MMA striking is an art and a science. The best fighters utilize diverse tactics and understand the intricacies of setting optimal conditions. This article explores high level striking concepts employed by elite fighters. Whether you are a fan or competitor, these insights can deepen your appreciation for the complexity of world-class MMA standup.
Extensive Scouting and Preparation Are Paramount
The most successful strikers conduct extensive research on their opponents. They analyze tape diligently to identify weaknesses, tendencies, and holes in their adversary’s style. This allows them to pinpoint vulnerable areas to target. It also ensures they understand the favourite techniques, combinations and rhythms that each foe relies on. Information gleaned from scouting is translated into customized game plans tailored to exploit the specific flaws of the opponent. This scouting process should not be cursory or general. It requires memorizing details and crafting strategies based on in-depth knowledge. Fighters who overlook scouting or rely solely on coaches to do it risk being ill-prepared. They do so at their own peril. The most dominant strikers invest significant personal time into breaking down film. They enter each matchup with their opponent’s habits and holes crystalized in their mind.
Intercept and Disrupt to Suppress Offense
One common tactic used by elite strikers is intercepting the opponent’s movement or strikes to disrupt their rhythm and stifle their offence. This can involve using techniques like leg kicks, jabs or power punches to intercept them as soon as they attempt to move forward or initiate sequences. By frequently interrupting opponents before they can get comfortable, superior strikers prevent them from ever establishing an offensive flow. The constant interceptions make adversaries hesitant and gun shy since their timing keeps getting fractured. This allows the striker to largely control the exchanges while suppressing their adversary’s output, confidence and continuity. Intercepting strategically is hugely effective both offensively and defensively.
Omnidirectional Capabilities Are Crucial
To succeed against high level opposition, fighters must possess omnidirectional skills. This entails having proficiency to strike effectively while moving forward, backward, laterally and at angles in both orthodox and southpaw stances. If a striker can seamlessly pressure while going forward, evade and counter while moving backward, punish from the outside at angles, and attack fluidly from both orthodox and southpaw, it becomes incredibly difficult to limit their offense or take away their weapons. Their versatility provides endless angles from which to launch dynamic strikes, making them dangerously unpredictable. More one-dimensional strikers with gaps moving in certain directions will struggle enormously to cope with such unpredictable, prolific offensive versatility. The ability to quickly strike from all angles and stances is absolutely vital.
Integrate Feints and Fakes Fluidly
Elite strikers regularly and fluidly integrate feints and fakes to disguise their intent and create defensive openings. Arm fakes, shoulder fakes, stance fakes, level changes and more are all used prolifically to hide their forthcoming techniques. False movements force reactions that briefly expose their adversary’s head or body as targets. Layering in feints also cognitively overloads opponents, encouraging hesitation, poor reactions and faulty anticipations. Integrating feints seamlessly transforms basic striking into a much more complex sequence interplay rife with deception. This additional evolving layer makes elite striking incredibly difficult to accurately interpret and adapt to. Feints are integral, not supplemental.
Leg Kicks Serve Many Tactical Purposes
Leg kicks are used abundantly by superior strikers for numerous important strategic and tactical purposes. They help manage distance, enabling strikers to quickly close gaps or create space as needed. Leg kicks can angle opponents into more squared up, vulnerable positions. The accumulated damage wears on legs, affecting mobility and limiting movement. Varying leg kick targets and setups also keeps adversaries off-balance and unsure of precisely when attacks are coming. Incorporating leg kicks fluidly substantially magnifies striking depth, versatility and effectiveness. They serve both offensive and defensive purposes across limitless scenarios.
Reset and Control Optimal Range
By consistently intercepting and forcing opponents to reset their offence, superior strikers are able to control and dominate the optimal striking range and spacing that suits their skills and game plans. As soon as adversaries attempt to plant their feet and assume stances and positions that allow them to generate maximum power, they are interrupted – pushed or kicked back just outside their own effective range. This continual disruption prevents opponents from ever settling into comfortable positions and distances that facilitate their most powerful or dangerous techniques. Controlling range assertively by repeatedly forcing resets is an enormous advantage.
Maintain Responsible Defense
The best strikers remain cognizant of intelligent defense at all times. Their hands are kept high protecting their head in exchanges. They use slips, shoulder rolls and parries to evade or deflect incoming strikes. Their footwork enables them to quickly angle off the centerline after attacking to avoid counters. This adherence to maintaining tight defense means punishing offensive openings can be capitalized upon with reduced risks. Keeping defensively responsible shrinks the counter strike opportunities an opponent has. Intelligent defensive tactics thus expand offensive opportunities by mitigating associated potential dangers.
Target the Body and Linear Strikes
Even defensively skilled strikers inherently leave some openings. Hands held high guard the head but leave the body more exposed. Leaning over exposes the chin. Body work is encouraged, as are linear strikes up the middle such as uppercuts and knees when strikers lean down. These openings are subtle and can be difficult to exploit against opponents with great conditioning and footwork. But they do exist, especially in later rounds as fatigue sets in. The key is having proper setups and timing to optimize opportunities.
Implement Overarching Meta-Strategies
Most importantly, truly elite strikers operate within overarching frameworks and meta-strategies governing their application of techniques and tactics. Their holistic game plans outline the optimal conditions, spaces and scenarios to create. Their meta-strategies dictate appropriate times to pressure, counter-strike, use footwork to re-angle, and more based on broader contexts. All techniques and tactics serve defined purposes in the pursuit of efficiently generating dominance and goal achievement. Every choice from strike thrown to angle stepped represents progress towards the ideal circumstances. Operating with this methodology requires broad strategic acumen and processing beyond simply reacting in the moment.
Strikers Must Make Readjustments
Even with extensive scouting and preparation, adjustments mid-fight are inevitable. The best strikers make subtle tweaks and modifications to capitalize on openings noticed and create new advantages. If leg kicks are proving effective, they may increase usage or modify targeting. If intercepting jabs repetitively, they may alter entry angles. If an adversary has success going to the body, defending may shift slightly. Readjusting strategically while remaining within the overarching meta-strategy is key. Wild deviations are rarely optimal.
The concepts above provide a strong basis for understanding high level MMA striking strategy. Fighters aspiring to reach the pinnacle of the sport must move far beyond rudimentary or one-dimensional standup. They need to become adept at setting optimal conditions through omnidirectional capabilities, feints, disruptive intercepting strikes, range control and more. None are born expert in these methods – it requires immense dedication, repetition and the right coaching to ingrain such skills and strategic sensibilities. There are no perfect fighters, but constant refinement and evolution makes excellence attainable.
The Art of MMA Striking
Here at Apex MMA in Brookvale, we strive to help students methodically master MMA striking fundamentals while cultivating their broader strategic understanding. Our classes provide extensive mitt work, pad work, and drilling to engrain top-notch technique. We study film collaboratively and break down tactical concepts so students can expand their striking IQ. Classes incorporate omnidirectional movement training and extensive feint integration to produce complete standup skills. If you live in the Northern Beaches area and want to take your striking to the next level under expert guidance, enroll for a free 7-day trial. Classes are available for all skill levels. We hope to see you training with us soon!