Petr Yan’s Knockout of Urijah Faber: What can we learn?

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Petr Yan‘s knockout of Urijah Faber took place at in the first minute of the third round via head kick. Yan (14-1) was able to control where the fight took place, and punished Faber (35-11) every time he attempted a take down. Yan made sure to stay on the front foot and pressured Faber into the cage. This limited Fabers options of retreat and making him an easier target for Yan’s big shots.

Petr Yan’s Clinch Dominance

Yan managed to force Faber to shoot into the open, where he would dig for an underhook and grab a collar tie. Yan was able to stuff all attempts at his hips through the underhook. The collar tie allowed Yan to control the direction of Faber’s body as well as his posture. Yan also utilized this position to offer punishing elbows and punches to Faber on the break. In fact some of Yan’s most devastating strikes came from the transition from the clinch into open space.

Faber did a good job initially of keeping Yan guessing by mixing up his strikes. Unfortunately for Faber, Yan had realized the biggest threat was the overhand right. Faber did land a beautiful lead knee early on but found less success with his strikes as the fight continued. In the first clinch Faber was the one throwing on the break. The very next clinch exchange Yan was able to land a left uppercut into the clinch. At that point Faber attempted a jump knee but received a right had over the top. The punch appeared to hurt Faber and set the tone for the rest of the fight.

Yan’s Sprawls and Power

The second round started with Yan using feints to get Faber to the cage. After a flurry by Yan, Faber was able to intercept and use double underhooks to push Yan against the cage. While pressed up against the cage Yan bent forward and offered his neck, which Faber took. Yan was then able to push forward off the cage and fight Faber’s hands and get off the cage.

At space Yan was able to see Faber’s strikes and level changes coming. Using his distance Yan was able to avoid any danger. The Russian showed excellent balance and hip control in stuffing a well timed single leg attempt by Faber. The first knockdown occurred after Yan had corralled Faber against the cage. By limiting Fabers retreat, Yan was able to catch him with a one-two-three combination that snapped the veterans head back and sent Faber to the canvas.

Faber managed to turtle and get back to his his feet. The two engaged in more strikes before Faber attempted another single leg. Yan was able to stuff it and slap on a single collar tie on the right side. As the clinch broke Yan threw a right elbow over the top that sent Faber to the floor once again. This was also the strike that caused the huge amounts of swelling over Faber’s eye.

Faber’s Incredible Durability

Somehow Faber was able to endure the strikes on the ground and make it back to his feet. Yan then grabbed a body lock and threw Faber over his hips and jumped into Faber’s guard. This was the point in the match where referee Keith Peterson interrupted to have the doctors look at the damage Faber sustained. With the reset happening back in guard Faber managed to threaten Yan’s legs and used Yan’s reaction to the threat to stand up. The two danced around each other throwing strikes, Yan manged to knock Faber’s head back with an lead left hook almost sending him to the canvas again. Towards the end of the round Faber managed to stuff a double leg attempt. Yan then transitioned to a body lock and secured the take down by throwing Faber over his hips.

Yan’s Killer Instinct

The final round opened up with Yan looking to press his advantage. The Russian managed to back Faber into the cage again and began landing hard shots. Once Yan landed a particularly nasty head kick Faber began swarming in, collapsing into a clinch once again. The two wrestled for a moment until Yan was able to gain both underhooks and break free. On the break Yan threw a knee that turned into a front kick to the face. This strike sent Faber to the canvas once again and referee Kieth Peterson was forced to step in.

Petr Yan’s knockout over Urijah Faber shows us the value that strikes from the clinch break offer. When you are clinching the opponent is focused on wrestling and their strike defense is non-existent. This offers a fighter the perfect opportunity to land hard short shots clean. Yan exemplifies this by offering punishment at every opportunity. His focus on the underhook and single collar tie allowed him to deny any attempts at his hips. The underhook also denied any attempts at securing a bodylock. The collar tie allowed him to disrupt any drives forward by changing Fabers posture. The collar tie is also what gave Yan the openings to land his more devastating shots.

The new anti-wrestling king?

Yan is a perfect example of the evolution of sprawl and brawl. Where in the past a fighter with a striking advantage would focus on getting their hips to the mat, Yan has showed us the value of stopping takedowns before that point. Yan is a master of knowing where he is in relation to his opponent. He will use fakes and feints to cover distance or move his opponent into a more advantageous position. This awareness also comes into play with his takedown defense. Distance is the primary takedown defense. If the opponent cannot grab you then they cannot take you down. Yan has shown his understanding of this concept.

In his rematch with Magomed Magomedov (16-1) at ACB 57: Payback, Yan showed the development of his clinch wrestling game. Yan largely used a left whizzer and maintained bicep control on the other side to stop Magomedov from being able to complete any takedowns. We also saw the power of Yan’s hips and balance as he stuffed shot after shot from Magomedov. We also saw the gap between wrestling defense and clinch offense. When Yan would like to inflict damage he would move to a double collar tie. When Yan was defending wrestling he would use the whizzer and bicep control. This meant he would either be defending takedowns or offering punishment. In the Faber fight we saw the marriage of this which allowed Yan to both defend and punish in the same engagement.

Deadly Combination of Skills

Yan has used his thai kickboxing and sambo training to develop an evolved version of Jose Aldo styled anti-wrestling. It should be no surprise that the Russian has spent time with the Featherweight GOAT developing his takedown defense. Yan has the mix of skills and knowledge to make the 26 year old a considerable threat to any wrestler in his division. Petr Yan’s knockout of Urijah Faber shows that he is a legitimate threat to anyone in the division.

Petr Yan’s knockout of Faber show’s the danger he presents to the current champ.

So with this mix of techniques how would Yan fair in a fight with current champion Henry Cejudo (15-2)? Well for the most part things look promising. Peter Yan’s knockout of Urijah Faber gives us some inklings of how things might go. Cejudo is a far more credentialed wrestler than Faber with an evolved striking game. But the important thing is to look at where those take downs take place. For the most part Cejudo likes to use the body lock to force an inside trip against opponents. This has served him well in the flyweight division where his strength and size allowed him to physically dominate opponents. Yan is considerably bigger than Cejudo and as we have discussed before is good at denying bodylocks.

In terms of striking things do not fair better. Yan is an orthodox fighter and tends to keep stance which denies Cejudo a lot of his offensive abilities, like the lead body kick, which will not be on the open side against Yan. The line of attack for Cejudo’s right hand is also disrupted by Yan’s stance. Factor in Yan’s ability to feint and push forward and we can see how the double champion may get pushed to the fence and punished there.

Champion in the Making

It is also worth noting that while Cejudo is an accomplished wrestler his top game largely consists of laying on his opponent. It is unlikely that Cejudo will manage to do anything more than score points and rest if he manages to take Yan down. If the two do meet in the octagon, it will be tough for Cejudo to get his game off. Petr Yan’s knockout of Urijah Faber is the Russians highest profile win, but is also a showcase of some of the most dangerous aspects of his game. All in all Yan stands a good chance of being Bantamweight champion in the near future.

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Sam Ancer is a South African writer and MMA fanatic, he has spent several years training Sanshou, as well as Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

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