When fighting one of the most important things to understand is the controlling of distance and space. Regardless of your combat sport, the control of space is everything when it comes to dictating and forcing your kind of fight on an opponent.
At Diesel we have a concept called ‘No Man’s Land’. In World War I, soldiers would be based in trenches opposite wasteland, which they would have to cross by going ‘over the top’ in order to fight the enemy team.
While trench warfare is obviously impossible in a fist fight, there is a space between two fighters that needs to be crossed. Today we’re going to take a look at the fight between Holly Holm and Valentina Shevchenko at UFC on Fox 20. While not the most exciting fight in mixed martial arts history, it is the perfect fight to illustrate this philosophy.
When training we like to imagine a little circle of space on the floor between us and our opponent. Thankfully, through the magic of basic picture editing, for this lesson, you don’t have to imagine!
This space is what keeps you safe from your opponent; from this distance your opponent cannot hit you. This is the space that defensively, you want to maintain, and offensively you want to invade.
HOW HOLLY HOLM CONTROL’S DISTANCE
Against Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm had great success controlling No Mans’ Land. This was due to the former bantamweight champions inability to successfully pressure and cut of the cage in any meaningful way other than attacking on a straight line.
Here Rousey attempts to invade the space, only to be caught with a push kick to the knee. While a more ring craft savvy fighter would pressure and invade on diagonal angles to avoid this kicks, Rousey’s head first bull rushes lead to her taking a lot of damage that lead to her being knocked out.
But what happens when a battle for space is more evenly contested?
FIGHTING ACROSS ‘NO MAN’S LAND’
Against Muay Thai Champion Valentina Shevchenko (who fought Diesel Alumni and former coach, Chali Bassinah at Kunlun 11), Holly Holm was faced with a fighter who is just as adept at controlling No Man’s Land as she was. Shevchenko sought to make the boxing great advance into her space, in order to punish her for it.
What began as this:
First Valentina steps into the space with a jab. The jab predictably falls short, but this jab prompts Holm to retreat, before replying with her own combination. As the jab forced Holm back, it meant that Shevchenko had more time to see Holm’s combination coming, allowing her to move back and counter.
Valentina wins this exchange by effectively controlling ‘No Man’s Land’. She forces Holm away, and then pulls her back in, so that she can counter the combination that she knew was going to come as soon as Holm stepped into her space.
SIDE NOTE: In the gif you’ll notice that Valentina takes two steps backwards before pivoting off to the side, this is good form and prevents you from being trapped against the cage or ropes, never take more than two steps backwards.
In this exchange, Holm steps into the space with a big overhand left, Shevchenko pulls back and counters with a spinning back fist that could have easily rocked Holm, had she not remained defensively responsible and immediately returned her hand to her face.
So now we have seen both Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm fail to safely close the distance, how should YOU go about it?
First you need to understand that it is very hard NOT to telegraph when it comes to movement. If you step forward towards your opponent, you declare your intention to attack, regardless of how clean your punching technique may be. So the way to properly control No Man’s Land, is to add more variety to your offense.
You can do this by adding double or triple jabs to make it harder for your opponent to properly counter:
Or you can take half steps (moving one foot, keeping the other planted) into NoMan’s Land, only to step back.
Here Vasyl Lomachenko keeps his opponent uneasy by stepping into No Man’s Land without any intention to attack, this keeps Nicholas Walters flinching and not wanting to attack on his own. If you have the habit of feinting frequently, it will keep your opponent unsure, and also allow you to just step straight in with an attack, with no feint to set it up, as your opponent will become desensitised, expect a feint, only to be hit hard.
The Diesel Breakdown | ‘Cliff’ Notes:
- Take a half step into your opponents space to threaten
- Take a full step in when it’s time to attack
- Alternate between half steps and full steps in to keep your opponent guessing
- Force your opponent out of their space, in order to counter them as they come back in
- Hit your opponent as they enter your space
That’s all for today Dieselites, send me messages and feedback!