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5 MMA Moves That Will Make You Want to Hit the Gym

The Crane Kick

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Okay, he doesn’t do the arms, but Lyoto Machida’s second-round knockout of former heavyweight champ Randy Couture came via what is otherwise unmistakably the most lethal technique in the Miyagi-karate syllabus. Technically it’s a mae tobi geri, or ‘flying front kick,’ and it’s popular, though difficult to land, in the shotokan style of karate Machida’s been learning under his father since he was three. More importantly, it’s about misdirection and not just needless showmanship – because the other knee comes up first, the theory goes, your opponent will be looking out for a kick from the other leg, giving you an unobstructed path to their face with your other foot. ‘If do right, no can defend,’ indeed. 

The Marquadt Ultra-Combo

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Among the uncomfortable truths you have to embrace as you grow up – right next to ‘everyone dies eventually’ and ‘it’s almost impossible to look good in a trenchcoat,’ perhaps the saddest is ‘You can’t finish a professional fight like you’re playing Street Fighter 2.’ But apparently nobody told Nate Marquadt that, because after charging his super-meter (or doing whatever you do to you gear up for this sort of legalised assault in a non-videogames context) he did the equivalent of slapping all the buttons at once, and it resulted in a fight-ender that contains nine distinct strikes, including a flying knee and a spinning reverse head kick. If there’s ever been a fight to convince you that almost any flailing nonsense you sling at a heavy bag could, eventually, pay dividends, it’s this one. Glorious.

The Cormier Mega-Slam

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Daniel Cormier is an Olympic-level freestyle wrestler who fights like a WWE superstar. He’s friendly-looking and a bit tubby and if you saw him in a bar you’d think he needs to hit the gym, but if you let him wrap his hands around your leg he is absolutely going to tip you upside down and make you reassess your life choices as your face hurtles groundwards. Dan Henderson, attempting to fight him here, is a former champion and monstrously strong in his own right: please note how easily he’s being ragdolled when you’re next tempted to skip leg day. Takedowns are often underrated in MMA because fights take place on bouncy, forgiving canvas, but when the UFC sees sense and institutes a Tables, Ladders and Chairs division, Cormier is going to be champ for the next decade.

The Anderson Silva Matrix Assault

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Anderson Silva fights like you wish you could fight: from another dimension where it seems like his opponents are moving much, much slower than he is. The best way to fight him is to focus on grappling or refuse to let him counter: the worst is to throw strikes at him so that he can dodge them and then hurt you from impossible angles. At least, that’s what punch-experts thought until Forrest Griffin came up with an even more humiliating option: run at him throwing punches, so that when he Matrix-fades away from all of them and bops you gently on the chin, your own hurtling bodyweight is responsible for the subsequent concussion. Yes, it would take you probably a decade of sparring and dedicated practise to even get close to this level of ludicrous fight-brilliance, but look at this way: if you start now you’ll be mugger-immune by the time you’re collecting your pension.

The Showtime Kick

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Yes, there are undiscovered tribes with no word for television that are sick of seeing this kick on Reddit’s front page and UFC highlight reels – but that still doesn’t stop it being the greatest act of human violence ever captured on camera. To recap: in the final round of the final championship fight in WEC history, immediately before the organisation was folded into the UFC, Anthony Pettis knew he was losing…and so he ran up the side of the side of the cage, leapt off, and used the extra height/surprising angle to land his foot squarely on a retreating Ben Henderson’s face, knocking him down and clinching the win. Pettis later revealed that it wasn’t a fluke: he practised the move ‘weekly’ with striking coach Duke Roufus and (even more excitingly) has more cage-scaling moves still in the clip. If you’ve been inside an MMA gym (or, real talk, a building with walls) without even *trying* this move, hang your head in shame.

From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.