As the Fighter Exchange starts to wind down, Jeff Sherwood and I are diligently plugging away through the night, looking at pictures and video we've captured over the recent days.
I'm not sure to what extent Fernando Bettega is a better fighter than he was two weeks ago. However, he's already starting to use things that he's picked up over the last few weeks.
After his first wrestling practice at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Bettega told me that he really liked a particular technique that Daniel Cormier showed in which he got a nearside underhook and pushed down the back of his opponents head while defending the takedown against the cage. A week later, while fending off takedowns in practice at Fabricio Werdum's gym, Bettega called on the same technique time and time again.
Though he was already a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Bettega also seems to be using more X-guard and deep half guard techniques to force sweeps and scrambles from the bottom. During a car ride up to San Francisco, "Jacare" gave a verbal essay to Bettega on the values of X-guard and the deep half, despite many people questioning their validity for MMA.
Bettega admitted to me early on in the project that he wasn't terribly confident in his ground-and-pound. Though it remains one of the weakest parts of his game, when he drills, he's throwing real punches, as opposed to flailing hammerfists. I struggle to see this as anything other than a direct byproduct of his drilling with Josuel Distak, and perhaps his one-on-one time with Fedor Emelianenko.
Again, I'm not sure to what extent these techniques will blossom for Bettega and make him a vastly different fighter than the one he was weeks ago. However, some seeds have clearly been planted.
"I was at Chute Boxe before. I've also spent a lot of time training with guys like Fabricio Werdum, Renato "Babalu" [Sobral], so I've been around a lot of top guys and had great training," Bettega tells me in our hotel room one night. "But getting to see so many things from different guys during these two weeks, it helps me a lot. There's just been so many new techniques that I know will make me better."