T.J. Dillashaw vs Raphael Assuncao 2: Changes since their first fight (Skill breakdown part 2 of 2).

Welcome to part 2, if you missed part 1, go back here: Part 1

Strategic Footwork  

Some of the most useful footwork T.J. had used was his “dart” technique. This movement is a straightforward lateral shift where T.J. moves laterally while shifting his stance to gain a new position. This particular footwork was very useful against Assuncao as he wasn’t able to effectively counter T.J. The benefit of this footwork is that it uses the principle of lateral movement. By moving laterally, your head is dynamically moving to bypass linear strikes. An opponent who moves in a lateral motion towards you will give you a hard target to hit as T.J. demonstrates.

tj dart phases.png
Dillashaw’s positional path using lateral movement to hit two different angles.

1) T.J. throws the cross while simultaneously stance shifting laterally into position 2

2) After landing into the new angle, he continues his offense

TJ dart arrow breakdown.gif
T.J. throws a lateral shift cross to punish Assuncao’s kick. T.J. continues attack from the new angle. 

[Click Here To See the Full Sequence]

For this particular instance, this works well to punish kicks as the lateral movement will bypass linear strikes as I mentioned earlier. It’s a common counter in Muay Thai to counter kicks by moving away from the power side of the kicks while delivering a punch.

The lateral shift doesn’t work well when moving towards the opponent’s power side (moving towards the opponent’s power hand).  Joe Soto showed that to us when he countered Dillashaw’s lateral shifting into an unsafe angle. The dangers of moving toward your opponent’s power side are that you run the risk of eating their power shots.

soto counters TJ's dart
T.J. lateral shifts into Joe Soto’s power side. Soto times a power shot and catches T.J. 

T.J. seems to have matured from this mistake because, in his fight with Assuncao, he predominantly used the lateral shift to move to his weak side.

Dillashaw’s Lateral Shift into the Weak Side

The lateral shift is quite useful when moving towards the opponent’s weak side. T.J. regularly throws the dart to move at a new angle and continues his offensive output from the new position. Against Assuncao, T.J. used that with great succession.

TJ lateral shift comp.gif
T.J. using the lateral shift multiple times while managing to bypass counters using angles. 

Note that T.J. steps off laterally moving to the weak side and tends to continue his offense successfully from that angle. When T.J. hits a new angle, Assuncao is forced to turn his body to face T.J. During this period of adjustment, T.J. can apply his offense before Assuncao has a chance to finish his adjustments.

This particular footwork played an instrumental part in this fight. One observation I found interesting was that T.J. used this a lot in the rematch compared to his first fight against Assuncao. T.J. had only tried this once against Assuncao in their first fight but he couldn’t quite establish a rhythm with it. The rematch showed how much T.J. was able to refine and build on this type of footwork as he was able to consistently attack with it multiple times.

Reflecting on the Past

Looking back at their first fight, T.J. made some mistakes that caused him to absorb too many counters from Assuncao. Since then, he had stopped using approaches that got him into those punishing scenarios. For example, in the first fight, T.J. had tried on multiple occasions to use level changing to offensively approach but Assuncao was able to counter his approach several times.

assuncao counters level change comp.gif
Assuncao was able to time effective counters as T.J. would try to use level changing. 

It’s worth mentioning that T.J. made a lot of adjustments since then. He refined his footwork by developing more offensive options off his movement. He also didn’t use the level change that got him countered in the first fight. T.J. was able to fight more efficiently by making these adjustments on top of his use of feinting to measure Assuncao carefully.

Reading off the Feints

Feints played an important role to bait out and measure Assuncao’s intentions. On multiple occasions, T.J. used various feints to open up offensive opportunities. You can effectively throw feints to draw out an opponent looking to time a counter. This was a straightforward process T.J. used to strategically work off of what Assuncao gave him in order to react accordingly. Check out a few of these examples.

1) Here T.J. feints to measure Assuncao’s reaction. T.J. reads Assuncao is inactive and uses the opportunity to advance. The feints measure a reaction, so when he reads it’s safe to advance, he then proceeds to attack. This helped freeze Assuncao in place for T.J. to make good use of his footwork.

TJ feint, lead 1,2.gif
Assuncao stops reacting to empty feints and becomes immobilized. T.J. takes advantage and approaches. 

2) T.J. feints and reads that Assuncao is looking to time a kick. T.J. reads the reaction and times his own takedown attempt.

TJ feint and punish.gif

Countering the Craft

Assuncao had some good moments exploiting Dillashaw’s Stance. Particularly when Dillashaw assumed a forward posture, Assuncao took advantage. Because Dillashaw has a lot of weight on his lead leg, he’s restricted with what he can do. Assuncao took advantage and attacked the lead leg.

assuncao oblique kick comp.gif

Since T.J. has the weight on his lead leg, he can’t quickly move back and is forced to parry or absorb the kick. As T.J. Keep in mind that T.J. was also unable to use his switch footwork with his posture in this manner.

Final Note  

This was only a three round fight where we would regularly see T.J. use his offensive footwork to attack while avoiding many counter shots. He was able to earn a unanimous decision victory on the judge’s scorecards convincingly against Assuncao. More importantly, the adjustments made on T.J. Dillashaw’s behalf demonstrated sound judgment and growth. Seeing T.J. making adjustments from his loss makes things much more interesting because you start to wonder what other adjustments he’ll make if he were to rematch prior opponent’s he had lost to like fighters in John Dodson and Dominick Cruz. Only time will tell us, and you can bet this analyst will be paying close attention those finer details.

For more breakdowns about fighting styles and coverage, visit my homepage for a long list of works about all sorts of fighters.


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