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MMA Technique Analysis: The overhand right, part 1 of 4

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A comprehensive analysis of this devastating punch featuring legends of boxing and MMA like Fedor and Lennox Lewis

In this four part series we will examine a devastating punch that is commonly used in all full contact fighting sports: the overhand right.

An overhand right from an orthodox stance is a semi-circular and vertical punch thrown with the right hand. It can be used to land a punch behind an opponent’s boxing guard as the elbow is often raised higher than the fist (AKA coming over the top).

This punch is a double edged sword as it can generate tremendous power but can also compromise a fighter’s balance and defense if applied in a reckless manner.

Here are two basic tutorials of the overhand right:

The videos above contain all information needed to help you understand the mechanics of this explosive punch. However, there is a another unexpected source of information that can help you understand how to generate velocity and power with this particular punch.

In order to understand the kinetic chain that enables the overhand right to generate velocity and power I studied the sport of baseball. The mechanics involved are surprisingly similar, so here are two right handed baseball throwing drills that can help you throw harder overhand punches:

Now that we have provided a basic understanding of the technical intricacies of the punch, we will analyze several overhand right attacks that are commonly used in real fights, both in boxing and MMA.

In parts one and two we will focus on ways to land this punch. In part three we will provide ways to counter an overhand right. Finally, in part four we will study how to get takedowns from both overhand right attacks and counters.

So, let’s examine some overhand rights in action.

Basic overhand right attacks

Jab to overhand right

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Description: Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is able to use his jab in order to control the distance against Daniel Cormier. This enables him to move his left foot to the right, get close and land a powerful overhand right on DC, thus dropping him. An overhand right combined with a proper jab can cover a lot of distance and generate tremendous power.

Fake jab to overhand right

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Description: The best way to deliver an overhand right is right after establishing the jab. Once this happens, a jab feint can create an opening in order for the fighter to close the distance and launch the overhand right. In the example above, Canelo Álvarez is able to deliver a devastating punch against Amir Khan.

Jab, keeping arm extended, overhand right

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Description: In this example Roy Nelson is fighting Brendan Schaub and attacks with a jab. As Brendan attacks with a jab of his own, Nelson keeps his left hand extended and slips the punch. As soon as his extended hand checks the proper distance, Nelson throws an ovehand over the top.

Missing with the left hook in order to land the overhand.

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Description: Boxing legend Lennox Lewis would often launch extended left hooks without necessarily trying to land them. This enabled him to close the distance and force his opponents to lean back and expose their chin. This is the case above and Lewis gets the opportunity to land an overhand right over the top.

Head check to overhand right.

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Description: In this clip Lennox Lewis is able to deliver a left hook. Lewis uses his left hand to “check” his opponent’s head and push it away while launching an overhand right over the top. This is a great way to land the punch and block his opponent’s vision.

Lead overhands

Lead overhand rights and the fear of the takedown

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Description: Lead right hands can easily get countered. It is preferable to set them up with other strikes. MMA fighters, however, can catch the best strikers if they manage to establish the threat of the takedown. Once this happens, their opponents’ defense can get compromised as their attention is focused on two different tasks at the same time: sprawling and defending strikes. This is why Khabib Nurmagomedov is able to catch Conor McGregor in the clip above (the speed of the punch also helped).

You can see in the middle photos that Conor momentarily looks down, not knowing what is coming his way. Mixing things up is the best way to fight in MMA.

Lead overhand right to left hook

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Description: The overhand right in MMA was made famous by fighting legend Fedor Emelianenko. Fedor possessed amazing power and his signature move was launching a lead overhand in order to close the distance and land a left hook. This is the case in the sequence above against Tim Sylvia. After a brief dirty boxing exchange Fedor is also able to attack with a series of overhand rights and left hooks.

Here is another example of an overhand right to a left hook:

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We have to note that Fedor would initiate the left hook regardless if the overhand right would find its target. In the clip below, Fedor catches Andrei Arlovski with an amazing overhand right mid-air, thus knocking him out cold and launches the left hook anyway and misses (photo 3).

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This is a legendary punching sequence.

Missing with the overhand right and landing the left hook

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Description: In the clip above Frank Mir is in a southpaw stance and attacks with a left hand. Fedor launches an overhand right over the top at the same time and misses. As Mir keeps moving forward, Emelianenko is able to catch him with a left hook and drop him. Hit or miss, an overhand right is a great way to set-up a left hook.

Jab, overhand right, left uppercut

A common boxing combination is a jab, overhand right, left uppercut. This is a great combination but keep in mind that a well timed counter-overhand can catch you when you throw the uppercut so use with caution.

In the clips below you can see Matthew Saad Muhammad and Juan Manuel Márquez applying the combination. I really love how Marquez often keeps attacking with this combo in a continuous manner.

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Overhand right, right uppercut, step back

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Description: When you connect with the overhand right and as your opponent crouches, you can follow up with a right uppercut and step back to safety as in the example above. This combo was often used by boxing great Evander Holyfield.

Using overhand rights for counters

[Jab] Overhand right over the top

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Description: In this sequence Gennady Golovkin attacks with a jab and Canelo Alvarez slips left and lands a devastating overhand right. This is the same punch that knocked out Amir Khan but GGG has a great chin and is able to survive the punch.

Here are a couple of tutorials:

[Left hook], roll under, overhand right

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Description: Lennox Lewis’ opponent attacks with a right hand and a left hook. Lewis deflects the incoming right with his left hand, rolls under the left hook and comes back up in order to land an overhand right. Rolling under left hooks and attacking with right hands is a classic boxing counter.

Additional resources/highlights:

Boxing Techniques - 3 Variations of the Overhand Punch

Scariest Overhand Punch Knockouts in Boxing History/Greatest One Punch

Scariest Overhand Punch Knockouts in Boxing History/Greatest One Punch Knockouts vol. 2

Mixing up kicks and overhand rights

Overhand rights to left roundhouse kicks

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Description: Matej Batinic back in WFCA 34 - Battle in Moscow launches a right uppercut thus forcing his opponent to duck under. Maxim continues his attack with a low jab and an overhand right. His opponent lifts his head up and gets caught with a vicious left high kick. Overhand rights are a great way to close the distance and land left kicks. Opponents will often expose their head while trying to avoid the punch.

Overhand right from a leg grab

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Description: In the Muay Thai fight clip above, the fighter is able to land an overhand right as soon as his opponent grabs his leg. The punch lands in a manner similar to that of a superman punch.

And speaking of superman punches...

Mike Zambidis’ superman overhand

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Description: This is a signature move by legendary kickboxer Mike Zambidis. The move is a superman right hand variation using an overhand punch instead of a straight right. This punch is effective because Mike’s foot in photo 2 looks like he is about to attack with a kick and also because this punch covers a surprising amount of distance.

In order to “sell” this move you need to attack with several middle or low right kicks and this will make it easier to land the punch as you will often catch the opponent off guard.

Overhand rights vs kicks

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Description: In this sequence Dutch kickboxing legend Rob Kaman counters an incoming right low kick by attacking at the same time with an overhand right. This is common practice in Muay Thai and MMA and the reason why fighters need to attack with low kicks at an angle to avoid punching counters.

Here is another example from Rachael Ostovich against Paige VanZant:

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Overhand right, left hook to get the clinch, left knee

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Description: Alistair Overeem lands a left hook, steps to the left and throws an overhand right and a left hook. The hook is short and Alistair’s hand does not retract and grabs his opponent’s neck thus establishing the clinch. A vicious left knee follows.

I really like Alistair’s method of getting the clinch or half clinch from punches and this overhand right, left hook combo is a great way to do so.

Here is a similar tutorial:

More overhand/kick combination tutorials

Body jab, overhand right, uppercut, right kick

Fake switch kick to overhand

Jab, Knee, Overhand, Kick

This is the end of part one. As we analyzed here, the overhand right can be a devastating punch. In part 2 we will examine more ways to combine kicks with overhand rights, follow up with spinning attacks and land punches from the clinch. See you next week.

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: https://twitter.com/kostasfant and search #fantmoves for more techniques.

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