It’s safe to say that some of the best MMA fighters have certainly reaped the benefits of utilizing an intelligent, controlling game plan. After all, it is what makes all the difference in a fight between two equally skilled fighters.
A good game plan gives a fighter the best strategy to optimize his/her chances of winning a fight. A coach will work together with trainers and the fighter to devise a game plan to follow. To formulate a game plan, the coach takes the following into consideration:
Strengths and weaknesses
A fighter will always have his/her strengths and weaknesses relative to his/her opponent. If he/she is a striker, obviously, his/her skill set will lie in his/her punches, kicks, elbows and knees. He/she will always be looking to keep the fight standing in order to give him/her the best advantage in a fight.
The same thing goes for weaknesses. A fighter will obviously want to avoid any situation where his/her weaknesses are up against his/her opponent’s strengths. A coach will take both of these into consideration and decide whether there is enough time to work on the fighter’s weaknesses and improve them, or just to the point where he/she can recover or counter quickly should he/she find himself/herself in a tricky situation.
A coach will factor in the fighter’s athletic ability in the game plan as well. Strength, agility, endurance, explosiveness – a coach will decide which of these qualities a fighter can capitalize on based on his/her opponent. Your opponent’s conditioning level should be taken into consideration as well. If you know he/she has a tendency to gas out, you can use this as a tactic to get them tired and make mistakes.
His/her opponent’s strengths and weaknesses
There’s no doubt that it is important for a fighter to know where his/her opponent’s strengths lie. This would help him/her formulate a plan for defense – whether it’s staying off the fence, turning an opponent, or reversing the position if cornered. It also prepares them to decide which counter attacks to work on.
Knowing an opponent’s weaknesses beforehand helps a fighter utilize techniques and strategy that would capitalize on these weaknesses. A fighter needs every advantage he/she can have over his/her opponent.
Level of competition
The way in which fighters at the amateur level and professional level decide on a game plan is quite different. At the amateur level, fighters need to concentrate more on testing their game and strategies that they are good at and want to implement.
At the professional level, every detail in a game plan is customized for each fighter. In fact, the whole fight camp will revolve around this game plan. Most of the time, the game plan will concentrate on the areas a fighter and his/her coach wants to implement in the fight. At this level, it is much more important for a fighter to win.
All fighters have tendencies that either work to their advantage or disadvantage. Sometimes, these tendencies are high risk, which his/her opponent must exploit in order to gain an advantage. Whether it’s as subtle as slightly lowering one’s guard the minute they throw a jab or dropping their hands after throwing a combination, it is up to the coach to help the fighter analyze these as part of his/her game plan.
On the flip side, the coach must also be aware of his/her fighter’s tendencies so that he/she knows that his/her opponent might take advantage of them. Also, if these tendencies are bad habits, a coach could help the fighter fix these to avoid any mishaps in the cage.
After several fights and sparring sessions, MMA fighters will show distinct patterns that make them more predictable in the cage. A good coach will notice these patterns, in his/her fighter and the fighter’s opponent. He/she will then make the appropriate technical adjustments to his/her fighter’s game.
Being aware of these patterns will make it easier for the fighter to read his/her opponent, especially when they are attacking.
A fighter will always have certain preferences when it comes to ring craft. Usually it’s because these are tried and tested, and have worked in past fights. Unfortunately, these preferences make it easier for a fighter’s opponent to read him/her. A correct read will obviously give the opponent the upper hand because he/she is ready to take advantage of this predictability.
In formulating a game plan, a coach will help a fighter identify these preferences so he/she could easily counter his/her opponent. Conversely, a coach will also identify his/her fighter’s preferences to make him/her much harder to read.
It is very unusual for top fighters to be better than their opponents in all areas of martial arts because it takes years to master every dimension of martial arts. A majority of fights are won and lost by being able/not being able to implement one’s strengths. Sometimes, the reason could be something as technical as not letting your opponent get into a specific position because he/she has a high finishing rate in this position. If you ask a fighter why he/she won or lost a fight he/she will usually have a very clear answer, something along the lines of : “I couldn’t get the takedown” or “I couldn’t stop his leg kicks, his movement was too good and I couldn’t find my timing”. These are all things fighters know before a fight but were unsuccessful in implementing them in the fight. Therefore, they end up losing the fight because they could not implement their game plan or strategy.
There’s no doubt that a great game plan is the key to winning a fight, but one must also take the unpredictability factor into consideration. Regardless of how well prepared one may be, he/she must be willing to adjust his/her plan accordingly. As the great Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Perhaps we should consider that our opponent is likely doing the same work as we are and just do the best that we can to impose our game plan and win the fight.