Aaron Jeffery: Success from Suffering

Aaron Jeffery
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 16: Aaron Jeffery of Canada warms up backstage during Dana White's Contender Series at the UFC Apex on July 16, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/DWCS LLC)

Aaron Jeffery is hardly a man to toot his own horn. When asked to describe his striking style, he responded that “I always say I am equally bad at everything. I never began with a certain martial art and transitioned to MMA, so I have an equal skillset all-around. I am gritty, I move more than average for a big guy, and I have cardio and like to push the pace.” When asked about which areas he was working on in the future, he simply remarked “Everything”.

When asked about where he had improved the most lately, his response was “Hair. I’m always working every aspect of my MMA game, but I recently introduced a mullet.” The famous Canadian reticence at work.

But when he was asked about the MMA fighter he most looked up to, the middleweight said something more revealing: “I admire the guys at my gym more than the famous ones. I don’t know what the famous guys do on a day-to-day basis, but I do see the guys at my gym daily. I see the work and dedication they put into the sport. I like to think I am similar to Cain Velasquez, just with fewer takedowns: move forward, clinch, dirty box.” According to Jeffery, clinch-grinding has been one of his primary strategies going all the way back to his amateur days.

Certainly, grinding his opponent out in the clinch and against the cage worked well for Jeffery, getting him all the way to the Dana White Contender Series. But that was simply not enough to trump a fighter of Brendan Allen‘s caliber. The IMMAF veteran handily outclassed Jeffery in the clinch; where Jeffery sought to pressure him to the cage and apply his A-game, Allen seized the double collar tie and pounded away with heavy knees.

Jeffery proved to be a slippery customer and very difficult to take down. He even seemed to have Allen backing up at one point under a flurry of punches. But nine times out of ten, knees in the clinch beat hooks in the clinch and a final knee from the double collar tie achieved what Allen’s takedowns could not. As Jeffery crumpled to the ground Allen pounced on top control, eventually transitioning to a rear-naked choke for the win.

Most fighters would have been seriously discouraged by a first-round defeat on such a big stage. But the reticent Canadian seemed to bounce back even more strongly. Jeffery would put together three finish victories on the trot since, leading up to a CFFC title shot against the arm-triangle king Collin Huckbody. This fight will be televised tonight at CFFC 93 on UFC Fightpass at 1 AM GMT. CFFC 92 results are available here.

Aaron Jeffery: Versus Young Huck

Aaron Jeffery certainly has some excellent tools to disarm a submission threat of Huckbody’s caliber. Not only did he display excellent takedown defense against Allen, a dangerous wrestler in his own right, but Jeffery’s also shown good submission defense. Dennis Olson sold out on a guillotine and seemed to have it locked in completely. However, Jeffery maintained his composure and slowly extracted himself without panicking. Even if the opponent gets him down, Jeffery is hard to keep down and is a solid wall-walker.

More importantly, Jeffery has become far more aggressive in the clinch than he was previously. He’s transitioned away from a dirty-boxing heavy style to a more offense-first approach, centering around knees. He now prefers to use either double collar ties or a single collar tie and a single under or overhook to drive in knees. When in the former position he can go for the head, while in the latter he can knee the body while protecting himself from takedowns. Andre Petroski was undefeated going into their fight at LFA 93 but Jeffery tore him to pieces with heavy knees to the body and head, finishing him in the second round.

Jeffery certainly displays the skillset necessary to negate Huckbody’s best phases and give himself more margin for error while imposing his own weapons. Whether or not he’ll be able to execute remains to be seen.

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Aaron Jeffery: Room for Improvement?

However, there are still some important ways Aaron Jeffery could develop. The first is that while he has good outside movement (as he puts it, he “moves more than average for a big guy”) he doesn’t have very many developed outside tools beyond a workmanlike jab. His best offensive weapons are generally in the clinch, so his movement is largely a waste of energy. If he developed his jab further and was able to build off of it better, he would go from simply having anti-wrestling tools to being a very hard matchup for wrestlers.

The second vulnerability is a bit more complex. Jeffery doesn’t have a particularly weak ranged defense but when he’s worried about defending against takedowns it can suffer. Andre Petroski seemingly couldn’t miss with any of his big left hands out in the open, and Jeffery remarked in an interview with The MMA Report that he was so worried about the takedowns that his striking defense suffered. There’s no easy way to fix this; Jeffery just has to recognize that his anti-wrestling toolkit is already strong and allow that to take care of itself while he focuses on striking on the feet. Huckbody will doubtless test this area of Jeffery’s game.

However taciturn he may be when it comes to his approach to fighting, Jeffery is very clear about his true objective. When asked about what his long-term goal is, there was no doubt. “UFC is always the goal. Any fighter outside of the UFC is trying to be there, and that’s where I want to be.”

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