Mixed Martial Arts is an incredibly complex combat sport with thousands of potential combinations. Every fighter has their individual combinations and counters that compliment their fighting style. Although you can combine any number of strikes to form a combination, there are certain sequences that have a higher chance of landing on your opponent. The same goes for counters. It can be confusing to sort through all the potential combinations to find those that are a high percentage. Today, Evolve University is pleased to share a guide on ten of the most useful counter techniques and combinations for MMA.
The jab is often considered the most important punch in any combat sport. It is a fighter’s most versatile weapon and can be used to set up any number of combinations. Developing a sharp jab will allow you to control the geography of the fight. This means you are able to dictate the range at which you and your opponent exchange blows. If you are facing an aggressive knockout puncher, you can keep them at bay while moving around them using your jab. This can drain their stamina until their power becomes less of a threat. An educated jab can also help in the opposite situation. If you are a fighter that possesses knockout power in your hands, but your opponent is keeping you at bay with their reach, you can use your jab to safely close the gap to infighting range. Alexander Volkanavski is an example of an MMA fighter possessing an educated jab. The clip above shows Volkanavski feinting with his jab and footwork to draw a reaction from Max Holloway, before throwing and landing a committed jab.
Timing is a crucial aspect of an effective jab. When an opponent is pressuring and moving towards you, land your jab just before their front foot hits the ground. This will ensure that they are unable to evade or change directions, as they are essentially standing on one leg when your jab makes contact. Doing this repeatedly can also condition your opponent to expect a jab when they close distance, allowing you to feint and land another strike as they adjust to deal with an anticipated jab. You can use this opportunity to land a hard cross or lead hook.
The timing of your jab will change if you are pressuring your opponent and closing the gap. You want to keep them on their back foot if you are pressing forward so they can’t generate power by shifting weight onto their front foot. You can do this by timing your jab so it lands just before their rear foot hits the ground. This will make them get stuck in place momentarily and give you an opening to land your cross or shoot for a takedown. Above is a video of Trevor Wittman explaining and demonstrating the timing of the jab.
Once you have established your jab against your opponent, you can use it to set up any strike. A few examples are using the jab to set up a big rear overhand, lead gazelle punch, or even a head kick from either side.
Lead Side Head Kick Combination
This particular combination involves you throwing strikes from solely your lead side. This leaves your rear side for defending counters and can catch many opponents off guard, as consecutive strikes usually alternate sides. Before throwing this combination, be sure to establish your lead teep against your opponent, just like you would for your jab. After taking a few teeps to their midsection, your opponent will instinctively drop their hands when they see you lift your lead leg. You will use this reaction to create an opening for a head kick with your lead leg.
The actual combination begins with you lifting your lead leg to feint a teep. You can either feint or lightly tap your opponent, but be sure not to commit all of your weight forward. As you lower your lead leg, simultaneously switch stances while throwing a jab. This loads your lead leg and adds power to your next kick while the jab blinds your opponent to your footwork. You then flick your leg up and over your opponent’s shoulder to land a devastating head kick.
For the superman punch, you kick your leg straight back as a counterbalance as you throw a straight punch on the same side as your extended leg. The timing of the superman punch occurs on the half beat and catches many opponents off guard. You can add the superman punch to any combination that ends with a kick. For example, you can add it to the tried and true low kick combo – jab, cross, lead hook, rear low kick. After landing the low kick, retract your kicking leg and shoot it straight back as you launch a cross. Even if your cross doesn’t land cleanly, you will be in a balanced position to follow up with a lead gazelle hook or another strike of your choice.
Cross To Roundhouse Kick
Another effective combination is throwing your rear roundhouse kick after your cross. Use this combination if your opponent continuously parries your rear cross. The parry can leave an opening for a rear hook or head kick, much like how parrying a jab can leave a gap for a lead hook. When throwing this combination, your cross doesn’t even have to land! Simply throwing it as a feint and drawing a reaction from your opponent creates enough of a gap for your head kick to land. This combination is especially effective in an open stance matchup. UFC Welterweight Champion Leon Edwards used this exact combination to knockout Kamaru Usman in their second bout.
The Kimura, also known as the double wrist lock in catch wrestling, is an effective technique for any MMA fighter to add to their arsenal. Strikers can use the Kimura trap to avoid and even reverse takedowns and positional disadvantages.
One of the most common takedowns in MMA is the single-leg takedown. If you’re dealing with a strong, well-conditioned grappler, it can be difficult to avoid being taken down if your opponent has grabbed one of your legs. Because you are using both of your arms to control one of your opponents, the Kimura trap is an effective way to use leverage to regain positional advantage. If your opponent has grabbed your right leg, you want to first control and break their neck posture so they cannot use their head to counter your Kimura trap. Thread your right arm behind your opponent’s right tricep and grab your left wrist, while your left hand grabs your opponent’s right arm, ideally by their wrist or forearm. You then hook your right foot behind your opponent’s right knee. To finish the Kimura trap, lower yourself to the ground by squatting on your left leg. Right before your butt touches the ground, throw your opponent over your right shoulder. At this point, you have a myriad of options, ranging from submissions to controlling your opponent’s posture as you get back on your feet. Above is a video of David Avellan explaining and demonstrating the Kimura trap against a single-leg takedown.
You can also use the Kimura to reverse a situation where your opponent has taken your back and put you in a rear bodylock. Kazushi Sakuraba, also known as the “Gracie hunter”, used the Kimura to counter Jiu-Jitsu’s most dominant position, the back take. Sakuraba himself demonstrates the technique in the video above.
This guide only scratches the surface of effective counter techniques and combinations for MMA; however, adding these to your own MMA game will improve your fighting ability regardless of your skill level. Try these in your next sparring session and let us know how they work for you!
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