Judo Chop: WSOF fighter Marlon Moraes shows a perfect head kick KO set up

WSOF 4 fighter Marlon Moraes

Who doesn't love a good head kick KO? In this Bloody Elbow Judo Chop, we break down the head kick KO by Marlon Moraes at WSOF 2, looking at his basic, but perfectly executed set up.

At this weekend's World Series of Fighting event, WSOF fighter Marlon Moraes attempts to go a perfect 3-0 in the company as he takes on Brandon Hempleman. Moraes vs. Hempleman is part of WSOF 4, airing this Saturday, August 10 live on NBC Sports Network. Join us at Bloody Elbow for live fight night coverage.

Moraes is turning into one of the potential breakout stars of WSOF, as he has so far scored good wins over Miguel Torres and Tyson Nam. That victory over Nam was particularly impressive, as Moraes landed a lovely head kick for the first round stoppage win. To get ready for WSOF 4, here in this Bloody Elbow Judo Chop, we break down the basics of this head kick finish, looking at what Moraes did right, and what Nam did wrong.

The head kick KO - who doesn't love it? Aside from the guy getting kicked in the head of course. It's one of the staples of MMA highlight reels everywhere, and whether it's thrown by the all time master Mirko Cro Cop, or the young Marlon Moraes, a headkick KO always gets the crowd excited. It's no secret why this is an effective strike - you're kicking your opponent directly in the head. Where the real interesting technique comes is the setup. For a head kick to land effectively, you need to get your opponent's defenses down. In his KO of Nam, Moraes gives a textbook demonstration of one of the best ways to accomplish this.

More coverage of WSOF 4

Getting past the defenses to land a head kick can be tricky. After all, a fighter with any semblance of striking defense is going to keep his hands tight by his head throughout the fight. What you need to do is get him to drop those hands before throwing the kick. One of the best methods for that is the leg kick set-up, perfectly demonstrated here by Moraes.

Watch the full fight video here, with gifs below courtesy of ZP:


Early in the fight against Nam, Moraes throws a hard leg kick. It clearly staggers Nam, who sees that he needs to do something to block the kick. The best method for blocking a leg kick is the Thai style of bringing up the leg being kicked to check your opponent's attack. This is, in theory, not that difficult, but in a fight it has its troubles. For one, it requires good timing. Moraes throws the kick with a lot of speed, so in order to check it properly, Nam needs to be focused in on his timing. A leg check also leaves the defender on one leg for a brief moment. This means that to execute the check, you need to have your weight on your rear leg. Notice that Moraes does not simply throw the kick in isolation - he throws it at the end of a combination. That combination has forced Nam to move, and while moving, it is almost impossible to have the balance needed to check the kick.


The end result of all of this? When Moraes next throws a kick, Nam does not check it. Instead, he defends it by trying to catch it. In some ways, this makes sense - when you first start training, this is how your body will naturally react to being kicked. In MMA, it can also lead to a takedown, or, as Anderson Silva famously showed against James Irvin, give you the needed opening for a hard counter strike. The trouble is, it also brings your left hand down away from your head, leaving you exposed. For Moraes, this is exactly the opening he needs.


One minute later, Moraes feints the kick and again, Nam's left hand drops down to catch the kick. This tells Moraes that the next time he throws that kick, Nam's hands will come down. And so, with the next Moraes kick, instead of coming low, he goes high. Nam's hand is, as expected, down at his side in order to catch the anticipated low kick, leaving his head exposed. Moraes connects, and that, as they say, is that:


It's worth noting here that this is the first head kick Moraes throws in the fight, which is key. By throwing only kicks to the leg and body, Moraes lulls Nam into thinking that is where all of his kicks will land. Nam is not expecting the head kick, which is why he doesn't defend it.

There are many ways to set up that elusive head kick, but the leg kick set up is one of the best, and Marlon Moraes does a masterful job executing it here.

Join us Saturday night to see if Moraes adds another highlight reel moment to his resume at WSOF 4.

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