Every now and then, a fighter will do something new and interesting. For instance, in his UFC on Fox 5 bout with Nate Diaz, Benson Henderson started punching Diaz in the leg. More recently, he did the same against Gilbert Melendez at UFC on Fox 7, with Josh Thompson doing the same thing earlier in the night in his bout against Diaz. So why are people doing it? Better yet, how can you defend it, or even counter it? Well, that’s what we’re going to be looking at today.
For a wrestler who changes levels regularly, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that you can punch somebody in the leg. If you have a decent reach, the tactic is all the more effective. If you can whip that jab out there fast enough, it’s just like when you would “Charley-horse” someone as a kid. You can cause a lot of discomfort with just a pair of knuckles impacting a large mass of soft tissue like the thigh/quadriceps area. However, it doesn’t have to be a standalone strike.
I spoke with Invicta FC vet Sarah “Cheesecake” Moras about this, and she noted that she’s been using it in practice to set up either takedowns or overhand punches. Those aren’t the only things you can do either, at least in theory.
A classic combo of Ernesto Hoost was to start with a right straight to the head, change levels with a left hook to the body, and use the hook to move to the side and finish off with a rear leg kick. Using that same principle of vertical progression, one could start with the jab to the leg, move up to a right straight to the body, and end with a left uppercut. This, of course, is just one example. A more qualified striking coach than I could have a field day on this subject.
Since we’ve only had limited exposure with this technique, we haven’t really had the opportunity to see potential defenses to the jab to the leg. However, in speaking with a couple of experts, I was able to get some ideas. Canadian kickboxing standout Victor “the Dragon” Wang believe it’s as simple as raising your leg and checking the punch the same way as you would a kick to the leg. It makes sense when you think about it, as punching a shin is a lot less effective and far more painful than punching a thigh. In addition, noted striking pundit Jack Slack was able to recommend an effective counter: The rear leg teep. This makes instant sense. The leg has a longer reach than the arm, and your opponent’s lowered stance leaves him in perfect position for the ball of your foot to come over the top and strike your opponent in the chin.
It remains to be seen just how common these jabs to the leg will become. While they are certainly an excellent anti-Skrap Pack weapon to keep in the toolbox, we don’t know how effective they may be against more dynamic fighters who use kicks more frequently. Only time will tell how mainstream this technique will ever get, but if nothing else, it’s always good to keep something like this in your toolbox.
By: Justin Pierrot (@stormlandbrand on Twitter)