DFS MMA Strategy: For God’s Sake, MOVE YOUR HEAD!
Time for the part where I yell and shout about how terrible some fighters are at getting hit in the face! Striking offense, and the defense that goes along with it, can be found in every single match-up no matter how basic and rudimentary it can be. To show your hands (and feet) to your opponents in order to intimidate them has long been a staple of fear-mongering among us, dating all the way back to caveman times where they would threaten to bludgeon their enemies with their crudely carved bats. Obviously, MMA fighters can’t exactly use weapons, though some could possibly be able to convince the government that their own fists and feet should be recognized as lethal weapons. I will be explaining some techniques of striking offense that you will most likely see in any match-ups, ending with some of the more exotic/unique striking fighters in the UFC. Just remember, some of the very best have trained their asses off for a long time, learned under the tutelage of legendary coaches, schooled themselves in different martial arts forms and forged each individual form into their own unique fighting style. Appreciate these legendary strikers, and curse the UFC when they dare to pit these majestic beasts versus a grinding, boring wrestler who has little interest in keeping it standing. YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!!!
Now unlike my last strategy piece, I don’t really have lovable nicknames for particular categories of striking offense/defense, so I’ll have to make due. I’m going to list some of the more common striking techniques you may see on an every day basis, show some stuff about how certain striking defensive tactics can be used to enhance or improve their overall stand-up game, as well as some nice goodies at the end showcasing some of the mightiest strikers the UFC has ever seen. Are you ready? Well, too bad!
Well, yeah! Boxing is a pretty big staple for a wide majority of fighters’ striking arsenal. From the stances and footwork to the jab/straight combinations, boxing has long been the earliest and easiest striking technique to mesh with and better a fighter on the feet. I expect every single person that is signed by the UFC to have some sort of a boxing attack, whether it’s a jab, a straight, or any 1-2 combination that involves their hands. I mean they gotta defend themselves in some way! There are many advantages a boxer has over its competition, most notably their defensive abilities. As a boxer, you spend quite a bit of time learning how to use footwork and moving your head in order to avoid getting hit and at the same time find a great striking angle to batter your opponents with a well timed punch. Sure, having a stiff jab and a deadly powerful straight is important too, but I personally think the defensive elements of boxing has a better transition to MMA, especially the footwork portion. Being able to circle out of pressure and away from the cage can be extremely crucial in specific match-ups, and moving your feet in order to both generate power and shuffle away from incoming strikes can be equally important. Here are some examples of what I mean.
Dominick Cruz is an absolute master at moving his feet and switching stances to get into great striking angles and at the same time stay elusive from his opponents. It’s a shame injuries continue to plague his young career, but I cannot wait for his triumphant return to glory! Go Cruz! Along with footwork and movement, hand movement and feints can be a huge part for a boxer’s success, or just striking in general. You don’t want to have any tells or tendencies that your opponents can pick up and punish accordingly. That’s how TJ Dillashaw was able to defeat Renan Barao, confusing him with feints and constant movement, snapping Barao’s 32 fight winning streak and taking his bantamweight title. Here’s some quick examples of what I mean.
Here are some of the best boxers in the UFC, and some of these skilled technicians are not just limited to their boxing prowess as some can even kick your block off! Legendary I tell ya!
Some boxers to keep in mind that are some of the best in their division and have great defense and movement– Junior Dos Santos, Cain Velasquez, Rampage Jackson, Gilbert Melendez, Dominick Cruz, TJ Dillashaw, Jose Aldo, Rory MacDonald, Frankie Edgar
MUAY THAI PRACTITIONERS
Another striking technique staple that can be seen in many fighting styles is Muay Thai, more specifically the leg kicks that stems from Muay Thai. Hard leg kicks are both devastating and strategical in their usage, being able to deaden an opponent’s lead leg to sap their power away from being unable to generate pressure on the dead leg. Hard leg kicks can also be used as a combo finisher after a punch combination, which is where you might see the Muay Thai leg kick most used in a match-up. Trust me, they freakin’ hurt!
Ouch. Muay Thai also has its own recognized stances that help generate enough torque to land a crushing headkick at the drop of a pin. Most Muay Thai practitioners have some of the deadliest kicks in the UFC, and even some of those fighters have developed a very solid boxing game to pair with their bone shattering kicks. Donald Cerrone and Edson Barboza come to mind that fit the bill, and yes, their knockouts are gorgeous.
I fainted watching these. As you can very clearly see, fighters who have trained in the art of Muay Thai are not to be messed with unless you literally want a foot in your mouth. Now, let’s talk about the defensive advantages and disadvantages of those who have mastered the stylistics of Muay Thai. One of their biggest weaknesses is their dependency on having a wide stance and keeping their lead leg far out in front. Their lead legs can be battered and bruised as to lessen the effectiveness of the Muay Thai kicks, which is kinda ironic since you know…..the Muay Thai hard kick was designed to kill other people’s lead legs? Anyways, another defensive weakness is most Muay Thai practitioners don’t utilize great foot movement and can be “stuck in mud” at times, making themselves an easy target to exploit. Obviously, some of the best in the UFC have gotten around this and developed their own movement to better suit their fighting style, but for the lower level/new fighters, that is something you can take advantage of when rostering their opponents.
Of course, Muay Thai also has its advantages when it comes to defensive striking, and their hard leg kicks not only aids in killing lead legs but also in interrupting their opponent’s own combos and jarring their rhythm. Having a good variety of low/mid/high leg kicks also helps to keep your opponents guessing and on their toes, cutting down the amount of strikes thrown their way lest their opponents be mercilessly put to sleep by a headkick. Point blank, Muay Thai practitioners depend on their kick-centric offense to take advantage of their opponents’ defensive liabilities, hand speed, and inexperience in defending a plethora of kicks and not knowing how to counter effectively. Jose Aldo destroyed Urijah Faber’s leg in a laughter despite it being a championship fight. Donald Cerrone has long been known as an assassin that forces his opponents to adapt to him or eat a billion kicks. Thiago Alves uses the hard leg kicks to open up opportunities to punch his opponents’ heads off as they focus on stopping the leg kick rather than keeping their hands up and defending Alves’ punches. I mean, damn! What the hell are they supposed to do?
Let’s not forget about the classic Muay Thai clinch offense! Grabbing their opponents’ necks and raining down vicious knees has long been a staple for all Muay Thai practitioners, and it’s something that can drastically affect a match-up if the other guy isn’t well versed in defending the Muay Thai clinch or just isn’t strong enough to get out of the lock. Dirty boxing out of the Muay Thai clinch is also possible, but it’s mostly used to bash their opponents’ faces with knees. Like so.
Some of the best Muay Thai practitioners in the UFC – Thiago Alves, Donald Cerrone, Edson Barboza, Shogun Rua, Beneil Dariush, Carlos Condit, Anderson Silva
KARATE/TAEKWONDO/ANY OTHER UNIQUE STYLES
These are the fighters with the most unique characteristics one can find in a striker, usually donning black belts in various martial arts forms such as Taekwondo, Karate, several forms of made up names by great coaches (Gaidojitsu), or even some overall systems that also includes grappling with striking (Combat Sambo and Luta Livre Esportiva). You will see many unique stances and movement by these skilled fighters, from the wide stance that is seen in Karate, to constant switching of stances to better gain an advantage on the feet with striking angles and ability to jump in and out of range. By all accounts, those type of strikers are the best of the best, often imitated but never duplicated. Some quick examples of what I mean by “unique”.
These incredible strikers have made their impact known in the UFC in their own unique way, changing the complexion of the sport as well as the division they fight in. Creating new kinds of attacks, spacing, movement, infusing their own fighting styles and showing off their incredible striking prowess to the millions of viewers across the globe has helped push the sport of MMA into new depths never seen before. New breeds of young and athletic strikers continue to emerge and make a name for themselves, while veterans also continue to improve upon their already storied background in many martial arts forms and evolve rather than becoming the status quo.
Such unique strikers also have their own defensive styles as well, which makes it a little harder to gauge their striking defense and proclivity to get hit/seek out wars. When I’m faced with the task of breaking down an unique striker, I usually follow these simple guidelines to get a better feel for how they operate. Their footwork, octagon control (Are they able to control the space in front of them? Do they need space to move around and be an effective striker?), and their speed/quickness in being able to utilize whatever fighting style they decide to throw out in the octagon. The most common issue I notice with these fighters is they generally struggle with facing some sort of pressure that doesn’t suit their fighting style (like being unable to counter-strike or cut off striking angles), and forces the unique strikers to either run backwards or have to take a bad angle to get out of harm’s way. That can lead to surprise knockouts or easy take-downs in certain match-ups. Such kind of pressure can also limit the effectiveness of certain strikers who need space to operate and be able to find striking angles as they jump in and out of harm’s way. Can’t exactly do that if your back is up the cage.
That doesn’t apply for everyone, but it’s definitely something I always keep in mind when it comes to “huge” fights (mostly championship fights) to see if there’s any chinks in the armor. Most of all, you need to respect these god-like strikers and be in awe as they display brilliant techniques and ability to string together combinations flawlessly for all to see. More, more, MORE EXAMPLES!!!!!
Some names you must know that are some of the most unique and dangerous strikers in the UFC – Stephen Thompson, Anthony Pettis, Carlos Condit, Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva, Conor McGregor
Well, thanks for reading about the various styles of striking offense that can be seen across all of UFC! I certainly hope the GIFs were well worth it and that you leave here with renewed knowledge to never ever mess with a MMA fighter! Til next time!