Kenny Florian, top, and Mario Delgado spar in preparation for Florian’s UFC championship fight against BJ Penn. Gretchen Ertl for the Boston Herald
Dan Duggan at the Boston Herald has a great piece today on Kenny Florian as he prepares for his UFC title fight this weekend. He tracks Kenny’s evolution from a Boston College grad with a professional job into the top contender for the UFC lightweight title.
It’s not been a straight path. He’s seen three big defeats, but like a true jiu jitsu blackbelt he’s leveraged each of them into something better. He lost his first big MMA fight in 2004 to future-UFC regular Drew Fickett, but so impressed UFC President Dana White that he got a place on The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show. He made it to the finals of the show, but lost again, this time to Diego Sanchez. Once more, his pluck won him the offer for future fights in the UFC. A series of three wins got him a title shot in 2006 against Sean Sherk. After a five round battle, Kenny came up short for the third time in his career. Yet again he rebounded and after six straight wins has earned another title shot this Saturday night against jiu jitsu legend BJ Penn.
As Dan makes clear, Kenny has moved forward in his career by getting smarter, not meaner. After each defeat, he’s added new skills to his arsenal. And he’s done so by finding the best teachers, including Roberto Maia for jiu jitsu, Darryl Gholar and Alejo Morales for wrestling, and over the last five years Mark DellaGrotte for Muay Thai. He’s complemented his increasing mastery of skills with a dedication to conditioning and diet. Smart, skilled and dedicated, that’s a combination for success!
Kenny seems to be confident and relaxed with this combination. I’ve known Kenny for the last year or two (although I can’t claim to be more than an acquaintance). I happened to be in his neighborhood last week and stopped by the gym. Kenny saw me outside and waved me in to watch he and Mario Delgado rolling. No secrecy, no tension, no nerves. Just a couple of athletes passing pointers back and forth.
Reviewing strategies and discussing techniques they sounded more like a pair of high school wrestlers discussing an upcoming tournament, than the top ranked contender preparing for the fight of his career. As Kenny said afterward, training is like an airplane flight. He’s been at high altitude and now he’s got his feet back on the ground. He’s ready for the next step in his journey.
Robb Wolf linked to some of the capoeira-inspired floreio improvisation his friend Ido Portal is developing. It’s great stuff, but demands a high level of gymnastics skill (more than I currently possess or aspire to).
But, looking through Ido’s site I came across a set of basic locomotion drills he uses for warm up and conditioning. I’ve been wanting some different ways to mobilize prior to doing jiu jitsu and there’s a lot in here that’s useful. Some of these skills are familiar like the duck walk and the lizard walk, while others are new to me, like the horse and ostrich walks. Ido notes that the routine includes:
many different kinds of locomotion, in various challenging positions – on your hands, while squatting, crawling close to the ground, with locked knees, in a wide sumo-stance, etc…
Each movement provides a different and valuable component in the workout, from mobility to strength endurance, stabilization and more.
I’ve embedded the Beginner’s Version of these drills as a starting point, but do take a look at Ido’s piece and see the intermediate and advanced progressions. The dynamic stretching and warm up from these drills is a much better way to get going than static stretches.
A non-stop full-court press gives weak basketball teams a chance against far stronger teams. Why have so few adopted it?
Meticulous observer of the overlooked insight, Malcolm Gladwell, focuses on a first-time coach in a middle school girls basketball league. Starting with an under-sized team of inexperienced girls, he put together a winning season that took them all the way to the national championships, by keeping a full court press on their opponents for the whole game.
It’s a classic jiu jitsu strategy–don’t fight your opponent’s strength. Find a weakness, obtain leverage by throwing them off balance and then press home your attack.
One of the two creators of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (along with his older brother Carlos), the 95 year old Helio Gracie passed away last week. Because of his smaller size (< 150 pounds), Helio was forced to adapt the traditional Japanese judo he learned from his brother.
He emphasized leverage and technique to overcome superior strength and size. It was effective. His son Royce used the Gracie techniques to win three of the first four UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) contests, routinely defeating opponents 40-50 pounds heavier than he.
Helio was no stranger to overmatched contests. In a classic martial arts battle from 1951, he fought Masahiko Kimura, the undefeated All Japan Judo champion for the past 13 years. Kimura, who outweighed Gracie by over 40 pounds, had declared that the match would not go over 3 minutes. It took 13 minutes, but in the end with Helio’s arm injured by a “kimura” arm lock, his brother Carlos threw in the towel to end the match.