How to Punch Like an MMA Fighter

(Image credit: Unknown)

Whether you’re an aspiring mixed martial artist preparing for a fight or a regular gym-goer who enjoys letting off some steam on a heavy bag, correct technique is crucial for getting the most out of your workouts.

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The Stance

“The first thing to do is get your body in the right position,” says UCMMA heavyweight champion John Demmel, whose five wins have all come via devastating knockout. “Most right-handed fighters stand with their left foot forward in an orthodox stance, while left handers tend to do the opposite, which is known as Southpaw. Either way, keep a slight bend in your knees and stay light on your feet, so you can defend against takedowns and block your opponent’s kicks.”

The Guard

“Keeping your hands up to protect your face at all times is critical, especially because MMA gloves are so small – unlike boxing gloves, which are much larger and easier to block punches with. I always keep my left hand up by my left cheekbone and my right up by my right temple with both elbows tucked in to my sides to help protect my torso against body shots.”

The Jab

“With your stance sorted and your guard up, you’re ready to start throwing punches. For most fighters, the go-to option is the jab – a straight punch with the front hand (left for orthodox, right for Southpaw), which is great for keeping opponents away from you and setting up other punches as part of a combo. To thow a jab, an orthodox fighter should step forward onto their left foot, twisting their left ankle, hip and shoulder to the right in one motion to generate power, then extend their left arm straight out towards its target, aiming to punch through it. Once your jab’s connected, you need pull it back into the guard position, keeping your rear hand up to protect your face and your chin tucked in to your chest.”

The Right Hand

“Assuming you’re an orthodox fighter, your right hand will likely be your main power punch. To throw it, you need to come up onto the ball of your rear foot and push off it, twisting your whole body to the left to generate power through your foot, hip, and shoulder as you would with a jab. You can throw it straight or in a looping motion, but either way, it’s crucial to bring your hand back to your face as soon as it’s landed.”

The Left Hook

“This is a close-range punch that can produce some serious power. The basic movement is the same as a jab, but instead of your arm being straight, you throw it in a horizontal loop, pivoting your front foot inwards to generate force. I like fighting in close quarters, so this is one of my favourite punches. To see how the best guys throw it, watch footage of Mike Tyson or [former UFC heavyweight champion] Cain Velasquez.”

The Uppercut

“The uppercut is another close-range special, which I used to knock out my opponent, Ben Schneider, at UCMMA 41 [see video above]. To throw it, you need to drop your body down – to the left if you’re using your left hand and vice versa – and then spring up, straightening your leg and lifting your shoulder to generate power as you bring you fist up into your opponent's chin or body. As with all punches, you should keep your chin tucked throughout and bring your hand back to the guard position immediately afterwards.”

John Demmel is sponsored by Lupus Sport and defends his title against Ben Earls at UCMMA 47 at The Troxy in London on 7th May. 

Ben Ince

Between 2010 and 2016, Ben was the deputy editor of Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Ben also contributed exclusive features to Coach on topics such as football drills, triathlon training plans and healthy eating.