While many people have complained that Dan Hardy is not a worthy challenger for UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre, and there is a solid argument to be made there, it's also worth emphasizing that any opportunity to see one of the best martial artists in the young history of our sport perform is not to be missed.
To celebrate this rare treat I thought I would do a Judo Chop on one of the moves most associated with St Pierre: the superman punch.
In his most recent fights, especially his triumphs over the highly credentialed amateur wrestlers Jon Fitch and Josh Koschek, GSP has been lauded for his incredible application of wrestling technique to MMA. Luke Thomas did a great Judo Chop last year on the Chain of Take Downs GSP used to thoroughly dominate Thiago Alves at UFC 100.
But before he was known as the best wrestler in MMA, GSP was known for his successful application of a few flashy strikes that had rarely been seen in MMA before he came along, especially the TKD spinning back kick and the Muay Thai superman punch.
Urban Dictionary defines the superman punch as:
A devestating (sic) mixed martial arts striking technique in which a fighter lunges off the lead leg and strikes an opponent with a flying punch from the trailing, strong hand. Named for its resemblence to poses struck by Superman in the pages of DC comics.
Here's a little bit more from one of GSP's coaches, Greg Jackson's: The Stand Up Game (p. 45):
...this strike helps keep that uncertainty in your opponent's mind. The superman punch is designed to get your opponent looking low while you are striking high, so there's no reason to try to hide it. It capitalizes on the snapping motion of throwing your lead leg forward and then retracting it to generate power in your cross. It can cause your opponent to drop his guard just long enough to slip the strike in, and when executed properly, it can end a fight.
Gifs by Chris Nelson.
On the right we see one of GSP's most epochal uses of the superman punch. In the closing seconds of the first round of his rematch with then champ Matt Hughes, GSP absolutely drills Hughes with it. The straight on angle in slo-mo gives a very visceral account of the sheer impact of the technique as GSP's right hand makes contact with Hughes' forehead. But a close look also shows that Hughes is bringing his left leg up to block what he instinctively assumes is going to be a kick. It appears that Hughes may have begun to realize what was coming as he first drops his hands then begins to lift them up to attempt to cover his face, but it's too late and the punch comes in over the top, sending Hughes reeling.
On the left we have another, very informative angle on the punch and can also see the vicious combination that GSP followed it up with. He connects with two left hooks, misses with a right. Hughes drops and GSP follows him down. There is little doubt in my mind that Hughes was saved by the bell at that point. GSP would have to wait until the second round to rob Hughes of his championship belt with a brutal high kick to the face.
While Hughes had submitted GSP in their first fight, the second left little doubt that GSP had ascended to a higher plane than the old champ. Although Hughes' powers have diminished some, it's more a case of the game, as represented by GSP and other young bloods like Thiago Alves, Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck having passed the old champ by.
On the right we see GSP using a rare superman jab to catch B.J. Penn completely off guard at UFC 94. GSP famously spent the first round tying Penn up against the cage and wearing him down. Then in the second, he established a striking advantage over the arm-tired Penn, took him down and administered about 200 seconds of cruel ground and pound. By the opening of the third round, the once formidable punch-slipping skills of Penn are a memory. GSP, like a true champ, isn't satisfied with just beating Penn to the punch, he blindsides him with a shot that to my knowledge had never been previously seen in high level MMA.
The superman jab adds a second level of surprise to the basic superman punch. Where the traditional fake kick/right cross combo of the superman punch gets the opponent looking down for the kick while the big right straight wings in, the superman jab hits the opponent even faster. The slo-mo version on the left really shows just how surprised Penn was. He doesn't even manage to raise his left knee to check the kick he thinks is coming until GSP's jab is already being retracted after catching Baby J right in the kisser. GSP is sacrificing the power of the traditional superman punch to send a message to Penn that he can hit him at will, instantly and with utter impunity.
I won't be entirely surprised to see GSP dominate Hardy on the feet tomorrow night. He should have little difficulty establishing his take down threat and once Hardy is busy looking out for the shoot, it will be very hard to stop GSP's arsenal of unconventional strikes.
Here's a semi-amusing tribute to GSP's use of the superman punch. It's kind of silly but does have nice HL footage of about six of the times he's scored with the move:
Here's a more traditional training video on how to throw the superman punch featuring Andrew Bridden: