UFC Vegas 62’s Mana Martinez: Tales of a Former Guard-Puller

UFC Vegas 35 Mana Martinez
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 28: (L-R) Mana Martinez punches Guido Cannetti of Argentina in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 28, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

If you’ve watched Mana Martinez either in the UFC, Contender Series, or on the local circuit, it was likely his hands that stuck out. Trained by his father and the late, great Saul Soliz, Mana has brought a fan-friendly style to every fight since he turned pro. However, that wasn’t always the case before he turned pro.

If you do a cursory scan of Martinez’s amateur record, you’ll see an impressive run of armbar finishes. What caused the change? He says it was a combination of things.

“The people love to see knockouts. They love to see violence,” Martinez said. “And to be honest, I was kind of stuck in some old habits, bad ways in my amateur career.”

Those bad habits for Mana Martinez were something that is all-too common in grappling tournaments, but might be a little bit more rare in MMA.

“I would actually, if you go back and watch some of those fights if you can find them some how, I would pull guard,” he admitted. “Which I come to find out, or came to figure out, later on in this game guys know how to defend armbars fairly well, and will definitely make you pay with ground and pound.”

While it’s not the MO that Mana wishes to carry with him nowadays, he does wish more people could go back and watch them.

“It’s crazy. I got to find them somehow or look up a way to post them as a throwback,” Martinez shared. “I’d maybe feint a kick or two and they’d come in. As soon as they’d get in range, I’d pull guard – boom, throw up an armbar and I’m out.”

Eventually, Mana grew out of it. Some of that was the aforementioned coaching influences. Some of it was a loss late in his amateur career from a guy who saw his plan coming. However, one of the biggest reasons for the change was remembering that he had the skills not to rely on a low percentage game plan like that one.

“A little bit of breaking that bad habit and trusting my standup game. It’s always been there, since my karate background at a young age that I started at,” he said. “Just honing in on my knockout power and really being able to put guys away like that.”

You can catch Mana Martinez, likely not pulling guard, on the UFC Vegas 62 prelims this Saturday. He’ll face Brandon Davis in a fight sure to get the fans on their feet.

You can hear the entire audio of the interview with Mana Martinez at 29:12.