Johnny Walker has plenty of explosive knockouts on his résumé, but the circumstances that led to his finish over Paul Craig at UFC 283 looked anything but routine.
As Craig grabbed onto a leg and lifted it into the air as he attempted a takedown, Walker used his long reach to swing a huge punch that blasted the Scottish light heavyweight, which led to the end of the fight. The fact that Walker was teetering on one leg yet still managed to generate enough power to actually hurt Craig appeared almost miraculous, but it turns out that’s not exactly the case.
That’s because Walker actually trains in that exact position during his daily workouts while at SBG in Ireland.
“Actually part of our pretty much daily warmup, all of my fighters are tired of it at this stage, we do 30 seconds balance on each leg,” Walker’s head coach John Kavanagh said on The MMA Hour.
“So one guy is holding your leg, very much similar to that, and you mimic throwing shots while on one leg. That’s literally part of a everyday warmup that we do.”
It was an incredible display of power, balance, and dexterity as Walker delivered the blow and then continued to rain down shots until the referee stopped the fight.
Of course swinging for the fences in that position can sometimes be a hindrance, as Kavanagh remembers from another matchup involving one of his fighters competing in Bellator MMA.
“One of my guys, Frans Mlambo, he’s a very, very talented fighter — he fought Ricky Bandejas in Dublin and he made the mistake of catching the leg and holding onto it a little bit too long,” Kavanagh explained. “Ricky Bandejas knocked out Frans Mlambo.
“Frans Mlambo is an exceptional striker. He was one of Conor [McGregor]’s main sparring partners for the [Floyd] Mayweather fight, just to give an idea that he’s [got] really, really high-level boxing and kickboxing.”
Overall, Kavanagh still preaches practicing that position because it happens so often in fights and he wants his athletes to get familiar with using balance as a weapon, which is why it’s become a staple during training sessions.
“You know when you’re holding someone’s leg, somewhat the other way of looking at it is, your leg is holding both of their arms and you’re not in a position where you can kind of chill and try to get a takedown because you’re very open,” Kavanagh said. “That is actually part of the daily warmup, is that comfortableness of being able to move around on one leg.
“You put that with someone who’s just an exceptional athlete, like probably in a different life Johnny should have been a basketball player or an NFL receiver — there’s a lot more money in that game than the fighting game — but he does have that part of him, he’s not just an athlete he’s a fighter, he’s a warrior.”
Kavanagh says since Walker came to Ireland and joined his team that they’ve become like family with the Brazilian regularly staying at his house while also marrying an Irish bride.
The partnership has really started to bear fruit in the cage as well with Walker now sitting on a two-fight win streak following his knockout over Craig.
Kavanagh believes this is just the start of a much longer win streak, with Walker eventually becoming a serious contender at light heavyweight — and perhaps even heavyweight one day in the future.
“He’s a very unusual human, but there was some lacking of fundamentals in fighting, let’s say, that he could sometimes get away with things that normal humans couldn’t,” Kavanagh said. “My gym is probably more well known for bantamweight to welterweight, and suddenly I had this massive guy that will no doubt finish his career in the heavyweight division. Just tidying up some of those fundamentals in all of the areas of mixed martial arts.
“I really feel that we’ve tightened up a lot of things there. For sure, I feel there’s a world championship in his future. Just glad to play a small part in that.”
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