Thursday, January 13, 2011

BJ Penn, Floyd Mayweather Sr., and the Shoulder Roll Legacy

About a week ago published an interesting interview with Floyd Mayweather Sr., father of multidivision boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. The interview centered on Mayweather Sr's training of former UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn. Penn, a Brazilia Jiu Jitsu black belt who is also known for his fierce striking abilities, looks to improve his boxing skill set as he prepares for his UFC 127 meeting with UFC welterweight Jon Fitch.

FightHype quoted Mayweather's comments on BJPenn's improving boxing game:
"...I don't know about his ground game and all of that stuff, but he's got some pop and in just the three days I've been working with him, he has improved, man..."
The interview did not identify any specific areas that Penn and Mayweather are concentrating on, other than the idea that they are preparing for a much taller fighter in Jon Fitch. However, with anyone that Mayweather Sr. works with there is one technique that we can faithfully assume he will address -- his infamous "shoulder roll." Mayweather Sr. trained his son from an early age, passing on this technique that has lead the younger Mayweather to a 41-0 professional career. Mayweather's success with the shoulder roll proves its effectiveness, as he, much like his father during his pro career, is known for winning fights and walking away virtually unscathed.

What is the shoulder roll?
The shoulder roll, often called the "Crab," "Hitman," "Philly Roll," or "Philly Shell," (its other names often imply variations in the style, depending on who you are talking to) is a defensive and countering technique. The shoulder roll stance can be modified to a fighter's preference, but it traditionally involves raising the shoulder and attaching it to a tucked chin, while holding the back fist to the chin and the lead fist and forearm to the body. As stated earlier, this technique can be modified, but the general concept of "rolling" remains consistent with the description above. When used defensively this technique can be used to slip, deflect, and avoid punches, providing openings to set up counter strikes.

In the following video boxing trainer Charles "Lucky" Brandon demonstrates the basics of the shoulder roll. In the second video, Floyd Mayweather Jr. breaks down his famous shoulder roll:

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Can BJ effectively apply the roll to MMA?
So far, we haven't seen the roll used exclusively by a popular MMA fighter. It's effectiveness in the cage has been the subject of countless debates on MMA website chatrooms and message boards (just Google "shoulder roll mma"). It appears that most MMA fighters and fans doubt the efficacy of the cross-armed boxing stance in mixed martial arts because of the potential vulnerability to kicks and takedowns. Keeping one's arms too tight inside for too long can leave a fighter open to takedowns. Also, the lead arm held close to the torso can make it very difficult to stop kicks from the back since the roll is usually performed while in a sideways stance. With all these potential complications considered, it will be very interesting to see how BJ applies this technique to his repertoire, or if he even uses it at all. Nonetheless, BJ is training with one of the best boxing trainers in the world in Floyd Mayweather Sr. Expect to see a renewed punch from BJ Penn in the Octagon on February 27.

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