Enhance Your Skills with 10 MMA Striking Concepts

Dec 3, 2022MMA

MMA striking encompasses a complex array of techniques and strategies. Dynamic strikers blend footwork, head movement, feints, timing, angles, and power seamlessly. This comprehensive article outlines the technical elements that dictate striking exchanges. Mastering these principles elevates standup skills to the highest level.

Adopt an Optimal Stance

Your stance and foot positioning serve as the foundation for all striking. Optimize this base to maximize balance, movement, and technique.

Mobility vs. Stability

The ideal MMA stance balances mobility and stability. Wider stances with feet shoulder-width apart allow more mobility. Lower centers of gravity by bending knees also enhances movement. However, these mobile stances limit striking options and reduce power.

Narrow stances keep feet underneath hips for stability. Remaining upright maintains balance while freeing the core to strike. Pivoting on a narrow base enables combinations. The trade-off is sacrificing mobility.

Evaluate your attributes and style. Mobile fighters use movement and footwork to create openings. Stationary strikers stand in the pocket unloading combinations. Choose your stance to align with strengths.

Tailor to Physicality

Consider physical gifts when choosing stances. Long and rangy fighters use length by fighting tall. Stay upright and maximize leverage by extending from the shoulders and hips.

Shorter fighters must get inside. Widen your base to dip under strikes. Bend knees to generate power while lowering your head beneath punches.

Fit stances to body types. Fighting against innate physical traits typically backfires. Embrace natural gifts rather than resisting them.


While a default stance should be trained most frequently, switching stances has advantages. Changing from orthodox to southpaw alters striking angles.

Against orthodox opponents, turn your lead foot outside theirs to gain dominant angles. This lines up power hand strikes they struggle to see coming.

Switching also transfers weight between sides to rest lead legs. Periodic stance switches prevent fatigue and keep opponents guessing.

Just don’t switch stances too often. Constant switching creates indecisiveness. Dedicate time to truly mastering one dominant stance instead.

Experiment in Training

Test out new stances during training to find your optimal position. Does a narrow or wide stance better suit your style? Do you fight best tall or crouched?

Face different training partners using new stances and see what works. Gather data then consolidate everything into your ideal stance and footwork.

Control the Center Line

Gaining control of the center line is critical for efficient striking. The center splits the midpoint between you and the opponent.

Winning from the Center

Controlling the center allows straight shots down the middle. Strikes follow the shortest path to the target. Punches lack telegraphing since hands don’t cross the body.

Opponents attacking from the outside throw looping strikes that are easier to see coming. Their rotation opens the body for counters as punches extend wide.

The center also provides prime striking distance. You can hit without giving ground if you hold the center. This forces opponents backwards and limits their offense.

Regaining the Center

Use lateral movement and angles to return to the center when pushed off. Step offline to change the angle, then cut back to reestablish your position.

As opponents press, pivot or circle away. Create space so their momentum slows, then slice back to the center line. Never surrender ground retreating in straight lines.

Mix up your movement. Go lateral, forward pressure, circle, cut angles. Enter from all directions so opponents cannot predict your path.

Footwork Drills

Drill regaining the center to ingrain this positioning habit. Place two poles between you and a partner to represent the center.

When your partner presses you off the center, work back to between the poles. Circle, pivot, faint your way directly to the middle.

10 minutes of daily reps will sculpt dynamic footwork. Your feet will naturally seek the center without thought.

Disrupt Timing and Rhythm

MMA exchanges involve lightning-quick reads and reactions. Mastering timing disrupts the opponent’s rhythm and creates openings.

Fire on the Half Beat

An opponent’s steps and strikes occur on full beats. As their foot plants or hand extends, they are prepared to defend.

Instead, time your strikes to land in between steps and punches on the half beat. Shots sneak through gaps when the opponent isn’t ready.

For example, as their front foot lifts to step, your rear hand fires down the middle. The precision must be impeccable to land clean.

Drill the Half Beat

Dedicate solo drills to sinking in this timing. Set up tire bags just outside kicking range.

As the bag naturally sways and pauses, explode in to strike during the sway when defense is absent. Remove the bag’s rhythm and insert your own.

Disrupting Rhythm

Use feints, lateral steps, and angles to disrupt the opponent’s cadence. As soon as patterns emerge, destroy the rhythm with unpredictable movements.

Frustrated opponents frequently rush forward impatiently. Punish overly aggressive entries by timing counters through their compromised defense.

Feint Intelligently

Incorporate feints into your MMA standup to manipulate opponents. Feints and fakes force reactions, open holes, and conceal attack intentions.

Feint Variety

Vary feint techniques to provide different looks:

  • Foot feints via stutter steps, shuffle jumps, half-committed kicks.
  • Head feints by dipping levels or rolling under phantom strikes.
  • Arm feints like flashing guards, initiator jabs, low glove touches.
  • Shoulder and hip feints suggesting body movement.

Creativity results in greater buy-in. Keep opponents guessing by never repeating the same exact feint.

Link Set Ups and Pay Offs

The most effective feints set up clean strikes. For example, fake a jab to draw out the opponent’s hand. Counter off this reaction with your real cross.

Well-linked feints and strikes create sequences. The initial feints force reactions that the following strikes exploit.

Drill Sequences

Practice feint-strike sequences on focus mitts. Have coaches alternate between giving no reaction and overt reactions to replicate real variables.

Drill swinging mitts at your head after feints so you learn to avoid counters. Always expect strikes in return until timing improves.

Constant Feints

Incorporate feints into all movement. Faking and feinting should become second nature. Opponents who see endless feints become hesitant to attack.

Just don’t over-feint at the expense of actual strikes. Feints support strikes but cannot replace them. Find the right feint-strike ratio for you.

Rip the Body

Incorporating body strikes forces opponents to lower their guard. This exposes the head as a follow-up target.

High-Low Follow-Ups

Alternate between high and low targets rapidly. As soon as the opponent defends the body, strike the head. Then immediately revert low again.

Landing one-two high-low or low-high combinations is standard. The more variables introduced, the harder to defend. Throw low-high-low or high-low-high-low.

Drill Sequences

Practice high-low combinations on focus mitts. Have coaches cue different sequences so reactions become instinctual regardless of order.

Defend body shots using thai pads. Work through discomfort so fatigue doesn’t compromise form. A strong core stabilizes when hurt.

Inside Weapons

Prioritize straight punches down the middle rather than wide hooks to the body. Shovel hooks, uppercuts, and knees work well.

Limit arm extension when firing to the body. Striking from the elbow reduces counters. Never reach or lean over-extended.

Slow and Sap Opponents

Body strikes also gradually deteriorate opponents’ conditioning and strength. As they fatigue, increased defensive holes emerge.

Remain vigilant battering the body throughout fights. The cumulative damage pays dividends in later rounds. Don’t neglect occasional body shots early just because effects aren’t immediate.

Master Defense Through Disruption

The easiest strike to land cleanly is the one the opponent doesn’t anticipate. Disruption hides your intentions while enabling smooth offense.

Change Angles

Don’t stand stationary flat-footed. Mix up your stance, positioning, and angles frequently.

As opponents begin adjusting, introduce a new look. Keep them constantly struggling to adapt a beat too late.

Check knees early when changing angles. Switching to square stances leaves legs vulnerable.

Control Opponents’ Movement

Cut off lateral movement by corralling opponents against the cage. Bound movement allows openings. Free motion permits escapes.

Push them backwards when able to limit space. Fleeing opponents cannot mount their own offense. Crush against the fence to smother.

Disrupt Emerging Patterns

Identify opponents’ rhythms and patterns, then disrupt them with unpredictability. Never let strategies solidify.

Chaos benefits you offensively. The more random your attacks, the lower counter chances become.

Adjust Strategies Intelligently

Fights evolve over time. What works early may get timed and countered later. Fighters must adapt rather than forcing one approach.

Identify Failures

Note techniques and habits that create opening. Remaining rigid while repeating poor tactics leads to bad nights.

Constantly evaluate what’s working and what fails. Don’t keep initiating doomed combinations due to ego. Stay flexible.

Make Minor Modifications

Small tweaks augment efficiency substantially. Switch targets high and low on the same entry. Change up punching angles. Alter footwork rhythms.

Revise initiation setups and combination order. Introduce new entries like level changes and hand traps. Expand approaches without overhauling.

Listen to Corner Advice

Trust coaches’ outside perspective between rounds. They identify gaps you miss during fights. Communicate to create optimal adjustments together.

Seamlessly integrate corner guidance into adapted game plans. Cornermen plot the general course while fighters steer.

Volume Wins Rounds

Judges reward activity over everything else. The man moving forward pressing action often gets rounds. Use volume strategically.

Never Stop Throwing

Continually throw punches, even if mostly blocked or missed. Judges tally overall volume rather than clean connections.

Opponents on bikes diminish their own output. Back them up while racking up points through sheer quantity. Make them work just to survive.

Conserve and Explode

Conserve energy early while remaining active enough to prevent 10-8 rounds. Opponents will fade if forced to maintain a hot pace throughout.

Save explosiveness for pivotal points. Flurries in the final 30 seconds of close rounds seal deals. Bursts should arrive precisely when truly needed.

Force Reactions

Make opponents react to your offense rather than allowing them to initiate. Draw counters and adjust to your actions.

Reacting fighters fall behind the pace. Push them onto heels and keep them there by dictating exchanges.

Master Range Control

Success striking requires controlling the distance of exchanges. Learn optimal ranges for different techniques and dominate each one.

Use Reach Advantages

Utilize all the space your reach affords. Keep rangy opponents on the end of strikes without entering the pocket. Punish attempts to close distance.

Conversely, crowd shorter opponents before they can explode inside. Smother within the clinch to negate power. Impose your range.

Kick from Outside

Use long, snapping kicks to dominate outside range. Pinpoint front snap kicks and roundhouses that force opponents back.

Reject attempts to step inside by chopping legs and cracking ribs from the fringe. Punish anyone seeking closer range.

Create Angles

Angle off on charging opponents rather than retreating straight back. This maintains distance while allowing counters from a new angle.

Pivot outside their lead foot as they pursue. Let momentum carry them past as you reconnect power shots.

Dirty Box

Grind short opponents in the clinch. Keep an arm behind their head to prevent escape. Dig dirty boxing uppercuts and hooks to the liver underneath.

Apply head pressure to sap their muscles further. Break them down through relentless short-range work. Maintain the tie-up or wrist control at all costs.

Master All Distances

Each range requires different skills. Close mastery of every distance.

Outside Kicking

From long distance, snap kicks score points and enforce your range. Hop rear legs back as opponents step inward to stay on the perimeter.

Lead leg side kicks also keep opponents away when at distance. Push rather than swing kicks to avoid counters.

Mid-Range Boxing

In mid-range, sharper boxing prevails. Work behind the jab and launch straight power punches. Maintain optimal positioning where clean combinations connect.

Use lateral motion or angles to keep opponents from crowding inside. When crowded, frame and exit back to mid-range safety.

Inside Dirty Boxing

In tight spaces, dirty boxing prevails. Control the neck to block vision and leverage power on a physically connected opponent.

Scramble to sink underhooks for added control. Crank short uppercuts and hooks to the body and head when locked in embraces.

Outstriking Opponents at Apex MMA

If you’re eager to put these striking principles into practice, we invite you to train at Apex MMA in Brookvale, Sydney, NSW. Join one of our beginner classes and experience firsthand how our training incorporates the techniques discussed in this article. Sign up today for a free 7-day trial and take your stand-up skills to the next level!

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Team Apex MMA Martial Arts Coach
Apex MMA is a specialist mixed martial arts gym focusing on Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Led by an experienced team of instructors, Apex MMA offers comprehensive training programs for students of all ages and skill levels. With Apex MMA's systematic teaching methods, passion for martial arts, and strong community relationships, you will gain the tools to succeed in the gym and beyond.
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