If you want to knock people out then you’ve got to use deception, duplicity, and subterfuge to set those big fight-ending shots.
In fact having good strategies to set up your attack can go a long way to compensate for many physical deficiencies.
It’s exactly what the famous world full contact Karate champion Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace used to say: “There’s always going to be someone bigger, stronger or faster than you, but there never has to be anyone sneakier than you!”
In this article we’re going to look at the four fundamental ways to disguise your attack. These strategies apply in all combat sports that involve striking, including boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai and MMA.
Deception 1: The Wrong Weapon
In the wrong weapon deception you trick your opponent into thinking that you’re attacking with one tool but then blast him with another. Let’s look at some examples of this strategy in action…
Here young Mike Tyson fakes a right cross to the head but then leaps in and throws a vicious left hook instead…
In the early UFCs the wrestler Mark Coleman was thought to be invincible. Then at UFC 17 Pete Williams spent much of the fight landing leg kick after leg kick. Towards the end of the match, when Coleman was tired and expecting more leg kicks, Pete switched it up and kicked to the head to achieve a spectacular knockout instead.
Another example of deceiving your opponent with the Wrong Weapon strategy is the flying knee. You might stand left leg forward, throw a strike with your right (rear) knee, and then convert that momentum into a jumping lead (left) knee to the head.
Deception 2: The Wrong Target
In the wrong target deception you get your opponent to protect one part of his body which then opens up another body part. For example…
Throw a jab to the head to get his attention up, and then chop down with a hard leg kick like Thiago Alves does here. Fundamentally this is the fake high and go low tactic.
You can also fake low and then go high. For example you might first feint a takedown that threatens his legs and hips. Then, when your opponent drops his level to deal with the takedown, you hit him with an uppercut instead.
Another cool example of changing targets in mid-attack is the question mark kick. Here Luke Rockhold throws a front kick to the body and then turns it over into a round kick to the head.
Deception 3: The Wrong Range
In the wrong range deception you trick your opponent into thinking that you’re not in range when you actually are. This strategy often works best when you’ve got a longer reach than your opponent but can be definitely be used by shorter fighters too.
Here Calvin Katter fist throws a short punch with his rear hand at a range that can’t possibly land. Having lulled his opponent into a false sense of security he then steps forward and lands a very stiff jab to the face.
Another example of this deception is to use an attack that generally isn’t used at your current range. Here’s Japanese MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba using a sliding side kick in Pride at a distance where his opponent certainly thought he was reasonably safe.
The above examples were all about convincing your opponent that you’re too far away to be a danger, but you can also do the opposite: convincing your opponent that you’re too close to launch attacks.
Here’s Anderson Silva leaning forward to make Vitor Belfort worried about punches, but then Anderson suddenly leans back to create distance and and lands a KO kick to the chin.
Deception 4: The Wrong Timing
The wrong timing deception involves allowing your opponent to get accustomed to a certain rhythm, then breaking that rhythm and attacking at a time he was not expecting.
Here Roy Jones Jr probes with a very slow and lazy left hand, then changes his pace to land a devastating (and very fast) right cross.
A more sophisticated use of timing involves attacking on the half beat. The half beat is a momentary acceleration of your movement so that you get to land an extra shot.
In this strategy you’ll be using two kinds of strikes…
- Faster half beat shots that aren’t as powerful, and
- Slower full beat shots that are much more powerful.
The fast half shots help keep your opponent occupied while you set up your hard and heavy shots.
Here’s a great example of the boxer Oleksandr Gassiev using a HARD-fast-HARD combo on Krzysztof Włodarczyk.
The first shot is a powerful uppercut. The second shot (a right cross delivered on the half beat) is very light but serves to gauge distance, keep his opponent’s hands high, and allows Gassiev to rotate into position to deliver the heavy third shot (an awful body hook to the liver).
It’s very rare to walk up to someone in a match and land a single strike knockout from nowhere. The vast majority of heavy strikes have to be set up, either with an overwhelming combination of strikes or through some form of deception.
So when you see an amazing knockout in an MMA or boxing video go through it frame by frame. Try to see which deceptions, fakes and feints were used to set up that big shot.
We’ve included many examples in this article but there really are infinite possibilities.
Mix and match your tools; if you see someone using a front push kick to set up an attack then try experimenting with knee strike, a takedown feint, or a hand trap instead.
Train your deceptions on the heavy bag, drill them in shadowboxing and then try them out in sparring, even if you’re going light.
And, of course, you can also combine these 4 deceptions any way you like.
For example, you can fake low with one weapon and then go high with another (i.e. combining the wrong weapon and the wrong target deceptions). Or you can mix up the timing on your footwork while simultaneously deceiving your opponent about the true distance between the two of you (i.e. the wrong timing plus wrong distance strategies).
Used correctly, the 4 stinking Jedi mind tricks we covered in this article should allow you to land a LOT more shots in sparring
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