Frankie Edgar: Organized Chaos

UFC 118 had some very technical fights and highlighted again why MMA is the most exciting sport in the world.  The most impressive and technical fight was how UFC Lightweight World Champion Frankie Edgar completely dominated MMA legend BJ Penn in a strategic chess match.

The most impressive thing about Frankie's performance was the brilliance of his game plan.  Frankie kept his game completely unpredictable and erratic.  This strategy of organized chaos is what caused BJ Penn to freeze up.  In fact, by the middle of the fight, BJ Penn completely forgot his own game plan and simply walked forward, trying to find the perfect punch.  An easy way to tell if a fighter's game plan is gone is if he/she turns into an inactive hunter looking for the perfect bomb.  In Thailand, we call this a broken fighter.  A fighter is broken and lost when he completely forgets everything, but a "hail mary" punch.  Frankie displayed a beautiful arsenal of striking, wrestling, and feints to confuse BJ Penn.  Of course, Frankie demonstrated excellent footwork and speed.  However, the real key to his success was his broken rhythm and unpredictability.  For example, Frankie would throw tons of "fake" jabs with lightning speed, but with no real intent of hitting Penn.  His air jabs were often followed up by real jabs and crosses.  He would then fake a takedown before going for a real takedown.  If he felt any resistance to his takedown attempt, he quickly switched gears to Muay Thai and delivered knee strikes, kicks, and punches at close quarters.  Everyone knows that BJ Penn has great balance and flexibility; as such, it almost impossible to take him down.  Knowing this fact, Frankie decided to flow from strikes to takedown attempts to strikes without skipping a beat.  Before UFC 118, every single one of BJ Penn's opponents would go for the single leg takedown and spend a few minutes holding a leg and trying in vain to take Penn down.  And when they failed to do so, they left themselves open to Penn's strikes the second that they let his leg go.  Frankie did the exact opposite.  Even though he would have Penn's leg, he would let it go immediately (without even trying for a real takedown) and use that split second confusion to launch strikes.  Frankie had some great advice from his coaches to stay unpredictable.  Frankie threw combinations at varying speeds and different angles.  Yes, Frankie is fast.  Speed always kills.  But speed with unpredictability destroys and annihilates.

So what is the key lesson from Frankie Edgar's victory?  The key lesson for every martial artist is to break away from a predictable rhythm.  We are all guilty of using our favorite combinations over and over and over again.  In reality, the key to victory lies in your ability to break your opponent's rhythm.  The easiest way to do so is to stay unpredictable.  It means never throwing the same combination of strikes, takedowns, and submission attempts.  It means constantly adding creative combinations to your game.  It means finding an orthodox way to be unorthodox, using different speeds, crazy angles, and every weapon possible.  If Frankie Edgar and his coaches were scientists, we would be calling them Einsteins right now.  They pulled off some crazy mad scientist stuff and they made it look easy.    

Congratulations to Frankie Edgar and his coaches Ricardo Almeida (Renzo Gracie BJJ), Phil Nurse (Muay Thai), and Mark Henry (Boxing)!

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