As the UFC has been providing fans with exclusively major name bouts recently, this weekend’s card, UFC Fight Night 154: Moicano vs. The Korean Zombie has flown a bit under the radar. This is a disservice, as both fighters are reliable sources of entertaining bouts for the UFC fan base.
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Often overlooked for some of the higher-profile names in the featherweight division, Renato “Moicano” Carneiro employs a particularly interesting style of fighting that is simultaneously effective and enjoyable to watch. Both on the feet and on the floor, by setting elaborate traps for his opponents, the Brazilian fighter is able to keep his adversaries frightened, and his fans enticed.
Float like a butterfly
While Moicano is a well-rounded fighter, his recent preference is to strike with his opponent by employing a strategy of luring them out so that he can land counters. By tricking his opponent into coming at him with strikes, Moicano deprives them of the ability to defend against strikes of his own. He employs two tactics to draw out his adversaries: either he throws a “lazy” first strike, enticing them to attempt a counterattack, or he “floats” in towards them, presenting them with the illusion of an easy target.
When Moicano attempts to draw out his opponent by throwing an easily counterable strike, he does so with what is known as a “false speed” punch. A favored tactic of Conor McGregor, a “false speed” strike gives the opponent the impression that a fighter is slower than they actually are, baiting them into believing that they can counter the next strike.
Once the opponent commits to the counter, the “false speed” is abandoned in favor of full-power shots. Here we see Moicano entice the legendary Jose Aldo by telegraphing his right hand, then throwing it at a reduced speed. Aldo perceives the punch as counterable and enters into an attack. The telegraph and actual punch were both facets of an elaborate trap, which Moicano springs with a powerful left hook.
Here we see the same tactic in play in a beautiful display of martial skill. Moicano again telegraphs his intention to strike, getting Aldo primed to counter. He then enters with a “false speed” jab. Aldo takes the bait, but Moicano is no longer there. Having lured Aldo out, Moicano slips the attack and proceeds to crash a vicious combination into Aldo’s skull.
Another tactic Moicano will use to draw out his opponent is to “float” into striking range with his hands extended, prompting an attack. Employment of this method often makes it appear like he is wary of the act of fighting.
If his opponent takes the bait, Moicano’s lanky build provides him the ability to cover substantially more ground in his retreat than his opponent can cover in their advance. This allows him to pick his shots as his opponent overextends in an attempt to reach him. Notice how much distance Moicano can cover moving backward: a result of his above-average height for the featherweight division. Aldo is forced to lunge and overextend in order to compensate.
This “floating” tactic is much riskier than the “false speed” tactic, as sometimes Moicano’s opponents are able to catch him. In the clip below, Moicano “floats” into Aldo’s range with his hands extended and chin high, in an attempt to get Aldo to commit to an attack. When Aldo does, Moicano counters with a knee to the chin but catches a powerful left to the jaw in the process. Visibly stunned, Moicano is forced to cover as Jose Aldo moves in with an onslaught of strikes. The intensity and viciousness of the beating would only escalate, forcing the referee to end the bout.
Aldo’s second-round TKO of Moicano shows the inherent risks of the draw-out-and-counter style of fighting employed by Renato Moicano. Essentially, his entire striking game is built around making his opponent feel that they can hit him, which leads them to try to. Evidently, sometimes they are right. Not only with the “floating” approach but with “false speed” strikes as well. Here we see Moicano throw a lead jab to get Cub Swanson to attack, eating a stiff left in the process.
Albeit a very effective style of combat that has largely proven well for Renato Moicano, this strategy is far from risk-averse. Every once in a while Moicano is going to get hit; whether the Korean Zombie is able to capitalize on Moicano’s risk-taking is a question that we are very excited to see answered.
Far from one-dimensional
The majority of this breakdown has run in theme with the style of fighting that Moicano currently favors: his striking. As he is inclined to stand and trade (unless a quality takedown opportunity presents itself), that is what we have focused on, but it is not the entirety of his game. In fact, all six of his finishes have come by way of Rear Naked Choke, a statistic that shows Renato Moicano is highly-skilled in all aspects of Mixed Martial Arts. Take for example his finish of Cub Swanson.
After knocking Swanson down with a stiff jab, Moicano immediately got to work with his top game, which is focused on taking the back. Here we see Moicano execute an amazingly impressive Half Butterfly Guard pass that places him directly in mount. As Swanson had the butterfly hook and the near side underhook, he was in the optimal position to attack with a sweep, or at least get back to his feet, but Moicano negated this in one fell swoop.
Notice in the above clip how Moicano waits for Swanson to extend his butterfly hook in an attempt to sweep, and immediately deflects the attempt and passes to mount. Just like his striking game, this guard pass is based on giving his opponent false hope that they can mount an offense, then punishing them for the attempt.
Moments later, Moicano would use the same concept of deception to take Cub Swanson’s back and secure the strangle. Again, Swanson has established a Half Butterfly Guard and is looking to sweep Moicano to his left. Having already shown his preferred pass, Moicano elects a different tactic, this time with the intention of finishing the fight. By allowing Swanson to believe that his base is weak, Moicano tricks Swanson into attempting to power him over to his left. As Swanson comes up and attempts to take top position, Moicano disengages, allows Swanson to spin underneath him, and immediately secures the back position and gets to work on the strangle. Swanson would tap seconds later.
Such grappling tactics run directly in line with Moicano’s approach to hand to hand combat: employment of deception that is accompanied by an acceptance of an above average level of risk. It is hard to argue that Renato Moicano should drastically alter his grappling and striking style to decrease the risk level; getting submitted by Brian Ortega and TKO’d by Jose Aldo are metrics that speak to the level of competition Moicano faces, not massive flaws in his game.
The Korean Zombie should take extra precaution when facing Moicano. Renato Moicano has a way of making his opponents think that they have a golden opportunity, only to capitalize in violent fashion when they fall into his trap. If Chan Sung Jung sees what he perceives as an opening, it is likely an expertly-laid trap.
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