Lyoto Machida is now just months shy from title contention — truly exciting news. Recently, he’s showcased many “new tricks” against his most recent opponent, Gegard Mousasi, and his high-kick variations were my favorite.
The First Two:
The first two high-kick attempts hit Mousasi’s arms. The first was a jab hop-step into rear arm-kick (had Mousasi’s arms been in a normal, defensive guard it would’ve likely gone higher). The jab is the entry, and the hop-step explodes through the long-range into the high-kick range. The center-of-gravity is kept neutral and the the explosion is off the rear-leg upon finishing the hop-step. This tactic is consistently executed at high levels in kick-fighting, as I’ve briefly mentioned it before in my Orono Wor Petchpun high-kick setup breakdown.
The second high-kick was executed off a rear-foot step (rear foot goes to the lead-foot position), raising the lead-leg and hopping off the rear into the kick. This tactic, again covers an explosive range so that even if the opponent does move back, it will still likely find a target. Dual purpose: the lead-leg raise may serve as a feint (most commonly to a teep or front-kick).
Double Down-Parry: Same Side and Cross Side
Of them all, this is probably my favorite. First Lyoto gets close enough down parry with his lead-hand, shifting his weight into his rear-leg and exploding up for a high-kick — during the transition, he down-parried one more time to a) clear the Mousasi’s lead-hand b) use it as a spring to maintain balance and increase the explosion and c) keep Mousasi in place.
Right-Hook, Followed By Another Into Rear High-Kick
Throwing the right-hook in southpaw vs. orthodox can serve as an excellent setup for a high-kick. This is because the right-hook often makes the opponent angle his head towards the right, where the high-kick will then come in. This is essentially how Robbie Lawler setup his spectacular high-kick knockout against Bobby Voelker.
I can’t completely discern whether the second punch Machida threw was a right-hook or a jab from either angles (GIF sequence 1 seems to appear to begin a hook motion, but GIF sequence 2 appears like an unextended jab). In either case, the punch drew Mousasi’s attention towards it and the stationary high-kick was launched. If it was a right-hook, it failed to get Mousasi to lean-right, but the tactic is an excellent one as Robbie Lawler had previously demonstrated.
Even a high level fighter like Mousasi is inclined to reach for a double-forearm block when he’s threatened by the mid-section roundhouse (often ill-advised). Lyoto knocked out Mark Munoz by going for the middle and then going high. Orono Wor Petchpun flawlessly setup his high-kick by establishing middle and seeing the double-forearm block.
In Mousasi’s case, he was able to take the shot and catch the kick — to counter this, Machida grabs the back of Mousasi’s head. This is a rather standard defence, and doing so ensures plenty of leverage to hop on on foot and eventually freeing the caught leg by pressuring down (leg-strength vs arm-strength). Note how Machida immediately reaches for Mousasi’s head as soon as it’s caught — and starts punching with his free-arm.
Cage Use: Head Kick Trap
While I can’t completely discern what Machida did for the high kick (lose balance because he slipped, or threw a very committed high kick), his setup is clear. With Mousasi near the cage, he pushes Mousasi back further with speedy yet uncommitted punches: a) Cross so that Mousasi will hesitate to move forward b) right-hook to the body so that Mousasi will be more inclined to move towards Machida’s left (clashing momentum, doubling the impact).
Multi-purpose: the uncommitted right-hook serves as a lever to load the left high-kick ; when pressed against the fence Mousasi has less maneuverability, balance, and proper footing to counter.
Here’s one last example of Machida backing up Mousasi with rapid punches to the cage and then attempting a high kick.
Effective high kicks aren’t all that common in MMA. Especially recently, Machida is one of the rare elite fighters that can consistently execute them. High kicks really do change the game — due to it’s devastating effects — it generally requires the hand positioning to be more defensive.
The more I study Machida, the more I’m really looking forward to his bout against Chris Weidman.