Doo Ho Choi vs. Cub Swanson: A War of Boundless Heart (Fight Breakdown part 1 of 2)

cub vs choi pic.jpg
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

In a war between two featherweight prospects, Doo Ho Choi vs. Cub Swanson introduced us to a top contender for fight of the year. Choi had been on an impressive knockout winning streak for quite some time, but the question coming into this fight was how well he would truly perform against top-level opponents like Cub Swanson. On paper, this fight challenged us to fathom what would happen when these two met for battle.

One of the biggest mysteries behind Choi was that there weren’t enough rounds to get a good idea about the true extent of his abilities. Combine this with the fact that he had yet to be challenged with someone with the offensive ability of Cub Swanson, there wasn’t too much to speculate outside of his knockout victories. As this fight unfolded, all the questions in this fight became clearer, and at the end of it all, it told us a lot about where these fighters stand.

Choi’s Attributes 

Doo Ho Choi’s approach is best described as basic, ranging from things like his movements to his counters. You won’t be seeing similar offensive footwork like T.J. Dillashaw from Choi, but you will see a lot of basic fundamentals at its best.That’s not to take away any value to him as a fighter. Being basic is never a necessarily a  bad thing. In fact, Choi’s basics are relatively strong, and it produces results.


Choi is really good at throwing his long stiff jab from a distance while moving at an angle. It’s a basic movement yet effective for setting up other offensive routes. Choi was able to fire this off on multiple occasions against Swanson to interrupt him advancements.

choi jab comp.gif
Choi stepping out at an angle to throw the jab. 

Choi does a solid job of firing shots when opponents don’t expect. He’ll often apply movements in subtle bobs and shoulder movements to sneak his shots through. The lateral step out at an angle helps ensure he’s moving away from possible straight punches coming down his centerline.

 Back and Forth Battle 

This fight came down to a battle of timing throughout a majority of this fight. Most of Choi’s offensive success relied on timing as he tried to prob with the jab or throw a simultaneous cross, however, it became clear to Swanson he had to deal with this. Choi didn’t always get his timing down to land that jab or his simultaneous cross as Swanson was able to shut down Choi’s offensive tools with by timing his own counters against him. For example, when Swanson recognized the urgency for countering that jab, he would constantly look to throw a slipping lead hook in an attempt to catch Choi’s jab.

cub lead hook comp.gif
Swanson taking his head off the centerline to throw the lead hook counter against a jab. 

One of the typical openings when a fighter fires their jab is that they tend to drop their rear guard. Swanson used that opportunity to land a few times to exploit Choi’s opening using a lead hook.

This wasn’t always the case as though, Choi would also find his timing too and catch Swanson even before he could fire off his check hook. This was indeed a battle of timing.

choi counters cub's check hook with a quick jab and retreat.gif
Choi times a jab before Swanson can fire off his lead hook counter.

The Deadly Right Hand 

Choi’s famously regarded right hand come into play several times during this fight. He was able to land a few simultaneous cross counters at Swanson. This appears to be one of Choi’s favorite counters as he’s been able to knock out other opponents from throwing a well-timed right hand. He’ll often need to plant his feet and ground himself in order to fire it off.

choi timing cross final.gif

Choi didn’t always land this consistently though. Most of Choi’s success came from timing his cross during Swanson’s kick attempt. It was a different story though when it came down to Swanson approaching into the boxing range. Choi couldn’t quite find his rhythm with his counters. A lot of this is attributed to Swanson’s offensive ability.

An interesting thing to consider from this fight was that Swanson’s corner suggested Choi didn’t know how to fight moving back, as a result, you saw Swanson constantly moving forward to punish Choi’s lack of ability to fight on the retreat. In all fairness, Choi does possess some degree of effective countering while on the retreat. It’s enough to mitigate some opponent’s pressuring forward.

choi back step lead hook comp fixed.gif
Choi countering on the retreat.

However, when it came down to Swanson coming in with volume, he was able to exploit Choi’s openings. Choi’s counters are usually good for one or two shots, but if the opponent continues forward beyond that window of opportunity, he’s left vulnerable. This proved to be a difficult endeavor for Choi to get his counters going.

It appears the more alternative assessment of this situation was that Choi couldn’t get his cross counter to land consistently because of Swanson’s offensive ability. To clarify, fundamentally speaking, it’s good to use lateral movement and head movement off your centerline when going on the offensive. This allows you to bypass possible counters the opponent will throw at your centerline as you advance forward. This played a big role in explaining why Choi couldn’t find success countering as Cub moved in.

cub moves from centerline.gif
Swanson Advancing forward offensively taking his head of his centerline. 

cub centerline.png

Swanson was able to land so consistently due to his head movement while pressing forward with the offense. Choi is generally aiming at the centerline while moving back to counter so he couldn’t land his shots against a offensively sound approach from Swanson. Swanson’s corner seemed to have picked up that Choi could not effectively answer Swanson’s offense, and as a result, Swanson cranked up the pressure.

Continue on into [part 2] where we look at some of the best aspects of this fight looking at Swanson’s signature offensive strategies and interesting moments from his experience.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s