The Film Room: Jorge Masvidal

By Kevin Wilson Oct 31, 2019
The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 244 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.

Jorge Masvidal will chase the BMF label when he meets Nate Diaz in the UFC 244 main event on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. Masvidal has plenty of momentum on his side, having set the record for the fastest finish in Ultimate Fighting Championship history in his most recent outing. A win over Diaz would paint the American Top Team standout in new light and provide avenues for more fruitful opportunities.

Masvidal steps into the spotlight in this edition of The Film Room.

Masvidal was already in the midst of an incredible career resurgence, but his five-second knockout of Ben Askren put him on another level. He immediately became one of the most popular fighters on the roster, and he deservedly gets the big-money fight with Diaz, along with the fun gimmick attached. Just two years ago, Masvidal was on a two-fight losing streak, and now, he is on the verge of becoming a superstar. To get to that level, he needs to win this fight and it will be no easy task, not with how sharp Diaz looked in his last fight.

With the Askren knockout taking all the attention, people have forgotten that Masvidal scored a highlight finish against Darren Till earlier in 2019 and probably would have received votes for “Knockout of the Year” if the flying knee never happened. Earlier in the fight, he was looking for this same Tyron Woodley-style shuffling hook, followed by a lead hook from an orthodox stance. Then, midway through the second round, Masvidal switched stances for the first time in the fight and bounced Till’s head off the canvas with the same hook.

From fighting on the streets of Miami to becoming one of the cleverest strikers in the sport, Masvidal has enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom. Although he started in kickboxing, his style is much more akin to a muay Thai fighter, with his upright stance, the constant bounce of his lead foot and his tendency to rely on his lead hook. Most of his punches are simple 1-2s and hooks, and his kicks are standard round kicks to the head and body. However, Masvidal’s timing and ability to bait opponents into his strikes make him truly dangerous. Just like an elite nak muay, Masvidal is always using his lead hand to feint, swipe away the opponent’s punches and find his range for the right hand. He will also throw in the occasional jumping knee or spinning heel kick to keep opponents guessing. Overall, his style is built around the mental aspects of fighting: reading the opponents’ attacks and tendencies, tricking them into walk into his shots and manipulating the rhythm of the fight by constantly changing his pace and output.

With his kickboxing-muay Thai base, Masvidal throws lots of kicks, especially to the body. Most of them are simple round kicks, but again, timing and understanding of angles allows him to land his kicks with ease. Although he usually throws his kicks as single strikes, he is a master of pumping out a jab or forcing his opponent to bite on a feint before coming in with the kick. It would benefit him to work in longer combos topped off with one of these body kicks, but overall, his kicking game works wonderfully against opponents who are willing to stand in his range. In Diaz’s most recent fight, he was looking to clinch and get the fight to the ground a lot more than expected. If he is going with the same game plan in this fight, Masvidal might want to limit his kicks.

Fighters like Masvidal who rely on timing and reading the opponent must have a quick and accurate jab that can be used to set up other strikes and draw reactions from opponents or as a counter to aggressive opponents. Masvidal is proficient at all three types of jabs and uses that weapon as the base of his striking game. Without his jab, Masvidal would have nothing on the feet. Since Diaz is most likely looking to back him to the cage, a quick counter jab while taking an angle outside of his guard will help keep him off the fence.

Although Masvidal’s leading attacks garner all the attention, he is arguably more effective when working on the counter. Just like his leading attacks, most of his counters are simple straights and hooks, but exceptional timing and accuracy allow them to land with ease. Against Donald Cerrone, Masvidal was pumping out jabs all night knowing “Cowboy” would eventually attempt to parry the jab and counter with a kick to the body. Early in the fight, Masvidal landed some nice straight right hands using this tactic and finished the fight later with a counter right hook after a kick from Cerrone. This sequence might not seem like much, but it proves that simple tactics and knowing how your opponent will react to certain techniques and feints can win you a fight. Masvidal is always looking to catch the opponent’s kicks and counter, which is a rare skill in MMA but something he has perfected -- as evidenced in his fight with “Cowboy.” Diaz does not throw many kicks, but when he does, they are generally sloppy and slow, so watch for Masvidal to catch and counter.

We have not seen much of Masvidal’s clinch in the UFC, but we may see it more than ever in this fight. Diaz loves to pressure opponents to the cage and slowly pick them apart in the clinch, so if Masvidal is smart, he will avoid the clinch whenever possible. He does have amazing killer instincts when operating in the pocket against the cage, but do not expect to see him initiate clinches since his advantages rest in striking at a distance.

Masvidal’s patient and tactical style has allowed him to go on the best run of his career, but one of his biggest problems has always been his tendency to be too patient and sit back while waiting for the opponent to come to him. He has lost many fights that he should have won simply because he was not urgent enough. Lately, he appears to have addressed this problem and has found the perfect mix of knowing when to lead and when to counter, but that may not hold true against Diaz. Since the grappling and clinch threat is always there, Masvidal should make sure he does not come forward too aggressively and fall into Diaz’s trap.

Masvidal is a surprisingly good grappler for a striking-based fighter, but no one expects him to pursue ground exchanges with Diaz. If it does hit the mat, he can hold his own. Diaz tried to get Pettis on the floor a few times, so it would not be surprising to see him do the same with Masvidal. Although everyone wants to see them slug it out on the feet, we may get a grappling-based fight. Diaz has a clear advantage there, but there are no easy paths to victory for either man. Advertisement


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