Is the Superman Punch Still Effective In MMA?

The Superman punch was once an extremely popular technique in mixed martial arts to the point movies like the Never Back Down franchise (MMA’s version of the Karate Kid) showcased the technique in almost every fight scene. 

Mixed martial artists like Georges St. Pierre made the technique their signature move and enjoyed lots of success inside the cage with it. The Superman technique is perfect for mixed martial arts since executing the move usually involves setting it up with leg kicks and feints. The key to landing the technique is getting your opponent to expect a kick while you lunge toward them with the Superman punch. 


What Happened To The Superman Punch?

The Superman punch is still used in mixed martial arts, but the technique is a lot more subtle these days. The high-flying Superman attacks used by the likes of GSP are rarely seen these days, but the technique’s effectiveness hasn’t diminished. 

When done properly, the superman punch remains an effective way to catch opponents off guard and you can still end fights with them. For example, Anthony Pettis managed to knock out Stephen Thompson (one of the most technically savvy strikers in MMA history) with a modified version of the Superman punch. Pettis used the cage to add more momentum to the strike, knocking Thompson out cold with the technique. 

If you’re wondering why the Superman punch isn’t used as often these days even though it’s still effective, it’s because most fighters are familiar with the technique and there are many ways to counter it. Despite its flashy nature, the Superman punch is simply a lunging cross, so any counters that work on a cross can stop it in its tracks. This makes it a high-risk attack for modern mixed martial artists. 

Modern MMA trainers also typically aren’t huge fans of lunging techniques since opponents can capitalize on your forward momentum by shooting for takedowns. 

American Kickboxing Academy head coach, Javier Mendes, has a different take on why the Superman punch isn’t as popular as it once was these days. He points to how trendy mixed martial arts can be as far as techniques and training styles are concerned. 

A few fighters gave members of the Gracie family problems with their wrestling, and everyone started training in wrestling. Anderson Silva knocked out Vitor Belfort with a front kick and everyone started throwing the same technique. 

These days calve kicks are the new popular technique many MMA fighters are adding to their arsenal, but it has been around for decades. 


Adapting The Superman Punch For Modern MMA

The key to successfully executing the Superman punch these days is setting it up properly with kicks and paying attention to how your opponent reacts to them. 

One popular way to set up the technique is by throwing a couple of low kicks at your opponent to see how they react. If your opponent makes any changes to address the low kicks, feint another one and fire off a Superman punch. You can also fire a cross down the middle if you want. That’s typically a safer attack than the Superman punch. 


Countering The Superman Punch

One of the reasons why the Superman punch isn’t popular these days is the many counters that have been developed to deal with the technique. Remember, when it’s all said and done, the Superman punch is simply a fancy version of a basic cross. Most counters that are effective against the cross would be equally effective against a Superman punch. 

Some of the ways you can make an opponent pay for throwing a Superman punch at you include:


1) Slip, Counter

This is one of the first counters new boxers learn to deal with the cross and it’s equally effective at punishing opponents who throw lunging crosses. Here’s what the counter looks like:

  • From your fighting stance, slip your head to the left, assuming both fighters are in an orthodox stance, as your opponent lunges at you
  • Simultaneously throw a cross as you move your head, aimed right at your opponent’s head. When timed properly, the cross should catch your opponent flush since throwing the Superman punch forces them to drop their guard

Your opponent’s forward momentum makes your punch exponentially more powerful and you can follow up with a left hook, right hook combination as your opponent tries to figure out what went wrong. 


2) Parry, Knee, Left Hook Counter

This counter is a powerful way to discourage opponents from throwing Superman punches as it uses all of their momentum against them as you deliver a powerful knee to the midsection. When executed properly, the technique can knock all the wind out of your opponent, bringing your match to an abrupt end. Here’s what the technique looks like:

  • Assuming both fighters are in an orthodox stance, parry the Superman punch with your left hand and deflect it toward your right
  • This should leave your opponent’s torso unprotected since the parry drags their right hand across their chest
  • Throw your rear knee outward so it connects with your opponent’s sternum while parrying the Superman punch. The knee should connect with your opponent the moment you parry the Superman punch
  • Follow up with a left hook as you return your rear foot to the canvas


3) Parry, Pivot, Low kick

This is a more advanced way to counter the Superman punch, but it sets up a powerful leg kick when done properly. Here’s what the technique looks like:

  • From your fighting stance, parry your opponent’s Superman punch with your left hand and simultaneously pivot to your left
  • Fire off a low kick at the back of your opponent’s thigh or target the back of their calves. Your opponent’s lead leg should be your target

When executed properly, this counter allows you to score a clean leg kick that can hinder your opponent’s ability to move around the cage during your match.


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