UFC 150 was surprisingly decent given that two fights on the card were taken up by Yushin Okami and Jake Shields. While the main event was uninspiring and once again lacked a decisive finish, Donald Cerrone and Melvin Guillard provided the night's most intense excitement over the course of roughly 70 seconds. Cerrone looked characteristically overconfident in his boxing ability as he ran in at Guillard, only to be rattled by his former team-mate's enormous power. Cerrone rallied, however, and delivered his trademark switch kick to finish the bout.
I have always been incredibly fond of the switch kick, and included Badr Hari's variation of it as the very first technique in Advanced Striking. As someone who likes to crouch with his head off-line I have also become incredibly wary of my sparring partner's switch kicks, for if I am over-confident in my head movement I can eat one while ducking. Melvin Guillard's ducking directly into Donald Cerrone's switch kick at UFC 150 sent a shiver up my spine and made me question the safety of my favourite crouching tactics in the same way that Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho made me question the safety of showering. Fortunately most hotel owners aren't Norman Bates, and most MMA fighters can't switch kick as fast and unpredictably as Donald Cerrone does.
In today's Judo Chop we'll take a look at the high switch kick that Cerrone has made his signature.
The switch kick is a staple technique of Muay Thai and kickboxing which allows the fighter to kick hard with the front leg while only sacrificing some speed. Kicking with the front leg straight from one's stance is fast, but lacks greatly in power - so to use this sort of kick against an opponent's leg, body or guard is relatively ineffective. If it is landed cleanly on the head a knockout may be scored, as under-rated kyokushin karateka, Taie Kin made a career of doing, but few men are that good at picking their foot straight from their stance.
You will notice that Kin only takes a slight step with his right foot, not really winding his hips up to kick at all but simply putting him in range. Even so he only steps far enough to connect the top of his foot with his opponent's chin. Clearly this technique works due to speed and does not provide the power and weight of a switch kick connected with the shin bone.
The switch kick, in which the lead foot is brought back level or (in some cases) behind the rear foot, draws the lead hip back so that a powerful kick may be thrown with what was the lead leg. Few fighters in MMA are especially good at performing this switch kick with speed - especially since many of the top kickers among the kickboxers in MMA have few other skills and often limit themselves to punching for fear of being taken down, such as Cheick Kongo. The lack of skilled switch kickers in MMA only adds to Donald Cerrone's effectiveness with this technique.
Let's review Cerrone's performance of this kick against Melvin Guillard. (G)
It should be noted before we praise Cerrone on his incredible fortitude and kick that Donald Cerrone has an excellent Muay Thai game but that his boxing is so-so. The reason that Guillard was able to drop Cerrone was that Cerrone opened with his running punches while Melvin fought out of his stance. The running punches that Cerrone uses are excellent if his opponent is wary of him - because the opponent will back up and leave their stance, allowing him to kick their legs with impunity. Guillard simply let Cerrone run towards him and when Cerrone threw a wide left hook from too close in Guillard nailed him with a shorter one.
With that disclaimer out of the way let's look at the kick.
Cerrone throws his lead hand out as he switches his feet, forcing Guillard to focus on Cerrone's hands and upper body. Notice how Cerrone's hips in the first still are already quite square and are almost reversed in the second still when he switches. Then in the third still notice how his hips are turned all the way into the kick. Notice how his kick ends up on the other side of Guillard's head once he has connected - showing just how committed his hips are to the kick.
As always with fight finishing exchanges there is more than one factor at work. Firstly, Donald Cerrone had just thrown his switch kick to the inside of Guillard's lead leg, hoping that Guillard would then expect a low switch kick and lack defense against the high switch kick. Secondly, Donald's faking of the jab did not just force Guillard to focus on the jab, he chose in fact to perform a slip to the outside - right into Cerrone's kick. Forcing an opponent who loves head movement to eat a high kick is an excellent way to score a knockout or knockdown.
Another advantage of the switch kick was demonstrated in Cerrone's fight with Dennis Siver. Many opponent's simply keep their rear hand up by their chin and feel as if they are well protected. The power of Cerrone's switch kick is enough to drive through an opponent who is only in position to block with their hand rather than their forearm. Even with the small gloves worn in MMA, there is a surprising number of above average strikers who think that keeping their gloves up will help them - possibly through too many rounds sparring or doing mittwork in big gloves.
Cerrone ruthlessly took advantage of Siver's shorter stature and undisciplined hand position all night. First Cerrone did this with a low switch kick to high switch kick; Switching his legs to kick inside of Siver's lead leg, then placing his returning leg behind him, pushing off the canvas and kicking high with the same leg.
Cerrone's next high kick was direct, but incredibly powerful due to his ability to switch his feet fast and fluidly.
Not many MMA fighters are competent with switch kicks, as I have already noted, but if you wish to see them used to great effect I highly recommend watching the career of Buakaw Por Pramuk who uses them as his main offense. Badr Hari, typically known as a puncher, also uses high switch kicks to square his opponent's up to him so that he may attack with his favourite right straight to the body and uppercut to the chin. The techniques of these two men are covered extensively in the Advanced Striking ebook.
Look out for news on Jack Slack's new kindle book, Elementary Striking which will teach the basic techniques and strategies of striking in detail.
Jack can be found on Twitter, Facebook and at his blog; Fights Gone By.