Modernizing the Traditional: 5 Techniques We Never Thought We'd See in MMA
Mixed martial arts: "mano a mano," "as real as it gets"—our sport has always been premised on separating fact from fantasy, showing that while flamboyance and technical elegance may turn heads in Hollywood fight scenes, they have little to do with live combat.
As fans, MMA's gritty realism is not something we accept begrudgingly; rather, we are thrilled by watching an event which is "real," and free from the charlatanism associated with some traditional styles. We know that in terms of technique, natural selection operates in the Octagon, ensuring that fighters bring only their most effective weapons to battle. Whatever competitors may say when hyping a fight, few careers have been built on showmanship at the expense of effectiveness.
For years then, a plethora of techniques drawn from traditional martial arts have been condemned as "flashy" or "ineffectual," unsuitable for use in the cage. However, as fighters incorporate movie-style kicks, cranks and takedowns into their arsenal, we may be forced to re-think which movements are "useful" in MMA.
As competitors like Anthony Pettis and Lyoto Machida have consistently shown, the diversity found within a fighter's toolbox depends entirely on the skill of the individual; a spinning kick which is useless to one person may be employed to devastating effect by another.
The following slides depict recent moments when techniques were reclaimed from the dustbin, when we all rose from our seats in awe. Here's to the men who keep our sport evolving, who marry elegance and efficiency, who show us things we never thought we'd see in MMA.
Jon Jones and the Spinning Elbow
Ouch—for those fighters who are in MMA for the money, Jon Jones sure makes work difficult.
Like an ancient Thai warrior, Jones spins his hips and slams his elbow into his opponents' heads, combining perfect distancing and timing to score cleanly and often with a technique drawn straight from Ong-Bak.
Barboza and the Hook Kick
The "wheel kick," "turning hook kick," even, albeit incorrectly, the "roundhouse kick." Edson Barboza's finisher of choice against Englishman Terry Etim has gone under many names, none of which do justice to the sheer awe-inspiring nature of this technique.
Barboza, picking his moment perfectly, slammed his heel directly into the bewildered Etim's jaw, resulting in what must be one of the cleanest knockouts in UFC history.
Anthony Pettis and the "Showtime Kick"
"He ran up the wall like a ninja!" screamed Stephan Bonnar as the MMA world stood open-mouthed with hands in the air. Excellently put, Mr. Bonnar.
In kicking Ben Henderson's head into the front row, Anthony Pettis tightened his grasp on the WEC title and became the first, possibly last, man to perform a jumping, spinning back kick off the cage.
Machida and the Crane Kick
Karate is not dead; not on Lyoto Machida's watch, that is.
The former light heavyweight champion put a downer on Randy Couture's retirement night with one of the most impressive feats of skill ever preformed in the Octagon, knocking out the veteran with a perfectly timed jumping front kick.
Randy didn't see it coming. Neither did we.
Anderson Silva and the Front Kick
While Machida's jumping kick is perhaps more spectacular, we would be neglectful to overlook Anderson Silva's answer to Vitor Belfort's infamous speed and power—a front kick to the face.
In uniting the ball of his foot with the jaw of his fellow countryman, Anderson became the first man ever to score a front-kick knockout in UFC history, prompting amateur MMA fighters to begin throwing straight high kicks at a rate of 10 per minute.