Monday, August 19, 2013

Chael Sonnen Vs Mauricio "Shogun" Rua: A Lesson In Patterns

Chael gets a 1st round victory for the first time in the UFC

Not just against anyone, but former 205lb Light Heavyweight Champion Maurico "Shogun" Rua on UFC Fight Night on Fox Sports 1.

It wasn't by ground and pound nor was it even by knock out, it was by submission. Chael has always been critical of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the guard, and the whole submission game but that's more to create controversy. So how did it all transpire?

He trains MMA, which includes BJJ. Most notably his main BJJ coach has been Vinny Magalhaes in his previous fights.

In a previous article about Sergio Moraes's transition to MMA, I spoke extensively about patterns and behavior and like all human beings, fighters can be a slave to their patterns. This is where proper game planning comes in, you look for patterns in your opponent and you create a plan to exploit those set patterns (and you hope their game plan doesn't involve changing their patterns to exploit yours).

Chael Sonnen, due to his frequency of getting submitted had a very underrated submission game going into this fight. Few would have expected him to win in this manner, as Shogun is a fighter known for his Jiu Jitsu, not just in defense but also in offense. But Chael only has to submit him once, he doesn't need to roll with him every day at the academy. To win this fight, if there was a weakness that he saw, it need only work once to be effective.

Mauricio Rua had only been submitted twice in his career. One was more due to exhaustion in his rear naked choke loss to Forrest Griffin. The other from 2003, in the IFC against Renato Sobral. How did he lose? Guillotine choke.


Opening takedown to half guard
Chael is known for getting quick takedowns in the opening stanza of the fight. As Shogun is a fighter who looks to use the opening moments to move around and feel his opponent out, it's a perfect opportunity for a Sonnen double leg.

Immediately Shogun gets to deep half guard and hooks the leg of Sonnen. This is something Shogun has used in almost every fight, he used it against Lyoto Machida in both fights, against Dan Henderson, and he used it to work leg lock attempts against Kevin Randleman and Jon Jones.

Patterns emerge for both fighters

Failed lateral drop attempt
Shogun works his way back up, as he is fantastic in using the cage to get back to his feet. Sonnen sets him up for an inside trip to set up a lateral drop.

In this instance it wasn't so much Shogun taking Sonnen down, as it was Sonnen being out of position for the throw. One of the problems of this throw is it's a sacrifice throw. You can sometimes end up on bottom.

All Shogun had to do as the bigger man was to bully Sonnen onto the mat. But Sonnen believes in this move.

Against Demian Maia

Sonnen had over/under clinch against Maia, and he's good at throwing opponents from that position. Especially the lateral drop.

Demian for his part, as soon as they ended up in this situation was quick to trip Sonnen into a mounted triangle. This was proper game planning on Maia's part and the part of his team.

First guillotine attempt
On the ground Sonnen goes for his first guillotine attempt. This was unusual for Sonnen as he usually tries to out wrestle his opponent from the bottom or tries to stand up.

He gave up on the attempt right away, he didn't insist on it long enough for his opponent to think anything of it. It was more of a sign of his thought process, he was going to actively seek the guillotine from here on out.
Second guillotine attempt
Shogun has a habit of burying his head when he's ground fighting. From top or bottom he buries his head to control the base of his opponent.

This time Sonnen committed to the guillotine grip and went for an arm-in guillotine choke.
More escape than sweep
The announcers called it a sweep but as you can see from the leg positions, Sonnen isn't using the choke grip to butterfly hook sweep Shogun over (hooking a foot under Shogun to roll him over).

In fact he is arching his back to put leverage on Shogun's neck. Sonnen just didn't have control of Shogun's leg to prevent him from jumping out of the move.

Shogun swept himself to escape the choke.
Second lateral drop attempt
More patterns emerge as Sonnen goes for the lateral drop again.

I previously mentioned that he believes in this move and this time he was in the right position and he got the takedown as Shogun was trying to bully Sonnen onto the mat again.
Deep half guard again
Shogun buries his head under Sonnen and goes for the deep half guard one more time.

As Sonnen believes in his ability to throw off of the clinch, Shogun believes in his deep half guard from the bottom. Even when it got him pummeled underneath Jon Jones.
Shogun choose half guard over full butterfly
There was a moment in the fight Shogun had full butterfly guard. He then opts to put himself in the half guard to sweep or stand up again.

Eventually they transitioned back to guard but Shogun's preference for the half guard, his set pattern of behavior as a fighter is emerging.

The difference is Sonnen seems to have planned a counter for this behavior.
Final guillotine attempt

They ended up in the half guard one more time as the round comes to an end. Shogun buries his head under Sonnen's armpit one more looking to trip/single leg from bottom and end up on top. Sonnen goes for his 3rd and final guillotine attempt.

With the arm positioning, Sonnen can't stop Shogun from getting on top or standing up so Sonnen uncharacteristically jumps guard to finish the choke. He believes in this move, he kept going for this move, this move was part of his game plan.

Against Renato "Babalu" Sobral

In watching the Renato "Babalu" Sobral vs Shogun fight, Babalu constantly goes for the guillotine choke much like Sonnen did. Shogun kept going for the deep half guard.

In the end, Shogun gets up on top with the deep half guard to trip, and Babalu stands up with the choke and jumps guard and finishes.

Exactly the same way Chael Sonnen did.

Irony is that Shogun and Babalu trained together at King's MMA. I believe Shogun's plan was to counter wrestle if he could and showcase his striking that he developed with Freddie Roach. The "Bad Guy" Chael Sonnen had other ideas and finished the match with one of the best pro wrestling style interviews in UFC history calling out Wanderlei Silva.

Sam Yang from an early age has been obsessed with connecting the dots between martial arts and efficiency, health, mindset, business, science, and habits to improve optimal well-being. For more info, join his newsletter. You can also connect to Inner BJJ on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. I like it. I read this. It's well written. I will read them again in the future if he makes more, I promise.

  2. I believe Sonnen was actually going for an inside trip and not a lateral drop when he ended up on bottom. Other wise, it was a great well written article

    1. "Shogun works his way back up, as he is fantastic in using the cage to get back to his feet. Sonnen sets him up for an inside trip to set up a lateral drop."

      Yes I noticed that as well.



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