Ian Machado Garry Studies NFL Wide Receivers to Dodge Geoff Neal’s Power at UFC 298

MMA fighter Ian Machado Garry used lessons from a documentary on soccer manager Pep Guardiola and strategies from NFL wide receivers to maintain constant movement and evade his opponent Geoff Neal in their UFC 298 fight, leading to a victory despite mixed audience and judge reactions.

Ian Machado Garry, the MMA globetrotter, found a new muse for his UFC 298 match against Geoff Neal. It wasn’t from the usual corners of the MMA world, though.

He drew inspiration from an unexpected source: soccer.

A BBC documentary on Pep Guardiola, a former soccer star turned Manchester City manager, sparked an idea. Garry saw parallels between soccer and MMA that could help him dodge Neal’s explosive attacks.

Guardiola’s handball-influenced soccer strategy got Garry thinking. “Maintaining possession is easier than getting the ball,” Garry mused on The MMA Hour. “If we keep the ball, scoring is simpler. It’s the same with fighting. If you’re harder to hit, it’s tougher for your opponent to succeed.”

Garry’s strategy? Constant, lightning-fast movement. “Make it hard for Geoff Neal to land a hit,” he said.

His blueprint? The NFL. In a sport where speed is key and slow reactions can have concussive consequences, Garry found his answer. Neal’s strength lay in his ability to get close and land blows. To avoid this, Garry had to keep moving.

“I gotta keep moving, stay on my toes,” Garry said. “The moment he plants his feet, he’s got power. So, I need to keep shifting, left to right, throughout the fight.”

He studied NFL wide receivers like Ja’marr Chase and Justin Jefferson. Their ability to trick opponents with their movement was something Garry wanted to incorporate into his fight.

Next time, he might switch things up. “Maybe I’ll still go left, throw a lot of feints. Keep moving to unsettle Geoff, make it hard for him.”

This wasn’t a strategy handed down from his coaches at Chute Boxe. It was Garry’s idea. He wanted to learn from elite athletes. “They’re so fast off the line, can change direction on a dime. I wanted to bring that to my fight.”

The crowd at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., wasn’t exactly thrilled with Garry’s strategy. They saw it as running, not smart movement. The boos in the later rounds made their feelings clear.

The judges’ scoring was a concern. Garry braced himself for a split decision. Two judges scored the fight 29-28 and 30-27 for Garry. One gave Neal all three rounds, 30-27.

“I don’t get it,” Garry said. “I dominated in significant strikes. Geoff had more clinch time, but did nothing with it. I was dominant in the head fight and the hand battle. How do you score that 30-27?”

In the end, Garry’s strategy worked. He outlanded Neal in total strikes (80 to 57) and significant strikes (67 to 46). He didn’t take many hard hits. His performance may not have wowed the crowd, but he’s okay with that.

The most important judge, according to Garry, was Neal. “Both fighters know who won,” Garry said. “Geoff knows he lost. I outworked him, I outpaced him. He didn’t succeed when he wanted to.”

“So, don’t tell me it wasn’t a unanimous decision. That’s why we don’t leave it in the hands of the judges.”


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