Jose Torres is quickly becoming the most interesting flyweight prospect in MMA.
Known for his extensive career as an amateur, Jose Torres burst onto the Titan FC scene looking like a complete, well-rounded mixed martial artist. His composure and technical soundness in every phase of the game belies his inexperience in professional competition.
At Titan FC 40, in only his third professional fight, “Shorty” Torres captured the interim flyweight championship left open by Tim Elliot’s move to The Ultimate Fighter.
A pressure fighter by nature, Jose Torres looks to cut off the cage and impose a pace that makes opponents wilt under his volume. Jabs and straights make up the majority of most fighters’ offense, but an effective pressure fighter needs to be proficient with sweeping strikes.
Strikes that travel in a straight line, such as jabs and straights, can be avoided by lateral movement and are difficult to land on an opponent that is constantly circling away. Strikes that travel in a sweeping arc can impede this lateral movement, standing the opponent still for linear attacks.
Jose Torres understands this perfectly. He uses a right hook and kicks to the body and leg to cut off opponents circling to his right, and a left hook when they circle to his left. He’ll double and triple up on the right hook and throw it to the body as well. This is especially important as head strikes can be slipped, which gives the opponent room to circle back into the center, while a connected body shot will stand them still no matter how much their head moves.
Jose Torres works behind an active jab, which he’ll often double up on and keep in his opponent’s face, forcing them to react and create an opening for a more powerful punch. Once his opponent has felt his power and started looking to slip and counter, Torres will work his feints and take advantage of their reactions.
As a pressure fighter, Jose Torres spends a lot of time in range for his opponents to hit, but he mitigates that through active head movement and sound counter striking. While pressure fighting is often thought of as analogous to swarming, in reality it lends itself very well to a counter-based game. Torres’ pace, feints, and constant presence force his opponents to make mistakes. Often they’ll throw out an ill-advised strike just to find a reprieve from the pressure, and instead find themselves walking right into a counter.
Although his counter striking is effective when he’s able to pressure and force opponents to make mistakes, he often resorts to shelling up when put on the backfoot. It’s rare for all but the most experienced fighters to have a multi-layered defensive system, and this is noticeable in Torres’ game. He reacts to single shots very well, but sound combinations from his opponents have a tendency to overload his defense and get him shelling and reaching for punches.
As good as Torres’ striking is, the real depth to his game lies in the intangibles. He excels in the small, transitory positions in between striking and grappling, boxing and clinching, that so many take for granted.
Jose Torres has the ability to shift phases seamlessly. He blends striking and grappling together so well that he’s never just striking, never just grappling. He’s always looking to grab a clinch as you duck to avoid a punch, or land a knee in the clinch as you look to break.
Here Jose Torres catches the clinch as he and his opponent both miss right hands. His opponent is able to push him back a bit before Torres clenches hard on his overhook and pulls his opponent into a knee. After Torres lands the knee, the opponent’s left arm drops to block more knees and his right elbow opens up. Torres uses this reaction to secure a double collar tie and pull him into another knee. Torres fails to keep his right elbow tight and his opponent pushes for the underhook, but Torres turns and attempts to throw him with a whizzer. When that fails, Torres goes right back to the double collar tie with more knees.
Jose Torres’ distance striking is designed around his clinch. He’ll often advance with shifting punch combinations that allow him to cover distance rapidly and end with him falling right into clinching range. He throws clubbing hooks aimed around his opponent’s head so the point of impact is on the wrist or forearm. The force from the hook pushes his opponent off-balance and his hand lands right on the back of their head, ready to grip it and pull them further off balance into a knee. This is a favorite method of Claudia Gadelha.
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There was a time in MMA where a Muay Thai stylist could lock up a double collar tie and control his opponent there, going to work with knees and elbows. However, as MMA developed and fighters became more proficient in the clinch, the metagame started to move toward flowing between transient position to create openings. Trying to force the double collar tie and hold onto it too long will give opponents opportunities to clear your elbows and escape. One look at the best clinch fighters in the sport today, and it’s clear that utilizing transitions to create openings is the future.
Watch at how Demetrious Johnson uses footwork and transitions to create openings for his strikes. He doesn’t stay in one position for long, instead flowing between control positions as opportunities present themselves.
Jose Torres exemplifies this concept of flowing between transient positions in the clinch. Here his opponent’s forearm is posted on his shoulder with the elbow in tight, preventing him from getting the collar tie he wants. Torres throws a knee to the body, which causes his opponent to back up slightly, lean forward, and lower his right hand. This gives Torres space to angle out and room to slip in the collar tie with his left arm. He uses his underhook and collar tie to pull his opponent into a knee, while he continues angling out. This prevents his opponent from returning strikes until he’s turned to face Torres. As his opponent turns into him, Torres locks the double collar tie and drops him with a knee.
Jose Torres also has a flashy, effective wrestling game from the clinch that consists of high and low impact throws. He can hit these from control positions or in transitions off his entries. His ground game follows the same mentality as his clinch game- instead of locking down a position and controlling his opponent, he prefers to posture up and use the transitions and escape attempts of his opponent as opportunities to land strikes.
Because Jose Torres competed in 26 amateur bouts before turning pro, much of his development has already been completed and his pro career is now demonstrating the fruits of his labor. His experience means that his development track will likely look a lot different from most blue-chip prospects. Nevertheless, there’s still a wealth of improvements to be made and at only 24 years of age, Jose Torres has ample time to make them. He seems almost a shoo-in for flyweight’s top 15 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him crack the top five in the future.