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By: Jason Amadi, MMATorch Columnist
Jacob Ng writes in:
I've seen several MMA fights where a fighter is on the ground, face down and usually just turtling up (the most recent one that comes to mind for my question is Pettis vs. Henderson in the final WEC fight). Why is it the standing fighter, when going for strikes, only tries for the sides of the head of the downed opponent? I understand that you can't hit the back of the head or the spine, and that you cant stomp or kick, but why doesn't the fighter go for the ribs, shoulder area or any part of the back other than the spine? On another note, when a fighter has side control, why do they not go for knees to the side of the body? I have seen one or two fighters do that in the past. Is that illegal now?
Jacob, the problem isn't that these techniques are illegal; they're simply grossly underutilized. There are so many missed opportunities in fights for damage to be done by simply thinking outside of the box and going for unconventional, yet highly effective attacks.
For instance, a fighter who is face down and turtled up can absolutely be kicked, but just not to the head. If a fighter is standing over an opponent in this position, it's perfectly legal to soccer kick to the body. We saw James Irvin use this technique against Hector Ramirez to great effect at UFC 65, and Wanderlei Silva recently soccer kicked Michael Bisping to the body at UFC 111. It's rare that a fighter finds himself in a position to deliver a kick to the body, but when the situation arises the body is usually completely exposed for kicks and knees.
Also when an opponent is turtled, we've seen fighters like Jose Aldo and Cain Velasquez punch under the arm and upward towards the face to absolutely brutal effect. Jose Aldo put Manny Gamburyan out cold with this technique at WEC 51, and Cain Velasquez earned a 10-8 round against Ben Rothwell and then stopped him with the very same technique at UFC 104. I agree with you completely, and feel that we see far too many fighters punch haplessly to the side the head when they can do far more damage with more measured and precise attacks.
Back on the subject of body shots, we've seen crushing body attacks in MMA, but they just aren't done with the type of regularity to get other fighters to take notice. If you go back and watch the first encounter between Quinton Jackson and Chuck Liddell, Jackson put on an absolute ground and pound clinic by damaging Liddell with elbows to the body and then moving his offense back to the head. His attack wound up being so incredibly overwhelming that it lead to Liddell's corner having to stop the bout to save their fighter.
Knees to the body from side control are a bit trickier than attacks to a turtled fighter or inside the guard because side control requires that you place enough weight on your opponent to maintain position. Phil Davis executed some vicious knees from side control to Brian Stann at UFC 109, but this is in large part due to the amazing wingspan and dexterity which are unique to a fighter like Davis. Fortunately, we are seeing much more offense from side control than we have in the past, but not every fighter is daring enough to go for something out of the box in a dominant position.
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