ByBas Rutten, writer at
Official Creators profile of Bas Rutten. Retired MMArtist, entertainer, host for the podcast
Bas Rutten

“How do you game plan for an opponent?”

*For the sake of the blog, we’re going to ascribe this gameplan to a male fight. This way, I can simplify without having to say “his or her.”

The best way, as a coach or as a fighter, is to watch tape on your opponent.

But, you need tape that goes back a while, you start watching fights from a few years back and write down what that particular fighter does every time.

Maybe when the fighter counters, he doesn’t pull his hand back to his chin if it’s a hand strike. When it’s a kick, does he bring his defense down while he kicks?

Does he stand in one line, and if he does, and he’s orthodox, that will shut down the power on his left kicks and jabs if he opens with those strikes. This means, you can simply counter them with a right straight punch with no need to block an inside low kick like that. Just “jam” his kick while pushing your left thigh to the right while rotating the upper body to the right, which automatically loads up your counter. Now BOOM! Drop that right hand. You can do that exact move on a left kick to the body and head, as well.

If your opponent switches stances, but not often, what does he do right away after the switch? Many times, there is a reason that he switches; he wants to throw a kick or strike from that position. Does he stand in one line (orthodox) and like to open up with a left hook? He will need to “load up” for that, and you can use that moment to counter. We actually did that when Duane Ludwig fought Jens Pulver, because we knew he would “load up.” The first one Duane missed, but the second was a full hit.

There are so many things to look for when viewing a fighter’s tape.

Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Is there head movement after your opponent attacks?
  • Does he move backward in a straight line or does he move to the sides? And when he does move to the sides, is there a favorite side he moves to?
  • If he attacks does his chin come up? (This happens a lot)
  • Does he ever check low kicks?
  • Does he load up when he’s angry? If yes, make him angry.
  • Does he set up kicks with hand strikes? if not, you will be given a present, because you can counter those. Thing is, your trainers need to let you do this a lot.
  • Does he look at the target that he is going to strike? (again, that would be a present)
  • Does he fake a lot, meaning, he looks down but kicks high, and when he does that, does he only use his eyes or does he use his entire body movement, his bodily demeanor (If he uses his whole bodily demeanor, that’s a hard guy to read)?

Remember, look at things he did from the beginning through his last fight, because those things won’t change. If you look at later fights, there is a high chance he won’t use those “new things” anymore. Now, when he’s knocked somebody out a certain way, you better believe that same setup will come back.

There are always favorite combinations he likes to throw and favorite counters to a particular attack from his opponent. Once your coaches start watching tape on him, they will pick those out immediately. This, above here is, of course, not everything. There are more things, but you get the gist.

Now, you want to do the same thing with his wrestling, or lack thereof (like me).

  • What is his favorite takedown?
  • Does he throw a certain combo before he does it, or does he shoot as a counter on your attacks?
  • If he does, what is that combo?
  • If an opponent switches stance, is there a different takedown he uses? Because if he does, you can switch stance on purpose when you have a counter.
  • The same thing applies here, pick his wrestling apart.

It’s the same deal with his submission game.

  • If you mount him, does he simply buck up? When he does, you need a high mount in stat of sitting his stomach, but know his options for escaping when you have high mount (there are only a few).
  • When he goes for submissions and grabs your wrist, find out when he uses a monkey grip and when he uses his thumb around. Many times, for instance, when they have an opponent in their guard and want to go for a Kimura, they don’t use their thumbs, but only a monkey grip (you will be amazed how many fighters do this). If that’s the case, you probably already know you can simply pull your wrist out.
  • If they mount an opponent, do they bring one of their arms around your neck? If they do, this could be an easy reversal for you. Even when they post out an arm, when you go for a reversal, you might be able to escape underneath the arm pit.
  • Same thing in half guard, and if they are in half guard, and for instance their left leg is caught in between your legs, which arm does he put around your neck? If he puts his left arm under your head, that would be stupid and give you an easy reversal. When he uses his right arm, there is still a reversal, but you need to do another one.
  • If they get reversed, what do they do to stop that reversal? Do they post a leg or an arm out? That’s something you can also use as a follow up escape.
  • When he reverses somebody, does he post his arm out after the reversal? Many don’t, and when they don’t, you just keep the momentum going and you can roll him back on his back.
  • How does he set up submissions? Does he have different ways for each move? If not, that’s much easier for you, because you know what he’s going to do at the moment he starts with it. You can even look for a counter or reversal since many guys, when going for a submission, forget about their position. And we all know they golden rule right? “Position before submission,” so when you go for a submission and your opponent tries to reverse you, let go of the submission and keep your position.
  • That’s why you, as a fighter, want to have at least three different set ups for each submission you do. This way you can jump back and forth.

Again, look back awhile and only focus on the things he always uses, things that always come back, because chances are high he will use those when you are fighting him.

That’s why game planning is important, and these pointers I gave you are just the tip of the iceberg. That’s why the coaches do their homework and then bring their fighter in and show them on the videos that they’ve watched, what they think their fighter can exploit. Do not just tell them, you have to show them! Visuals always work the best.

Oh man, I can go on, but let just stop right now and give you more later, haha.


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