UFC 114 Preview: The Prelims

Cane vs. Diabate

May 25, 2010
Luis Arthur Cane File Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Luis Arthur Cane vs. Cyrille Diabate

In his fight with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 106, it looked as if Cane simply could not see the punches coming from the left side of Nogueira’s southpaw stance. Predictably it took less than two minutes for Nogueira to notch an easy TKO win built on nothing but his seemingly invisible left hand. Whether we saw a tactical oversight or a defensive liability is a question that the UFC seems to want answered, as Cane is stepping back into the fray against another fellow southpaw in Diabate.

The similarities between Diabate and Nogueira end there, however. A French-born kickboxing convert, Diabate is known more for his left knee than his left hand. Better yet for Cane, he is getting an opponent who likes to stand outside the pocket and time strikes, which plays right into Cane’s disruptive in-your-grill style.

A classic walk ‘em down striker, Cane keeps the pocket tight and likes to step in with hook and uppercut combinations before grabbing the clinch and digging in with knees and body punches. None of that plays to Diabate’s strengths. Diabate has always been a physically weak fighter prone to getting bulled around, and Cane is a hulking light heavyweight who maximizes his natural advantages with a rugged style of fighting. While Diabate’s recent record does suggest a flair for submissions, they’ve all come against hapless competition and Cane will be fully in control of where this fight goes anyway.

It all boils down to whether or not Diabate can exploit the same defensive liabilities that Nogueira unexpectedly discovered. Despite Cane’s inability to block a southpaw left cross, he’s always been a defensively sound fighter. Steve Cantwell, a talented kickboxer, struggled to find any openings in Cane’s tight defensive posture and also made the mistake of giving ground to Cane, thus letting him attack first. Diabate fights in a similar fashion and lacks the counter-striking ability of Nogueira to make Cane pay for his single-minded aggression.

If there is a defensive flaw to look out for in this fight, it’s actually Diabate’s stance. Maintaining an effective defense is always challenging for tall fighters, and at 6-foot-6, Diabate is no exception. Not only does he tend to assume a hunched-over stance that negates his height advantage and makes him an easier target, he also keeps his hands low and elbows out, which simultaneously leaves his head and body exposed. Switching between head and body attacks is how Cane gets his bread, and he’s especially good at finishing upstairs combinations with his sneaky right hook to the body.

Any way you look at Diabate’s defense, it seems as though it’s built to make life easy for Cane. Expect the Brazilian to remind fan and analyst alike that he remains a legitimate top 15 light heavyweight.
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