Tim Boetsch: UFC 144 Comeback Knockout

If you saw UFC 144 last Saturday, then you no doubt saw one of the better 3rd round comebacks in long time in Tim’s fight against Yushin Okami. Joe Rogan went so far as to call it “one of the greatest UFC comebacks of all time” and there’s no doubt that Tim did a hell of a job and overcame a less than stellar performance in the first two rounds to a win a fight that he was clearly behind on the judges scorecards at the time. Here’s how he did it…

Tim Boetsch’s UFC 144 Training Camp

At this point, Tim has been coming to train with us for a couple of years, so we know know how he responds to training, what he needs to do and how to organize his training in a way that works best for him. This was also his third fight at middleweight, so his weight cut is becoming easier as well. He came into camp at around 215-220 and by the time he left for Japan, he was down to around 202 lbs.

As I talked about back in the series on his training camp for UFC 130 against Kendall Grove, Tim’s a guy that likes to work hard, but we have to carefully monitor him to make sure he doesn’t overtrain. Being a bigger, heavier, stronger fighter, his work capacity is not the same as a lightweight or smaller fighter and throughout all of his training camps, I monitor him very closely with BioForce HRV as well as with the Omegawave.

I’ve also just started working with Polar’s T2 system so for his next camp, we’ll monitor all of his training with that as well. In the coming weeks, I’ll have some good article on my use of it and how it all correlates to HRV. I haven’t had a chance to work with the system for long yet, but I think it’s got a ton of potential…

Last week’s article on Roadwork 2.0: The Comeback happened to be particularly well timed given Tim’s comeback win because it’s a method I use frequently in his training. The reason is simple, it works, it’s low impact, and it doesn’t cause a level of fatigue that will keep Tim from doing the work that he needs to do in his MMA training.

Personally, this is an area I think many fighters get completely wrong. They try to literally kill themselves in their strength and conditioning work outside of their skills training doing endless high intensity interval work, and then when they actually get in the ring or cage to spar and do specific work, they are so fatigued that they don’t have anything left. The quality of their skill work is low, they get sloppy and practice poor technique over and over again. This is a HUGE mistake!

Getting in Shape to Fight

Of course you need to work hard in your strength and conditioning sessions, but during a fight camp – and especially in the last few weeks of it – your conditioning work needs to come in the form of your skills training. If the work you’re doing outside of that leaves you too fatigued to get the most out of your specific conditioning work, you’re doing things the wrong way.

This is the difference between general conditioning, and specific conditioning, and just as I talk about in Ultimate MMA Conditioning you need to understand the role of each in the overall training program.

Primarily through the use of Roadwork 2.0 and Tempo Intervals we were able to drop Tim’s resting heart rate from the mid 60s down to the low 50s within about 4-5 weeks. We would typically do 1-2 sessions of each type of work each week and as we got into the later parts of training camp, I also had him do some high resistance intervals and threshold work as well.

His BioForce HRV number started in the mid 60s and by the end of camp, was in the low to mid 80s. This change in heart rate variability represents a very big improvement in aerobic fitness and an increase in overall work capacity.

For the most part, a well conditioned fighter will generally always be in the 80s or 90s on BioForce HRV and have a resting HR in the low 50s. There are exceptions fo this, but by and large these are the numbers I shoot for when getting a fighter ready for a fight.

Also, because Tim is naturally a strong guy and he doesn’t need to build muscle and work himself out of his new weight class, his strength work was more or less maintenance throughout the camp. We stuck to the core lifts, two days per week with low to moderate reps and a pretty low to moderate overall volume.

He doesn’t need any more than that to maintain his level of strength and power and during a training camp, his time and energy are best spent focusing on getting his conditioning level up while dropping the weight he needs to drop to get down to 185lbs at fight time.

The key to everything was to manage his overall training load to make sure he was responding well and not overworking because a high volume of training coupled with a diet that will lead to the weight loss he needed is a recipe for overtraining if you’re not careful.

Again, this something far too many fighters let happen during a training camp because all their strength and conditioning is high intensity work and then all their skill training is as well and sooner or later, fatigue accumulates to the point that the body’s preservation response is activated and overtraining results.

This is the real reason why we’re seeing so many injuries in the sport, something I talked about “The Truth About Injuries” and why we’re seeing top fighters are gassing out inside of one round far more often than we should.

If you’re in a constant state of fatigue for weeks on end, your quality of training suffers, your body ends up getting beat up and ultimately, you’re not able to get in the kind of shape you need to be in.

UFC 144: The Results

During the first couple rounds of the fight, things obviously weren’t going Tim’s way. In the first round, he was taking more hard shots than he was giving and he was making the mistake of staying just at the end of Okami’s range, something that certainly wasn’t in the gameplan. There was no doubt going into the fight that the fight was not going to be an easy one, Yushin was ranked the #3 middleweight in the world, after all and this was a big step up in competition for Tim.

Throughout camp, Tim had worked on getting inside on Okami, using his strength and power to his advantage and avoiding Okami’s punches by using his footwork to move and not just stand at the end of his range. In the first two rounds, he was obviously not doing what he needed to do and not doing what he had trained to do.

Who knows exactly why this was the case, perhaps the fact that Tim was fighting halfway around the world in Japan for the first time affected him, but sometimes guys get in a fight and don’t do what they should and the first couple rounds was definitely one of those times. Aside from that, Okami is a damn good fighter and has beaten a lot of top guys and he was fighting at home in front of the Japanese crowd and he came out looking sharp and fighting well.

I actually thought the first round wasn’t that bad, he lost the round, but he did land some shots. In the second round, Tim was taking more shots and certainly losing the stand up battle and after going for the guillotine, he ended up in a very bad spot and Okami did a good job of capitalizing on it.

Had Tim not gone for the choke, he may not have ended up with Okami on top of him and the round might not have looked as bad, but there’s no doubt he had to fight his way to get through the round and after round two, he had lost both rounds and things weren’t looking great.

Fortunately, Tim is one of those guys that never quits and in between rounds you could hear Matt telling him that he could still win the fight, he just needed to go out and be “super agressive” and obviously that’s exactly what he did. Tim’s aggressiveness and strategy in the third round was exactly what he should have done in earlier rounds.

Press the action, throw hard shots and don’t stand at the end of Okami’s range and let him use his striking and reach to his advantage. That was the gameplan and once Tim started following it and doing what he had trained to do in camp, he was able to put Okami away and get the huge comeback victory.

UFC 144 Wrap-Up

I’ve seen some people talking about the fight and some people are giving the impression that Tim’s win was “luck” or a fluke. I don’t think this is accurate, however, because when you implement a gameplan that you spent weeks training and rely on fitness that you’ve spent months developing and it works and you win a fight, that’s not luck. Luck is something that happens by accident or chance, if Okami had slipped on the canvas and knocked himself out in the third round, that would have been luck.

Tim used his skill, his conditioning his mental toughness, and the right gameplan to win that fight and that’s not luck by any means. He flew halfway around the globe, fought the #3 ranked middleweight fighter in the world in front of his hometown fans and he didn’t have the best couple of rounds. In the third, however, he came out, focused on what he needed to do and he followed the gameplan and finished the fight.

That’s not luck, that’s just a tough fight against a top opponent that Tim was able to win because he was mentally tough, physically well conditioned and prepared and Matt put together the right gameplan and in the third round, Tim followed it to perfection.

In the end, Tim’s fight was a great example of what it takes to win fights against top opponents. Many fighters may have mentally given up after losing the first two rounds, many fighters wouldn’t have had had the conditioning to still have that much knockout power after two hard fought rounds against a big, strong opponent like Okami and many fighters wouldn’t have been fortunate enough to have one of the very best coaches there is, Matt “The Wizard” Hume, in their corner.

Fortunately for Tim, however, he had all those and it was team effort between everyone here in Seattle that he works with while he’s out here and all his coaches and training partners back home that led to the win at UFC 144.

With the win over Okami, Tim is now 3-0 at middleweight and the road ahead certainly won’t get any easier. Middleweight is a brutally tough division in the UFC with a ton of great fighters and it’s a particularly strong division of wrestlers with guys like Sonnen, Munoz, and up and comers like Chris Weidman all in the mix. Not to mention Anderson Silva is at the time and is largely considered the best fighter in the world.

There’s no doubt that Tim will have to rely on all his strengths and his work ethic as he continues to work his way up the division but so far, Tim’s found a way to win and I think he’s got the right tools and the work ethic that it will take to continue to do so. Stay tuned for more coverage of Tim’s future training camps and more entertaining fights from the Barbarian!

Join the Conversation