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Essential MMA techniques: Spectacular High Kicks

In the fourth part of this series we examine some spectacular kicks that are rarely seen in MMA competition, but are, nevertheless, fun to watch.

In part one of this series we analyzed basic low kick attacks for MMA and kickboxing. In the second part we continued our analysis by focusing on kicks to the body. In the previous part we covered all the basic/conventional high kicks.

This post is the last part of our analysis of the kicking game and it’s time to examine some spectacular and rarely used kicks to the head.

As in the previous posts, we will include video tutorials from YouTube. We reviewed hundreds of videos and have collected here the most efficient ones for your viewing pleasure.

Please note 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.

High kicks part 2: spectacular kicks

In this post, we will analyze several impressive high kicks, like the “rolling thunder” kick and the Saenchai cartwheel kick. Let’s make this clear: most of these kicks are not high percentage techniques n MMA. No move that leaves you completely open to counterattacks when you miss the target should be considered high percentage in the octagon.

A proper technique should enable you to execute, connect or miss and finally land in a solid position, thus enabling you to continue to attack or defend.

This does not apply to the spinning back kicks and heel kicks. as these kicks can be very effective in MMA.

Kicks for the younger/athletic fighter

The problem with these kicks is that they are not for everyone. It takes a certain level of athleticism to train these kicks in a safe manner and it is even more difficult to apply them against a living, resisting opponent. Unless you are Saenchai of course. Age does not matter as far as he is concerned.

These techniques should be avoided in self defense situations

These techniques are very risky when applied in self defense situations and should be avoided. But when it comes to sports competition, especially when fighting on a mat or a canvas, these moves can be used like any other technique.

Why fighters should give these techniques a chance.

It is important for fighters to know that these techniques do exist and can produce knockouts. I personally do not see any disadvantage in learning how to perform these kicks. Even if a fighter never gets to use these kicks in a fight, no skill ever goes to waste. These highly athletic moves can certainly enhance sports specific attributes like flexibility, balance and explosiveness. And of course, a highlight reel KO will always make the UFC happy.

The element of surprise

The quote below from Sun Tzu explains how mixing the expected with the unexpected can produce great results:

“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The element of surprise is of crucial importance in combat. When it comes to the topic at hand, it is obvious that all kicks analyzed below are unpredictable. There is a reason for this. These moves are rarely (if ever) practiced in most gyms. It is easy to catch opponents off-guard when attacking with these kicks. Will you be able to get a KO though? That depends. Remember, it is always the fighter that gets the job done and not the technique.

That being said, it is time to start our analysis.

Spinning hook kick

This can be a devastating kick. It is very difficult to see it coming and the kick can cover a lot of distance. Here is a basic tutorial:

Uriah Hall is an expert on this specific kick:

Spinning back kick to the head

I am a bit surprised I could not find more tutorials on this kick. Anyway, here it is. The mechanics of this kick have been covered extensively in the body kicks part of this series.

The axe kick

The good thing with this kick is that it can be used to attack between the opponent’s guard. However, I don’t consider the axe kick to be an effective kick that can do damage, unless you have really long legs. On the other hand, this kick can be an effective point scoring technique. Although this is a very common Taekwondo move, it was popularized in kickboxing competition by the late Andy Hug:

Here is a basic tutorial:

Finally here are some different ways to land the kick:

The cartwheel kick

Most MMA fans have seen this kick applied by Anthony Pettis.

However, this is a trademark kick popularized by Muay Thai legend Saenchai.

Saenchai (born July 30, 1980), formerly known as Saenchai Sor. Kingstar is a Thai Muay Thai fighter. He won the Lumpinee Championship title in four different weight divisions. Here are some instructionals:

Here is Saenchai himself:

The “rolling thunder” kick

This is a kick made famous by Kyokushin karate fighters and by Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa. Here is a compilation video featuring this kick:

And here is an instructional video:

The Showtime kick

This move became famous back in 2010 at WEC 53 when Anthony Pettis stepped on the octagon and landed a flying right kick on Benson Henderson.

Here is Pettis explaining the mechanics of the kick:

The Raymond Daniels kick AKA “Real Deal”

This is a combination kick. In the clip below Raymond Daniels is in a southpaw stance, launches a right side kick to the belly and without landing his foot on the ground spins around and lands a spinning back kick to the head.

Here is the kick in action.

Here is Raymond again:

This is a kick that is generally easier to land on the body but the mechanics are the same when targetting the head. Here is Raymond explaining the kick at the 1:10 mark:

Here is a Taekwondo version:

Below you can see my students training in a variation that uses a sidekick to the thigh as a launching pad:

The tornado kick

This is 360 turning kick. Definitely not an easy kick to learn.

Here is the kick applied in action:

And finally, here is Michael “Venom” Page:

Honorable Mention: Fake left kick to a left tornado kick

I was not able to find a tutorial for this kick so here is the kick in action. The fighter launches a left kick to the body that misses its target but enables him to gain momentum and follow up with a tornado kick and finally fall on the ground. This is a very difficult kick to learn and apply. Not suitable for individuals with a low level of athleticism.

That will be all for now. In our next post we will focus on ways to counter the game of the most dominant MMA fighter in the UFC: Khabib Nurmagomedov.

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).