MMA Punching and Elbow Techniques

MMA Punching techniques

There are hundreds of different types of MMA punching and elbow techniques, the most common of which have been included here. Basic principles apply to all and it is important to understand these when competing in a full contact sport.


Every punch should be delivered with the whole body movement as this improves effectiveness. Combinations of punches are a useful way to distract an opponent. Because of the speed of the sequence of individual strikes that make up a combination, they are also difficult to defend against. Possible opportunities created might include openings for takedowns or a kick to the torso as the opponent protects their head with their hands. Alternatively, punches can be used to keep an opponent away or as an attacking sequence to knock them out.


Key principles

  1. Relax and don’t tense up.
  2. Use the whole body by turning the hips into the punch.
  3. Keep the chin tucked under.
  4. Keep the non-punching hand close to the face to protect against counter-attacks.
  5. Use combinations of punches as they are more effective.
  6. After each punch, quickly return to the starting position.


Although the jab is not the most powerful punch, it is considered to be one of the most important because it can help keep an opponent away. It can also be used to set up other striking combinations or takedowns, and to defend against attacks.


The right cross, also known as the straight right, is one of the most powerful knockout punches and can be used to attack or counter-attack. The main benefit of using this strike as a counter-attack is the additional power gained by the combination of the opponent’s body weight coming forwards to attack, with the cross action of the punch.

  • The chin is tucked behind the shoulder of the punching hand and the non-punching hand is tight to the face to protect against counter-attacks. The hip is turned into the cross and the rear foot pivots to put the body weight behind the punch.
  • More power can be generated by using a small step forwards with the opposite leg to the punching hand. When the leg touches the ground, pivot the rear leg to put the body weight behind the punch.


When applied correctly, the hook can be a knockout punch, especially when all of the body weight is put behind it by rotating the hips. It is also a difficult punch to block as the hand follows the line of an arch. The hook can be used to attack, counter-attack or as a transition for a takedown. The fist is turned with the palm facing downwards and the arm is at an angle of at least 90 degrees. The hook’s a twisting and circular motion. The hook’s power is increased by the circular motion of the body.


The uppercut is a powerful knockout strike used at close proximity and usually aimed at the chin, floating ribs or solar plexus. Power is generated from the upward linear motion created by the turning of the hips, legs and shoulders. Keep in mind:

  • The right stance before the uppercut.
  • Dropping down into a crouched position with the guard up.
  • Maintaining the crouch, the palm of the punching fist
  • While the body is turning, the weight is transferred is turned towards the body.
  • The body weight is put behind the punch by twisting the body in the direction of the punch.
  • Direct the motion upwards.


The overhand right is a hybrid technique combining elements of the hook and right cross to generate an effective knockout punch, or to get past an opponent’s defences. The motion of the overhand is forward and slightly curved. Execution is as follows:

  • A short step forwards and to the left is taken as the right hand is brought over the opponent’s head.
  • The arm is arched over the opponent’s defence
  • As the punch is placed, the arm is extended, the the body is turned anti-clockwise to bring the fist in closer.
  • Weight is brought forwards, and the rear foot pivots.


The spinning back fist is a remarkable and powerful punch that can often surprise an opponent. The whipping motion E.. generated by bending the elbow of the striking arm and timing the contact to occur while the body is still turning.

  • The fighting stance before the spinning back fist.
  • The striking arm is bent and the body is spun as fast as possible anticlockwise on the left foot.
  • While spinning, the head turns towards the opponent and the punch is placed.
  • The punch is placed using the side of the fist, which is whipped out by straightening the arm combining with the power of the spin.

Elbow strikes

The elbow strike is a very powerful technique that can knock out an opponent when executed correctly. Power generated by a circular motion of the elbow and a twisting action of the body. It can be used to attack or counter-atta:4 when standing or on the ground and is difficult to block.

Key principles of the Elbow Strike:

  • Relax and don’t tense up.
  • Use the whole body by turning into the strike.
  • Keep the non-striking arm over the face to guard against counter-attacks.
  • Aim through the opponent as this generates more power.
  • After each strike, quickly return to the starting position.

Points to Remember for Elbow Strikes:

  • The fighting stance before the elbow strike.
  • The face is covered with the non-striking hand and the elbowing arm is ready at a 45-degree angle.
  • The executed elbow, with pivoted feet and turned with the whole body weight behind it, achieved by pivoting on the foot that is on the same side as the striking elbow.


The upward elbow strike follows the same line and principles as the uppercut. Power is generated by the upward linear motion of the elbow combined with the force created by turning the hips, legs and shoulders. It is an excellent method of getting past an opponent’s defences and can also knock them out when placed on their chin. However, it is a versatile technique that can be used in many situations. Execution as follows:

  • The fighting stance in preparation to pass the opponent’s defences.
  • The face is covered with the non-striking hand and the elbowing arm is ready at a 45-degree angle.
  • The elbow travels vertically upwards and the whole body is turned into the movement by pivoting on the foot that is on the same side as the striking elbow.

Punching and elbowing on the ground

Ground and pound is a famous MMA technique, in which the opponent can be punched or elbowed while on the floor. This can continue until the opponent is knocked out or submits by tapping out. For the technique to be effective the fighter needs to be upright and not restricted by the opponent.

Key Points:

  • The fighter can generate more power with an upright position and freedom of space. The advantage has been given away by the opponent as they have not controlled the fighter’s head.
  • The fighter controls their opponent’s head and restricts them from freely punching or elbowing. Any strikes the opponent could apply would have reduced power.
  • An upright position generates more power for a punch.
  • More power is available to apply an elbow strike.
  • The fighter controls their opponent’s head and restricts their movement.

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