The Severe Spotlight: Mateusz Rębecki

An action-packed night of fights took place in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday night. Ilia Topuria dominated Josh Emmett to stake his claim at either an immediate title shot, or a huge name in the 145lb division. Maycee Barber showed her continuous growth finishing Amanda Ribas in the second round. The rest of the card was littered with monumental shifts, great performances but not many shone like that of Mateusz Rębecki’s win over Loik Radzhabov.

The second-round finish improved Rębecki to a win streak of 15 fights. A drastically impressive feat.

From the opening bell Rębecki moved forward with intention. His shuffle steps to the outside space were prominent immediately, that outside step setup the driving teep from the back leg of the southpaw stance, pushing Radzhabov well back. Just inside the minute mark a well-placed low kick to the outside right knee, that pulled a big reaction from Tajikistan fighter. Rębecki followed it up with an inside low kick to the opposite leg causing another aggressive reaction. The first chink in the armour had been found.

The kicks keep coming in the following minute, the fourth kick lands so cleanly Radzhabov hobbles and hops his way back out of range. Rębecki understands that this is entirely part of the game plan – if the legs don’t work, or the mobility is weakened, the movement is limited. When the movement is limited, a fighter can make far easier reads on what is coming, and what the expected reactions will be. Rębecki starts to up the pace with his striking, showing off some excellent positional awareness and takedown defence as Radzhabov stumbles into a bodylock position.

At 2:34 you truly see the impact of the low kicks and of the stalking footwork. Rębecki has forced his man to retreat aggressively, tentatively trying to find a way out, head movement and footwork reduced to reactive, jerky patterns. This is punished by two clean jabs, and a double leg takedown, Rębecki expertly turning his man away from the fence as he completes the dump. The triangling of the legs from Rębecki just above the knee line of Radzhabov disables the ability for a getup. To his credit, Radzhabov does a good job of utilising over hooks and collar ties to slow down the postural control – but due to the lock around his knees, the getup is impossible.

Rębecki hip switches into side control, which is the space Radzhabov needed to find an underhook and get back to his feet. In the final minute we saw some wild exchanges on the feet, but again a beautifully timed low kick from Rębecki took the legs away from Radzhabov who dove on a single leg in desperation, losing the turtle battle and finding himself in a deep crucifix, one of the most dangerous and underutilised positions in the sport.

Round two began with another punishing, crushing low kick from Rębecki. Radzhabov retreated to the fence to hold himself up. One impressive trait to a fighter is their ability to finish a fight cleanly. Many fighters notice their opponent is hurt and rush in, wade through a barrage of frames to try to land a single shot. Rębecki did not do that at all. He looked for straight shots, he slammed another low kick into Radzhabov’s inside left leg, he went right hook body to left hook head. He went right back to the leg.

Noticing that his opponent was not yet ready to concede defeat, he took a couple of steps out of range, baiting a shot from Radzhabov. This is smart fighting for a multitude of reasons, punching yourself out on an opponent that’s still hanging in can be a recipe for disaster. Taking a step back and looking at the whole landscape of an opponent can often allow you to see the kill shot, also.

Two more low kicks slammed into Radzhabov before a left hand flew into his jaw, hidden as a low kick. Two more and Radzhabov found himself on the canvas again, desperation grappling.

More low kicks, and more patience from Rębecki until the final low kick truly began to buckle Radzhabov and he was sent to the canvas a final time with a final crushing left hand. Referee Larry Folsom had seen enough.

A smart, mature and devastating showing of low kick prowess, forward facing fighting and aggression from Rębecki.  

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