Pulling guard isn’t always a terrible idea in an MMA fight.
On the contrary, when used as part of a larger strategy and employed by a submission wizard on the order of Fabricio Werdum, pulling guard can – in theory – be pretty effective. It was just that pesky first part that tripped Werdum up on Saturday during his Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix bout against Alistair Overeem. The part about having a larger strategy.
Even though he had a shade more than six months to get ready for it, Werdum apparently came to the Overeem fight with just one plan: He pulled guard. He scooted around the cage on his butt. He played possum. At varying points he shook his finger, clasped his hands in the prayer position and did just about everything else he could think of to try to cajole the enormous Dutch striker to follow him to the ground.
Awkward? You betcha. It was a little like watching a guy try to win a televised debate by continually repeating, “I know you are, but what am I?” Sure, it rendered most of Overeem’s carefully prepared speaker’s notes moot, but it also made Werdum look one-dimensional and a little bit silly. It certainly didn’t score many points with the judges, as evidenced by the unanimous decision rendered in Overeem’s favor once it was all over.
See, Werdum chose a strategy with only two possible outcomes: He was either going to win by submission or he was going to lose. The tactic in itself admitted he had no shot to win any other way and – what’s worse – it acknowledged that he knew that as well as you did.
If Werdum successfully accomplished anything this weekend it was that his game plan was so odd, it clearly freaked Overeem out. The Strikeforce heavyweight champion was so deadset against going to the mat with the jiu jitsu ace that it forced him to be tentative and overly-cautious in the standup. Overeem never really got started, suffocated by the sheer weirdness of Werdum’s strategy, saying afterward he found it “hard to fight someone who didn’t want to fight.”
Therein was Werdum’s real failing. With Overeem’s offense stifled and the champ himself getting more and more frustrated, the Brazilian failed to capitalize. Maybe the strangest part was that Werdum didn’t look half bad in the striking phase. On the few occasions when he did let his hands go, he made good contact with Overeem’s chin with a couple capable combinations. While he was never on the verge of putting the champ in trouble, it sure made a better impression than watching him scooch along on his backside for 15 minutes.
The truth is, no matter how good you are at BJJ, pulling guard looks desperate. If you’re going to do it – and only it -- it’d better work, otherwise it’s nothing more than a Hail Mary. Too bad Werdum opted to throw that Hail Mary on first down … then again on second down … then again on third and fourth.
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