Let me start this discussion by saying that there is nothing worse than an armchair analyst, particularly post fight, leveling unfair criticisms at someone who is leaving blood, sweat and tears in the cage or ring.
What follows is shared for mutual improvement, not to tear down an amazing athlete who is at a crossroads in his life and career. I am going to use the following series of photos to illustrate a point in the most respectful manner I can, but candid shots like these are too good a learning opportunity to pass up, so here we are.
To wit, take a look at this:
The photo above was taken in the open workout just before Cain Velasquez was set to fight Fabricio Werdum. See anything interesting there?
Even a smattering of kicking experience should tell you that there is a problem with Cain's hip turnover. Striking with the inside of the ankle or calf is not ideal, nor is it recommended. There is a loss of power, an increased risk of injury, reduced speed...in other words, nothing good comes of it.
Now, Cain is more than capable of throwing a kick with proper turnover. For instance:
Which is interesting, but not surprising given that he is (a) not a stupid man and (b) one of the top fighters in the world. The problem is that we are what we practice, and there are far more of these photos...
...than of Cain kicking with full hip turnover.
And that is a problem. For instance, in this exchange...
...he was countered quite easily by a lesser skilled fighter. That is a problem when you are trying to win and defend titles, especially against fighters like this:
The other factor to consider is that, well, the knee does not respond favorably to torque. A proper kick with hip turnover and a proper pivot with the posting leg eliminates most, if not all, of the torque that gets generated and put onto the ligaments of the knees. This applies as much to the posting knee as it does to the striking one. In the former, think "straight line application of force" versus an angled one; in the latter, imagine what is happening inside the knee with the foot rooted to the floor. All bad without that turnover and pivot.
If Cain practices his kicks this way, could it be contributing to his knee issues in training...? Possibly. A lot of injuries are caused by repetitive stress and are not necessarily acute in nature. I would be willing to bet that how Cain was injured in training had as much to do with contributing factors as it did the perceived mechanism of injury. We all know that person who trains hard in the gym, then throws his or her back out shoveling snow or sneezing.
The takeaway point here is that there is tremendous value in using video and photo analysis in your training, even if you are the two time heavyweight champion of the world. Did his kicks change the outcome of this fight? No, but that is not the point of this analysis. The point is that there are no shortcuts in athletics and there will always be room for improvement, even if you are in the gym every single day practicing.
Because practice alone does not make perfect, despite what you may have heard; perfect practice makes perfect, and anything less is a compromise.
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