Vasyl Lomachenko vs Jose Pedraza: Moves to Remember

Vasyl Lomachenko defeated José Pedraza last week and unified two lightweight world titles. He was able to score two knockdowns in the 11th round…

By: Kostas Fantaousakis | 5 years ago
Vasyl Lomachenko vs Jose Pedraza: Moves to Remember
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Vasyl Lomachenko defeated José Pedraza last week and unified two lightweight world titles. He was able to score two knockdowns in the 11th round and methodically dominate Pedraza en route to a unanimous decision win.

Canelo Alvarez and Hi-Tech Lomachenko are my favorite active fighters now that Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather are retired. A reasonable reader might ask how can I both enjoy watching a knockout machine like Mike Tyson and a decision fighter like Floyd Mayweather. The answer is simple: Although all four aforementioned fighters are exceptional athletes and have unique physical attributes, the true secret of their success is their dedication to the technical intricacies of the sweet science of boxing.

It is true that watching boxing fights that do not end in spectacular knockouts can be an underwhelming experience to the untrained eye. This is similar to watching a chess match if you are not familiar with the game. When a chess master moves a piece all you will be able to see is that, for example, the player moved the bishop to b2. You will not be able to contextualize the move as part of a game designed to produce an outcome. which in this case, might be a checkmate in three moves that cannot be avoided by the opponent.

Something similar often takes place when fans watch boxing fights. It is easy to get distracted by the exciting, relentless punching and fail to notice head movement, footwork, angle positioning and all other important aspects of fighting. You can only understand how boxing works through a dedicated study of the game. And in studying this game you have to analyze the distinct fighting art of Vasyl Lomachenko.

In this fight, Lomachenko fought a fighter in Jose Pedraza who was bigger, longer and as fast as him. To be fair, Pedraza was able to connect several times on Vasyl. That being said, when it came to footwork, Pedraza was not just a step behind at all times, he was actually doing all the wrong things. Footwork is essential in winning boxing fights.

We will analyze both fighters’ footwork, but before doing so it is time to remember my modified definition of boxing based on Kenny Weldon’s original version.

“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 or at least minimize damage.”

I added the phrases “closing the distance to box at an advantageous angle” to include different types of boxers and “minimize damage” as getting hit is part of game. Here is my MMA definition.

Kenny Weldon was a great boxing coach and one of my main inspirations. He passed away on April 13, 2018 at age 72 after a long battle with Parkinson’s. Bellow you can watch Kenny defining the sweet science of boxing:

It is now time to start analyzing this great fight between Jose Pedraza and Vasyl Lomachenko.

Blind-siding tactics

To use some traditional budo terms, Vasyl’s footwork enables him to establish some sort of contact with his hand blade (in this instance Loma’s rapid fire right jab), then by using motion (sabaki) he forces his opponent’s body to keep moving. This type of footwork is designed to to get opponents involved in turning around their own axis like a spinning top and towards their back. It forces them to constantly fight at a disadvantaged angle and compromises their balance and leverage. Such a strategy works better when fighting opponents in an opposite stance. Here is a simple example of this: just take a look at Pedraza spinning.

Another function of this footwork is called “blind-siding” or “ear-hunting.”

It is natural for orthodox fighters to move to their left (opponent’s right side) but moving to the right takes conscious effort. This is why 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 left ear and back of the head. This is often called “blind-siding.” As fighters try to correct this by turning towards him, Loma keeps moving, thus keeping their 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. It also makes it very hard for them to defend Vasyl’s incoming punches. A left and right “Hi-Tech” version of this footwork can be examined below. This is a beautiful sequence.

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Description: Please notice that when Pedraza moves his head to the right, Lomachenko moves first his head and then his feet towards the opposite direction constantly staying on Jose’s blind side. You can also see that after the angle shift, Loma’s weapon of choice is the near side uppercut. This is a punch opponents can’t see coming and enables the other hand to defend incoming punches. More examples of this “blind-siding” tactic are analysed in my previous breakdowns, Loma vs Linares and Loma vs. Rigondeaux

Outside foot placement

An important detail of fighting against an opponent in an opposite stance is the fight for outside foot placement. Fighters that are able to place their front foot on the outside (backside) of their opponent’s front foot, are able to strike from an advantageous position. Once this is achieved, the back hand (in Loma’s case, the left hand) is perfectly lined up to launch a strike.

Lomachenko is a master of establishing this outside foot placement by distracting his opponents with rapid-fire jabs . Here are two examples:

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Description: In this sequence Loma closes the distance with his jabs. Notice the foot placement in photo 3. This enables him to get in perfect position to land the left hand.

In the next sequence you can see Loma using both outside foot placement and spinning top blind-siding.

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Description: As Lomachenko places his right foot behind Pedraza’s left foot, he is able to land a left hand. Vasyl follows up by using his right hand to connect with Jose’s left shoulder and keep him in place. He continues by leaning right (photo 4) and moving his feet towards Pedraza’s blind side. In photo 6, Vasyl uses the shoulder check again, this time pushing Jose away in order to safely disengage.

The shoulder check is a tactic that Vasyl uses regularly to control the distance.

We should note here the importance of Lomachenko’s “range-finder”, his rapid fire right jab. I call it the ‘Hi-Tech’ jab. All great fighters need a “range finder” and it does not even have to be a punch. In Mike Tyson’s case, for example, it was his inverted pendulum peekaboo style which he used to move forward.

Right hook counter vs. a jab

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Description: Pedraza throws a jab feint and Loma moves to parry but their hands do not get to connect as Jose does not fully extend his jab. Vasyl’s right hand follows a circling motion and goes over the top, connecting with a right hook. As you can see again in photo 3, he is able to do this effectively because his right foot moves to the right and behind Pedraza’s left foot. Please notice that the hook lands at the same time that Vasyl’s front foot touches the ground. Lomachenko gets out of range immediately before Jose is able to counter.

Other southpaw vs. orthodox attacks

Right hand slip to a left cross over the top

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Description: This is a classic counter when fighting an opponent in an opposite stance. Jose throws a right cross and Lomachenko slips left and changes level by bending his knees. My wrestling coach called this “dive underwater and then come back up.” Vasyl does just that and finishes the counter with a left cross over the top, connecting on Jose’s chin.

Southpaw vs. southpaw

In this fight, Pedraza changed his stance to southpaw several times and in doing so he was able to give Vasyl some trouble. That being said here are two great attacks by Lomachenko against a southpaw opponent.

Double jab, pull back, right hook, left cross to the body

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Description: Both fighters are in a southpaw stance and Lomachenko throws a double jab, pulls back and continues with a right hook and finally a left cross to the body.

Double and triple attacks are a great way to confuse opponents. However, as in the example above, the third attack with the same hand should either be a different punch or come from another angle. Constant head movement is also very important.

Roll under a left hand, right uppercut, left hand

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Description: Again, both fighters are in southpaw stance and Pedraza throws a left hand. Vasyl rolls under and as Jose moves to the left, Lomachenko attacks with a right uppercut and a left hand.

Anatomy of a “Matrix” sequence

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Description: This is an amazing exhibition of both head movement and attacks from various angles and levels. Please notice the shoulder check in photo 1 and how Vasyl makes Pedraza miss despite him using double right hands and double left hands. I also loved Loma’s left hand to the body to a right hand (8-9) to a left slip. Finally, Vasyl rolls under a left hand and pulls back to safety. This sequence is a great example that can demonstrate why the head must move with all punches and counters. Also, the head should not just move left and right but also up and down, back and forth.

How to beat Vasyl Lomachenko

If you are fighting Vasyl Lomachenko, you will not be able to catch him with a conventional rhythm of motion. You need to “break” the rhythm, change gears, use double shots and body punches as well as high to low punches (and vice versa). Vasyl always goes for the back so you need to keep him in front of you at all times by constantly readjusting your footwork and posture.

As I analyzed here, Linares caught Lomachenko several times. Here are some examples , 1, 2 and 3.

That being said we will examine below several tactics that helped Jose Pedraza be somewhat competitive against Vasyl.

Use of underhooks

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Description: One way to stop Lomachenko from going to the blind side is by using underhooks. In the sequence above, Vasyl goes for his trademark jab-hook hybrid while trying to move to Pedraza’s left side. Jose is able to slip right, pivot right and get an underhook. These underhooks are a great way to keep opponents in front of you. To be fair Jose headbutted Lomachenko as he went for the clinch.

Here is another example of of an underhook control:

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Attacking Lomachenko with uppercuts & body punches as he moves left

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Description: Head hunting does not work very well on Lomachenko due to the fact that he keeps moving his head at all times. He has a tendency, however, to slip left (and low) after attacking the blind side and that enabled Pedraza to have some success attacking Loma with low/right uppercuts and body punches. He was even more successful with body attacks from a southpaw stance as we will examine next.

Turning southpaw

When an orthodox opponent shifts to a southpaw stance, this seems to give Lomachenko some trouble adjusting to the change. Especially when Vasyl tries to move to the right like he usually does. Here is an example of him getting caught in an uncharacteristic fashion.

Another successful combination from this southpaw shift is when Pedraza changes his stance and attacks with body punches:

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Using proper footwork

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Description: Pedraza was constantly one step behind in regards to controlling the angles. It‘s not that he tried to place his left foot on the outside and failed to do so, but that he did not seem to care. In the example above Loma goes for his usual blind-siding right hand and Jose tries to pull back and attack with a right hand. However, his feet are not in proper position (photo 4). His left foot should not be between Lomachenko’s feet. Pedraza fails to place his left foot in front of or to the right of Vasyl’s right foot. The proper footwork to do so is demonstrated in this gif by Kenny Weldon’s student.

As you can see above, a good way to to do this, is to move your head to the right, follow with your feet at an angle and shift weight to your right foot so you can be ready to throw the right hand. Although in this clip Kenny is in an orthodox stance, you can apply this footwork against southpaw fighters, just make sure to keep opponents in front of you or with their right foot between your feet. Of course, Lomachenko is a master of footwork and it is very difficult to neutralize him but this is the traditional way to do it.

Final words

This was a great fight and another great performance by Vasyl Lomachenko. That being said, opponents seem to connect more often in his last two fights. He is, however, the most exciting, aggressive fighter modern boxing has to offer and I will keep analyzing his fights as well as other significant boxing matches here on Bloody Elbow.

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 ofGabriel Napao Gonzaga).

Follow Kostas on Twitter: and search #fantmoves for more techniques.


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About the author
Kostas Fantaousakis
Kostas Fantaousakis

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 black belt in BJJ under MMA veteran and BJJ world champion Wander Braga (the teacher of Gabriel Napao Gonzaga).

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