Welcome to part 2, if you missed part 1, go [here]
The Theory of the Centerline
One of the core principles of Dominick Cruz’s approach stems from the use of lateral movement for the sake of defensive positioning. Cruz regularly mentions the concept of your centerline by describing the fact that an opponent will often seek to attack your centerline. This is an apparent truth as we regularly see fighters press forward to attack the centerline.
An opponent typically looks to attack the centerline, so by using lateral movement, you take away many of the fighter’s offensive options. Most attacks aren’t well-designed to attack outside of the centerline without the need to readjust, so when you move away from it, the opponent is forced to re-position and reset to try again. This is why Cruz has been so successful when he goes on the defense. He’ll often take away the opponent’s weapons and force them to reset.
Gavin Tucker utilizes lateral movement extremely well to accomplish the same defensive purposes Cruz achieves. We’d often see Tucker move laterally into his Sicilia’s weak side angle to evade his offensive attempts.
Expanding the Idea of Lateral Movement
To wrap your head around this next concept, I want to introduce a common method of moving laterally and re-positioning to a new angle. Check out this example of Frankie Edgar where he steps out laterally with the lead leg and pivots to face the opponent from a new position.
In this kind of lateral movement, it’s a small step that doesn’t cover much distance. Since it doesn’t cover much distance, Edgar does’t have to pivot too much and can reach his new position quickly. While you can reset your position quite quickly with this method, you wont be able to cover as much distance. Check out this example where Cruz uses a wide lateral step and pivots into his new position.
The benefit of this type of movement is that Cruz can cover large distances to avoid a wider variety of offensive approaches. The huge drawback here is that because he’s cover such a large distancing stepping out far, it takes much longer to pivot into a new angle. This kind of movement may not be the most efficient if you’re trying to transition into positions quickly.
The reason why I’ve brought up these types of movements is because it demonstrate an interesting habit about Tucker’s own lateral movement. He doesn’t quite use this type of lateral movement shown above, but he benefits from both the ability to cover large distances while simultaneously re-positioning his angle quickly using his own movement patterns.
If you ever took notice of how Tucker moves, he has a tendency to move laterally while switching his stance to orthodox.
When Tucker’s lead foot hop-steps out laterally, he shifts his rear leg forward. As he does this, he always ends up in the opposite stance. The hop-step allows him to cover large distances laterally while simultaneously re-positioning himself through stance changing. The stance change lets Tucker plant his feet forward pointed towards his opponent. This allows him to go on the offensive right away when he lands. Unlike the previous examples shown above, by moving in this fashion, Tucker can effectively eliminate the need to pivot to a new angle. As a result, this also eliminates the time needed to complete a full pivot which means he can already enter his offensive stance sooner.
The ability to fluidly transition into your new phase of strategy is an important aspect of being efficient. Being stuck too long in a sequence can often mean a world of difference where split-seconds matter.
This is more of a stylistic observation that was intriguing to examine because it showcases a variety of ways fighters can move laterally and highlights the creativity of stance switching in MMA.
Stance switching is habit Tucker often used throughout the fight. Stance switching is another concept highly embraced by Cruz as well because the importance of constantly denying your opponent positional advantages. It’s hard to attack the opponent’s weak side or lead leg when they’re constantly changing their stance.
Tucker has rather nice technique and tight execution. Take a look at how he throws his lead hook, combining a sidestep outside the opponent’s lead foot, a pivot, and lead hook to fire off a sidestepping check hook.
This simple sequence provides Tucker with multiple layers of defensive benefits.
- He moves laterally to bypass possible straight counters down his centerline.
- He moves into the opponent’s weak angle to limit their offensive options.
- He keeps the rear guard up to protect against possible attacks to the side and his chin is tucked behind his shoulder.
- He ends with a pivot as a sound measure to angle off in order to avoid counter followups from his opponent.
- The pivot additionally allows Tucker to moves his head away from the power side in the event he absorbs a power shot, his directional movement will mitigate the damage as he moves away with the attack.
Tucker demonstrated nice moments of escaping tight corners and manipulating where he was in the cage. He would often steer his opponent’s into his own punch or just simply redirect his opponent in order to move away from bad positions where he could potentially get cornered.
There wasn’t a lot that Sam Sicilia could do to secure anything significant in that fight. The constant lateral movement made it that much harder to pursue offensive options like takedowns and strikes. Tucker was able to neutralize grappling exchanges but was rarely within the proper range to allow Sicilia to initiate those moments. He showed a creative ability to lead offensively, and also demonstrated sound defensive moments. Throughout this fight, Tucker was consistently one sequence ahead of Sicilia and had numerous defensive measures preemptively ready just in case he needed to defend threats. A combination of all these things wrote the story of this fight. He may not have been able to finish the fight, but the full rounds he fought gave us a deeper understanding of his capabilities.
This was Gavin Tucker’s first UFC fight where he managed to produce an 89% striking defense rate and is now 10-0 for his MMA record. It’s unknown if he can manage to keep this high, but the style he has puts an interesting spin on the division as there aren’t too many fighters who implement a hybrid approach of this manner.
Fighters like these tend to stand out because they appear to confuse many people upon their performance with their seemingly unorthodox approach. The idea behind these types of styles tend to revolve around the fact that the fighter takes what conventional fighters do and use unconventional approaches to shut down their game. Fighters are constantly pushing the game to new heights just as Cruz did in the early stages of his career. It took a while for fans to truly appreciate his craft.
Gavin Tucker is a fighter you should keep your eye out for. Win or lose, seeing how his style clashes with others in the division will be quite entertaining.
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