The Severe Spotlight: Christian Leroy Duncan

How a fighter returns from a loss says much about the fighter. Whilst having lost in the amateur ranks, those scales are shed by the time you reach nine professional wins without a blemish on the record. This, however, is MMA and losses will and for most fighters, must happen.

Leroy Duncan spent his camp preparing to fight César Almeida. A 4-0 kickboxing alumni with his most recent win coming on the DWCS platform. Almeida unfortunately had to withdraw from the contest very late, needing surgery for an infection. This type of roadblock can maime the camp but also the confidence of a fighter.

It stands as a testament to the preparation of Leroy Duncan, and his proclivity to prepare his own skills rather than centre his preparation around an opponent.

He strolled out to the cage, to meet the far more experienced late notice replacement in Denis Tiuliulin.

The expectation was to engage in a skill exchange, and his opening approach of a heavy leg kick, sat down into his heels showed that. Tiuliulin had other ideas, surging forward with a barrage of shots that Duncan calmly negotiated as he backed up and circled away along the cage wall.

Inside these first twelve seconds Duncan sets his stall out with his slick footwork, his silky body mechanics and wanting to land the correct shots at the correct cadence. Low kicks and jabs are his opening gambits. However, Tiuliulin is the opposite he wants to throw damaging bull horn shots with intention but lacking awareness. It takes no more than 6 more seconds for Duncan to grab a bodylock and drive his opponent to the cage.

This is smart fighting for two reasons, offensively Duncan is changing the area of the fight, forcing a different set of reactions out of his opponent, and filling up his arms with some lactic acid. Defensively he is not under the barrage of wild and potentially impactful shots. Duncan uses some fantastic head position to really dominate these exchanges in these positions, his inside trip fails but he lands a plethora of knees and shoulder strikes in the clinch.

Tiuliulin, unable to win inside position glances at the clock with just shy of two minutes remaining, as Duncan slams a shoulder into his jaw, demanding his attention in the position. A gorgeous moment occurs with around 1:40 left in the round. Tiuliulin has managed to skirt his back across the cage and is about to square up to Duncan, knowing there is a chance of either an underhook being pummelled or an exit to the right-hand side, Duncan disengages from the head position for just a beat and drops a heavy left elbow to the jaw of Tiuliulin. This was a wonderful piece of positional awareness of course, but also a fantastic selection of shot, the elbow denies Tiuliulin the ability to get an underhook, and if he had looked for a grip, Duncan was in a position post-elbow to re-pummel. But secondly it shuts the door for the exit out to the right.

More knees, shoulder strikes and the odd elbow run us down the last minute of the opening round.

A lovely slide in right high kick grazes the lips of Tiuliulin to open us up for the second round, followed right away by a beautifully creative stamp low kick to spinning backfist combination. Stunned by the backfist, Duncan catches his man again with a snapping jab. Sensing the danger, Tiuliulin attempts to dive in for a damaging right hand but is met instead with the elusive footwork and a crushing left hand that drops him to the canvas momentarily.

Blood in his nostrils Duncan chases Tiuliulin across the cage, a flying knee launches him through the air to make up the last of the distance as it partially lands on the Russian fighter. The footwork of Duncan squares up Tiuliulin not long before he lands a crushing left hook. Again, the IQ of Duncan in his role as the hammer shines through; he takes a step back, looking to gauge where the correct shot to put his man away will come from.

The second flying knee is not the shot, or the following left hook. A spinning backfist lands again as Tiuliulin bounds out of his prison against the cage.

Toughness carry Tiuliulin through the next couple of minutes. He valiantly looks to land short elbows, and any shot that will take the steady pressure and varied attack of Duncan off him.

Duncan shows us an interesting wrinkle at the 1:31 mark, its not the two crushing elbows that land that we should notice, it’s the beat before when he throws the laboured, almost frustrated wheel kick. Duncan displays a man agitated at the toughness of his opponent, agitation at the lack of willingness to flow and showcase beautiful MMA from his opponent, and so decides, in his own representation to bite down on his mouthpiece and hurt his man.

Those two elbows certainly do that as he follows up two more from the thai clinch.

It was those blows that ended the competition as an exchange of skill, as the next moments are Tiuliulin in acceptance that he is going to eat hurtful, damaging shots and will do nothing to attempt to stop them, other than put his remaining chips into landing on Duncan himself.

The sequence to drop Tiuliulin comes shortly after. A left hook turns to a collar tie, servicing the right uppercut. Three of those uppercuts found the chin before Tiuliulin backed up momentarily, he was graced with the same combination – a left elbow lands before the right elbow crushes him to the canvas. A couple of coffin nails drop onto the Russian as the referee gives mercy and calls a halt to the contest.

Duncan will take bountiful lessons from that and as he grows, and gains more experience, there is a lot of fun performances we are going to witness from him.

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