Techniques we don’t see enough of in MMA & UFC

Straight to the point, here’s some techniques I think are vastly underused and wish we saw more of in MMA.

Shoulder Cranking

Shoulder cranking is initiated in the clinch, when a fighter’s opponent has an underhook (their arm is under their opponent’s armpit), they can wrap the forearm under the armpit of their opponent and wrench their opponent’s elbow towards their chest, causing massive torque on the shoulder joint.

Jon Jones did this against Glover Teixeira back in 2014, tearing Teixeira’s labrum and requiring surgery. More recently you can spot Orlando Sanchez doing it to Sean Strickland in sparring footage, which left Sean furious. The shoulder crank is a very dangerous technique and can cause terrible life altering injuries if done correctly.

Bone Guard / Parry Guard

The bone guard (or whatever other synonym) is an unconventional method of defence utilised by few fighters. Simply put, it is a method of defence that protects against attacks to the head by placing your hardest extremities in the way, such as the elbows. The bone guard is a modification of the conventional boxing high/cross/philly guard, and punishes opponents who attack hard to the head by greeting their strikes with hard elbows.

In a way it’s like checking but for the head, an opponent might become more cautious when they risk breaking their hands or wrists on your hard guard. Dustin Poirier utilises this defence a lot, and it’s notable in his second outing with Max Holloway, where Holloway sat in his corner and said to his coaches “He blocks weird.”.

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Neck Cranks

Neck cranks are absolutely mean. They consist of wrenching the head of an opponent to put tension on the joints in the neck. You can see this being put to use by Glover Teixeira in his fight with Jan Blachowicz, the discomfort on Blachowicz’s face was extreme. The technique Glover used is referred to as a can opener, a technique employed when on top in guard, pulling the opponent’s head into their chest, which is excruciating.

Example of a can opener submission
Example of a can opener submission

Khabib Nurmagomedov also submitted Conor McGregor with a neck crank / bulldog choke combo, causing Conor to tap out of pure discomfort. I can only imagine how painful something must be to make a professional fighter quit out of pain.

Khabib applying the crank / bulldog choke to Conor shortly before the tap
Khabib applying the crank / bulldog choke to Conor shortly before the tap

Elbows from the clinch / effective clinch striking in general

You don’t see many MMA fighters who make effective use of clinch striking. There seems to be a MMA meta that has prevailed that clinching is grappling exclusive, and it’s all about progression to a more advantageous position more than anything. Fighters like Leon Edwards are steering the sport away from grapple centric clinching, by incorporating a number of brutal elbow strikes from the phone box position.

Effective elbows from the clinch discourage grapple heavy opponents from engaging in grappling against the cage. Good elbows act as bludgeons, glancing elbows can open huge lacerations on the face of an opponent and could even force a stoppage. This comes at virtually no risk to the striker, the chance of self injury is greatly reduced at the cost of hurting your opponent in short range and maybe giving up an underhook.

Mark Hunt clobbering Bigfoot Silva with a massive elbow
Mark Hunt clobbering Bigfoot Silva with a massive elbow

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Effective kick checking

It seems like a commonality that a lot of MMA fighters don’t effectively check kicks. Getting your kick checked is essentially like kicking the corner of a wall, it can go as far as snapping your shin in HALF (think: Anderson Silva & Chris Weidman). What we don’t see enough of is fighters checking kicks, instead choosing to take the brunt of the force for some reason. This is especially confusing with the prominence of calf kicks right now, many Thai fighters say calf kicks aren’t used in Muay-Thai because they’re so easy to check.

What I’d personally like to see is someone checking leg kicks like Ernesto Hoost used to do. Hoost would either raise his knee to meet the kick, or lightly kick his heel up to his rear and let his opponent hit the bony part of his knee, which would cause excruciating pain, Hoost won a lot of fights by blocking kicks alone!

Ernesto Hoost blocking a kick with his knee
Ernesto Hoost blocking a kick with his knee

Mauling and grinding with forearms

This one is semi recent. I was watching Tim Elliott fighting Jordan Espinosa, and Elliott employed a pretty horrible method of grinding his forearm against the face of Espinosa when they were on the ground. This is even more cringeworthy when you consider Jordan was bruised and bloodied in the face when he was doing this. Imagine having your nose broken and your opponent is grinding his forearm against it intentionally for an entire round!

Tim Elliott rubs his forearm across the nose and mouth of Jordan Espinosa
Tim Elliott rubs his forearm across the nose and mouth of Jordan Espinosa

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This made me wonder why these techniques aren’t used more often in MMA. I’m aware of fighters like Khabib using his head and hair stubble to rub against the opponent’s face, but not much about elbows and forearms on the face, especially the grinding part.



Do you know of any underutilised techniques in MMA? Feel free to comment below so I can take a look! Thanks for reading!

Mathew Riddle MMA

Mathew Riddle

Mathew is a combat sports journalist & designer. His past bylines include Sports Illustrated, Heavy on UFC, Sport Skeeda, MMA UK, and MMA Sucka.

2 responses

  1. John Featherstone avatar
    John Featherstone

    Connor having to tap out of pure discomfort must have been a hard pill to swallow for the guy, Khabib I imagine would have been very pleased with himself

  2.  avatar