Home Fighting Techniques Are Push Kicks “Dirty Fighting” or Part of the Game?

Are Push Kicks “Dirty Fighting” or Part of the Game?

(Aldo vs. Lamas-Photo: Josh Hedges, Zuffa LLC)

“Big” Ben Rothwell voiced his disapproval of Alistair Overeem’s use of the push kick, oblique kick or sometimes called a shovel kick in the main card match up of Fight Night 50. A push kick can be used as a snapping kick that whips out and back in one motion, or as a single thrust aimed at the opponent’s knee. Unlike a standard Muy Thai leg Kick that is aimed at wearing down the inside or the outside of an opponent’s thigh, push kicks are attack with the specific aim of damaging the knee. Are push kicks a “dirty move” as Rothwell believes, or are they just another dangerous part of the world of combat sports?

Watching the end of the video where Jones uses all of his weight to come down on “Rampage” Jackson’s knee is all the evidence you should need to see that a strong oblique kick can destroy another competitor’s crucial joint. It can tear a fighter’s meniscus and ligaments with one good stomp and do damage far beyond a TKO victory, it can derail a fighter’s career.

Rothwell’s on Overeem Matchup:


“I almost yelled at him in the fight. He was doing some real dirty push kicks to my knee, and it’s just a dirty move. It’s not honorable in my mind because this isn’t street fighting. Like street fighting, if you’re fighting in the street, I’m undefeated. And I will remain so, and if I’m not, it means I’m dead.”

Dirty Fighting or Part of the Game?

(Alves vs, Koscheck-Photo: Zuffa)

Rothwell’s position is that the technique is not illegal, but not an honorable way to fight in MMA. Is there something really “cheap” about oblique kicks? The rules of most MMA organizations seem to suggest otherwise. If it were just a cheap “street fighting” move like an eye gouge or a low blow, it would have surely been banned from professional MMA by now. The reality is that all parts of the body (barring the groin, eyes, etc.) are viable targets in the cage. Repealing a joint attack like an oblique kick seems problematic for mixed martial arts in that so many other attacks are based on joint damage. Armbar submissions, leg locks, ankle locks, knee bars and many other moves are designed with the sole purpose of joint manipulation and damage. They can accomplish the same level of damage to a fighter’s joints as a push kick, but do not face the reputation as a “dirty” or “cheap” way to fight.

MMA organizations and officials have to balance the restriction of moves that are blatantly designed to severely damage like an eye gouge, with the fact that many legal moves are severely damaging. A push kick might derail your entire career by destroying your knee, but so can the right punch to your temple. The job of MMA officials and organizations is to evaluate the kind of strikes and moves they want to allow in the sport, but when you step into the cage to fight you make yourself subject to those rules. No matter what, your body and your brain are on the line every time you fight. Whether or not you choose to be a part of the organization and the sport relies on your personal consent as an individual and an athlete.