Bloody Elbow reader gzl5000 did an outstanding FanPost on Frankie Edgar's use of the cut kick against B.J. Penn at UFC 118. I thought I would expand on it a bit and commemorate it as an official Judo Chop so it will reach a larger audience and be archived in our technique section.
What Edgar executed against Penn is a pretty common Muay Thai sweep often called a cut kick. A lot of Muay Thai fighters use this, as it is a very effective technique when executed properly. In the most basic terms, a cut kick is a version of a leg kick. However, as opposed to most leg kicks where the attacker strikes the leg that is farther forward (or lead leg), this kick attacks the back leg. It is thrown when the defender's lead leg is off the ground. As a result, all his weight is on the back leg, so the cut kick serves to sweep the fighter and score a takedown.
In Muay Thai, there is no fighting on the ground, but sweeps and takedowns are looked upon favorably by the judges. Some Thai fighters, such as Tum Madsue and Pajonsuk, make extensive use of sweeps to win their fights. These sweeps not only score points, they also wear down your opponent, who now must take the energy to get back up off the canvas, and look impressive to judges.
In the full entry Fraser will break down Edgar's use of the kick as well as similar moves executed by Cung Le, Wanderlei Silva and Jose Aldo. We'll also look at a video by Ryan Gruhn of Central Pennsylvania Mixed Martial Arts breaking down Edgar's kick and will hear from Muay Thai champ Anuwat Kaewsamrit on how they execute this move.
Animated gifs in the full entry.
Before we get into Frankie Edgar move specifically, I wanted to provide some background on the move in general. Here's Muay Thai star Anuwat Kaewsamrit breaking down the move in Erich Krauss' The Ultimate Mixed Martial Artist:
Round Kick Sweep (rear leg)
It doesn't matter how long you have been training Muay Thai or if you've spent years kicking banana trees to harden your shins. When your opponent checks your kicks and your shin collides with his, it still hurts. If I'm up against an opponent whos is a master at checking my low kicks, I'll employ this technique. It begins just as a regular low kick -- by rotating your hips and pulling your rear foot off the mat. However, as your opponent lifts his lead leg to check your kick, you redirect your leg underneath his elevated foot and strike the calf muscle of his grounded leg. In addition to sweeping your opponent off his feet and causing his leg a fair amount of damage, it also messes with his mind. The next time you throw a low kick, he will think twice about checking, which allows you to once again direct your kick at the outside of his lead leg.
1) My opponent and I are in orthodox fighting stances, searching for an opening to attack. 2) Just as I would when throwing a regular round kick to the outside of my opponent's lead leg, I pivot on the ball of my left foot, rotate my hips and shoulders in a counterclockwise direction, and whip my right leg circularly off the mat. However, as my opponent lifts his left leg to check my kick, I redirect my kick underneath his elevated foot. 3) I crash my right shin into the calf of my opponent's grounded leg. The majority of the time landing the kick will not only cause damage to your opponent's grounded leg, but also sweep him off his feet.
Text and illustrations from Erich Krauss' The Ultimate Mixed Martial Artist, used with permission.
Note that Anuwat doesn't block the right hand of his opponent with his own right arm nor does he use his right arm to push the opponent to the ground. Edgar will do both.
Fraser Coffeen of Head Kick Legend breaks down the moves (Edgar gif by Chris Nelson):
Taking a close look at Edgar's kick, his is almost a textbook example of this sweep. To start with, he sets up this technique throughout the fight by using a lot of leg kicks. The block for a leg kick is to simply lift your lead leg in order to check the kick. Because Edgar has been throwing leg kicks, and because Penn is a well trained striker, Penn knows how to defend, so as Edgar starts to throw, Penn lifts his leg to check what he perceives to be an incoming leg kick. At this point, Edgar does two things. First, he takes a step closer, closing the distance so that he can attack the rear leg. Second, he places his right hand across Penn's chest. This serves to both block a counter punch from BJ, and to help as a lever to push him down. With Penn on one leg, a kick sweeping that leg out, and Edgar's arm adding an extra push, the takedown is easy. This is a good demonstration of just how effective this sweep can be, as there are not many times BJ Penn has been taken down with such ease.
For Edgar, this is a particularly good technique to use because it attacks Penn's cardio (again, he is now forced to get back up, expending energy). Also, Penn is very limber, so when he checks the kick, he lifts his lead leg very high, giving Edgar the ability to cleanly land on the rear leg. Finally, this sweep acknowledges Penn's advantage in the ground game. With this sweep, Edgar is able to score a takedown without putting himself at risk by engaging in a ground grappling battle with Penn.
Here's Ryan Gruhn of Central Pennsylvania Mixed Martial Arts with his breakdown of Edgar's cut kick:
Back to Fraser Coffeen:
Edgar's version is the most basic, but there are a few variations available for this sweep. One key to this sweep is that the defender must be on one leg. Edgar gets Penn on one leg by making him defend the leg kick. In the Cung Le v. Frank Shamrock clip, you see Le catch Shamrock's strike, and hold the leg before executing the kick. This allows Le to clear Shamrock's leg out of the way completely, giving easy access to the rear leg. The notable difference is that Le is using the sweep defensively as a counter, while Edgar is using it offensively. Also, note in this clip that Le uses the lever hand very effectively, pushing Shamrock to provide a greater impact on the fall. (Cung Le gif via FightReport.net)
Wanderlei Silva uses this technique as well, and like Le, Wanderlei sets up the kick by catching his opponent's leg. One interesting adaptation Wanderlei has made is that he waits to get a deeper grip on the leg, then rides his opponent to the mat on the sweep, ending up in top position. This is a great way to take a technique designed for stand-up battles and adjust it to MMA. (Wanderlei gif by gzl5000)
"The only thing about Wandy's technique that I don't like here is that he doesn't do the hand check to prevent Bisping from counterpunching; though he'd have to use his front hand for the check, and Bisping's punches have less power when he's standing on one leg anyway."
Kid Nate jumping in, wanted to talk about the move on the left a bit. Above we saw Wanderlei using the catch kick + cut kick on Michael Bisping at UFC 110. On the left we see Wandy using a variation on Rich Franklin at UFC 99. Again as Fraser noted, Wandy catches the kick and then moves his grip further up Franklin's left left. From there he pushes Franklin's shoulder with his left hand and sweeps Franklin's right leg out from under him with his left foot, following the move down into Franklin's guard. (Gif of Wandy/Franklin by Deo Wade)
Now back to Fraser:
One final example comes from Aldo v. Faber. Aldo has a unique set up where he steps in, using a feint to get Faber to throw a kick. Once Faber has committed to the kick, Aldo steps all the way in, landing the cut kick. This is definitely a tougher version to pull off, though Aldo makes it work with excellent timing. Gif by Chris Nelson.