The Severe Spotlight: Montel Jackson

It takes a considerable amount of time for a fighter to achieve calm in performances. It takes an understanding of oneself, inside and outside the performance aspect of their lives. Montel Jackson displayed the epitome of calm in his destruction of Rani Yahya.

Jackson meets Yahya in the middle of the cage in his southpaw stance. A tense Yahya reaches for a glove touch and inside fifteen seconds without a single strike thrown, its obvious which fighter is more comfortable inside the steel fences. Jackson is smooth in his movement, oscillating between gliding in and out of feints, before reverting to a measured stalk. Lead hand protruding and disrupting the hands and vision of Yahya. His heels mere centimetres off the floor allowing for the stalk, the glide but also the left hand that arrives shortly after evading the first low kick attempt from the Brazilian.

The posture in which Jackson takes when stalking; hips low, hands half primed, lead foot planted to the canvas but back foot arched on the ball of the feet, primed for firing plays a major factor both physically but mentally in this fight. As the defensive man, how do you begin to break that down?

Yahya attempted to do so via spurious leg kicks, both the outside and stomp variations. A facet to Yahya’s game is that he has no issue with fighting on the ground and so is able (as we see with other fighters) to take more risks on the feet, to breach rules of engagement due to the lack of anxiety for ground fighting. This method of fighting can prove frustrating for some fighters, as they are used to adherence to a set of engagement rules. Jackson’s antidote to this approach, however, is as discussed, the stalking.

The stalking allows him to consistently close the distance on Yahya, limit the space with which he must explode into, and force him to answer difficult questions.

This is highlighted with 3:57 left on the clock. Note the work Jackson does on the lead hand of Yahya, consistently pawing at it, consistently jamming it and calculating range, asking the question of what Yahya is going to do, telling him there is danger there at all times. In this exchange, Yahya opts to retreat; and Jackson backs him up to the cage line and drives in a left hand. Whilst Yahya defends, he’s now on the cage line, against a fighter with superior reach. A left lands as punishment before Yahya bursts out into space.

Not long after, we see that the finish, or at least the chink in the armour has been found by Jackson. 3:38 left and Jackson has an awareness that in his current configuration, Yahya is starting most offence with a low kick. As the low kick is coming, he bursts through the space into the pocket and landing clean with two shots forcing Yahya to retreat. Scrape that into the logbook of the Jackson camp.

The grappling questions arise right after. Yahya has been pushed back, has not been able to get the offence off he wants, has not been given range that allows him to enter grappling situations in ways he would like, and has been suffocated positionally. From the retreat he dives on a head outside single.

Jackson sprawls correctly, cutting the angle to his left dropping his right hip. Smartly he also takes a inside thigh/crotch grip to ensure Yahya doesn’t just build up to his back from the head outside single. Yahya begins to build height. Jackson follows and switches the crotch grip to the far tricep to attempt to strip. Yahya begins to run the pipe, but good balance is shown from Jackson who finds the cage wall and posts on the head of Yahya to break the posture and push him further down the leg.

Gorgeous decision-making proceeds from Jackson – he feels the second drive of Yahya coming, who wants to turn the corner yet again and place Jackson to the mat. In return he shucks himself out to the side, plants a reverse butterfly hook to the thigh of Yahya and takes a coccyx grip allowing him to primarily ride the drive, but also to cut the angle quicker than Yahya and stay on top. This decision allows him the time to find sprawling room and remove the base of Yahya’s turtle with the pull on the right shin of Yahya.

The pull is in conjunction with him driving his hips into Yahya forcing him to concede bottom should he want to continue holding the single. Jackson is using a cross face to stop Yahya from building up. Conceding bottom, Yahya has fed his left leg into the inside space likely wanting a half guard, or to find the back. But Jackson has smartly bladed his legs and dropped his hips to the middle to force essentially a smash pass, his coccyx grip is moved up to a frame on the back.

He feels Yahya begin to turn likely to try to find the back and squares his hips back up accepting closed guard. Whilst closed guard against someone like Yahya isn’t the most favourable, dealing with the single leg, staying on top and shutting down the offence of Yahya in that manner is incredibly impressive.

Yahya works on a armbar/triangle dilemma before being warned by Peterson about fingers in the gloves. A reset occurs when Jackson lands a left to Yahya.

On the feet, the finish comes swiftly. Yahya exploding into striking range and Jackson managing it. The ending sequence arrives when Yahya exposes his centre line. The Brazilian looks to land a leaping left hand from orthodox as a measuring stick for the right hand. However, Jackson has seen both strikes coming, and pierces the middle with a destructive left hand. He is falling the moment the left hand connects with the jaw, but Jackson mercifully redirects the fall with a right hand, dropping Yahya to his back.

After a short interval of ground and pound strikes, Peterson intervenes and waves off the fight.

Cool, calm, collected. Montel Jackson.

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