I guess to many of us who’ve mainly trained in striking arts, Chuck Liddell was a refreshing introduction to the UFC. He became champion using punches and kicks and defending himself effectively from getting taken to the ground. He pretty much proved that strikes can be effective against other strikers and grapplers as well.
By all appearances, though, his striking seems quite unorthodox. It appears that all the rules strikers and boxers are taught have been thrown out the window when Liddell is on the scene. But his huge power punches are effective nonetheless.
Why is that?
Chuck Liddell’s Punches
By Bad intentionz (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)
Generally, Chuck’s power punches are circular, they loop, he drops the punching hand before he delivers and lands the punch and, this is the kicker, he looks wide open when he executes these punches. All of this breaks the rules of practical striking martial arts like Jeet Kune Do, Kenpo, Kick Boxing and Boxing. Punches are supposed to not be telegraphed, use economical motion and not wasted motion and you must be careful to cover and not be open when you punch; elbows tucked in, keep covered as much as possible and move the punching hand from where it already is. Chuck does not do these things and still has been able to knock out opponents with seemingly wild punches.
He’s fast. Which means, also, his punches have power. A slow punch can be dodged, of course. His are very quick. It’s rather obvious.
So, here it gets a bit more complex. His timing is exceptional. Though he has led with a hook punch, mostly he sets them up. Typically he’s already caught his opponent with a short and sharper punch and then hits him with the big wind-up, knock-out hook or overhand. Or he delivers a series of very convincing feints, some straight rights or some subtle movements of the punching hand, then he throws the heavy blows that bring down his opponent. So, Liddell sets up the big punch.
One of the points of Liddell dropping his fist before using it to punch his opponent is that it starts the wind-up for the knockout blow, but also sets it up to come at an obscure angle that the opponent can’t see. In Kenpo this is called the Obscure Zone. Others call it a Blind Angle. This angle is above or below the opponent’s line of vision, in the context of Liddell’s heavy punches; particularly his overhand. His overhand actually comes from above his opponent’s line of vision.
Liddell follows all the way through with these punches. He swings them like a club; arm bent and locked in place, he swings the punch along a loop and follows all the way through with it. This gives the punch, also, incredible centrifugal force and power. Also, the power totally comes from torque, turning the body into the punch.
Though Liddell appears to be wide open often when he throws these power punches, he’s actually been zoned away from his opponent’s weapons. As an example, he has often stepped to his own left, dropped his right hand and looped it down and over head and landed it square on his opponent’s face; his step to the left, though in his opponent’s center-line, is zoned away enough from his opponent’s weapons so that the opponent has no time to hit him before Liddell’s punch lands.
Liddell stays on his feet, upright and balanced, keeps moving and does not move in a predictable way. He will draw his opponent into position by circling around him and then land his blow when the time and position is right.
So, it seems Liddell breaks some of the standard rules of fighting arts, but he breaks them correctly. That is, he breaks those standard rules but replaces them with principles that are very effective; he uses obscure zones, zones to a position where his opponent can’t reach him in time, sets up his knock out punch with feints and footwork and other punches, and follows through with the punch using body mechanics that lend tremendous power to the blow. Truly he fights, effectively, outside the box.
Featured image: hardpark, deviantART. Some rights reserved.