UFC Fight Night 229 Beforemath: Bobby Green and the Philly Shell

Blaine Henry/Sherdog.com illustration

This weekend, UFC Fight Night 229 features a lightweight bout pitting a battle-hardened veteran against a relative newcomer. Bobby Green returns to action as he faces the grappling-heavy style of Grant Dawson. The fight isn’t between ranked fighters but will be one of those stylistic matchups that old-school fans love.

In today’s edition of Beforemath we will be looking at the matchup and exploring a few concepts both fighters bring to the table. For Dawson, we will look at how he changes his takedown approach against the cage and in open space. On the other side of the cage, we are going to explore Green and his use of the shoulder roll.

The Shoulder Roll: Green’s bread and butter

Blaine Henry/Sherdog.com illustration

Green does a lot of things well, but today I want to touch upon the shoulder roll, or Philly Shell. Pioneered by George Benton during his boxing years from 1949-70 and made famous by Floyd Mayweather Jr., the shoulder roll is a defensive position which is one of the toughest to crack.


The premise is simple: The rear hand protects the chin and upper body with the elbow. The lead hand is low protecting the left side of the body which leaves the chin exposed. The chin will be protected by the lead shoulder where a boxer literally rolls with the punch and tucks their chin behind the lead shoulder forcing the opponent’s punch to glance off the shoulder.

Blaine Henry/Sherdog.com illustration

Against Lando Vannata, Green styled late in the fight. (1) Vannata steps in with a jab and will double up. Green uses the rear hand to (2) parry down the jab and Vannata doubles up on the jab. Green (3) slips to the outside and behind his shoulder. (4) Vannata comes with a right hand and Green dips back, just out of range. (5) Green properly predicts the left hook follow up coming his way. He turns into the punch and gets his right hand up on the phone. (6) The right cross is to follow and Green slips and rolls with that punch as well.

The shoulder roll is ubiquitous with slick boxing and Green does it well, though he’s no Mayweather or James Toney. Looking through other texts, such as Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kun Do, we can see the shoulder roll throughout martial art training. Efficient and safe, the shoulder roll/Philly Shell is tough to crack.

Blaine Henry/Sherdog.com illustration

The Philly Shell offers a strong jab from a backwards leaning position, a quick jab from a forward leaning position, up jab, and a lead hook off the back foot. But this writer’s favorite attack is the pull counter right, one Green could improve and does utilize from time to time. There is nobody better at this than Mayweather.

Blaine Henry/Sherdog.com illustration

Against a 22-year-old Canelo Alvarez, Mayweather put on a masterclass performance. (1) Canelo came forward with his favorite punch: the left hook. Mayweather leans away and the punch (2) lands on his shoulder. The right hook would be next and (3) Mayweather turns to his right, behind the shoulder. The punch will land across Mayweather’s back, relatively harmless. This right turn was the trap, however. The motion naturally loads up the right hand and (4) Mayweather comes from behind his body with it, hidden from Canelo’s line of sight.

All in all, Green’s takedown defense will be what matters most in this fight. He struggled against Vannata—and Islam Makhachev, but then again, who doesn’t? But as the fight goes on, Green utilizes the shoulder roll on a tired opponent looking to lazily box into takedowns. Look for more of this as the fight goes deep, especially if Green can negate takedowns or reverse and return to standing.

Dawson: Time to Shine

Blaine Henry/Sherdog.com illustration

Dawson is being set up at “UFC Vegas 80.” Green may be the fan favorite, but Dawson is the analyst’s pick. With his grappling-first mentality, Dawson has been near perfect on his UFC run with the lone exception being the draw with Glenn. Dawson comes with a good, but underutilized, low kick and fantastic transitions on the ground. His takedowns are key. In his last win against Damir Ismagulov Dawson snatched three takedowns and over 12 minutes of control time.

With the wall-walk being the meta in takedown defense, Dawson dealt with that in an old-fashioned way. When a fighter is taken down, the first move is to scoot to the fence and use that as a crutch to walk your way up. Dawson works around this by moving the takedown away from the fence altogether, leaving the opponent out on an island to fend for themselves where he’s hellacious.

Blaine Henry/Sherdog.com illustration

In our example above, (1) Dawson shoots low and snatches up the ankle pick of Ismagulov. Ismagulov (2) goes to push on the back of his head as Dawson comes up on the single leg. Dawson reacts fast to allow Ismagulov to turn and limp leg out of the attempt. (3) He will turn Ismagulov into the corralled leg and (4) push through to get to the ground.

These takedowns give Dawson room to work as an opponent looks to scoot, scratch, and claw their way back to the fence. Often times he will find ways to the back in transition. There, he’s put in nine rear naked chokes out of a total of 13 in his career. If Dawson gets to your back, you’re in major trouble.


As I mentioned above, Dawson has a great low kick that he doesn’t utilize often enough. Against Mark Madsen, an Olympic silver medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling, Dawson smashed the legs at a 100% clip. But in the three-round fight, he only threw 11 leg kicks. Against Green, who uses the Philly Shell and leans back out of punches’ way, Dawson should look to smash the legs at the end of his combos as Green looks to be slick and stay out of striking range. Those kicks, as we saw in the Madsen fight, will add up and Dawson could weaken the legs for an even easier takedown.

While Dawson is insane on the ground and has fantastic transitions, on the feet he leaves a lot to be desired. Given the old maxim that all fights start on the feet, Dawson could find himself dropped on his back. There, he will find Green hammering away looking for a finish.


But should Green stand over him for too long, I would imagine that Dawson has some slick sweeps off his back, like the animated tripod sweep above, that could create a scramble and get the fight to his domain. In addition, if Dawson panic shoots, he’s good at pulling out the leg and creating a scramble from there as well.

This fight isn’t for a ranked position which is odd in a UFC main event, but Dawson has the opportunity to win over a very good opponent whom fans tune in to see fight. A win over Green won’t get him to the title, or even a ranked spot in the UFC’s stacked lightweight division. What it will do is get his name thrown into the mix. The spotlight is on. Will Dawson deliver?


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