It appears to be a matter of fate that a UFC heavyweight bout will either end in an electrifying knockout or meander along to a unanimous decision snooze fest.
Luckily, Junior Dos Santos has been a reliant source of the former, and he continued to deliver in his bout against Derrick Lewis at UFC Wichita. At first, it appeared that both athletes were going to launch overhand rights until one of them landed, but Junior Dos Santos chose to utilize a more technical approach in the second round, resulting in a fascinating finish of the infamous Black Beast.
The coveted overhand right
What was so unique about the combination Dos Santos used to finish Lewis was that it was perhaps the only legitimate attempt by either fighter to set up their powerful rear hand. For the entirety of the first round, and the minute and a half preceding the finish in the second, both fighters were mainly looking to land one massive overhand that would hopefully send their opponent to the mat. This tactic is prolific in the heavyweight division and is the direct cause of some of the wilder exchanges we saw in this bout.
While massive overhand KO’s are a favorite of the UFC fan base and marketing department alike, they are rather difficult to land as the opponent can see them coming from a long way off, especially when they are not set up with a proper combination. Here we see Derrick Lewis, who is by no means an elusive fighter, easily evade an overhand from Dos Santos in the first round.
Notice how in the above clip Junior Dos Santos has Lewis trapped against the fence, but by failing to set up his right-hand Lewis easily dodges and moves off of the cage. Noticing that this tactic failed, Dos Santos made adjustments for the next time he had Lewis trapped, which allowed him to land his shot and put the Lewis away.
The Stockton Slap
Looking at this clip of the finish, we can see that it was the result of JDS setting up his right hand with his left. This initial combination was evidently what rocked Lewis, allowing Dos Santos to bombard him until Herb Dean decided to intervene.
Upon the first view, it appeared the combo was a classic lead hook, rear cross. The lead hook, rear cross combination has long been a staple in various striking arts as it allows the attacker to move the opponent’s head directly into the line of attack. While the lead hook can certainly cause damage, its real utility is that it forces the opponent’s head towards the attacker’s right, exactly where the cross is going to land. This combination of relative simplicity and effectiveness has allowed the lead hook-rear cross to achieve widespread usage and success in boxing, Muay Thai, and MMA.
Looking at a slowed down clip of the combination, we can see that Dos Santos’ initial strike was actually a lead slap, not a lead cross. The Diaz brothers are largely responsible for popularizing this maneuver and it has aptly been named the “Stockton Slap” in accordance with their city of origin.
Essentially the “Stockton Slap” is a variation of the classic lead hook, rear cross combo. Many have found that by turning the hook into an open hand slap, it is a much more effective way to move the opponent’s head into position for the rear cross.
As previously noted, in the classic version of this combo the hook’s primary function is to move the opponent’s head into position for the cross, while any damage resulting from it is a largely secondary priority. As the open hand allows the attacker to physically grab and push the opponent’s head into the center line, it is much more successful at creating the desired head position than a standard hook. When throwing a hook, the rounded surface of the glove has the potential to slide off of the opponent’s jaw, failing to push the opponent’s head to the inside.
Here is a brief clip of Nate Diaz using the “Stockton Slap” quite effectively against Conor McGregor. Notice how Diaz’s lead slap paws Conor’s head towards the inside, directly into Diaz’s rear cross.
One interesting aspect of the “Stockton Slap” is that it is uniquely an MMA move. As the standard boxing glove used in boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai forces the hand to remain in a closed fist, the fighter is unable to open their hand for a slap, even if the rules allowed it (which they usually don’t).
Junior Dos Santos has often been regarded as possessing some of the best boxing skills in the UFC’s heavyweight roster. His victory over Derrick Lewis is another data point for this argument. Perhaps his decision to exclusively attempt overhand rights in the first round came from a desire to achieve a highlight-reel finish of one of the most feared KO artists in the division. While we may never know why Dos Santos elected to not use his superior technical skills until the second round, it is no coincidence that as soon as he did he got the finish. Hopefully he noticed this as well, and will continue to employ this skillset as he competes against the upper echelon of the division.