Ultimate Guide To Blocking Low Kicks In MMA

In Mixed Martial Arts, getting caught with an effective low kick can impair your mobility. Each successive kick targeting your legs hinders your ability to move around freely inside the cage. Allow an opponent to land enough low kicks on you and the referee might have to step in and save you.

No fighter wants to be on the receiving end of a barrage of kicks, so you should do everything you can to evade, block, or counter any low kicks sent your way.


Defending Against Low Kicks In Mixed Martial Arts

Moving out of the way helps you avoid a low kick; with varying levels of success. If you’re skillful or lucky enough, you’ll dodge the strike completely. The next best outcome is that your attempt at evading a low kick reduces the power and impact of the strike.

Sometimes evasion is not a practical option as certain scenarios unfold during a fight. This is where blocking comes into play in MMA bouts. Blocking a low kick provides the following benefits:

  • An effective block will reduce the impact and power of the kick.
  • A well-executed block can inflict plenty of pain or even worse lead to a broken leg as was the case with Anderson Silva during his rematch with Chris Weidman.
  • Certain blocking techniques create openings for successful counters.
  • Combining a block and a good counter-attack is a good way to destabilize your rival.

The ideal blocking strategy should check at least one of these boxes, so we keep this list in mind when looking at different techniques.


The Different Types Of Low Kicks You Come Across In MMA

The low kick often targets the thighs and calves to impair an opponent’s mobility. You can aim these strikes at the inner or outer leg, depending on what works best in a specific context. Whatever variation you use, a low kick should cause enough discomfort to reduce the fluidity of your rival’s footwork.

Here are the most common low kicks you’ll see in MMA fights:


1) Push-Kick To The Knee (Oblique Kick)

This move usually targets the front or side of the knee, but you can use it to strike the lower thigh. The oblique kick uses the heel to strike an opponent’s knee in a downward motion. It looks a lot like the act of stomping your opponent’s knee at an angle.


2) Low Roundhouse Kick

This kick can target the thigh or calf; depending on how you throw it. A precise roundhouse kick can cause pain by targeting the sciatic nerve. Repeated strikes that target the same spot will soon restrict even the toughest of fighters. A roundhouse kick to the inner thigh takes it a step further by messing with a fighter’s balance and momentum.


3) Sidestep Low Kick

The sidestep low kick is another powerful variation you should master. Similar to the roundhouse kick, you can employ the side kick to target the inner or outer muscles of the leg. This technique can serve both offensive and defensive purposes, depending on the situation. Simply execute a sidestep in either direction to elicit a reaction from your opponent and capitalize on the opening for the kick.


The Ultimate Guide To Blocking The Different Types Of Low Kicks

Your opponent will often target your lead leg because it’s the closest target and you need to pivot it when launching various punches, kicks, or takedowns. They will also do their best to kick at the leg that bears your weight at the exact moment they strike. The logic behind this tactic is that your opponent can strike the weight-bearing leg faster than you can shift your weight. It’s your job to spot their intention and quickly shift your weight at a speed that allows you to block the incoming kick.

A cunning fighter will also try to trick you into putting your weight on the leg they’re looking to strike. They may achieve this by forcing you to defend against a punch before they follow up with a low kick. Dealing with this approach requires a quick mind as well as good technique.

Blocking a low kick involves making sure that your opponent’s strike leaves them in worse shape than you. This means that you have to execute your blocks with precision and good timing. The fighting stance you take immediately after a block should allow you to launch a counter or defend against a follow-up strike. Let’s see how all this information comes together as we look at different blocking moves.


The Shin Block (a.k.a Checking A Low Kick)

This may be the most versatile and effective approach to blocking different variations of the low kick. Using the shin as a shield can hurt the person who throws the kick more than they hurt you. To check a low kick, raise your leg at the knee and turn it outward so that your shin acts as a shield against the incoming strike.


How To Do An Effective Shin Block: Stance

For starters, your stance should allow you to raise and lower your defending leg in a split second. This means that your feet should be relatively close to each other (compared to a boxing stance), with the shin of your leading leg facing the opponent. Taking this stance also makes it easier for you to shift your weight in case an incoming low kick targets the rear leg.


How To Do An Effective Shin Block: Good Technique For Checking An Incoming Kick

Turning your leg as you block creates enough resistance to stop a low kick from spinning your body with its momentum. To block an outside low kick, raise your leg and turn it outward at a 45-degree angle. Your toes should be pointing outward, in the direction of the incoming kick. Block an inside low kick by raising your leg and turning it towards the incoming kick.

Lastly, raise your leg to match the height of your opponent’s strike. This means that your upper shin should line up with your rival’s foot or lower shin, depending on the type of kick that’s coming at you. A strike that aims for your upper thigh will need you to raise your leg to thigh height. Low kicks that aim for the calf only require you to raise the leg to knee level.


How To Do An Effective Shin Block: Engaging The Muscles Of  The Blocking Leg

Engaging the leg muscles turns your shin into an even harder, more unforgiving shield. This translates into less impact on the blocking leg and more pain for the striking leg. So as you turn your leg towards an incoming strike, tighten the muscles of the thigh, calf, and shin.

It’s worth mentioning that pointing your foot upwards makes it easier to engage the shin and calf muscles. Pointing the toes downwards may create a longer blocking surface, but you’ll have a harder time tightening the leg muscles.


How To Do An Effective Shin Block: What To Do With The Upper Body

Referencing the same video from Garbiel Varga, at 1:35, Gabriel will explain what you should do with your upper body when checking kicks. Keep your guard up by keeping both fists around your face until it’s time to throw a punch. It’s also a good idea to brace your upper body for a low kick. Do this by engaging the core muscles, even as you engage the muscles of the blocking leg.

Bracing the upper body prevents a low kick from spinning you with its momentum. You also transform your body into a solid barrier that makes throwing a low kick a risky, costly move.


Foot Block (Defensive Push Kick)

This approach uses the ball or heel of the foot to block knee strikes and low kicks. The foot block will reduce the speed and power of an incoming kick.

Perform a foot block by landing a push kick on your opponent’s thigh, or either side of the knee. The pushback from a successful foot block will affect your opponent’s balance, which creates an opening for a counter. Take the opening to launch your strike while your rival works to recover their balance.

It’s worth noting that foot blocks are riskier than shin blocks, simply because the foot is way more fragile than the shin. Reduce the risk of injury by landing your push kicks with the heel, which is less fragile than the ball of the foot. Better still, use a shin block sparingly because shin blocks work fine in most low-kick scenarios.


Cross Blocking

This defense tactic applies to the shin block and foot block alike. Let’s say that there’s a speeding low kick coming at your leading leg, which is currently bearing your weight. Maybe you’re fast enough to shift your weight to the rear leg and check the kick. Still, it may be faster to block the kick with your rear leg instead. This is what we’re talking about when we mention the crossblock.


Mastering Low Kicks Involves Learning How To Block Them

Good fighters learn how to defend against the moves they love to use and the moves that make them nervous. Different kinds of low kicks fall into both categories, so we need to study them from the perspectives of striking and defense.


You may also like: 

MMA And Mental Health: The Psychological Challenges Of Combat Sports