Yesternight, the fabric of the universe was torn asunder. Cats slithered on their backs, pigs soared on angel wings, and Juan Manuel Marquez knocked out Manny Pacquiao. After their astonishment and mortification subsided, the world's strikers thought as one: "I wish I knew how to do that!" So to oblige, we look at the fascinating science of counter-punching to the finish.
A well-timed counterpunch can be as effective as a blow against an opponent who stands with his eyes closed and guard down, and invites you to fire at will. That is to say, it can be an almost guaranteed fight finisher. This finishing potential comes from two qualities of your opponent as he attacks:
1. Mentally, he is unable to process your attack and defend against it. This is because the human brain is unable to process two committed actions simultaneously. There is a split second while his mind is fully committed to focusing on its target, timing his body's advance, and anticipating impact with you. During this brief window, he is literally defenseless.
2. Physically, his momentum is careening towards you. This means that your counterpunch, if well-timed, could strike him with not just the force generated by your own punching action, but also by the force of his entire mass impaling itself upon your fist. In short, a successful counterpunch against an advancing opponent is literally twice as powerful as a normal punch.
To capitalise on these, the process of successful counterpunching can be broken down into three simple stages:
1. By far the most important aspect of a successful counterpunch is the mental decision to do so. This is because for most strikers, the reflex action when facing an attacking opponent is to block, parry, duck or otherwise evade his attack. This means that during that split second when he is vulnerable to a counter, you are keenly focused on your own self-preservation.
However, launching an attack after ensuring your own safety usually means the moment of opportunity has passed. To forestall this, you must overcome your normal defensive reflexes by consciously and decisively telling yourself before he attacks: "I am going to counterpunch him just as he moves in."
2. Plant yourself in your stance as he attacks. Having made the mental committment to counterpunch, the physical aspect should come naturally. Your opponent's advance is a signal not to retreat or commit to a defensive action, but to instead launch your own counter. This may be launched just before he fully commits, simultaneously with his attack, or in the split second after, but before he can compose himself.
3. Avoid his attack while you counterpunch. The risk in doing this of course, is that you focus more on your defensive action than your counter, meaning you fail to strike during the window of opportunity. One solution is to drill blocking and counterpunching simultaneously. An even simpler tactic is to simply ignore defense entirely and either absorb your opponent's strike, or rely on your counterpunching motion to move you out of his line of attack.
We'll now look at four fairly recent examples of devastating counterpunching. In each of them, we can identify the three distinct phases.
Marquez vs. Pacquiao:
1. As Pacquiao advances aggressively, Marquez does not retreat. Instead he mentally commits to a counter.
2. As Pacquiao throws his first jab, Marquez plants himself in his stance, lowering his center of gravity as he commits himself to the full counterpunch.
3. Marquez's left hand parries across his body to deflect Pacquiao's attack, but this is almost an afterthought. His mind and body are committed to the crushing counterpunch. As he strikes, he steps slightly to the left to evade Pacquiao's line of attack. Pacquiao's own momentum multiplies the force of the impact with brutal results.
1. As Franklin throws his kick, Le does not retreat. He commits mentally to a counter and stands his ground.
2. As the kick lands on his hip, he eschews any defensive action, instead planting himself in his stance and crouching to load up on springing power.
3. Before Franklin can recover himself, Le springs in for the counterpunch. Faceplanting swiftly follows.
Machida vs. Bader:
1. As Bader rushes in with his attack, Machida does not retreat. He is mentally committed to the counter.
2. As Bader punches, Machida plants himself in his stance, pushing his back foot firmly into the mat to anchor the counterpunch.
3. Machida simultaneously blocks Bader's punch with his raised left forearm while counterpunching powerfully with his right. Bader's momentum multiplies the force of impact. Unconsciousness ensues.
Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir:
1. As Mir throws his roundhouse kick to the body, Junior does not retreat. He is mentally focused on launching a counterattack.
2. Not even bothering to block or evade the kick, he absorbs it on his body while planting his feet firmly to counter, and transferring his weight to his front foot.
3. Finding his range with his outstretched left arm, he launches a devastating counterpunch before Mir can recover himself and return to a proper defensive posture. Merciless defeat follows.
Please try this at home.