As you can see in this gif, Cung Le (yellow & red shorts) is using a sliding front leg side kick with an added spinning hammer fist. The sliding front leg side kick is a very effective and common technique used in Taekwondo gyeorugi (sparring). In my opinion, I highly recommend this Taekwondo kick for MMA. According to Cung Le’s wiki page and from what I’ve heard from other people, he’s an experienced Taekwondo black belt. You can see Cung Le use many Taekwondo kicks in his MMA fights. From what I can recall from the Strikeforce days, he used many Taekwondo kicks in his fight with Frank Shamrock. In his fight with Frank Shamrock, he used so many kicks that it broke Shamrock’s arm.
In my opinion, I don’t think the side kick is commonly used in MMA. I think it’s even more rare to see a sliding front side kick in an MMA fight. I also remember listening to a few of Joe Rogan’s podcast episodes that the side kick is an underrated and powerful technique.
It’s possible that Cung Le is measuring his timing and distance in the beginning of his combo. He’s slightly giving a small forward type of motion with his body and also a subtle type of fake movement with his right hand. Once Wanderlei Silva (black and white shorts) falls for the fake, he puts his guard up and then Cung Le goes for the sliding front side kick. Furthermore, Cung adds the spinning hammer fist and Wanderlei gets knocked down. I believe Cung’s sliding front side kick power was not intentionally at 100% (he probably put in 60-70%?), and instead he possibly wanted to put more energy on his spinning hammer fist for this combo.
My theory on why a Taekwondo Kick for MMA is not commonly used:
- the side kick can give yourself openings; it can leave yourself vulnerable
- executing this kick can feel “uncomfortable“
- a front kick or front push kick might be easier and faster to execute instead
- a side kick can also feel like a “push” kick and won’t feel as powerful compared to a roundhouse kick
- due to a fighter’s flexibility, it may be difficult to execute a side kick to the head
Reasons why the side kick should be implemented more in MMA:
- it can also be used as a defensive technique
- it can be used to measure timing and distance of the opponent
- as shown in the gif, it can be effectively used as a combo
- if the opponent has a longer arm reach, the side kick can be an effective counter
- when good timing is used, the side kick can be an effective counter when an opponent shoots or attempts a takedown
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
How to train for this Taekwondo kick for MMA:
- must build confidence; knowing how and when to execute
- practicing and utilizing this technique as much as you can in sparring
- adjusting and adapting to timing & distance when executing
- building muscle memory; adapting your body to feel comfortable for the side kick
- flexibility adjustments; especially when targeting the face
- building strength & conditioning; obviously, kicking techniques usually require more energy than punching techniques
Other factors to focus on:
- adding fake punch or hand movements
- use subtle fake forward and backward body moments
- include a slide or step to the side kick
- footwork: proper fighting stance for the side kick
- eye contact
Why MMA fighters should use this Taekwondo kick for MMA:
- it can be a random and surprising offensive attack
- crafting and adding creative combos
One good thing is that anybody can practice this technique anytime and anywhere alone. If there’s space in your home or outside in your backyard, try recording yourself and repetitively practice this technique. After you finish training: review, adjust and correct your form. Also, adding this technique while shadowboxing will help in muscle memory.
It’s not an easy technique to achieve and it can some time getting used to… but once mastering it, it can definitely be a game changer.
If you’re a member of a martial arts gym, you can always ask about this technique to your coach or someone who is experienced in Taekwondo or kicks in general. He or she would probably be more than willing to help you.