Last week was crazy. The horrors in Paris, the suicide bombing in Lebanon, and an earthquake followed by a tsunami in Japan all made the weekend a somber one. My heart and thoughts go out to all those affected, and may peace find the victims.
As a coping mechanism, some of us turn to entertainment. In Melbourne, Australia, this past weekend, UFC 193 shocked fight fans around the world. It’s significance is so small compared to the other events of the week, but it was no less momentous for the martial arts community. UFC 193 was historic before the main card even started. It broke attendance and pay per view records. It featured up and coming talent fulfilling and building upon their potential. Four women headlined the card, a feat that wasn’t thought possible a decade ago. Before the main event, the co-main event featured a champion showing high level striking skills against a tough and very underrated contender. That fight was the best so far but couldn’t break free of the main event. The main event, the biggest upset in MMA history, is all that is being focused on right now. For good reason, Holly Holm did what many thought impossible. Not only did she defeat Ronda Rousey, she did so in a way that no one can deny. While the UFC determines how to recover from this devastating blow to their transcendant star, the MMA world will analyze, debate, and guess. My hope is that they don’t forget about the rest of this fantastic card. And hopefully Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s star continues to rise.
Russ Haas, owner and head instructor at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy in Boca Raton, FL, was watching the fight as well. With his background in the martial arts, Russ’s analytical mind started computing, and he wrote a great article that I’m lucky enough to host for him. Russ has third degree black belts in Counterpoint Tactical System, Cacoy Doce Pares, and Ed Parker’s American Kenpo Karate. He has training in a variety of other arts as well. In this article, his experience and insights show how CTS principles are effective.
Counterpoint Tactical System Related Fundamentals Used by Holly Holm to Defeat Ronda Rousey
by Russ Haas
Success or failure in combat is a fine line. At the highest level, skills are matched, and tactics make the difference. During their championship fight, Holm used some outstanding tactics to keep Rousey at bay and then finally knocked her senseless. Once the fight began, I noticed similarities between my Counterpoint Tactical System training and Holly Holm’s game plan to defeat Ronda Rousey. The five most important are: 1. relaxation, 2. well trained distance (all distances), 3. sipa kicks and stiff jabs, 4. score first, and 5. position control in grappling (both standing and on the ground). These five things that Holm did would be a natural part of any well practiced CTS practitioners’ arsenal. Of course, many of these principles are used in myriad different systems/ styles in martial arts and fight sport. My goal is to highlight those that fell into specific CTS curriculum and discuss some over-riding principles that are touched on.
First off, I want to make it clear that Holly Holm does not train in Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS), and I have no knowledge that she ever trained in any Filipino Martial Art (FMA) system/ style or any eastern martial art for that matter, and I don’t know her wrestling/ ground fighting background. I don’t even know if she even knows of the existence of FMA. She is a boxer first and foremost as far as I know. With that being said; I noticed that she was able to employ many CTS tactics that led to her eventual destruction of Ronda Rousey. Further, I would like to acknowledge that I am not a big UFC fan and not a fan of RR or HH. I definitely appreciate their skill sets though, and I think that in this bout, Ms. Rousey simply got beat on this day. While there is evidence that RR made some tactical errors leading up to and during the fight (maybe another article?) that led to her demise, I think she could easily avoid repeating those mistakes and emerge victorious in the inevitable face-saving rematch (no, I am not predicting a RR victory in a rematch, just conceding that they are fairly evenly matched). The focus of this article is simply to point out the things that HH did that would be a natural part of any well practiced CTS practitioners’ arsenal.
CTS principle – Relax and have fun; enjoy the process
As I said, success or failure in combat is a fine line, it begins with your approach, and the first notable difference between the two occurred at the weigh in. Following her weight announcement, Rousey takes run at Holm and (later expressed that she) was surprised that Holm had a fist in her face. Good on Holly for drawing a line in the sand. This was followed (in interview with that loudmouth Rogan) by Holm laughter and humility. She was having fun. On the other hand, Rousey responded with high intensity trash talking. I will skip my tirade about how a true martial artist like RR did not touch gloves. We are practicing violent actions, if you allow them to wind you up, they will grind you down.
You can watch the weigh in if you like. I apologize in advance for the following sexist remark – they are easy to look at – and Joe Rogan’s carnival barker voice.
CTS principle – Control the Distance
At the onset, the understanding of space/distance (that same space that was successfully defended at the weigh-in by HH) was clear. I wouldn’t call the footwork revolutionary, but the distance was well trained. My students at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy know that I LOVE that Holm is fighting strong side (right) forward. My Dad taught me to put my best foot forward and I believe that martial artists should follow this advice.
CTS principle – Sipa kicks and jabs
Early on we see Holm use the sipa kick, which is a signficant FMA tool, to gauge distance. Holm’s game plan returned repeatedly to jabbing and sipa kicking. After grappling exchanges, Holm jabbed. When Ronda pressed, Holm’s sipa kicked. These tools kept Ronda out of the range in which she fights best.
CTS principle – Score First
Holm hammering the bridge of RR’s nose with a left elbow was the first significant blow of the fight, and it happens at 0:53 seconds in the first round. Following that shot we see some desperation on the part of RR as she tries to force some stuff against the cage. Then suddenly we see numerous HH jabs landing. By scoring first, Holm challenged Ronda Rousey’s ENTIRE belief system. Zach Whitson, founder and senior practitioner of the Counterpoint Tactical System, always taught me to “…give them something to think about. Make the opponent question their thought process.” Because as Iron Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
Warning! Offensive language in this Richard Pryor clip:
CTS principle – Position Control in Grappling
When we get a Rousey takedown Ms. Holm stays calm, establishes her base and becomes very difficult to lock up. This leads to more sipa kicks (referred to as “oblique” kick by Joe Rogan, which is the terminology that I learned in Jeet Kune Do) and more jabs being scored. This led to additional pressing by RR and, in turn, her eating a bunch of straight left cross/elbows. Rousey was losing her head (up to this point, this is purely figurative). Holm even scored a takedown, which makes no sense given RR’s Judo background. At 4:45 in the first round, you see some outstanding stand up grappling in the application of an over hook (cradle) that dampens RR’s knee attempts. At the end of round one, the shot fired by RR after the horn was clearly inadvertent but telling when coupled with not touching gloves.
You know you’re in trouble when you go to your corner with your face looking like a half chewed hamburger and you coach has to tell you to keep BOTH hands up. RR came out of her corner dejected and, quite frankly, incapable of getting herself together. Your average karate (side kick), or TKD fighter (round kick to the head) was going to put her down (now almost “literally” losing her head). In one round, Holm had defeated her using tactics common to what I’ve learned. When I look back at the fight to assess what happened, I find the five similarities to CTS:
2. Well trained distance (all distances)
3. Sipa kicks and stiff jabs
4. Score first
5. Position and control in grappling (both standing and on the ground)
This fight is nowhere near the greatest upset of all time, but in CTS we are always looking for ways to be better that are not based on size and strength. Holm’s fundamentals are shared by the Counterpoint Tactical System that can help anyone, even if your opponent is universally thought to be better than you. These tactics used by Holly Holm to defeat Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 for the Women’s Bantamweight Championship should provide encouragement for all CTS devotees.