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Basic Punches for Mixed Martial Arts

Punches are a staple in mixed martial arts. It is the easiest way to begin engaging with your opponent. It is also the easiest part of your body to control.

We're going to cover the basic strikes you'll need to know for MMA, so let's get started!

The Basics

1. Use your knuckles
When striking, think about aiming with the first two knuckles on your hand. Your pointer and middle finger knuckles are the ideal point of contact for your strike.

2. Bring your hand back
Make sure when you're throwing punches that you bring them back at the same speed. Two common mistakes people make are leaving the punch out too long, letting it linger. Similar to how a baseball player stands after hitting a home run. The other mistake people make is bringing the hand back lazily. Doing both of these things leave you in danger of being countered.

3. Don't use your muscles
This may seem counter-intuitive, but your power doesn't come from your muscles in the way you might think. Power doesn't come from your arms. Instead the power in your punches comes from the floor and from rotating your hips.

Now that we have the basic tips down, let's break down the actual strikes.

The Jab
Using this technique, you can irritate the opponent and find the best range before delivering a powerful blow. Skillfully and accurately throwing jabs will cause the opponent to get anxious and easier to defeat. The best way to practice this technique is on the punching bag. The jab is essential in defense, attack or retreat.

Starting in a fighting stance, a jab is thrown with the lead fist straight towards the target. While the arm is extended, it is important to rotate the thumb down so that the palm is facing down and the fist strikes with the knuckles.

A helpful way to ensure that you are jabbing correctly is to think of throwing a jab as you would throw a dart. Additionally, to help prevent the elbow from overextending, rotate your arm so that your thumb goes down. Complete the jab with a small step forward to drive more power into the blow.

Join Coach Duane Ludwig and TJ Dillashaw the Number One Bantamweight Contender in the UFC as they demonstrate how to effectively throw a jab.


The cross is one of the common methods used to knock out an opponent and is falls into the class of power punches and has explosive power capable of knocking out an opponent.  A cross can be used offensively as well as defensive to counter a jab. A jab is commonly used to lead into a cross. A cross can also be followed up with a hook to create a flow of punches.

The cross begins from the guard position and involves the rear fist instead of the lead fist like the jab. A cross a is thrown straight across the body towards the opponent. At the end of the punching motion, the shoulder should end against the outside of the chin. While the rear hand is traveling forward, the lead fist is pulled in slightly to act as a guard for the face and chin.

Weight transfer occurs from the rear foot into the lead foot by turning the heel outwards. The weight transfer is delivered straight to the fist due to the body rotation, which is what provides the cross with power. 

The Hook

In Muay Thai, a hook is used to attack the sides and face of the opponent. The hook involves a slight bend of the elbow, like a hook, to swing the punch. A proper hook can be a great finish to a fight with a direct hit to the liver of chin. 

To perform a hook, the core of the body is pivoted, while keeping the arm at a right angle. The lead foot is also pivoted to provider even more weight transfer into the blow. If a hook lands on the target’s chin , there is a great chance of a knockout. There are a few differences depending on which fist is throwing the hook.

How to Throw a Proper Lead Hook

To being a lead hook, you want to ensure that your hands are up and that the elbows are in. To load the lead hook you should slip the rear shoulder down towards the lead knee. This will allow for the punch to swing inside of the box. When bringing the first forward, rotate the palm down and keep the forearm parallel to the floor. It is important to keep the rear hand up to protect and the face and shoulder. The Bang Muay Thai method uses the lead foot to pivot slightly while pushing off the floor. This makes it easier to remain protected.

How to throw a Proper Rear Hook

A rear hook is similar, but it does not require dropping the rear shoulder in order to generate more power. In addition the rear foot is pivoted instead of the lead foot. 

How to Throw a Proper Lead Uppercut

This technique is used mainly to target the stomach and chin areas. You need to slightly bend the elbow and knee when throwing this punch for that vertical attack. It is effective when the opponent is very close.

The begin, step outside and slip and load the rear shoulder to the lead knee. This allows the uppercut to travel across 45 degrees up and into the opponent. When slipping to the lead knee, think of it as dodging a jab or cross from the opponent. 

It is important to also push off the floor and pivot the lead foot slightly just like with a hook.

How to Throw a Proper Rear Uppercut

Just like with a lead uppercut, this technique requires the lead foot to step outside so that the uppercut can come across at a 45 degree angle up and into the opponent. The lead foot steps out to provide force into the punch. The lead foot should land as the fist connects with the target.