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MMA Essential Techniques: Low kicks & Sweeps

In this new series we will present the most effective MMA techniques. This week: leg kicks and karate style sweeps.

In this new series we will examine basic MMA techniques that are an essential part of a modern fighter’s arsenal. We will include video tutorials from YouTube as it is important to provide all information required in order to make these techniques work.

Although there are many variations of each technique, the desired end-result determines how each technique is executed. Different approaches enable or disable certain outcomes, for example they can enhance or compromise the power and speed of the technique or the ability to use follow-up techniques and proper defense.

Instructional resources are of utmost importance, but it is not easy to identify quality content between a large number of available videos. With that in mind, we reviewed hundreds of videos and have collected here the most efficient ones for your viewing pleasure. In some cases, adequate instructional videos were not available so we had to provide fight clips and detailed analysis.

Keep in mind that these techniques are provided in isolation, meaning that they are not explained within the context of a combination or counter. We will focus on combinations in follow-up posts.

In this first part we will start with low kicks and explosive sweeps (without grips).

Attacking the opponent’s legs.

The foot is the stronger weapon in a fighter’s body (the harder one is the knee and the elbow is the fastest). Due to that, kicks are great weapons but there are several factors that can determine their effectiveness:

  1. Reach and distance: When fighting from a distance, the opponent’s feet are the closest target that we can attack with our own kicks . Reach is of crucial importance when it comes to kicks. It is very difficult to counter a fighter with a significant reach advantage.
  2. Power and conditioning: Hard kicks are very difficult to defend against. Drilling kicks correctly by using the hips and focusing on explosiveness can enhance power. This can be achieved by kicking the heavy bag. Safe training and proper recovery are very crucial. Shin conditioning in order to deliver and absorb damage is also very important. Do not risk getting injured by kicking against hard surfaces.
  3. Speed and elimination of telegraphing movement: All the power in the world will not help you if you cannot land the kicks. Proper technique and natural athletic attributes enable some fighters to be faster than others.
  4. Damage or distraction: Some kicks are designed to land with brute force and others are just uses as distractions, in order to guide the opponents’ attention high or low, left or right so that a second strike or a combination can penetrate their defenses.
  5. Rhythm: This factor is often the more important one. There are many striking rhythms including but not limited to double and triple attacks, punches to kicks and vice versa and changing gears from power to speed or from short to long penetrating attacks.

These factors will get analyzed in detail in an upcoming post.

That being said let’s start studying the main leg kicks used in MMA and kickboxing.

Left inside low kick

This is a fast kick and needs to be used with caution and at a distance in order to avoid counter punches reaching your face. Here is Dutch kickboxing coach Henri Hooft:

Additional option: Karate style Inside leg sweep

When going for left inside low kicks this is a good way to surprise your opponents and catch them off guard. This is a sport Karate move but it can be applied successfully in Muay Thai.

Do you think it does not work? Check this out:

Left low kick to the back leg

This kick is very popular in Dutch kickboxing but not as popular in Muay Thai or MMA.

Let’s examine two fight clips, featuring this powerful kick (source):

In the photos above, Dutch kickboxing legend Rob Kaman showcases how powerful a left low kick to the back leg can be. This is a devastating low kick and in photos 1-3 you can see how it can result in opponents taking a back-kicking-like spin and lose their balance. (Click here for clip/gif)

In the other example above (photos 4-6), Rob’s opponent lifts his left kick to shin-block in anticipation of another right low kick and tries to attack with a right cross. Kaman pulls back and lands a hard left low kick to his opponent’s supporting leg dropping him to the ground. (Click here for clip/gif)

Variation #1: Sliding to the left, left low kick to the back leg

This technique is included, among others, in the following video.

Variation #2: Using a switch

This is the best way to generate force with this kick.

Right low kick to the thigh

This is the most popular kick in Muay Thai. Here are some detailed instructional videos:

Variation #1: Cut kick

Variation #2: The Masato right low kick

Variation #3: Move to the left and kick

Additional options: Right Leg Ashi Barai sweeps (no hand grips)

Option #1: Basic right sweep

Here is Karate legend Frank Brennan applying this technique in action: clip/gif

Option #2: Anchor Sweep

Option #3: Right Ashi Barai against retreating opponent

Option #4: Machida style leg sweep

Lyoto in action: clip/gif

Additional resources: Bloody Elbow Judo Chop: The Karate Kuzushi Waza Foot Sweeps of Lyoto Machida by Nate Wilcox.

The right calf kick

Calf kicks are very popular in modern MMA. They are very effective and also very difficult to defend as they are deceptively fast.

Kick to the calf/sweep

As an additional option you can slide to your right, attack with a calf kick or you can kick in a way that can sweep your opponent in a manner similar to the following technique:

The oblique kick

This is a French Savate kick, popularized by Bruce Lee and Jon Jones. Here is Jon teaching the kick:

Bruce Lee’s side kick to the knee

This is another Savate kick made famous by Bruce Lee and Jon Jones. It is a great way to attack opponents from a safe distance and score points. Here are several videos focusing on or including the kick.

Analyzed at the 07:16 mark:

Here is an analysis of Jon Jones’ oblique kick and the low sidekick:

Honorable mention: The Andy Hug low spinning heel kick.

This is an unorthodox kick so no tutorial is included. It was able to get the job done for kickboxing legend Andy Hug. Here is the full fight.

Honorable mention 2: Low spinning sweep kick.

Although this attack is very popular in Kung Fu movies, you can see below its application in MMA competition:


Here is an excellent breakdown of this move by Connor Ruebusch.

That will be all for now. In our next post we will analyze middle and high kicks.

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 black 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.