The Fabled Glass Jaw: Is It Real?

Nothing brings combat sports fans to their feet faster than a slick knockout. Make the right connection to the chin and bounce a head off the mat you’ll be going viral on social media and making the highlight reel clips. Iconic knockouts such as Dan Henderson’s over Micheal Bisping at UFC 100, or the sight of Mark Coleman being melted by a head kick from Pete Williams come to mind when musing over the elusive KO.

While Bisping has been known to take a shot or two, some knockout victims earn the title of “glass jaw”. What does “glass jaw” mean you ask? In layman terms it means that a person is unable to withstand a blow without being put to sleep and having to taste sweet ether.

Such titles have plagued fighters such as Andrei Arlovski, Alistair Overeem, and, later in his career; Chuck Liddell. I ask the question if a glass jaw actually exists or is it something else?

To give this thing some structure we will start with the meat and potatoes of each career and the evidence which has given this label to these fighters.

First there’s Arlovski, a former champion who was thought to be invincible at one point in his career. Arlovski sports a record of 28-19-2, and out of the 19 losses 11 have been by way of KO or Technical KO.

Overeem has had a career spanning championships in two different combat sports, but for this we will stick purely to MMA. In Mixed martial arts, Alistair has a record of 45-18-1, with 13 of those losses coming via TKO or KO (actually its 14, but one is a corner stoppage so for these purposes that one is left out)

Chuck Liddell ruled the UFC’s 205lb division with an iron first and has an impressive 21-9 pro record, with 6 losses due to KO or TKO (once again the real number is 7, but another corner stoppage).

With the exception of Liddell, seeing Arlovski and Overeem put to sleep was the most common way they lost fights, and the pair both got tagged as glass jaws, but the glass jaw moniker isn’t really the case. Reality is that it isn’t their in-ability to take one on the jaw, it’s their in-ability to avoid being hit flush that caused them to be KOed.

In Arlovski’s case, he has a habit, which has followed him for much of his career, of moving straight back with his head held straight up. Add that to some other defensive liabilities and then, more often than not Andrei eats a flush shot.

Let’s start with his fight with Sergei Kharitonov in strikeforce. Andrei likes to counter, and in this specific fight he was trying to throw a one-two off Sergei’s power shots. While he was landing some nice jabs, he kept his lead hand low in order to shoot the jab out faster. Andrei ended up getting hit solid and as he walked backed up, he was followed to the cage. Even before getting hurt, AA would go straight back before taking an angle. Once Arlovski got hurt he would either try to return the fire or pace back, but it was always too late.

Two fights prior to the Kharitonov fight, Andrei was put to sleep by Brett Rogers in just 22 seconds. Rogers was able to accomplish this by walking forward and throwing shots. As I’ve already pointed out, Arlovski went straight back with his head held upright. As his back hit the cage, Rogers was able to land a bomb to put him out.

This isn’t the case of the man not being able to take a shot, he simply takes one flush each and every time due to the holes in his defense. Sandwiched between these fights was a bout against Antonio Silva where he ate a bunch of solid shots, but didn’t go down. So, why was he able to withstand those punches?

Funny Silva’s name came up as he was one of the 13 men who put an end to the Reem’s night. Alistair does back up in a straight line, and, unlike AA, he keeps his guard up and tucks his chin. The issues, which i touched on briefly in my UFC DC reflection, with Overeem he tends to lie his hand placement when holding his guard.

Reem keeps his hands on his forehead and leaves a space between his forearms to look through, I also believe this is a habit he developed due to the use of bigger gloves in kickboxing. Either way, while such a guard is fantastic for blocking any angular attacks such as wide hooks or round kicks to the head, straight shots down the pipe has proved to be troublesome for him.

In the Travis Browne fight, Browne took such a beating with Overeem landing some brutal knees. As the fight moved into the final minute all looked lost for Travis as he was keeping his distance and throwing kicks to the body and some to the head. The head shots were easily blocked by Alistair’s guard, but after a few teeps to the body Browne threw one to the head and it found its way between Overeem’s arms and sparked him on the chin. A few punches later and Travis Browne snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Even after being dropped and finished, Overeem got up seconds after the fight was waved off.

Now for the time when Overeem took on Bigfoot Silva. While he controlled a large portion of the fight, SIlva walked into the third and shut Alistair’s lights off. Once again it wasn’t for lack of a chin. Silva landed one on his head and as Alistair was backing up, Bigfoot followed him and landed a ton of clean shots before the kickboxing champion fell to the mat. It took nearly ten shots to separate Alistair from his senses. That’s not what you call a glass jaw.

Finally, The Iceman. Unlike the other two subjects, much of the issues with Liddell didn’t present themselves until later in his career. One major switch happened which led to Chuck suffering four straight KOs, he went from the hunted to the hunter.

No, that isn’t a typo. If you go back and watch some of the vintage Liddell knockouts you would see that he was known for backing off and landing the kill shot as opponents like Randy Couture, Babalu, and Vernon White over-pressured him. When he was successful going forward, it was when he was able to land in combo, but in the Rashad Evans and Rich Franklin fights, Chuck was punished while hunting for their chin.

Much of the issues with Liddell is that in the entries he has going forward. One of his major weapons is an overhand right. Such a devastating strike, but one of over extension. It’s by design of course, it’s basically throwing ones fist as a baseball at another person’s head. Also, Chuck threw everything with power. When he was backing up it was apparent due to his weight being on his back foot which helped off set the momentum.

Moving forward was a much different story. In the Overeem finish, Liddell fell forward when throwing his blows, but by the time it happened Alistair was already half way to lala land so it didn’t make a difference. I don’t know if it was a matter of people learning this issue with Liddell’s attack, or it could have been Chuck being over aggressive to end fights as he was seeing the end coming.

This is just a few examples that show the myth of a glass chin isn’t real. Sure, some guys are able to take more damage, but the major issue is that fighters don’t protect their chin. Many of the shots that felled these athletes would drop an elephant. That over hand that Arlovski jumped into when he fought Fedor or the uppercut Ngannou landed on Reem was going to knock out anyone, didn’t matter if they were chinny or not.

Until next time fight fans…….tuck that chin

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