couture vs Toney – Why It Matters

In the early days of the UFC, every fight was filled with meaning and importance.

I watched in anticipation and eagerly awaited the outcomes of Karate men vs. Wrestlers to see which art held more combative truth.

Later, I bit my nails and chewed my lips as the embodiment of Evil, Tank Abbot threatened to take the throne and lay waste to the the “Myth” of Martial Arts and prove to the world, the supremacy of Street Thugs.

My palms would sweat as I wondered if champions of the Martial Path such as a young Vitor Belfort would rise to protect its Honor despite a visible weight disadvantage, as the fate of the Universe hung in the balance.

And then… Fights became mere contests between two mortal men. Talented as they may be at times and as entertaining as some fights were, the meaning was gone.

That is until recently where fights such as Lesnar vs Carwin would once again, bring me up off of my bar stool and into a screaming frenzy like a teenage schoolgirl at a Beatles concert.

UFC 118 promises yet another fight, fraught with meaning and importance.

You see, Randy Couture vs. James Toney is more than just another MMA fight. It’s a fight in which James Toney has set out to prove that Boxing is superior to MMA.

Or to put it in his words “…I represent Boxing… I’m going to destroy your so called legend.”

Am I excited for this fight?

You’re damn right I’m excited!!! There’s something so audacious about Toney, a complete greenhorn in the sport, accepting a match with one of it’s legends. And although I don’t believe for a second that the fight has any relevance for the Boxing vs. MMA debate (if there even is one), there are those for whom this fight might actually sway their opinion of the two sports. An opinion, ultimately of me, my chosen profession and my circle of friends and colleagues for whom MMA has become a way of life.

I am titillated by the idea of Couture stomping on a fighter who would show so little respect (whether intentionally or out of pure ignorance) for an art that we’ve made our home.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love and respect the art of Boxing and would feel the same way about an MMA fighter entering the world of the Sweet Science and accepting a fight with one of it’s premiere representatives on his maiden voyage. My hope is that our champion will teach his opponent just a little more respect for this new kid on the block (MMA).

Couture with Coach Billy Robinson.

But enough of my ramblings. Let’s get to the nuts and bolts of this conflict.

Does James Toney stand a ghost of a chance against one of MMA’s greatest Heros?

I would argue that he definitely standsa a punchers chance, and that is exactly why this match up is so compelling.

In fact, a long time ago, my cousin and I came up with the “Golden bb Theory”. The proverbial little stone that could fell even the mightiest of MMA Giants. And anyone who can ball up a fist and throw, always has a chance of finding that golden bb.

But James Toney is no ordinary man, and the bombs he drops, in no way shape or form resemble a bb. A Titanium 12 gauge slug is more like it. There is a very real possibility, however remote, that Toney will find his mark with those man stoppers of his and turn the MMA world upside down.

You don’t believe me. Does Serra vs. GSP or Douglas vs. Tyson ring a bell?

There are so many external factors that make this fight intriguing.

Toney is just now beginning to delve into the main 5 areas of MMA, while the pioneers and leaders of the sport are already branching out beyond the foundational elements of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu/Submission Grappling, Folk/Freestyle Wrestling, Muay Thai, Grecco Roman Wrestling and Boxing.

Few have begun to unravel the riddle of Lyoto Machida who, in the terms of the MMA Cavemen, whom I despise, has a style that is “Karate”. Anderson Silva has recently been seen experimenting with Aikido.

All the while, Randy Couture, has sought out the help of Coach Billy Robinson to learn Catch As Catch Can wrestling techniques for his MMA game.

(You can learn more about Catch Wrestling or register for the next CACC Certification Course at www.certifiedcatchwrestler.com)

Has Toney ever experienced being pressed up against a chain link fence?
Has Couture ever experienced the sting of a Champion Boxer’s hands?
Will Toney, who seems strongest at finishing in bent arm punching range (uppercuts, hooks and overhands) be able to stop the body lock?
Will Couture be able to corner and takedown a man who’s art is known for it’s excellent footwork?

I don’t know but I am certainly excited to see and who knows, with any luck, Couture will finish Toney with a Shin Lock and Toney will proclaim his respect for the art of MMA.

Kyacey Uscola On The Ultimate Fighter Season 11

Last week, Kyacey Uscola made an impression as he fought his way into the house of The Ultimate Fighter for Season 11.

A hearty congratulations go out to him as his chance at making it big in MMA have been long in coming and has not been without it’s highs, lows and everything in between.

I consider Kyacey a friend, and I would hope that he feels the same, but I am distanced enough to say, that his fighting style, like a diamond in the raw, was, at least at one point, pretty rough around the edges.

Coach Kiser has worked much more closely with Uscola than I, flying out to train him during his stint at the Lions Den and dedicating his time to working personally with Kyacey during his brief stays here in Utah. He’s cornered for many of Kyacey’s fights, some during the Bodog Era (and I use the term “Era” very loosely here).


(I apologize for the quality of this video, it was one of our first, it was taken two or three years ago and we’ve since lost the original footage)

But I have been around long enough to see some back stage tirades. I’ve seen him underestimate opponents, and make poor decisions during pivotal moments in his fights.

I’ve seen him win and seen him loose. I’ve seen him more or less try and dominate a locker room, telling complete strangers, fighters on the same card to “sit the #%$@ down and shut the @#%(*! up” because their pacing and nervous chatter was aggravating him.

I’ve been to dinner with the man and heard how he got that nasty scar above his eye, and came to understand how fighting another, unarmed man in a cage with rules, medics and a ref is really nothing all that nerve racking to someone like Kyacey.

Jake Paul, Brandon Kiser, Brian Yamasaki, Kyacey Uscola Celebrate a night of Victories!

I’m not saying I’m his good buddy, or even close by any stretch of the imagination. I mean, I’m a pretty up tight bugger. Especially when it comes to fight training and cornering people.

I like to do things my way, and so does Kyacey and never the twain shall meet.

I respect him on a personal and professional level, but not having that much input and involvement with Kyacey’s day to day training, I’d just as soon root for him from the comfort of my living room couch. I think he is full of skill, but from a personal point of view, I just don’t like working in environments where I’m not in a position of control.

But when your best friend (Coach Kiser) calls you up and asks you to have his back when it comes time to be cage side, what’s a brother to do? And this is for the most part, how I’ve come to know Uscola. That is, as a glorified spit bucket holder… What’s that they say about no small parts. Yeah, well, last I checked, I fall into the Asian category.

At any rate, the last time I saw Kyacey, I saw a different man. One with more life experience and dare I say, self awareness.

In fact, during the long wait before the main event, Kiser even shared with me the fact that Kyacey had been listening to Self Meditation and Self Help CD’s.

He expressed to me a determination to better himself, physically and mentally, both as a human being as well as a fighter. I felt his sincerity and could sense a noticeable difference in him.

Behind the camera, Kiser tells me about the new, more enlightened Kyacey Uscola

And come to think of it, that night, when the inevitable new fighters were kicking pads and bull dogging anything that moved 4 hours before the first fight even started annoying the veterans and Kyacey alike, Kyacey’s attempts at owning the locker room sounded more like the diner scene of Pulp Fiction “Normally, both your @$$es would be dead as $&#*@! fried chicken, but you happen to pull this $#!T while I’m in a transitional period so I don’t wanna kill you, I wanna help you… So PLEASE sit the #%@)! down and shut the $%@*! up.”

Kyacey and Kiser working up a sweat before go time.

I sincerely hope that the new leash on life that Kyacey has found and the new direction he is taking in his approach to life, stick. I hope that he has learned from the mistakes of the past and that the experiences and motivation he has will allow him to overcome the challenges before him. The TUF House can break even the most disciplined of men.

And after all, who of us have not made poor choices during pivotal moments in life as well as in fights? Who of us can say with any honesty that our character isn’t without it’s flaws and rough edges? And as for the tirades, they only came as the result of the immense amount of passion that Kyacey fights with. He never fights half heartedly as can be seen in his fight to get into the House.

Kyacey made mention in the show about his spotty fight record. And all I have to say about that is that Kyacey has a true fighters spirit. He never backs down and has no fear. Not of his opponents, and certainly not of some piece of paper with tally marks on one side or the other. He embodies the essence of Roosevelt’s sermon:

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat.”

With any luck, the heat and pressure that is The Ultimate Fighter House, just might polish this fighter’s raw talent and forge a sparkling diamond out of what was once a diamond in the rough.

Either way, the Fans are going to get their money’s worth from watching Kyacey Uscola. I can’t think of a more entertaining character to have on the show. God Speed my friend. I’ll be rooting for you… from the comfort of my living room couch.

See what Kyacey has to say about training with Kiser and I by clicking here

4 Principles That Changed My Grappling Game

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Lately, I’ve been working hard on understanding how the great fighters think.

In the past, I’d watch them spar or fight and inevitably they’d catch their opponents in some nifty little hold and that’s what would grab my attention.

For the next few weeks, that’s what I’d be working on. That reverse Omo-Plata or that new half guard trick, you know the drill. And of course, brick by brick, move by move, I felt like my game would improve.

Later on, at the behest of my Instructor (Khuen Khru Will Bernales), I took a step back and began to look at things from a little bit wider perspective.

I started trying to look at “games” rather than just a single technique. He was always telling me to work on my side cross escape “game” or my guard passing “game”.

Using this mindset improved my grappling at a much faster pace. I was seeing more pieces of the puzzle at a time and as a result could begin working on entire chunks as opposed to hunting for a single piece at a time.

Instead of studying a technique, I began to study how a technique related to it’s brother and sister moves within a series designed to handle a particular position or situation.

And this lead to the next step. Another step backwards. I started looking at concepts and principles. I started looking at how the great fighters were thinking.

I tried to understang their minds which was a giant leap from looking at their finishing moves which were really only the result of an number of maneuvers which, I realized were all governed by a set of simple rules and bylaws.

The following are by no means a complete set of these rules, but they are the ones I have been able to extrapolate and have begun to digest and understand. They have had the greatest impact on my game in recent times.

He who controls the arms, controls the means by which his opponent will try to control him.

He who controls the arms, controls the means by which his opponent will try to control him.

control their hips
control their head
control their posture
maintain your posture

CONTROL THEIR ARMS

Over time, I had heard these objectives from many qualified and accomplished instructors. All made perfect sense but for whatever reason found a way to escape my abilities… Until one night when I was swept repeatedly by one of my BJJ instructors Mike Diaz, a Pedro Sauer Black Belt and masterful butterfly guard practitioner.

I asked him what I was doing wrong, why I couldn’t stop his sweep, and what technique I could use to defend his attack. He smiled and said, “I could sit here all night and try to teach you a counter to all the different sweeps that I use. Or, I could give you the simple answer.” Eager to understand my situation better, and being lazy and somewhat dim whitted (I knew there was no way I was going to remember all the techniques he could teach me), I opted for the simpler answer, to which he replied.

“You’re doing pretty good with most of the other stuff, but what’s making the difference between you defending and me finishing the sweep is arm control. You let me control your arms and that is why I succeed and you fail.”

I took this lesson to heart and worked diligently for the next few weeks at that seemingly simple suggestion. Don’t let your arms be controlled and control your opponent’s arms as much as possible. And sure enough, the sweeps diminished noticibly. And even more noticibly, my game improved from the standing clinch, in the takedown department, pretty much everywhere you go hands on in MMA. And then it hit me. The arms are the means by which we control the head, the hips, the posture, or the means by which we defend these things.

Control the arms, and the rest begins to fall into place.

When you're out of position, under fire and on defense, use your tools and faculties to fortify those defenses rather than digging yourself deeper into the hole.

When you're out of position, under fire and on defense, use your tools and faculties to fortify those defenses rather than digging yourself deeper into the hole.

Another night after numerous weeks of being dominated on the mats by my BJJ Black Belt Instructors, I expressed my frustration. “Man, I don’t expect to tap any of you guys out, but for crying out loud, I’m always on the run from you guys. I’m always fighting just to keep my head above water and survive.” I said. This time, both Coach Diaz and my primary instructor Khru Will were present and sitting before me. Almost in concert, they explained

“Sometimes all you can do is play defense… And sometimes all you SHOULD do is play defense. Jiu-jitsu is a Self Defense Art.”

I sat and thought about this for a moment. Reading the confused look on my face, they both began to point out that even though I had exhausted myself, escaping this submission and fending off that sweep and then scrambling to get out of beneath this or that position, that in the end I had made it pretty difficult to submit me. They went on to explain that if you could defend yourself against bigger, stronger, more experienced fighters, that was a pretty nice accomplishment. This made me smile. They were right. Over the years of working with Khuen Khru Will I had pushed my defensive capabilities from a few seconds of survival, to minutes and sometimes even tens of minutes. And beyond this they explained that sometimes it’s just a matter of surviving until an opportunity appeared or the guy on top made a mistake.

I then realized that most of the time, when I got submitted, it was because I was frustrated about being on the run for so long and decided to push my luck by attempting a low percentage submission or sweep from out of position. These were the times they were talking about. The times when all I should have done was play defense.

Ever since then I have paid a lot more attention to when it is best to fortify my defenses and when an opportunity arises to make a calculated move and this has helped my game immensely.

Use chained attacks and escapes whenever possible.

Use chained attacks and escapes whenever possible.

Beginners think one move ahead, more advanced practitioners think two and three moves ahead.

Since the beginning of my training, this idea has made sense to me from the offensive perspective. The Triangle sets up the Arm Bar which flows to a sweep, etc. etc. etc. These submission chains are nearly everywhere. But much more difficult for me to grasp was the idea of a progressive, chained escape path.

So many times, I’d be underneath someone, trying to escape, using an appropriate escape technique just to have the guy on top of me transition into a different control position… ON TOP.

Finally it occured to me, that knowing the escape was not enough. Knowing the escape and where the guy on top would most likely transition, and having my second escape ready to go, half way through the first escape was the key to getting out of under their tyranical reigns.

Never stop fighting for top position. Never conceed the guard or bottom.

Never stop fighting for top position. Never conceed the guard or bottom.

Fight to be on top and when you can’t get on top, fight for top some more!

This was an epiphany I had after watching the Black Belts roll with each other over the course of many many months I realized that they would always fight like dogs for top position. Even when out of position on bottom they would fight to get to their knees and reset vs. working for guard. And when they did try to get guard the guy on top was practically passing it before it even fully materialized.

After watching this, scene unfold, time and time again I asked my instructor Khru Will when it was that he determined when to fight for top and when to start working the bottom game techniques. His answer was simple.

“If you have gas in the tank, it should be used to get to the top.”

This has been one of the most difficult concepts to make part of my game, especially since it is so physically demanding. But what I have discovered is that while employing this mentality, I can prolong the amount of time it takes for my seniors to trap me on bottom and finish me off with a submission. And sooner or later, that extra time is going to equal an opportunity. And when it does… I’ll be ready.

These four principals have done more to improve my game recently than anything else.

What principals have uped your game and made your life easier on the mat?

Learn to Fight MMA: Off The Cage

When was the last time you worked cage tactics?  When was the last time you incorporated the cage wall into your takedown to nullify your opponent’s ability to sprawl and protect his hips?  When was the last time you defended having your head crushed in the cheese grater of chained links?

Ignoring the importance of this aspect of MMA competition can be detrimental to your MMA game.  If this is the first time you’ve given these situations any consideration, or if you drill these positions as frequently as you clean your bathrooms, than this article might have some use for you.

Below are two more basic options for when  your opponent takes you down and attempts to drive you into the fence, a tactic that can severely cramp your ability to use your guard to it’s full extent.  These clips are Damage Control MMA exclusives for our friends here at www.DamageControlMMA.com

Basic Turn Off The Cage

Cage Walk Arm Bar

Here is an older clip we released with UFC Veteran Todd Medina. It contains more information pertaining to the use of the cage in an MMA fight.

And one more little bonus for you loyal followers of Damage Control MMA. A scrap from an old shoot we did that never made it to production because of a problem we had with the mic. The audio is unsalvageable but maybe you might find something of use in this one. A different way to look at knees while your opponent is against the cage.

Timeless Techniques

Some techniques are timeless. Last week we took a look at the frontiers of Submission. The very bleeding edge of what can be done. This week we take a look at an old classic; the first counter to a kick catch that I ever learned. It’s like leather, seeing someone take one to the nads, The olde One-Two Combination or the Triangle Choke. These things never get old and I don’t think they ever will.

A special thanks to Khuen Khru Will for sharing these and for being our wonderful instructor for all these years.

The Frontiers of Submission

In the modern game of submission grappling it seems as though new rules are being written, old rules are being revised or recounted, and sometimes even broken at a break neck pace.

At times this leads to great leaps in the progress of the art and at others, great disasters. And there are still other instances, where these changes in conventional thinking simply further a particular strain of the overall submission fighting game. For instance, there are many techniques and tactics that work well within the confines of submission grappling, but not as well when applied in the area of Mixed Martial Arts. Even within MMA, there are rule structures (soccer kicking/kneeing the head of a downed fighter) and environments (cage vs ring vs open mat) that will foster the development and favoritism of differing methods.

The object of this article isn’t to pass judgment or to push an agenda (stick to the basics vs. explore the frontiers of possibility). I think there is great value in both areas of study. The object of this article is simply to compile some material I’ve found interesting and explain why I feel it has some merit.

I’ve found similar types of articles on other sites, though their subjects are a lot more focused. To this day, I believe that the Darce/Brabo study and the “No Posture Guard Pass” articles on www.aesopian.com are some of the most ground breaking compilations on the internet.

So lets get down to the analysis and explanation.

The first article, the “Brabo Choke Homework” caught my attention because it showed so many different angles and set up possibilities for this one type of choke. It’s funny because I am horrible at it. Despite all the research and information available though articles like this as well as first hand personal accounts from my own, very qualified instructors, I swear, I can’t remember the last time I was even close with one of these arm chokes.

I want to say it’s because I have short arms but the truth is more likely that I am an epically slow learner and not that bright to begin with.

But what I took away from this article was a realization that paired with something I heard Sensei Erik Paulson once say concerning triangling with the legs.

“So long as you have an arm and an leg between…” you’ve got a triangle choke. This article made me realize this to a much broader and higher degree.

Moving on to the second article, The No Posture Pass series. I thought this to be very interesting. For me, I think it would be dangerous to try this pass as a first option. I much prefer to establish and maintain solid posture from within the guard. But that doesn’t mean that I have to turn my nose up to something like this. In fact, there are plenty of times when my opponents or training partners are skilled to a degree that I am unable to regain or establish posture in the first place.

This is where I give ideas like the No Posture Pass series, their due. They have a place in my game as a last resort or plan B. I haven’t necessarily had that much success with this series either. But to be honest, I haven’t worked on it that much either. I put my effort into keeping, regaining and maintaining posture. But I like knowing that there is another route I can take if things don’t go the way I plan.

I like to keep series like this in my back pocket for rainy days. They’re like building a motorcycle in your garage on the weekends.

You work on them, piece by piece, now and again, when you have a moment of free time. You never know. One day, you just may be riding that bad boy right out of a nasty situation.

Recently I’ve found some new food for thought at www.jiujitsushare.com

The Kimura and Straight Arm Bar from within guard from Phil Migliarese and Jiujitsumatrix.com. This is another technique that I just don’t ever see myself “going for” when given a choice. But, as I’ve said before, there have been numerous times where I’ve found myself without a choice. Where a skilled BJJ Black Belt has set me up and put both my arms to one side of his body, or God forbid, I made a mistake and put them there myself.

When my opponent is all over me and simply will not let me get my arm back over to the other side. Why not go for a Kimura? If you are unable to get your arm back into position, your opponent’s probably going to take your back anyway. At least this way you might be able to put him in a reactive mindset and possibly on the defensive.

I like these types of clips because they are unorthodox and can catch your opponent off guard.

The challenge is really in finding how they fit into your personal game.

I like this technique and those like it because they give you a ray of hope, just when things are at their darkest. Sometimes you might even be terrible at pulling them off, which more times than not, is how I roll.

But so long as you have something to pull off, you’ve got a glimmer of hope. You’re not just sitting there waiting for your back to be taken.

The Kimura with your legs from bottom Side Cross:

This is craziness. And I Love it! This one is so far out there that I haven’t even drilled or begun to try to figure it out for myself. But I still really enjoy the clip.

What I like most about it is that it dares to think of the possibilities and challenge the limits. It looks at the essence of a submission hold and then asks, what tools do I have at my disposal to make this work?

And that to me is what is most valuable about this clip. If you can think that way about a Kimura, you can think that way about any submission using any available machinery to get the job done.

And finally, Ryan Hall’s 50/50 Guard and No Hands Leg Lock: http://pageman.multiply.com/video/item/109/ADCC_Verbal_Submission_via_5050_position_Ryan_Hall_Vs._Rafael_Gordinho_Correa

I’ll be honest, when I started hearing about this new thing, the 50/50 Guard, I had to learn more. But once I got a look at it, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. It just looked like a plain old, leg lock war to me. Nothing out of the ordinary, or exceptional about it. It just looked like a position I’ve seen plenty of times before and worked within myself over the years.

But once I saw Ryan ripping knees apart without so much as hooking a heel, I took a second look.

This was what sparked my imagination. Being so technical with the isolation mechanics of a lock that you could submit or even break someone without even putting on the final touches. It inspired me to look at all my submissions in the same way and to begin the refining process, an over hall, of my submission arsenal if you will.

The first clip or Mr. Hall reminded me of Imanari’s iconic leg Kimura, except that Ryan’s was inverted/reverse but essentially the same mechanics were utilized to effect torque on the knee.

I’d love to see the clips that have inspired you guys or made you think again about your game or a technique in your repertoire. Please post them here and share.

I’ve shown you mine, it’s time to show me yours. It’s alright… I’m a Doctor.

The Half Guard and Guardless Guillotine Chokes

For the next few weeks we will be focusing on the Guillotine Choke. I’ve had more changes of opinion concerning this technique than perhaps any other. I’ve gone from simply noting it as a possible option/threat, to considering it a total asset, back to being casually aware of it and then back to thinking that it’s the cat’s meow. No other move has had the ability to reinvent itself to me as the Guillotine.

It’s such a simple move but just when you think you’ve got it pegged you come across a different variation, a small tweak, a different way of using it. It’s like the duct tape of submission holds. And here is a real beauty demonstrated by my good friend and CSW coach, Brandon Kiser.

I’d like to note a couple things here. You will often find us demonstrating or sharing unconventional techniques on this site and our youtube profile (www.youtube.com/TakingItToTheMMAT). This is not because we value the unconventional approach more than the conventional. It is not because we think these techniques are any better or higher percentage than the basics. Our position is that our viewers should be training under qualified instructors who should be more than capable of presenting and teaching the basics and traditional methods. And there are plenty of resources where more information can be found concerning these.

Our hope is that we can share some ideas that may not be so readily available and or give our viewers food for thought concerning possibilities they may not have otherwise considered.

Escapes From North South Position

Former Bodog Fighter Kaycey Uscola demonstrates the “Sit Out” and “Far Side Knee Tap” Escapes to the Front Headlock – North South Position. Notice, Kaycey is executing this escape before his opponent locks in the dreaded Anaconda or Darce Choke.