I like Eddie Wineland. Watching him fight is a study in style and grace in MMA as he glides and bounces around the cage. Too many fighters are happy to simply wade in and lock horns.
At UFC 165 Eddie Wineland will meet Renan Barao for the interim (but in reality the actual) Bantamweight title in a match which is being largely overlooked because of the Jones vs Gustafsson main event.
Today we will take a brief look at Wineland's tendencies and skills.
The first thing to note is that Wineland loves to move. Normally the taller of the two combatants at bantamweight, he will stay on the outside and look for long punches when he can bait an opponent to step in to meet him.
With Wineland and Gustafsson fighting in one night this weekend we could well be set to see a thoroughly worn out octagon mat by the end of the night. Wineland, as with any other movement-based fighter (e.g. Frankie Edgar, Alexander Gustafsson, Dominick Cruz) can be a little stifled by low kicks as he either ends up taking them while in no position to brace, or has to pick up his lead leg to deal with them.
Wineland's last two opponents, Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett have hardly been the kind of fighters to take advantage of that, but it showed up briefly in the Pickett bout as Pickett buckled Wineland's stance with a couple of kicks.
W. C. Heinz described Sugar Ray Robinson as a master of firm prose, reluctant to waste a word. He contrasted this with Willie Pep who was more "a poet, often implying, with his feints and with his footwork, more than he said." Obviously Eddie Wineland is nowhere near Willie Pep or Ray Robinson but I enjoyed this contrast of styles and the different methods used to get the job done.
Renan Barao is not dissimilar to that description of Robinson. When he wants to kick he kicks. When he wants to jab he jabs. He is fast, and has tight, crisp technique, but he makes nowhere near the effort to lie to his opponent that Wineland does.
Wineland is more in line with that description of Willie Pep's methodology. He is one of the few fighters who uses feints effectively because he is one of the few fighters who doesn't feint once and wait to see if it works. Wineland's feints are constant and embedded into his bouncing and his rhythm. He will feint with his shoulders, with his hands and with his feet.
Wineland doesn't change his game around whether they are working or not, they just serve as an extra layer to make life a good deal more complex for his opponent.
In his most recent bout, against Brad Pickett, Eddie Wineland also displayed a neat trick from the repetoire of the great Archie Moore. If you have followed my articles for a while you will know how highly I, and most others in the boxing community, regard "The Old Mongoose." The strategy which Wineland imitated (though he probably came to it through his own experimentation of course) was Archie Moore's famed "left cross."
In an interview with Sports Illustrated before his challenge for Rocky Marciano's title, "Ageless Archie" remarked:
The left cross, it's a different punch. Not many of them throw it. They don't know it exists. Anybody tell you they no such thing as a left cross, you tell them they're a liar. Why isn't there such a thing as a left cross? There's a right cross, and you got two hands. Anything you do with your right hand you can do with your left hand.
By squaring the hips, one can throw a left straight with a full hip twist as one would throw a right straight. This is the technique which Wineland used time and time again against Pickett. Squaring his hips to fake a right, Wineland would shoot his left straight through Pickett's head when Pickett came to close in on him.
Against Scott Jorgensen, Wineland showed no need to wind up on his jab. Each time Scotty came at him, Wineland jacked the smaller man's head back with a stiff jab straight out of his stance, normally slipping the incoming strike at the same time. Slipping the jab and landing one's own is boxing 101.
Wineland is also excellent at convincing his opponent to close in on him before nailing them with a hard right straight. It is doubtlessly his money punch. Brad Pickett ate right after right as he chased Wineland. It really was the story of that fight.
If I had to pick a flaw in Wineland from that bout I would say that he suffers from the same fault which I pointed out in Gilbert Melendez to a friend a while back—he doesn't "close the door". Because Melendez and Wineland both consider their right hand a fight finisher (and evidence very much suggests they both can be) they both consequently consider it a combination finisher, which it rarely should be.
Both men will throw a flurry of punches culminating with a right hand, then just drop it and slowly move back into stance, wide open to counters.
Regular readers will be used to me saying this by now but the defensive genius of men like Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather and Roberto Duran was made much easier for them because they put themselves in a position where they rarely had to react.
Reacting is tiring and requires a fighter to be on a hair trigger all fight. If you throw a punch and immediately take what Mike Tyson's team called "defensive moves" afterward, you massively reduce your chances of being hit with a counter and remove the need to react to one. Just watch Mayweather versus Juan Manuel Marquez—after every good combination he is either behind his lead shoulder or ducking out of the way.
Of course it doesn't matter nearly so much when you are out of range or your opponent is moving away, but Melendez and Wineland regularly finish with their right hand within punching range.
If you finish a combination with a right hand—in most instances a mid-range punch—you are still in punching range, you are not behind your lead shoulder or moving out to the side, and your head is waiting on a platter. Eddie Wineland outclassed Brad Pickett so thoroughly for the most part that it was very noticeable when Eddie threw a right hand, stood still and got hit with a left hook which never should have troubled him.
Will Eddie Wineland beat Renan Barao at the weekend? I have no idea. I'm not even sure that he has done all that much to warrant a title shot, but too few fans are familiar with Wineland or appreciate that brilliance which he routinely shows in the cage.
Watch the fight and appreciate two very different, technical and clever strikers going at it.
Pick up Jack's eBooks Advanced Striking and Elementary Striking from his blog, Fights Gone By.