Keys to Victory for #TeamKingad
First of all, let’s give credit where credit is due. Chatri Sityodtong, you are one awesome CEO. When ONE Championship announced that they signed MMA superstars Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez, I honestly thought that their exposure would be limited to ONE’s US, Japan, and Singapore presence. Not even a year later, we were able to watch BOTH Mighty Mouse and Alvarez fight live on Philippine soil. So again, Chatri, thank you.
Perhaps the biggest news from Dawn of Heroes is that Danny Kingad and Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson are set to face each other for the ONE Flyweight Grand Prix finals in Japan at ONE: CENTURY this October 13. “The King” won a split decision over Reece McLaren while Johnson decisioned a very game Tatsumitsu Wada in a grappling masterclass. McLaren was actually winning before he gassed in the third, where Kingad’s high-altitude conditioning paid dividends with a third-round comeback that sealed the victory. Mighty Mouse’s slashing elbow was the critical factor that caused the most significant damage – a cut on Wada’s forehead – in their three-round war.
Danny Kingad was all praises for Reece McLaren prior to their match at Dawn of Heroes, even stating that McLaren was one of his idols. You could just imagine what good things he’ll have to say about the 12-time UFC flyweight champion leading to their October clash. Whether this admiration would lead Kingad to train his effing hardest or require a need to set this idol worship aside to focus on the prize, the young Lakay and his entire team will have to figure things out soonest as no doubt Mighty Mouse is already back in the gym training for their showdown.
And while (almost) every Filipino is #TeamKingad on this one, let’s look at the keys for Danny “The King” Kingad to increase his probability of bringing that shiny Grand Prix belt home on October.
#1 Height and Reach Advantage
Danny Kingad enjoys a 5-cm height advantage over Mighty Mouse. Practically everyone has a height and reach advantage over Mighty Mouse, even at flyweight. But, no one has ever capitalized on this advantage, perhaps because DJ nullifies this with his speed and clinch game. An advantage is still an advantage, and “The King” should make full use of this by rounding out his stand up and take down defense.
#2 Ring or Cage
ONE is known for holding MMA competitions in both the ring and the cage. I don’t know how soon ONE informs their fighters where their matches would be held, but being that ONE: CENTURY will be in Japan, I’d place my bet on the Flyweight Grand Prix Finals being held inside a ring.
Fighting in the ring is very different from competing inside the cage. If the finals is to be decided inside a ring, it could be in favor of Kingad since Mighty Mouse will not have the comforts of the cage to help him with his clinch and wrestling. Still, Kingad needs to be certain: The sooner they find out, the better. And if ONE doesn’t disclose, then Danny and the team will have to train – and train differently – in both.
#3 Tale of the Tapes
Team Lakay is known for implementing effective game plans against their opponents, especially those they’ve faced in the past. An essential key to victory for Kingad is to study his opponent with a Kobe Bryant-esque dissection of the tapes.
The good news is, when it comes to tapes, Mighty Mouse has A LOT of fights on file. The hard part is not becoming trapped by the awe that befalls so many of us when we glimpse the brilliance of Johnson and his Hall of Fame-worthy career. Of his 11 successful title defenses, we saw different sides to Mighty Mouse’s game that would make any one-dimensional fighter shudder.
On the other hand, the tapes on his losses against Dominick Cruz and Henry Cejudo are quintessential to war room preparations. While Cruz’s style and Cejudo’s wrestling pedigree are hard to imitate, the big take home is how Cruz and Cejudo were both effectively aggressive in their respective engagements with Mighty Mouse.
#4 Learn and Unlearn
After going through the first three keys, it’s time for “The King” to learn and – more importantly – unlearn habits to bring into ONE: CENTURY. I know Team Lakay is heavily influenced by their Wushu background, but considering how quick Mighty Mouse is in getting inside his opponent’s reach, I would advise against using spinning attacks that could unnecessarily leave the Lakay vulnerable to DJ’s take downs and lightning counters.
In terms of grappling, I would advise against further training Kingad’s submission game. True, Team Lakay has scored key victories via submissions, but most of these victories are against strikers with very limited grappling backgrounds. Johnson, on the other hand, calmly defended while Wada had back control, with his legs locked in a body triangle around DJ’s waist. Mighty Mouse is the guy that gets last-second submissions; not the guy who gets caught by such. Lakay fighters have also fallen prey to gigil, going for the finish with either a submission or ground and pound without proper controls.
Precisely so, Team Lakay should instead focus on improving Kingad’s control. Some call it flow grappling: learning proper control, passes, and sweeps without ever going for submissions. As a humble PE instructor in Jiu-Jitsu, I focus on flow grappling for the first half of every semester to condition my students to not go for “Hail Mary” guillotines or dive for armbars every time they see an “opportunity.” From here, the team could progress to allowing Kingad’s partner to attempt strikes and submissions, while Kingad intuitively learns to control his opponent from either top or bottom position. As BJJ great Caio Terra famously said, “Control over submission.” From the top, I’d advise Kingad to limit his strikes to singular elbows, primarily to create opportunities to pass the guard and get to a control position he prefers. NEVER a barrage of strikes. I believe Kingad has more to gain by training for sweeps and escapes from the bottom, and passing the guard from the top, as he faces someone as dangerous on the ground as Mighty Mouse. And, if an opportunity to submit actually opens up, I believe Kingad has the basics patted down to secure the simplest of submissions.
As ONE: CENTURY draws near, Danny Kingad and the rest of Team Lakay are 100% focused on preparing for what very well is the most prolific fight in the team’s legendary history. Briefly speaking to Kingad about his upcoming fight, the second-generation Lakay said, “I have been preparing for Demetrious Johnson ever since he joined ONE Championship because I knew I have a chance to fight him. A lot of athletes want to compete against him since he is a former UFC champion, but I was the one given the opportunity to face him in the Grand Prix Finals.” Kingad assures Filipino MMA fans, “The way I’m preparing for this fight is incomparable to my preparations in the past. It’s my time to share the cage with DJ, and I’ll be 110% ready this October 13.”
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