Last weekend, a perfectly placed liver punch sealed the deal for Vasyl Lomanchenko as he won the WBA (Super) and The Ring lightweight titles, thus becoming the fastest fighter ever to win titles in 3 different weight classes (only 12 professional fights) shattering the previous record of 20 fights, which was held by Jeff Fenech.
His opponent, Jorge Linares (44-4, 27 KOs) was competitive throughout the fight and forced his opponent to weather the storm and survive a knockdown in round 6. This is an amazing feat as Lomachenko is a very elusive fighter. As you will see below, Linares was able to connect with several punches.
The body shot that ended the fight was just the tip of the iceberg as Vasyl targeted the body repeatedly. Body punches have an accumulative effect. As old school boxing coaches often say: “You need to consistently invest in body punches in order to collect interest in the later rounds.”
Body punching is a good way to compromise your opponent’s footwork as fighters tend to slow down when they get repeatedly hit in the body.
I am a big Lomachenko fan as he is an amazing athlete and a very technical fighter. Eastern European boxers have a unique style of boxing based on volume punching or power punching, although in my humble opinion their defense is lacking in head movement and other defensive maneuvers as practiced in North and South America and the UK.
On the other hand “Hi-Tech” is a unique fighter in that he is both aggressive and elusive at the same time and that is why I will keep analyzing his fights in this series on Bloody Elbow.
Weeks ago, in order to provide a technical breakdown of Joshua vs. Parker I struggled to get 7 interesting techniques. With this fight I started with 145, then limited the list to 58 and with great effort I was able to isolate 18 combinations for this post. This showcases how technical Lomachenko’s game really is.
Lomachenko is an exceptional athlete in possession of a diverse skillset and as you can see in the video below I would love to watch Vasyl fight in MMA:
The objective of this article is to identify striking techniques that can be used in MMA. That being said let’s start analyzing the best moves from Lomachenko vs. Linares
Boxing coach Kenny Weldon on the definition of boxing (at the 1 min mark)
Kenny Weldon was a great boxing coach and one of my main inspirations. He passed away on April 13 at age 72 after a long battle with Parkinson’s. He is survived by his wife Faye, three children and 10 grandchildren. My definition of boxing is a modified version of Kenny’s own definition: “Boxing is the art of hitting an opponent from the furthest distance away or closing the distance to box at an advantageous angle, exposing the least amount of your body, while getting into position to punch with maximum leverage and not get hit.”
I added the phrase closing the distance to box at an advantageous angle to include different types of boxers. Here is my MMA definition. There is no modern fighter that is a greater example of the definition above than Hi-Tech Lomachenko.
Vasyl’s footwork reminds me of the “spinning top” theory in Aikido. An Aikido practitioner will establish some sort of contact with his hand blade (in this instance Loma’s rapid fire right jab), then using motion (sabaki) a fighter’s body becomes similar to a spinning top. If the fighter’s body motion is correct he always tries to to get the opponent involved in turning around his center axis. The main idea in motion is to get opponents into your spherical movement and guide them at will. (source)
It is natural for orthodox fighters to move to their left (opponent’s right side) but moving to the right takes effort and due to that, most orthodox fighters are used to boxing opponents moving towards their right hand. Lomachenko usually moves towards his opponent’s left shoulder and places himself in a position that allows him to clearly see his opponent’s ear and back of the head. As fighters try to correct this by turning towards him, Loma keeps moving keeping the ear always in front of him. This frustrates opponents forcing them to fight a boxer that is always moving away from their power hand and at an angle that makes it impossible to defend Vasyl’s incoming punches.
An important tool in Lomachenko’s arsenal is his “range-finder”, his rapid fire right jab. I call it the ‘Hi-Tech’ jab. All great fighters have a “range finder” and it does not even have to be a punch. In Mike Tyson’s case it was his pendulum-like bobbing and weaving while moving forward.
Lomachenko’s Footwork #1
Description: Lomachenko is in a southpaw stance and closes the distance with a right jab and steps-in by placing his right foot on the outside of Jorge’s left foot. He slightly traps Linares’ left hand in order to make it difficult for him to follow-up with a left hook and starts moving towards his opponent’s back. When Vasyl’s right foot reaches Linares’ back, right between his feet, Lomachenko pivots right and is ready to attack. His opponent tries to pivot himself in order to face him and gets hit with a left cross.
Lomachenko’s Footwork #2
Description: In this instance ,Lomachenko slips two jabs in a row and then moves to the right towards his opponent’s back. Notice in the footwork close-up clip, the explosiveness of his footwork and how he lands in position, ready to attack if the opportunity presents itself
Lomachenko’s Footwork #3
Description: A basic rule in boxing is that you should not punch towards the direction your opponent is moving. This compromises both your punching power and posture. It is obvious that for maximum impact your punch should hit either a target moving from the opposite direction or one that is at least stationary. Here you can see Linares missing with a right cross as Vasyl is already moving the other way. The main problem when moving towards your opponent’s left is the left hook. You should have your right hand “glued“ to your cheek or at least, as in the case here, be ready to duck under. Watch the clip to appreciate the graceful manner in which Loma makes both punches miss.
Lomachenko’s Footwork #4
Description: As I mentioned above, the left hook can be a problem when Loma moves forward and to his right. In order for his opponent’s hook to be effective he needs to perform the “Weldon reset” footwork: jump-move backwards and pivot right to face Lomachenko. In the sequence above Vasyl, moves forward-right in his usual manner. Although Linares is able to touch Loma’s defending high guard with his left hook, he is not able to follow him around as his hips and his posture are both at a disadvantage. Take a look at Linares’ left hook in photo 3, it is not in a position to throw a proper left hook.
Lomachenko’s Footwork Analysis #5
Description: A final detail on Vasyl’s footwork. In this sequence he right-jabs Linares and steps forward on the left of Jorge’s shoulder. He takes a long step and this lowers his levels protecting him from left hooks. He moves in with his chin down and his forehead extended as if he is headbutting someone.
As you can see in photo 6, when his left cheek is on the side of Linares’ left shoulder, only then Loma starts pivoting right. This makes Jorge miss with his right hand again and again.
To counter Loma’s footwork a fighter has to use the “Weldon reset” footwork with a left uppercut or hook to the body and not with a left hook.Here is Kenny on the mitts training a fighter on the “Weldon reset”.
From an MMA standpoint, Lomachenko’s footwork is a great way to close the distance and get takedowns.
Below you can see my students applying the “Weldon reset” in one of my kickboxing drill videos:
Update: I was contacted by Chance Weldon, Kenny’s son and he noted the following: “I really enjoyed your incorporation of my father (Kenny Weldon’s) methods with your MMA. I would never have thought to add the leg kick like that. Two quick things worth mentioning. What you call the “Weldon reset”, my Dad called “bumping right.” The only thing your guys are missing when they bump in the video is that they aren’t taking their head right before they bump out and “reset.” Doing so will create a better angle and get their head out of danger.”
I totally agree about moving the head first and this is how I teach the move as it is also a good a way to initiate momentum in a natural manner. Where the head goes the body follows. I plan to post a tutorial on my YouTube channel soon. This is a great maneuver and it can help you stay out of trouble, land kicks and get takedowns. I call it the “Weldon reset” as a way to pay tribute to Kenny.
A Chink in the Armor: How Linares was able to catch Lomachenko
Linares was clearly losing the fight, but he remained in the fight and was able to catch his opponent with punches several times. I think this has to do with Lomachenko’s commitment to reach Jorge’s liver. This forced him to stay in front of his opponent and he paid for it. After the fight, Lomachenko said, “That right hand [that knocked me down], it was a great punch. It happens. I prepared for the last few rounds, and my father [and trainer Anatoly Lomachenko] told me, ‘You need to go to the body.” Speaking of the knockout punch, Linares said it was ‘perfectly landed.’ (source)
Lomachenko’s combination of choice (and although it was successful it caused some problems for him) was a right jab to a straight left hand to the body.
In the sequence below, Loma uses the common southpaw tactic of placing the right foot on the outside of their opponent’s foot, closes the distance, limits his opponents vision with a right jab, changes levels and attacks with a left hand to the body. Linares attacks with a right cross and Loma manages to escape by pulling back. That was not always the case as you will see further below.
The safe way to attack the body of an opponent in an opposite stance is described in detail in my articles Floyd Mayweather: Fighting Southpaws part 1 and part 2. Obviously, if you are a southpaw fighter you need to mirror the moves from your perspective.
Linares’ Counters #1
Description: Lomachenko is a great fighter, but his head movement resembles more that of a Karate or Combat Sambo fighter when fighting opponents face to face. He does not employ shoulder rolls or fancy head movement. He relies more on footwork and his high glove guard. Here Linares is able to reset (although he still fails to position his left foot on the outside) and catches Vasyl with a left hook.
Linares’ Counters #2
Description: Here, Lomachenko attacks with a lead left cross. Linares pivots left and catches him with a left hook.
Linares’ Counters #3
Description: Lomachenko attacks with a left cross and moves towards Linares’ right hand enabling Jorge to connect with a cross.
Linares’ Counters #4
Description: Another instance where Vasyl’s commitment to go for a straight left to the body made him stay in front of Linares and pay for it, can be seen in the sequence above. Linares connects with a jab, cross, left hook, left uppercut, right cross, left hook, right cross, stunning Lomachenko momentarily.
Linares’ Counters #5
Description: This is the punch that dropped Lomachenko. Although it looks like a simple counter, the success of the punch is the result of timing and anticipation. All it takes is a split second. Vasyl attacks with a right jab, Linares parries and catches him with a right cross that drops Loma on his butt. A beautifully executed punch!
Linares’ Counters #6 – Lomachenko strikes back
Description: Vasyl attacks with a left cross and Linares slips right and attacks with a textbook right hook to the body. However, as he continues the attack with a right hook, Lomachenko is able to roll under and land a left hook of his own. In this sequence it is evident that Hi-Tech’s relentless body punching had an impact on Jorge’s reaction time and footwork.
Targetting the Body: Vasyl Lomachenko Unleashed!
As mentioned before Vasyl’s plan was to hunt down Linares with the Hi-Tech signature rapid fire jab, distract him and attack the body. Here is one more example:
In the sequence below, Vasyl adds a right overhand to end the combination and Linares barely moves out of the way:
The importance of the “Hi-Tech” right jab
Description: Here, Lomachenko connects with a hard right jab and continues with a second and a left to the body as Linares is forced to retreat.
Vasyl’s right jab is a relentless attacking tool. He uses it in rapid-fire fashion and combines it with constant movement. The jab works in a similar fashion to a basketball player moving left and right while continuously bouncing the ball. If a fighter gets distracted by the jab, he does not notice the footwork and vice versa.
For the record, I do not believe Lomachenko is naturally left handed (I may be wrong). Many southpaw fighters follow the Bruce Lee concept of placing the right hand in front to make jabs and hooks land harder. Lomachenko has also trained in wrestling and many wrestlers prefer to have the right foot in front, in order to shoot for takedowns.
More right hand magic
Description: This is a beautiful southpaw combination. Loma lands a right jab, left cross, right hook to the body, right uppercut, left cross. His opponents usually expect continuous jabs and this opens up their body for attacks. Body punches work in harmony with uppercuts.
Left Hook to the Body AKA Liver Punch #1
Description: Another relentless combination from Lomachenko: right jab, left cross [opponent covers], move left, left hook to the body, left uppercut. Three left punches in a row. Vasyl kept investing in body punches throughout the fight and survived to finally earn the interest for his efforts.
Left Hook to the Body AKA Liver Punch #2: The final blow.
Click here for clip/gif, Clip 2
Description: After a series of punches, in photo 4, Lomachenko slips a right cross, rolls and connects his right shoulder on Linares’ chin. This is a “range-finder” for a left uppercut. Loma lands one and continues with a jab, left hook, right hook, right uppercut. In photo 11 Vasyl uses a forearm/elbow block to check that his opponent’s hands are up and goes for a left hook to the body to a left hook. The hook to the head misses its target as Linares collapses in agony and bends the knee.
Left hooks to the liver have strange effects in that it takes a split second for the opponent to realize how much they hurt and make them collapse while in the middle of a move. Fighters use liver punches to punish opponents. Generally, it is difficult to recover from body strikes.
This was a great boxing fight and I had a great time both in watching and analyzing it. All thanks to the good people here at Bloody Elbow that support coverage for all fighting sports.
For more on Lomachenko’s techniques please take a look at my previous breakdown, Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux: 12 Moves to Remember
Please join me next week for another MMA technique breakdown. For a list of my previous technique breakdowns on Bloody Elbow, check out this link.
About the Author: Kostas Fantaousakis is a researcher of fighting concepts, tactics, and techniques, and a state-certified MMA, grappling, and wrestling coach in Greece. He teaches his unique Speedforce MMA mittwork system © which combines strikes, takedowns, knees, and elbows applied in the Continuous Feedback © mittwork system of the Mayweather family. Kostas is a brown belt in BJJ under MMA veteran and BJJ world champion Wander Braga (the teacher of Gabriel Napao Gonzaga).
Follow Kostas on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kostasfant and search #fantmoves for more techniques.
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