It was a peculiar sight to behold at UFC 133, and no, I don't mean Dennis Hallaman's poor choice of costume or Brian Ebersole's arrow made of chest hair. Instead, I mean the amount of times we got to hear about K-1 level striking on a UFC broadcast and that it was hard to argue. No, sadly it did not coincide with the action in the cage, but instead the choice of trainers that the elite MMA fighters of the world have been choosing to help round out their game.
We've already seen Kenny Florian working with Cosmo Alexandre, Jose Aldo working with Andy Souwer, Jake Shields prepared for his fight with GSP by training with the legendary Rob Kaman and more. Tonight at UFC 133, though, the two feature attraction fights also featured two elite kickboxers in a corner, as "Sugar" Ray Sefo, a K-1 legend and the 2000 K-1 World Grand Prix runner-up cornering Vitor Belfort. Belfort is known for his top notch hands, for his speed, precision and power, but bringing on Ray Sefo has helped him to round out his full spectrum of striking after a quick loss to Anderson Silva. Without a doubt having a legend like Ray Sefo helping him prepare will give him some helpful tips and pointers, both in offense and defense and the results looked promising with Belfort picking up a win tonight.
In the main event, Rashad Evans brought a younger K-1 fighter to the ring with him, as he came to the ring with Tyrone Spong. Spong has been an integral part of Rashad's training camp to prepare for his fight, originally against Phil Davis before Davis had to pull out, and now against Tito Ortiz. The fight turned into more of a grapple-heavy contest, but some of the techniques that Rashad picked up along the way and the sparring with a fighter like Spong who is known for his strong clinch game and heavy kicks were apparent in the way Rashad moved and how he responded to situations. One of the clearest examples of him working on his clinch striking more came with the finish of the fight, where Tito Ortiz was on his knees covering his head up and Rashad landed what was a picture perfect knee strike to the midsection that dropped Ortiz and led to the finish.
A technique like that is often overlooked in the MMA world because one false move and the knee becomes an illegal strike to the head and can cause a point deduction, disqualification or a no contest if the opponent cannot continue. It takes a great deal of confidence and dedication to drill moves like that for a fighter to be comfortable throwing them, and Rashad timed it perfectly and it landed exactly where it should have.
If UFC 133 was any sort of indicator, the chances are that more and more UFC fighters will be turning to high level kickboxers and muay thai fighters to help them prepare for their fights. The days of fighters preparing with noted MMA striking trainers without much real combat experience might be coming to a close, or at least be supplemented by having modern professional fighters at the top of their game helping to spar and round out a fighter. Right now Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is preparing in his camp with American kickboxing sensation Mark "Fightshark" Miller, who has notably trained with Rampage's upcoming opponent, Jon "Bones" Jones in the past and can only help Rampage out more and more as he prepares for his title fight.
Dave Walsh has been covering MMA and Kickboxing since 2007 before changing his focus solely to Kickboxing in 2009, launching what was the only English-language site dedicated to giving Kickboxing similar coverage to what MMA receives. He was the co-founder of HeadKickLegend and now LiverKick. He resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he works as a writer of all trades.
His second novel, Terminus Cycle, is available now via Kindle and Paperback.
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