MMA Technique of the Week: The Overhand Right

MMA Technique Of The Week

The overhand right may be the most effective technique in MMA. I will say that again. The overhand right may be the most effective technique in MMA.

No, I’m not a noob nor do I need you to call the casual MMA police on me. The overhand in MMA is such a tremendous tool. I remember when I first started back watching the UFC after the beginning and Chuck Liddell was the champ.

He has the most devastating overhand right we had ever seen up until that point. In boxing, there are bigger gloves which help your defense to cover the punch as well as lighten the blow if it should land.

In MMA, there is far less glove to use to defend and much less padding after that. The game is changed! In the earlier years of MMA when wrestlers were just getting involved in the sport, they would sling that overhand right and sometimes left with ferocity.

If their opponent covered up, they would use that opportunity to get under their arms and in on their legs. Eventually, it became a staple in mixed martial arts and still is today. I teach this all the time!

  • The level change to the overhand right. You lower your level quickly, if your opponent doesn’t react then you do it again but for real this time and shoot for the takedown.
  • They will likely react, though, and when they do, they will more than likely be bringing their arms and hands down to get the underhooks and defend the shot. You can see where this one is going.

That is just one application of the overhand right or maybe I should just call it the rear overhand punch. Y’all know what I mean, though.

The Overhand Right – Who Does It Best?

Let’s talk about which fighters use it the most effectively! Fedor or Chuck Liddell are both up there for the overhand GOATS

Robert Whittaker

Bobby Knuckles is a throwback in that regard. Modern MMA appears to be moving away from the overhand and more towards the straight right. They both have their place but even if it isn’t thrown and landed as much anymore, the threat of it continues to affect stances, styles, and decision making.

Some people say Robert’s style is wild and against someone like Israel Adesanya, he pretty much had to be. Izzy had such a massive reach and technical advantage over him that he had to crash the center and blitz.

He really thought he was going to land the big one but alas, it was him who took a hook on the chin and was put away soon after. In retrospect, he probably did rush things a bit but against Izzy, there no one has been able to really find the correct answer.

Robert throws more overhand rights than he does jabs. This guy slings em but it works for him.

Against such a big kicker like Darren Till and a southpaw at that, I thought Robert would eat a lot of tibias to the ribbias if you follow me.

That was always my favorite thing to do to the shorter guys who would make themselves shorter and open up for a big punch. Whittaker has such incredible timing and many times, he is using the overhand right as a counter for the jab.

I teach that stuff day one. If you don’t have the timing of your opponent yet, you can just take the jab off the top of your forehead, and then it’s simply a race back to their face.

You can move forward faster than they can move backward or at least you better hope so.

Once you have the timing, though, you can really do fight-ending damage with the punch. You don’t even need to actively and consciously slip the punch. If you just dip off to the left when you throw it, their jab will just bounce off your chest.

The best thing about this technique is you land when they think they are going to land. This creates a devastating collision. The energy they were attempting to transfer into you was intercepted and partnered with your power to smesh your opponent’s face.

Or hey, just clip that chin and call it a day!

Robert also uses the fake shot to the overhand as well as anyone in history. It is such a beautiful technique when it works correctly. That’s how Georges St Pierre was knocked out by Matt Serra.

That’s how Khabib Nurmagomedov dropped Conor McGregor. Level change to the overhand.

Justin Gaethje

The highlight has a few techniques where I would rank him among the best and the overhand right is surely included. He is a strong wrestler as well and man, if he put more time into shooting in on guys’ legs, then he would be that much more successful with his overhand.

If he isn’t leg kicking his way to full-on limb destruction, Justin is usually cracking someone over the top with a right hand. I wanted to “Highlight” Justin here because of how he uses the right leg kick with the overhand.

He knows he is fast, has great timing, and can crack. His opponents do as well and instead of beating on a locked door, Gaethje, who has one of the best coaches in MMA Trevor Wittman, plays the right hand and the right kick off of each other better than anyone I’ve ever seen.

Jose Aldo used one of the best jabs in UFC history to set up his low kicks if he wasn’t countering but Justin is unorthodox in which he uses the right hand to set up his kicks and vice versa.

One trick of Muay Thai or any striking art is to make the beginning of each strike look as similar as possible. You want the initial movement of your rear knee to resemble your rear kick for as long as possible while still maintaining the speed and power needed to land effectively.

Justin is so twitchy! And he uses that to perfection to feint the kick or the right hand over the top and depending on his opponent’s reaction, he throws one of the two and from there it’s thwack or crack.

As they say in Thailand, “up to you”.

Francis Ngannou

We couldn’t forget about this freak of nature, could we?

No way. Franky baby has some juice in those fists! I don’t know if it was all the digging for diamonds in Sierra Leone or the excellent boxing training he receives from his elite set of trainers.

We have seen him send legitimate heavyweight strikers into space faster than Elon Musk didn’t inhale on the Joe Rogan Podcast.

The effectiveness of the overhand right has never been illustrated better than in Francis Ngannou’s most recent fight against Jairzinho Rozenstruik.

This one didn’t last long as you can see but let’s go through this sequence really quickly.

Francis is a very technical boxer but the power of the overhand right and his size, speed, weight, and frame allow him to just sling a redneck rights for lack of a better term until he caught a world-class striker on the chin and put him away in an instant.

  • The first overhand right comes with a big lunge. Jairzinho counters but he is forced to lean so far off line to avoid getting hit that him landing the counter hook is a moot point.
  • Ngannou then misses with a left hook and gets hit with a counter right but again, the forward pressure and specifically the length you can gain with the overhand right compared to the straight right can be a difference maker.
  • After a miss with the right hand, it was the left hook that caught Rozenstruik.

This was all set up by the overhand, though, and Francis did and will continue to use this punch to overwhelm and KO his opponents.

In Conclusion

Francis does have a fight scheduled against the UFC Heavyweight World Champion, Stipe Miocic. If you remember correctly, Stipe dominated Franky in their first fight but Ngannou has grown his mixed martial arts game exponentially.


If he does put away Stipe, it will be from an overhand right. This is just my opinion but Miocic does like to stand fairly tall in the pocket. That’s what got him caught by Daniel Cormier.

DC got him in the clinch but it was still an overhand right, just very short.

Pro tip-If you don’t have much room to throw a punch, get that elbow up in the air and punch down to gain power if there isn’t enough space to throw it forward.

That is exactly what DC did and it worked perfectly with his shorter arms.

The overhand right of Chuck Liddell has rightfully taken a curled up trunk seat in modern MMA but that doesn’t mean that the technique is dead. I still feel like the threat of it remains even if you don’t see it being utilized as much.

It’s kinda like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. No, there aren’t many more submission victories in MMA nowadays and fighters who are on their back are almost always coached to stand up and not try to pull off a sub from the bottom.

Does that mean that BJJ isn’t needed?


I was sweeping and submitting college wrestlers bigger than me as an unathletic weak white belt. BJJ is needed and even if fighters aren’t putting on the gi and going to class, they are still training it.

It was, is, and always will be there.

The same can be said of the overhand. Whether you are using it to set up the leg kick, a takedown, or you just want to blast your fist through your opponent’s face, it’s a great punch.

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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.

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