The nation of Georgia is quickly developing into an MMA hotbed, with a wealth of talent making a name for themselves within the UFC over this past year. Leading this charge is 23-year-old featherweight Ilia Topuria.
Topuria made his second promotional appearance on December 6 at UFC on ESPN 19. He squared off against experienced veteran Damon Jackson, showing just how much praise matchmakers had for the youngster. While many questions, or even doubts, lingered, Topuria answered them all at once, silencing naysayers with a terrific first-round stoppage win.
Now, hours removed from the finish, we take a look at how Topuria was able to land his finishing combination and keep his perfect professional record intact.
Topuria begins by applying pressure to Jackson, jabbing to the body to bring his guard down and invite him in; a shift backwards takes him out of range before he can be countered. A feint draws the American forwards, where he is then forced to the cage through the punching ability of his opponent. Circling to the right was not an option as Toupuria was finding home with his lead body hook – a punch that would be instrumental in victory.
Two jabs pressed Jackson to fence and its here where Topuria was aiming to walk him onto his right hook (the power punch). Although ultimately having no real success, he continued in his pursuit of cutting the cage, leaving Jackson little room. At the very end of the clip, you can see Topuria shifting his weight onto his lead leg before firing to the body twice.
Jackson was now carrying his guard and overall frame lower as a response to the body punching of Ilia Topuria. This can be seen in his offensive movements and combination, where he lands a clean right hand. Topuria isn’t a fan of being backed up against the cage himself and counters a sloppy level change with an uppercut, proving he had done his research.
After ripping a good hook to the body in the previous exchange, Topuria mixes things up by targeting the chin. This simple change of punch worked so well as Jackson was expecting another body shot, thus causing his arms to drop lower than he would like. It also never helped that his opponent was notably faster.
Each time he was jabbed, Jackson would lower his stance in a ducking-type motion and look to counter. Topuria caught onto this almost immediately, accompanying a right hand and lead hook to the body the next time he threw. By doing so, he was looking to tag his foe while they were in the process of countering; attaching the body shot on the end really was a sweet choice, as the right hand had forced Jackson into it.
Topuria never let up for an instance as he once more dug to the body, leaving his opponent no choice but to circle into his power side. Before he could do this, however, the Georgian connected with another lead hook upstairs, knowing it would find home due to his committed bodywork.
In the clip above, you can see Topuria feinting his way into the pocket with a jab before throwing an uppercut and landing arguably his best body shot of the fight, completely lowering the defense of Jackson. Jackson threw out his lead hand as he expected Ilia to rush in, but was instead met with a thunderous 1-2 combo.
Following his first-round stoppage win, Ilias Toupuria moved to 10-0. Showing that much skill and intelligence at such a young age makes you ask the question: just how far can he go in the sport? And with the correct matchups, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that he could be fighting for a number sooner than expected.
Despite it being simple, textbook stuff, it’s rare that we see a commitment to body punching in MMA. Ilia Topuria proved to be an exception, and I for one hope to see him continue digging to the body in future outings.