Angles are absolutely vital for landing successful strikes while remaining relatively safe in MMA and other combat sports. Getting to an opponent’s side or behind them almost always ensures a higher percentage strike and more damage dealt.
Visualize yourself competing in a survival situation against a stronger opponent. The idea of sneaking up behind them and landing a powerful blow likely comes to mind instinctively. Whether fully conscious of it or not, humans intuitively know and understand the importance of securing dominant angles against an enemy.
However, as fighting transitions from a life or death struggle into a codified sport, many fighters lose grasp of just how crucial those angles remain even when points rather than survival are on the line. Integrating an awareness of angles into your MMA game can provide a subtle but substantial edge over less strategic opponents.
Implementing the Basic Southpaw Angle Effectively
A basic example that demonstrates the power of angles is when fighters utilize different stances. When one fighter adopts an orthodox stance and the other takes a southpaw stance, both will aim to get their lead foot outside of their opponent’s lead foot.
Doing so places their rear shoulder on a direct line in between the opponent’s shoulders. This shortens the path that the rear hand has to travel to reach the target, allowing it to land faster and with greater force. It also moves each fighter’s head away from the ideal angle for the opponent’s rear hand to do damage.
By intelligently getting the lead foot outside the opponent’s lead foot, the fighter has shortened the path of his own devastating rear hand while taking his head off the center line and away from the opponent’s powerful rear side. This makes landing fight-ending blows easier while avoiding potential damage.
Many fighters understand this concept but fail to implement it with the required level of technical nuance. Brute strength and speed often become the deciding factors in who can achieve the outside angle. Integrating footwork, timing, feints, and other technical elements allows establishing dominant angles with strategy rather than simply grit.
Forcing the Lunge to Create Openings
Another way to play with angles and spacing is by fighting at a greater distance than most strikers prefer. Doing so forces the opponent to take an additional step forward before their strike can land.
Fighters work extremely hard to avoid telegraphing their techniques so they can throw strikes quickly and suddenly right out of their base stance without any warning. By increasing the amount of space between himself and the opponent, a fighter limits this danger by forcing additional forward movement before the opponent can land blows.
This means more reaction time is available to see strikes coming. It also decreases the need to react to every minor feint and fake, since the opponent has to truly commit if they hope to bridge the distance and connect. When opponents dash in, their defense inherently opens up making them far easier to counter as they complete their forward step.
The fighter can then choose to retreat and evade as the opponent steps forward, or deliver punches and kicks as they complete their lunge. Stepping in with forceful counters as the opponent steps forward not only helps land devastating blows, but also makes the fighter appear insanely fast.
This is because the opponent is doing half the work closing distance, thereby multiplying speed and power rather than having to chase and strike a completely stationary target.
Applying the “Wrong Side” Angle
In addition to traditional foot placement and spacing tactics, hopping or dashing to a more minor angle before launching an attack flurry can also exploit angles very effectively.
By quickly moving to his left side just before attacking, a fighter forces the opponent to pivot in place and turn to face him before they can retaliate. In the fraction of a second that the opponent is turning on one point to track the fighter, their offensive power is almost zero.
This is because all power originates from the hips and base, and rapidly spinning disrupts balance and the ability to generate any force or speed. Rushing in with a left straight punch or other strikes precisely as the opponent is forced to pivot puts them in an extremely weak defensive position.
By using movement and timing, punishing combinations can land cleanly when the opponent is off-balance and has no means to return fire until after completing the turn and re-establishing their fighting stance.
Capitalizing on the Blind Angle
The blind angle is another vital concept relating to angles, movement, and landing strikes. The blind angle simply refers to the area right in front of the opponent where they cannot physically see the floor due to their own head blocking the view.
Any strike that travels through this blind angle, especially without much warning or telegraphing, stands an excellent chance of surprising the opponent and landing cleanly. While the uppercut is typically the only strike in a traditional boxing arsenal that originates from below, lowering the hands and punching upward can enable straight punches to also utilize this blind angle.
Throwing a punch in a slight upward arc rather than straight out makes it more difficult for the opponent to detect based on their limited perspective. Moving through the blind spot unseen allows landing sudden and unexpected blows from unorthodox angles.
Feinting With the Hips to Set Up Strikes
While angles allow outmaneuvering opponents, feinting is essential to outsmarting them. An extremely underappreciated art, excellent feinting helps conserve energy by eliciting reactions without fully committing to techniques.
For a feint to work well, it must closely resemble the early motions of a strike without any actual follow through. This tricks the opponent while keeping the fighter balanced and ready to fully commit to any technique once the opening appears.
Half-hearted feints using just the limbs rather than the core rotational power of the hips and shoulders greatly limit options once the opponent reacts. Hand and foot feints draw reactions, but prevent seamlessly flowing into kicks, knees, and punches once the opponent takes the bait.
Strong hip and shoulder feints mirror the beginnings of true committed power strikes. This elicits predictable reactions that the fighter can then capitalize on with a variety of attacks thanks to remaining fully balanced after the non-committed feint.
Selling the Kick Feint
One of the most common and useful feints is faking a round kick. Excellent technique involves drawing the rear foot slightly underneath the body, getting up on the ball of the foot, and rotating the hips forward toward the opponent.
This motion almost exactly mirrors the initiation of a true committed rear leg kick, without any of the required follow through.
Done well, this feint provides the perfect illusion of a kick being thrown without the fighter sacrificing balance or kicking power once the opponent reacts. Performed frequently, this seemingly simple feint can cause major confusion.
It distracts the opponent into focusing on the legs rather than the hands, dulls their reactions to further leg feints, and hides the true timings of rear hand strikes like a straight cross behind the repeated fake out motion.
Faking the Straight Punch to Set Up Knees
In addition to feints that mimic strikes, fakes that fully commit to one technique only to surprise with another can also prove highly effective. A common example of this is faking a straight punch to land a knee strike instead against an off-balance opponent.
When fighting in an opposite stances engagement, fighters will often use their lead hand to slap down the opponent’s lead hand or throw quick distracting jabs, then immediately swing their rear hand straight down the centre.
Extending both hands quickly like this often precedes rear hand straight punches that follow immediately after. Capitalizing on this, fakes can extend the lead hand and begin swinging the rear hand only to bring up a crushing knee strike instead right up the middle.
Letting both hands fly out sells the punch, causing the opponent to reactively duck downward right into the upward swinging knee. This brutally punishes fighters looking to avoid expected straight punches from common angles.
Movement, Angles and Feints at Apex MMA
Rather than relying solely on refined techniques and fundamentals, integrating movement, angles, spacing, feints and fakes can greatly expand a fighter’s strategic options. This adds the elements of deception, surprise and creativity that catch even skilled opponents off guard.
At Apex MMA in Brookvale, we work hard to implement these sorts of approaches into our training and coaching. See first-hand how building a technical understanding of such methods can rapidly elevate your skills across all levels. Experience the difference by taking advantage of a free 7-day trial of beginner classes.