MMA Technique of the Week: The Front Kick

Technique Of The Week Front Kick

A confident but polite man once said: Can I kick it?

You guys know the answer to that.

The front kick is my all-time favorite.

Don’t get me wrong, guys. I could talk to you all day about quite a few kicks.

I think I was 5 or 6 when I saw The Karate Kid for the first time.

Daniel closed the show with a jump switch front kick or crane kick.

No can defend.

Not too long after that, I enrolled in Taekwondo as a kid but not for long. It felt like about a year but it was probably less than that. I was just 7 years old and we moved to another town just as I was getting into it but I didn’t follow up.

My first test to get my yellow belt was to break a board with a front kick.

I watched much larger people and some others my size have trouble but eventually get it snapped.

For some reason, I think I just timed it well but that thing broke perfectly, or at least that’s how I remember it.

Fast forward to 2011 and my favorite fighter is at the top of his reign but about to face potentially his greatest challenge to date, Vitor “TRT” Belfort.

So sick.

What made this even more special was that nobody was throwing the front kick to the face in MMA.

Maybe you would get the well-schooled Thai fighter who would teep to the face but that is still more of a push than it is a knockout threat.

The front kick has far less room for error than the big disrespectful teep to the face.

The front kick to the face kinda needs to land at just the right time and at just the right place, particularly your opponent’s chin.

  • If it comes up just a little short, you have threatened them and made them think but that’s it.
  • If you throw it long, it doesn’t land when and where it needs to to do damage.

Landing a clean one on the chin, especially when the victim thinks it’s coming to the body, can be lethal.

Well, not completely but it will knock out the best of ‘em as we have seen.

Not even 3 months after the kick heard round the world, Anderson Silva’s stablemate and countryman, Lyoto Machida the Karate-stylist, took it one step further with a crane kick that slept and retired the legendary Randy Couture at the age of 48 years old.

Lyoto Machida would later go on to knock out, guess who, a post-USADA deflated Vitor Belfort with a front kick as well.

The Front Kick

What do all three victims have in common?

They went directly to sleep.

The front kick is not a joke.

It was 2014 and I was hard at work on my Muay Thai game at Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas.

They had these giant red and black Fairtex heavy bags that weighed hundreds of pounds each.

Those things were huge.

Working on those things was challenging because they didn’t really move anywhere when you hit them.

I learned something though and that is sometimes it’s best if a bag doesn’t move.

What if your Thai pad holder moved back every time you hit him instead of holding strong and making you carry those reverberations throughout your body.

I can pull my toes back and dorsiflex well with my right foot so I started just seeing how hard I could do a front kick but just at body height.

It wasn’t just a snap from the knee down. I started it from the hip and keep just a small bend in my leg like a round kick and landed it “early” or before my leg made it perpendicular from my body.

Soon, I started to throw it in sparring and with long legs and good timing, it started to land.

I was getting some serious reactions and in chill sessions, a lot of pros would ask for a sec to breathe.

Then my 6’1 160 lb twin walks in the door and he starts hitting me with the same kick! It hurts, first of all, and it lands right on the bread basket more often than not.

I still think I had a little more hip in mine but you can even throw a quick snappy one in mid-range but you have to be sneaky.

I wasn’t in the UFC but I sparred with some of those guys so I felt like I was on the cutting edge of the application of the technique in MMA.

Soon, many of the world’s best fighters started throwing the kick with great success.

It is harder to catch than a teep and it does quite a bit more damage.

Let’s talk about some of the different fighters in MMA today who use this kick well.

Who Does it Best?

Conor McGregor

Yes sir.

When he wants to.

I don’t think there is anyone better.

Sure, Mystic Mac may only need one hand to defeat half of the division but his kicks have been underestimated for years.

He is a southpaw so his left kick front kick can be fired at the liver.

I knew some orthodox guys that could hit southpaws in the liver with the front kick but I could never figure that one out.

It is a close target.

Conor, though, he throws it down the middle just like a right-handed fighter would do.

He made best use of it against Chad Mendes.

Money Mondes was a problem, for anybody, but especially for Conor McGregor because of the wrestling threat.

Mendes was a solid striker with a lot of power but he was also a great takedown and top control guy.

He was too short and stocky to deal with McGregor’s strikes at range and Conor also knew that Chad had taken this fight on short notice so his gas tank likely wasn’t on F.

Conor McGregor landed a lot of kicks in that fight but it was the front kick up the middle that not only continually punctured holes in his opponent’s gas tank but also kept him from level changing and shooting takedowns.

This is one of if not the best striker in mixed martial arts today and he threw the 15 front kicks to the body against Chad Mendes over the course of 3 minutes they spent striking during the first round.

  • That is one every 12 seconds.
  • It was a victory for the front kick to the body.
  • Mendes gassed heavily in the second round and McGregor put him away with that picture perfect left.
  • It was a Crumlin cracker!

All brought to you by those front kicks to the body!

They were a little too risky against a fighter like Khabib but if we are going to gauge how good fighters are simply by their performances against Khabib Nurmagomedov, then they’re all a bunch of bums.

Conor McGregor’s next fight is rumored and Twittered to be with his former Featherweight foe, Dustin The Diamond Poirier.

He made pretty quick work of Dustin in their first matchup about a year before he fought Mendes.

Both martial artists were still a little green back then.

The Irishman stood bladed in that fight pretty much in a Karate stance. I think he threw 4 spinning kicks and opened with a hook kick.

The dude is so versatile.

If they do indeed fight once more, I expect about the same result.

It might not be in the first round but Conor McGregor owned Dustin Poirier that night.

They have both grown tremendously and I think Conor’s camp for and fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov has taken his wrestling game to the next level.

Dustin’s improved takedown game likely won’t be enough to get the Mac to the mat.

From there, Conor is on another level with his hands.

Dustin has a great phone booth pocket style of volume boxing but we have already seen that he doesn’t hold up well to McGregor’s power.

You can get Conor McGregor right now over at BetOnline.AG for (-175) and Dustin Poirier for (+150).

That is an absolute steal! (-175) is saying Conor wins 64% of the time. I’ve got the man at 80.

Sue me.

I don’t care.

This fight isn’t that close.

The line hasn’t moved, though.

Remember January…

No. I don’t either.

Well, you can google it.

It was actually the first month of the year 2020 and I was struggling with weak internet in the Philippines. I missed the “entire” main event of UFC 246 Mcgregor vs Cerrone.

As you know, I didn’t miss very much.

  • Conor SMOKED him!
  • Not even smoked. That takes too long.
  • He simply cut right through him.

And McGregor opened as a (-160) favorite.

Even if you don’t think he’s going to win, you should put some money down on McGregor because his stock will rise.

Buy low and in this case, win big.

My Pick
Conor McGregor

Tony Ferguson

I hope we get to see Tony Ferguson as the same fighter again but his last outing opposite Justin Gaethje may have left him changed forever.

One thing he didn’t do very much and I think would have helped him against Justin Gaethje and that is the front kick.

Tony is a forward fighter who builds on momentum, though, and Justin never let him get going.

Justin fought very intelligently and made it a boxing match.

He used lateral movement when at distance and threw punches from nice angles once he made his way inside.

A fight where Tony was able to use the front kick incredibly well was when he fought Anthony Pettis.

Tony throws it a little differently than most but are you surprised?

El Cucuy, man.

I miss that guy.

I picked Justin Gaethje against him so I was pulling that way but it hurt after a while seeing him get hit so many times.

I know he wants back in there ASAP. He’s a warrior but I guess it’s a good thing he waits a while longer.

When Ferguson throws the front kick, it isn’t meant to be pretty.

  • It is meant to be awkward which many times freezes people and it is meant to do damage.
  • The damage being the air slowly knocked out of you.
  • He also rarely puts the kick back where it began.

I usually throw it from the rear and it returns to that position.

Conor is the same way.

Tony just lets it fall forward and he flows into another strike from there.

His style is very flowy like that and a big reason why he was so unsuccessful is that he never got going so the flow just never happened.

It doesn’t matter whose way is better.

The kick wore down Pettis and Mendes the same.

There are many other stories like theirs’ and there will be many more thanks to the simple front kick.

In Conclusion

Can you tell I love the front kick?

I don’t really get to land the one to the face much in practice.

It is considered disrespectful in Thailand and for the most part, the same is true in sparring in the US.

Whenever I go to my home gym in Virginia, they always have the elbow to the toe block ready and willing.

I give them crap for it because they are never going to get any better working any of the catches from that position.

At the same time, though, I get it. The kick hurts.

Every UFC, we see more and more fighters utilizing the front kick to the body.

It’s probably not a bad idea either to bet on a guy or gal who specializes in the front kick to the body.

If their opponent is trying to take them down, it makes finishing that job quite the undertaking.

It forces them to blade their stance as well as stand taller.

Anytime you can get your opponent to adjust their optimal settings with just the threat of one technique, you’re on your way to winning.

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Mike Pruitt / Author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.