Targeting The Body In MMA

Long a point of derision for MMA coaches and analysts out there, mixed martial artists just do not pay enough attention to bodywork. In an age where the spectacular is sought after by headhunters and those looking for a short night at the office – as if it is some kind of common currency – work to the body tends to be seen as something unfashionable.

Now, this is not just a shame but something that is baffling at times. The majority of favorable opportunities that can arise from a little bodywork would surprise many fighters who spend their time visualizing Hollywood-style one punch stoppages and head kick knockouts.

Amir Khan kicks during a ONE Championship fight

Aside from giving a fighter the opportunity to take away his opponent’s legs, or even stopping him then and there with the right technique, adding body punches and kicks can make you a harder puzzle to figure out. The setups that can lead to the glamorous finishes can be enhanced if the opponent is expecting a teep to the midsection or punch to the ribcage rather than the superman punch that switches his lights out.

If you are new to targeting the body in your MMA game, keep reading, as we have a few things that will surely get the synapses firing.


The Benefits of Targeting the Body in MMA

  • Can take away an opponent’s breath
  • Harder to recover from compared to head shots
  • These endurance-draining body shots can slow faster fighters down
  • Great against fighters with strong chins and good head movement
  • Exceptionally good against taller fighters
  • When executed right, body shots and teeps can back up stalkers and pressure fighters
  • Punches and knees to the body are hugely effective when fighting on the inside
  • Body shots can make opponents adopt defensive measures to protect their body, opening up opportunities for head shots
  • Excellent for setups and to keep your opponent guessing


The Risks When Targeting the Body in MMA
  • Throwing body shots in MMA can leave you open to being clinched
  • When committing to a body punch, your hand will be lowered leaving your chin momentarily exposed
  • Launching too many body shots is too predictive
  • Teeps and body kicks can leave you open to catches and grabs
  • Mistimed body shots can expose you to attacks down the middle
  • Looking for body shots to be effective means committing to targeting the body frequently over the course of a fight, making any of the dangers above more likely to happen


Different Types of Body Strikes in MMA

Unlike in boxing, where body shots are restricted to punches, a mixed martial artist also has the benefit of throwing kicks and knees to the midriff. Well, elbows, too, but these are always going to be much rarer.

When we think of fighters who have frequently used body shots in MMA, the names Max Holloway, Nick Diaz, Jon Jones, Eddie Alvarez, and Bas Rutten come to mind. These guys all placed a real emphasis on targeting the body. After all, “if you take the body, the head will follow” is a philosophy that has worked wonders for many fighters throughout the history of combat sports.

In MMA, the ability to use multiple striking weapons gives us numerous opportunities to open the opponent up to danger.

The most common body strikes in MMA are:


The Hook to the Body

Max Holloway, as mentioned above, is a fine purveyor of body shots in MMA. The UFC featherweight champion is a volume puncher with a super high gas tank who throws punches in bunches. His body shots are, for the most part, thrown as part of combinations or when his opponent is shelling up against the cage.

Nick Diaz is another fighter that believed in “putting money in the bank,” and this led to a lot of the success he had on the feet. Holloway and Diaz both aimed high to go low, feigning straight punches on the tail end of combinations in order to dig up and into the body when an opponent’s guard was up.


The Teep


Fighters with great reaches and long legs tend to do much better when it comes to executing body shots. Jon Jones, perhaps the most naturally talented mixed martial artist in history, certainly made body shots look a hell of a lot more fashionable.

Jones frequently uses the Muay Thai teep as an offensive and defensive weapon. The teep acts like a spear to the midriff, holding an approaching fighter back and even taking the wind out of his sails every time it lands. The teep can be used to target the opponent’s midsection to back him up and keep him at the desired distance prior to a follow-up attack.


The Roundhouse


Unless you have ever eaten a powerful roundhouse to the body, you will probably fail to understand how damaging it can be. In Muay Thai, fighters like Yodsanklai Fairtex and Saenchai are renowned as some of the most effective purveyors of this kick, inspiring mixed martial artists to perfect the skill inside the cage.

Anthony Pettis and Anderson Silva, to name but two fighters in MMA, have used the roundhouse to the body with aplomb.


Knees to the Body from the Clinch


There are fewer techniques in MMA that can draw the wind from a fighter’s lungs and have him wince in pain quite like knees to the body. In order to hold your opponent in place, you will first need to get him locked into the clinch. Any fighter that isn’t technically aware of clinch fighting should always be a target for a fighter that is.

When locked into a clinch, such as the double collar tie, your opponent will be at the behest of your strikes. In order to maximize the damage you can inflict to his body, the knees can be used to cut into their ribs and general midsection. This is one of the most brutal types of body shots you can use in MMA.


Targeting the body has numerous benefits for any MMA fighter looking to improve their skill set. For proof of this, just consider how much emphasis the greats of the sport have placed on body attacks over the years.

With the right technique and awareness of the risks of throwing body strikes, you too can effectively utilize body shots in the cage.


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