Chuck Liddell – The Art of Sprawl & Brawl – MMA Analysis

Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, a UFC Hall of
Famer, light heavyweight champion and at one point he was the most popular mixed martial arts fighter in the world. He started practicing karate at age 12 and
eventually his football coach recommended he started folk style
wrestling where he went on to become a division 1 wrestler in university and this
set him up to become an early style of mixed martial artist. He first took his
karate training into amateur kickboxing where he amassed a 20-2 record
with 16 knockouts and then training with John Hackleman and The PITfight team
he entered into MMA where he was said to use his wrestling in Rreverse to keep the
fight standing and hunt for knockouts in a style that came to be known as sprawl
and brawl. And in this study we’ll look at the
specific techniques he used to make this strategy work. The first line of defense
when opponents would look to take Chuck Liddell down was his constant posting on their shoulders or heads as they begin to shoot in and level change. The posting
hand is used to quickly monitor the distance of the opponent and frame them
off from getting any closer while Chuck’s footwork can circle
laterally and move backwards out of reach of his opponent’s grips. This quick
and effective defense worked to demoralise his opponents as they were made to
realise that they would be scoring no easy takedowns in the fight and every shot
would have to be set up properly. If the opponent did get in on a single
leg then the post against the head was still emphasised but Chuck would then
look to turn away and bring his knee upwards before dropping it back towards
the mat in a move known as a limp leg. As the name implies the leg is relaxed as
he goes to pull it away but his posting arm is still strong and framing making
it more difficult for his opponent to hold on to. If opponents were able to get
in on Chuck Liddells hips he would execute a sprawl which is of course where the
sprawl and brawl strategy gets half of its name so when opponents would shoot
in for a double leg takedown Chuck would have a lightning-fast sprawl as a
reaction, kicking his feet back, dropping his hips down and punching his hands to
the mat to block his opponent’s head and shoulders from getting any deeper in on
his legs and hips. So normally he would then look to dig for under hooks or just
back up and out to start punching his downed opponent and as opponents would get frustrated by this sprawl some would start to attempt to pull guard and if
the rule set allowed it like in Pride FC or the earlier UFC’s Chuck would stay
sprawled out in the front headlock position to deliver knees to the head of
his grounded opponent. If they were able to grab and hold onto one of Chuck Liddells legs he’d look to establish ankle control. This is where he’d reach over
the back of his opponents and grab one of their ankles with his hands. This
prevents them from turning the corner or circling round so they could pull his
leg up to help finish the takedown. This also allowed him to anchor on and
deliver some devastating ground strikes to the downed opponent. On the occasions
where Chuck Liddell would get taken down one of the ways he was immediately able to get
back to his feet was by using a quad pod. To do this he would roll to his knees
widen his feet to spread his base and then pushing back into his toes he would
stick his hips directly in the air from there he walks his hands back towards
his feet before coming up to start working on breaking his opponent’s grip
or turn and start battling for under hooks. Alternatively another way he was able to
pop straight back up that he also helped popularise was called wall walking. This
is where if he was taken down near the edge of the fence he would use it as a
brace to help him stand back up. First off he would aim to get his shoulders
off the canvas and his back against the fence before looking to post one hand
down on the mat and from there extract his bottom leg and get that knee on to
the canvas. Once he had that one hand posted and the knee free and on the canvas he would use those to help stand up with his other
leg while leaning onto the fence to brace himself and give him balance. This
often gave the appearance of Chuck just being able to stand up without
resistance but what was happening is that they had
grabbed on to his upper body without any control of his legs which left him free
to turn and post that hand get the knee out and then use his other leg to stand
while using the fence as a barrier to prevent him from being knocked over. After Chuck Liddell would get back to his feet
he would often find himself in an upper body clinch which he would aim to break
from by using his over hook to push off his opponent’s bicep and create space.
He would use this opportunity of the clinch breaking to throw hooks in an
attempt to catch his opponent off guard before they had time to bring their
hands back up and deflect any punches. This allowed him to them return to
striking and continue to look for the knockout. And another means of breaking
from the clinch was to get both hands underneath his opponent’s chin while
pushing them away and backing his hips out. And now we move on to the brawling
section of the sprawl and brawl strategy. See with Chucks karate background
kickboxing experience and knockout power he was a force to be reckoned with on
the feet and he may be best known for unleashing barrages of strikes when he
had opponents hurt or backing up. He could knock opponents out while moving
forwards or backwards using either hand or with head kicks, but let’s examine a
few of these signature strikes that really set him apart from other fighters. And first up is overhand right which was
thrown in a unique way as it would roll his shoulder over almost vertically to
bring his hand down straight on his opponent’s head. He would describe this
action as if he was throwing a ball and while this would make a traditional
boxing coach cringe it had the effect of splitting his opponent’s guard down the
middle while coming in at an angle that his opponents were not expecting. Hooks
were another of Chuck Liddells knockout weapons that he got a reputation of throwing
from “different” angles here we can see him demonstrating his lead left hook
which he was winding up by rotating his shoulders horizontally and completely
around when in the fight he would launch this by looping his hook around his
opponent’s guard as he jumped in to get the knockout
and again with his right hook he would create the angle by dropping it out a
little wide and then bringing it in and around while rotating his hips. And counter striking was another area of
Chucks game where I was able to score multiple knockouts and caused a lot of
damage to his opponents. If he got his opponents moving in on him he was able
to keep his jab hand high to gauge distance but then plant his right foot
back to generate power and use that to shoot his right hand straight down the
pipe to get knockouts or swing it round for a hook or even uppercuts. Chuck
uniquely combined his karate background with his folk style wrestling training
to make himself one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC while perfecting the
art of sprawl and brawl. While it is said that he was using his wrestling in
reverse it was really just wrestling. Folk style rules reward wrestlers on the
bottom for getting back up to their feet and escaping and we could see this
through his use of quad pods and hand fighting and of course sprawling itself
is just a wrestling technique albeit a defensive one but instead of continuing
into more wrestling moves Chuck would break from the front headlock and start
to brawl and this is where his Koei Kan karate and kickboxing skills
took over giving him a unique stand up style that ended up with him knocking
out many of his opponents during his rise and reign as the UFC light
heavyweight champion his knock out skills were ferocious and feared and he
remained highly active taking on all challengers while having a rock-solid
chin to back it up. Eventually though the chin would diminish and his speed would
falter but his influence on the sport certainly did not it was during its most
important and formative times and Chuck LIddell set the template for many
striking artists to follow in. Thanks for watching this video, please
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5 Replies to “Chuck Liddell – The Art of Sprawl & Brawl – MMA Analysis

  1. Great breakdown! In depth but not too heavy. A lot of guys that do this just like to show off how many details they can cram in. This is just right.

  2. A lot of people forget that Chuck is a championship wrestler. He’s just a better standup counter puncher.

  3. When I used to do mma as a hobby, I had to learn sprawling. My coach told me to try and thrust my hips and chest and drive down forcing the other fighter into the mat. The toughest part was keeping my head and shoulders upright and straight. And kicking my feet back while keeping my stance. Most effective defensive move against the single and double leg.

  4. Chuck was the fighter to make me work non stop on my left hook. His torque and footwork. I realized the left hook was so much better than a straight right cross due to the quickness and less-telling punching technique. Tyson showed me how to destroy with body hooks.

  5. Honestly, this is very good advice for boxers looking to get into MMA. Second to the flaw of not being able to check kicks properly because of a staggered stance, boxers often suffer from not knowing how to avoid being taken to the ground easily. To the point where if their opponent knows that they have a boxing background, they will almost certainly go right for the legs first to get an easy takedown. Being able to sprawl out of it and resume striking is leaps and bounds better than being taken to the ground where the skillset is nonexistent.

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