It looked like the end of the road for Beneil Dariush. Yes, he was on a really neat little streak there – seven fights against pretty rough competition in a difficult division. He’d even gotten as high as #3 with a win over an over ranked, shot to pieces Tony Ferguson. But Dariush is still extremely slow, despite his good power and chin. Coming off of an ankle injury, surely the up-and-coming former KSW double champion Mateusz Gamrot would blow him out of the water?
Well, now it’s an eight-fight win streak with a damn fine case for a title shot. So we should probably look at how Beneil Dariush gave Gamrot a pretty good schooling.
— Mateusz Gamrot (@gamer_mma) October 25, 2022
Dariush vs Gamrot: Early Troubles
As the first round started, it seemed like Gamrot’s peculiarities were built to exploit Dariush’s main weapon. Dariush is a southpaw who heavily prefers the roundhouse kick to the body. Coming from a southpaw against an orthodox, this is a powerful kick that’s difficult to defend and builds attritional damage. However, it has two main weaknesses. The first is that it’s less useful against another southpaw. This is because the stance matchup becomes closed again, with the body better protected. The second is that it’s a very easy kick to punish with a takedown.
Gamrot switches stances often when striking, and can shoot a takedown from either stance. When Dariush rushed in early to back Gamrot up and threw a kick when Gamrot was in southpaw himself, Gamrot shot at the same time, caught the kick, and bundled Dariush over. But it was here that Dariush’s extremely deep skillset started to present problems for the former KSW champ.
Dariush has a multilayered approach to takedown defence, which is important for a very slow fighter who both employs pressure frequently while also using those kicks to the body. The primary layer of takedown defence from an MMA fighter is distance, and the second layer is keeping the opponent away from your legs. Dariush essentially compromises both with his style, so being able to rely on further layers is vital. Jorge Masvidal used body kicks and had excellent defensive jiu-jitsu and a great get-up game along the fence, for instance. However, Dariush was another beast entirely – a legitimate former No-Gi world champion in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Dariush vs Gamrot: Scrambled Action
Whenever Dariush got taken down in this fight, he would employ an alternating series of tactics. He would first work to separate and get back up, and when Gamrot adapted to that he would immediately change to either scrambling for a different position or attacking a potential submission or sweep. Then he would go back to trying to find separation. Dariush never settled and never stopped moving. Eventually, Dariush would get an opportunity to get back up to his feet and make a mad dash to the fence to break Gamrot’s bodylock.
Dariush leaving himself that backdoor at all times meant that even when Gamrot started winning the scrambles Dariush could bail out and get the fight back on the feet. Gamrot was never able to properly adjust to Dariush’s shifting methods. During all of these sequences, Gamrot was rarely getting the opportunity to start scoring himself by landing ground and pound.
Gamrot did try to employ a similar tactic to the one he had used with success against their mutual opponent Carlos Diego Ferreira. Whereas Ferreira could defend against Gamrot on the feet and sprawled whenever Gamrot shot, Gamrot began throwing punches immediately after a sprawl and clocked Ferreira each time. When Dariush broke the bodylock Gamrot immediately started throwing punches with Dariush’s guard down using the same principle, landing hard shots. However, by the end of the first, Dariush had adapted to this tactic by immediately raising his guard as soon as the lock broke.
Dariush spent most of the fight picking his targets very carefully. Rather than throwing the rear kick to the body when Gamrot was also in southpaw, Dariush started throwing it to the leg – a difficult target in southpaw/orthodox, but a much easier one in southpaw/southpaw. In the second round, he also began using the jab against a southpaw Gamrot, and the lead left straight against an orthodox Gamrot. Despite Gamrot being the one who was switching in this fight, it was Dariush who seemed far more ready to capitalise on the changing situations. Every time a tool became harder to use because of Gamrot’s stance, Dariush swapped it for one that Gamrot had made easier to use.
Gamrot’s main advantage in his grappling is how far his primary shot can reach. Gamrot uses the extremely rare low single as his main takedown. It is dangerous because it makes the fighter vulnerable to knees on the way in, but it allows him maximum range. As long as Gamrot can get to your ankle, he’s confident he can win the ensuing scramble and get to work. However, since Dariush has to compensate for his style making takedowns riskier to begin with, this advantage of Gamrot’s was basically irrelevant. Gamrot’s most significant takedowns were in the first round, both off of caught kicks.
With Gamrot unable to properly establish his wrestling, it also meant that Dariush was never properly deterred from his kicking game – after all, he could completely negate everything that Gamrot was doing. As the fight went into the second round, Dariush started getting a better measure on Gamrot’s takedowns and sprawling in time to break off and disengage. He even had the confidence to begin uncorking a few short, sharp intercepting knees to the body as Gamrot came in, keeping the hips back enough to still fight off the shot. By the end of the fight, Gamrot had only completed four of his nineteen takedown attempts, and had never reached a stable position in any of them.
Dariush vs Gamrot: Late Action
Dariush’s success forced Gamrot to start applying his own pressure more and more aggressively. Dariush is not particularly known for good striking defence, but his head movement looked excellent against Gamrot’s repeated straight punching. The lack of diversity in Gamrot’s own offence and his reluctance to just try grinding Dariush against the cage meant that he couldn’t just swamp him in volume. If anything, Dariush’s own bodywork seemed to prevent Gamrot from being as active as he was against Tsarukyan.
Gamrot’s best moments came from singular grand movements – two pretty deep leglock entries, a good flying knee in the second, and one knee as Dariush recovered from a sprawl. But Gamrot never really found any sort of sustained success in the fight.
As the fight entered the final minutes, Dariush pulled further and further away. He punctuated his success on the feet by knocking Gamrot down with a booming overhand as Gamrot stepped in to kick, though Gamrot used a desperation shot to survive and went the distance. It wasn’t a fairytale ending where Dariush got a fluke finish. He simply was the better fighter from bell-to-bell and shut an accredited up-and-comer out of every area of the game. God speed the plough.