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Combat Course Lessons from the Cage #32

MMA Striking Defined, as well as a breakdown of moves from UFC on Fox: Emmett vs. Stephens.

This is the 32nd post in this series and it is time to elaborate on a definition of MMA striking. In the second part of this post we will analyze some techniques from UFC on Fox: Emmett vs. Stephens.

Part 1: A Definition of MMA Striking

Boxing coach Kenny Weldon on the definition of boxing (at the 1 min mark)

My definition of MMA striking is based on Kenny Weldon’s definition of boxing: “Boxing is the art of hitting an opponent from the furthest distance away, exposing the least amount of your body, while getting into position to punch with maximum leverage and not get hit.”

After a follower on Twitter noted that many successful boxers prefer fighting in the pocket here is my revised version of the aforementioned definition:

“Boxing is the art of hitting an opponent from the furthest distance away or closing the distance to box at an advantageous angle, exposing the least amount of your body, while getting into position to punch with maximum leverage and not get hit.”

In order for me to expand and adjust this definition to MMA striking I had to include clinch fighting, fighting against the cage, ground and pound and combining strikes with takedowns or submissions. So here is my expanded definition of MMA striking:

MMA striking is the art of

a. Hitting opponents from the furthest distance away, exposing the least amount of your body, while getting into position to strike with maximum leverage and not get hit.

b. Closing the distance in order to strike from angles or to avoid taking damage

c. Getting the clinch or pressing against the cage to attack with dirty boxing and clinch fighting strikes in order to neutralize your opponents’ speed, power or reach and make them work while carrying your weight.

d. Getting takedowns when your opponents are expecting strikes and connecting with strikes when your opponents are expecting takedowns.

e. Delivering ground and pound strikes from dominant positions to punish and cut your opponents with punches and elbows to limit their vision, demoralize them and disrupt their breathing patterns.

f. Attacking with strikes from the bottom without exposing your limbs to submissions in order to create space, escape or get a submission.

g. Landing strikes when opponents open themselves up to defend submission attempts or getting submissions by isolating your opponent’s limbs when they cover from strikes.

It is essential in this series to get this definition. I will elaborate on all these aspects of MMA striking in future posts.

Part 2: UFC on Fox, Emmett vs. Stephens, Moves to Remember

Fight: Rani Yahya vs. Russell Doane

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Description: 2007 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Champion Rani Yahya tries to escape from bottom half-guard with a right underhook, and Russell Doane pushes him down and lands on top grabbing Yahya’s head with both arms. Rani connects both his underhooks, hugging Doane’s upper body. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and wrestling are all about compromising posts and Doane’s crossface makes it difficult for him to post his left hand to prevent a reversal or sweep, so Yahya uses his left hook (photo 4) to lift his opponent’s hip and sweeps him with a butterfly sweep to reverse the position.

Fight: Sam Alvey vs. Marcin Prachnio

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Description: Sam Alvey attacks with a right low kick and Marcin Prachnio spins for a right back kick that misses. Sam Alvey grabs his opponent’s foot, moves forward and then towards Prachnio’s hips in order to push him downwards and get a takedown. Spinning back kicks are great strikes but due to the fact that are easy to miss, it makes fighters vulnerable to takedowns.

Fight: Brian Kelleher vs. Renan Barão

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Description: If you follow my work you know I love spinning “stuff,” so here is Brian Kelleher attacking with a right hook feint to a left spinning back elbow to a right hand in his fight against Renan Barão. On a side note, why UFC matchmakers would have Sara McMann and Renan Barao lose on a prelim card is beyond my comprehension. Brian Kelleher and Marion Reneau fought hard for their wins against famous fighters and deserved a spot on a main card.

Fight: Max Griffin vs. Mike Perry

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Description: Repetition is the mother of learning so here is another pull counter. Mike Perry attacks with a jab and Max Griffin pulls back to make the punch miss, loads his hips with energy, comes back with a right hand, left hook and drops Perry. Here are more examples of this counter which is an essential move in modern striking.

Fight: Ilir Latifi vs. Ovince Saint Preux

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Description: This is an example why you should not fight tall while punching down against shorter fighters. Ilir Latifi is in a southpaw stance, uses his right hand to trap Ovince Saint Preux’s right hand and closes the distance with what seems to be a right hand to the body, then goes to the head with a left hook that drops OSP. Fighting tall and punching down enables opponents to get inside and catch you with punches you don’t see coming. And these punches are the ones that will knock you out.

Fight: Jeremy Stephens vs. Josh Emmett

Technique #1

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Description: Jeremy Stephens uses his extended left hand to touch Josh Emmett’s right hand establishing distance and tries to attack with a right uppercut. Emmett blocks the punch and counters with a right hook that drops Stephens.

A fellow MMA fan posted on Twitter that this was the same punch that dropped Chuck Liddell against Rich Franklin:

Technique #2

Angle 1

Angle 2

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Description: Although the knee at the end of the Stephens-Emmet fight was both illegal and intentional it didn’t change the result as it did not do any damage. Emmett should focus on not throwing overhand rights with no set-ups. Stephens countered this move repeatedly by throwing bombs at him on several occasions. As you can see here, Emmett attacks with the overhand right and Stephens rolls under and counters with a vicious right cross/uppercut hybrid to a left hook that drops Emmett.

For a fighter with 14 losses, Stephens seems to have reinvented himself as a tough competitor who throws everything with bad intentions, and is one of my favorite fighters to watch.

That will be all for now. Please join me next week for another breakdown. For a list of my previous technique breakdowns on Bloody Elbow, check out this link.

About the Author: Kostas Fantaousakis is a researcher of fighting concepts, tactics, and techniques, and a state-certified MMA, grappling, and wrestling coach in Greece. He teaches his unique Speedforce MMA mittwork system © which combines strikes, takedowns, knees, and elbows applied in the Continuous Feedback © mittwork system of the Mayweather family. Kostas is a brown belt in BJJ under MMA veteran and BJJ world champion Wander Braga (the teacher of Gabriel Napao Gonzaga).

Follow Kostas on Twitter: and search #fantmoves for more techniques.