The Film Room: James Vick

By Kevin Wilson Feb 16, 2019
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After suffering the toughest loss of his career last summer against Justin Gaethje, James Vick returns to the Octagon this weekend to take on Paul Felder in the co-main event of UFC on ESPN 1. Vick has earned a 9-2 record since joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2013 and a win over Felder would put him right back into the shortlist of title contenders.

Vick’s primary advantage in the cage can be found in his enormous height and reach. Standing at 6 feet 3 inches with a 76-inch reach, he is one of the tallest and longest fighters in the division and is slowly starting to figure out how to use his length to his advantage. To put his height and reach in perspective, Felder stands at 5 feet 11 inches with a 70-inch reach. The problem with most long fighters is they don’t know how to use their length or choose not to. Just look at Stefan Struve for an example. However, he’s an intelligent fighter and his entire game revolves around using his height and reach, starting with the jab. He will use it to set up his long 1-2s and other combos, but he is also adept at using it while moving back to stifle the opponent’s movement. Notice how he will feint and double up on the jab and even occasionally throwing it to the body.

Vick’s favorite leading combo is a double jab while moving to his left before throwing the right straight down the middle and at an angle. He can be a bit predictable since he throws this combo so much, but since he is so long he can usually land the right hand while being out of range of return strikes. To make this combo less predictable, it would be nice to see him use it while taking an angle to his right instead of the left every time.

Other leading attacks used by “The Texexcutioner” are also pretty simple as he uses jabs to right hooks, lead leg body kicks and the occasional leading uppercut. Since he knows how to use his range he doesn't have to overwhelm opponents with options. Just being able to land these simple combos and immediately moving out of range has been enough so far but eventually, someone will be able to read his reactions and exploit his simplicity. Something concerning about his leading attacks is he often runs forward face first while crossing his feet and can be convinced into trading in the pocket which a tall and long fighter should never do.

Vick can become flustered with pressure so a lot of his opponents have attempted to bull rush him but he has shown to be adept at working on the counter. His long counter right straight has been his go-to and is responsible for some of his greatest knockout wins. His most recent knockout win against Joe Duffy was started with a beautiful counter rear uppercut before finishing with ground and pound.

The Texan’s biggest drawback has always been his defense, and in his most recent fight with Justin Gaethje, it seemed he still hasn’t worked on the problems that have plagued him his entire career. He keeps his hands far too low and keeps his torso upright which leaves him wide open. He is also not good at staying defensively responsible while working on his back foot and again drops his hands while leaving his head upright and ready to hit. He’s also not great at getting off the cage, which Justin Gaethje beautifully exploited.

Many people look at Vick as a striker, but he actually has more submission wins with 5 than he does knockouts with 3. His favorite submissions are guillotines and D’arce chokes which become easier to lock up with his long limbs. I don’t expect this fight to hit the ground, but if Felder is flustered and shoots for a takedown he better watch out for guillotines. Advertisement


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