The Turning Point: Coenen vs. Kaufman

By Chris Nelson Oct 14, 2010
Marloes Coenen (red trunks) vs. Sarah Kaufman: Dave Mandel |

In the waning moments of the second round of their Strikeforce title bout, champion Sarah Kaufman waded in behind a straight right hand and tied up with Marloes Coenen, looking to bully her challenger against the cage. The tactic had proven successful, if not exactly fruitful, for the smaller Kaufman thus far in the bout. This time, however, Coenen had other ideas.

As Kaufman secured double underhooks, Coenen pivoted her hips and used a harai goshi to send the champion tumbling to the canvas for the first time in the match. Coenen’s right leg stuck beneath her on the sweep, allowing Kaufman to reverse into the Dutchwoman’s guard, but the damage was done: Coenen now knew how to get this fight where she wanted it.

Glancing at her corner with 10 seconds left in the frame, Coenen thrust her hips upward, angling for an armbar. Kaufman rose to her feet and escaped danger, but left her appendages dangling, allowing Coenen a second, more successful attempt. Though Kaufman broke loose of the hold just before the bell, the sequence would prove a portent of things to come.

Between rounds, trainer Martijn de Jong told his fighter what he wanted to see.

“I told Marloes to come out with a hard right straight, even if it was on her defense, to let [Kaufman] think that Marloes was going to put the pace up and try to hit harder in the standup. Instead of that, go for a takedown after you feint with some boxing again, set the takedown up properly,” says De Jong.

Sure enough, the first punch Coenen threw in the third round was a hard right, and less than a minute into the frame, she tripped Kaufman to the mat again. After a brief scramble, the Canadian once more found herself in Coenen’s guard, a position De Jong says suits his student just fine.

“I always want Marloes to be on top, but ending up in the guard is also not bad,” says the Golden Glory head coach. “Marloes moves very naturally there. Working the guard is very natural to her since she has been training BJJ and MMA for 15 years with me already.”

Working from her back, Coenen immediately began pulling Kaufman’s head down while inching her own legs upward. The frustrated champion busted free and tried to inflict damage with hammer fists from Coenen’s now-open guard.

As Kaufman wailed away, Coenen covered up, her forearms absorbing the worst of her opponent’s punches. Then, she saw her opportunity.

Coenen latched on to Kaufman’s right arm, twisted her hips and swung her legs around to isolate the limb. As in the second round, Kaufman stood up, but this time there was no escape. Upside down and stacked against the base of the cage, Coenen straightened the arm out and forced the previously unbeaten fighter to tap.

It was all according to plan, says De Jong, whose strategy for Coenen was always to capitalize on her rangy frame and significant reach advantage, keeping Kaufman at bay and out of her “rushing forward rhythm.” In preparation for the fight, the Dutch team spent time drilling the overhand right and left uppercut combo, as well as the leg kicks which Coenen used to great effect in the opening rounds.

“And, of course, armbars from the guard,” adds De Jong.
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