The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 19 champion, Corey Anderson, will rematch Polish striker, Jan Blachowicz, this Saturday (Feb. 15, 2020) at UFC Fight Night 167 inside Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
Anderson is very clearly a fighter hitting his stride. He made it onto UFC’s roster quickly, winning TUF in just his fourth professional fight. As such, it shouldn’t be a shock that “Overtime” hit some speed bumps as he ran into far more experienced foes. Despite those losses, Anderson won fights rather consistently throughout his UFC career, though it’s only been in the last couple years that Anderson has really put it all together.
Entering 2020, Anderson is riding a four-fight win streak and is the favorite to fight Jon Jones next. Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Anderson has long been a striker who focuses on footwork and feints first and foremost. Young fighters who really focus on their kickboxing technique often struggle at first more than those who just impose their athletic gifts, but Anderson is now beginning to reap the benefits as his rhythm and strategy begin to fully click.
Anderson has a good frame for the division, and he likes to strike from the outside. Most of the time, Anderson is leading the dance, circling laterally and showing feints. He’ll pump his shoulder or show a switch kick then take a sidestep, looking to either sting his opponent with a long range shot or gain an angle.
On the whole, Anderson shares several habits with his much smaller teammate, Frankie Edgar, including the aforementioned focus on lateral movement and false starts. In addition, Anderson likes to work body-head combinations like “The Answer.” However, Anderson’s body-type is quite different from Edgar, which enables him to rely on the jab more often.
Set up by his shoulder pumps, Anderson does a nice job of landing the jab and doubling it up. In addition, he’ll take his head off the center line often to target the body. Lastly, Anderson likes to dart with his cross, using his right hand to angle off and potentially create an opening for a combination or shot.
In Anderson’s most recent win opposite Johnny Walker, he reminded the fight world that he can also commit more weight to his punches in addition to demonstrating his maturity. Walker is a man who thrives when opponents panic and make rash decisions — he usually capitalizes with something very explosive, like a flying knee or spinning back fist. To help convince his opponent that he’s in danger, Walker does all sorts of weird movements, shifting stances and acting a bit wild.
Anderson wasn’t the least bit bothered. He kept his hands tight and advanced on the Brazilian, waiting for his moment. Once he was confident that Walker was within blasting distance, Anderson did just that, stepping forward into a heavy right hand that started the entire finishing sequence (GIF).
One of the more underrated aspects of Anderson’s attack is his clinch game. Anderson often wrestles against the fence, but sometimes the takedown isn’t there. In that case, Anderson will drive his foe up into the fence, controlling an underhook and maintaining good head position. It’s a position that helped him finish Walker, and it’s the subject of this week’s technique highlight.
Another strong clinch habit of Anderson’s is to fire on the break. “Overtime” rarely ends with just one shot, usually stringing together three or four hooks as his opponent seeks to back away. Lastly, Anderson is a competent kicker. His lateral movement on the outside allows Anderson to hide the step required to commit weight to kicks, helping him chop the leg with less of a tell.
Defensively, Anderson has improved a good deal as well, in large part by keeping his back off the fence. Still, it’s worth-noting that Anderson’s lateral movement has seen him absorb a fair amount of low kicks, and he’s been caught several times while stepping forward with the jab.
Anderson’s wrestling ability is well-known as the backbone of his game, but it’s still under-appreciated from a stats standpoint. The former collegiate wrestler averages about five takedowns per fight and scores them at a 50 percent clip — that’s impressive work, particularly for a big man.
It’s hard to really give a detailed look at Anderson’s wrestling simply because he is so varied in his approach. He’s opportunistic, willing to convert a caught kick into a quick takedown or use a reactive double leg to counter an opponent’s overhand. At the same time, Anderson will duck into a shot off his jab or use his right hand to step deep into a takedown attempt. Whether he’s the one initiating or reacting, Anderson is capable both in the center of the cage and against the fence with both double- and single-leg takedowns.
Once Anderson in on a shot, he’s a definite handful. Anderson can finish in the open but will often drive his foe into the fence, where it’s easier to transition between shots. If he’s unable to lift, dump, or snatch up an ankle, Anderson will move into the clinch to throw some punches before level changing to try again.
Once again, Anderson’s footwork is a great benefit for setting up his driving double leg, which is perhaps his most common takedown. Anderson’s false entries can trick his opponent into swinging early, which can be easily countered by a shot. Alternatively, Anderson’s step forward with the jab can instead be a step into a shot, so if he notices his opponent really looking to plant and counter, he likely has an easy avenue toward the hips.
Anderson has yet to attempt a submission inside the Octagon and has never been put in any real danger, either. His skills and limitations in this area are pretty difficult to determine, but a more developed grappling game — or simply relying on it more — could make Anderson a bigger finishing threat on the mat.
He may not be the most popular contender, but Anderson does pose an interesting challenge to Jon Jones. For one, he has the cardio and volume to keep up with “Bones” across five rounds — he’s perhaps the only Light Heavyweight who can make that claim. Otherwise, Reyes just showed that strong lateral movement can help nullify Jones’ straight kicks, and lateral movement is a significant part of Anderson’s kickboxing style.
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Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.