The Severe Spotlight: Isaac Dulgarian

UFC debuts are tough occurrences, lots of moving parts, lots of emotions. Almost every UFC debut should be excused for these reasons, often we see fighters not perform to their optimal ability, even in a win. But it is rare that we see a debut that looks up and is sprinkled with glimmers of sunshine from the category of flawless.

The aim of an MMA fight is to engage your opponent and find the most efficient and seamless route to victory. It is rare that we see a performance whereby the victor almost navigates an entire five minutes and doesn’t take a shot to the head.

Isaac Dulgarian passed his UFC debut with flying colours over Francis “Fire” Marshall. The two opened the bout with some leg kicks. Both fighters adopted the orthodox stance, but Dulgarian took the first inside angle on Marshall, landing a heavy low kick to the hamstring. They then shared an exchange of low kicks before Marshall timed a gorgeous low calf kick as Dulgarian’s legs were coming together. This caused a slight buckling to the Dulgarian foundations.

Dulgarian then made this an MMA fight. He aggressively changed levels and drove Marshall to the fence. The takedown attempt was sloppy; there wasn’t a penetration step, the arms outstretched for the hips, and the head was leading. But the efficacy was still high as Marshall attempted to angle his body and dig an underhook, Dulgarian masterfully locked his hands and dragged him away from the cage fencing, returning him to the mat.

The pair landed on the mat in a pseudo butterfly position, or more commonly determined in sport grappling as an open bodylock position with a leg split. This means one of Dulgarians legs was on the inside space and the other on the outside. It was not yet a formed half guard due to the butterfly hook of Marshall – however that butterfly hook was merely a frame due to the supine position of Marshall.

The positional awareness of Dulgarian shone through from this moment forward. He began to work for upper body grips on Marshall, initially opting for a tricep pull which impeded Marshall to hip escape and use his butterfly hook more effectively. He began to attempt to pummel his leg over the butterfly hook but to no avail. He switched then to a crossface, a more committed grip. The pummelling was more successful, and he moved to an open guard situation.

Ground and pound began here, right hooks to the body aplenty opened an effective combination of forearm framing against the jaw and throat of Marshall to dropping elbows with the same arm. As per the scoring criteria, Dulgarian used damage to improve his position. Said damage forced Marshall to be more reactive with his legs, and this gave Dulgarian the time and space to step over the right knee of Marshall and cement into a half guard.

Working with a deep underhook he moved back to the forearm and throat frame that was successful in the previous position. A short battle for the near underhook took place, Dulgarian came out on top and used the movements to switch his base and look to remove his right leg from the half guard and get to a full mount situation.  Marshall read the situation well and created a scramble with a stiff-arm post into the left armpit of Dulgarian.

Dulgarian has a counter of his own. Marshall has to build height in order to win the scramble. We have discussed in these articles before that the two principles to adhere too are hip and head height – win both and you win the position usually. Marshall had superior head height but needed both legs to build the hip height. Marshall has already achieved the angle, exposing the back of Dulgarian, due to the cross-body arm and the far hip grip. But Dulgarian scoops up the left leg of Marshall and drives weight into him. Without that left leg, he won’t be able to heist and build full height. The back take is still a danger, but Dulgarian reads that threat too and drives his weight to his left, pulling up on the scoop grip, tilting Marshall back to his back. That is very clever grappling.

Dulgarian swiftly moves to a crossface and an underhook. Damage rains down, and Dulgarian finds 3/4 mount. Marhsall’s face split open under the heavy rain of Dulgarian, after a succession of percussion bounces off the Marshall head, Jason Herzog had seen enough and called a stop to the contest in the first round.

We can be excited about what Dulgarian brings to this 145lb division.

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