The Film Room: Gillian Robertson

By Kevin Wilson Oct 17, 2019
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Maycee Barber vs. Gillian Robertson at UFC on ESPN 6 is a highly-intriguing fight because both women have drastically different styles than the other. Barber is a striker whose style is an odd mix of muay Thai and karate, while Robertson is a pure grappler from a jiu-jitsu background and all but two of her wins are via submission.

Robertson has only been a pro for three years and is already one of the best grapplers in the budding flyweight division. She wastes no time looking for takedowns and once the opponent is down they are generally on their backs for the rest of the round. Something to notice is the variety of takedowns she uses. She generally shoots for a single, but will switch to a double or work her way up to the clinch and look for trips if the opponent defends the initial shot. Her clinch takedowns could be a key factor in this fight. Barber can be very aggressive on the lead and often falls into the clinch after combos. Robertson should have a major advantage on the ground so if Barber falls into the clinch like usual she will be working off her back at some point. The threat of the takedown also limits what Barber can do on the feet. Barber likes to push the pace and come forward with lots of kicks and straight left hands down the middle, but if she’s too aggressive Robertson will be ducking under for the hips so we may see her strike on the outside more.

Once on the ground, Robertson has tremendous guard passing skills and scrambling ability. Notice how every time the opponent attempts to scramble, Robertson always ends up in a better position than she was before. Transitional grappling and the ability to keep or improve position during scrambles is very hard to teach. It usually amounts to instinct that only comes with years of high-level rolling. We haven’t seen much of Barber’s grappling in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, while Robertson has nullified some good strikers with her ground game so it will be very interesting to see how things play out.

Robertson shows a nice mix of passing guard, ground-and-pound and submission attempts to keep the opponent guessing. Three of her five UFC wins have come by submission, including this nasty rear-naked choke on Molly McCann that put her out cold. Barber has been training with Ben Askren and his team in Milwaukee so she is working on her grappling. However, Robertson is on another level and is a master at slowly breaking her opponents down and eventually getting the submission or TKO finish.

The obvious questions in this fight are how will Barber deal with the grappling and how will Robertson manage the striking? We have seen very little grappling from Barber, while Robertson has landed 29 strikes on the feet in five UFC fights, which is unbelievably low. The above clip of Robertson vs. Mayra Bueno Silva is a good indication of how she might react against Barber. She is clearly flustered from the pressure and her footwork and ability to circle off the cage were sloppy. This fight was over a year ago and she has looked more comfortable on the feet since, but she still shouldn’t test her skills against Barber when she has a clear advantage on the ground. Advertisement


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