How To Destroy Leg Kicks: Defense & Counters

Marco Ruas was the first fighter to prove the effectiveness of leg kicks in MMA, using them to KO Paul Varelans in the early days of the UFC

Muay Thai Leg Kicks In MMA

Not since the introduction of the Muay Thai Leg Kick to MMA via Marco Ruas and Maurice Smith has the world seen the true effectiveness of this devastating technique. In fact, I would venture to say that in recent times the leg kick, though still respected, had been more or less relegated to the status of nuisance/point scorer by spectators in a sport where takedowns and ground and pound are so prevalent.

Obviously, if you’ve read our treatise on “The Anatomy of the Leg Kick and Beyond” Article, you know that I disagree and that there will always be a special place in my heart for this brutal weapon.

However, I understand it’s limitations in the arena of MMA and will be the first to say that it is difficult to use effectively when takedowns are a factor. So I can see why people like Cecil Peoples would say things like, “You have to keep in mind we always the favour the fighter who is trying to finish the fight, and leg kicks certainly don’t do that.” (you can read more about his thoughts on the subject at

Aldo vs Faber

It’s my humble opinion that the Aldo vs Faber fight has once again changed the perception of the relevance of technique and application in the ever evolving world of Cage Fighting.

Urijah Faber shows what he's made of. Despite the damage to his leg he fought on like the Champion he is.

Urijah Faber shows what he's made of. Despite the damage to his leg he fought on like the Champion he is.

Here we saw a fight determined by the relentless use of the leg kick. We saw that it was possible, even in present times, at a championship level, for a striker to successfully employ the leg kick against a seasoned and accomplished GNP fighter and former champion.

Tips For Drilling The Basic Shield Defense to the Leg Kick

Below is the Knee Block Defense to the Leg Kick

Once again, the Muay Thai Leg Kick has proved it’s importance and earned it’s role in the scheme of combat sport. No doubt the technique will see a much deserved resurgence in popularity.

Below is the Kick Back Counter to the Leg Kick

But this is the present and those merely following the trend will undoubtedly become part of the past. The future will controlled by those who lead. And there, understated and lurking just beyond the horizon is leg kick defense and counter. These will be the focus of this article and it’s included video clips.

Everyone wants to be like the champions they see winning fights. Aldo won this fight with his leg kicks. And now you will see more and more people working on their leg kicks, thumping the heavy bag with their shins, talking about how hard they can kick and boasting about how they desensitize their legs by kicking some torturous object like a tree trunk or concrete column. But no one wants to know how to make sure that their leg won’t be turned into a fluid filled sac of pulsating pain.

Learn the defenses and counters and you will be two if not three steps ahead of the average MMA Caveman. Now of course any good defense begins with a thorough understanding of the weapon they are trying to defend against, so it won’t hurt (ha ha) to learn the leg kick. But as I’ve said before, that’s what everyone else is doing. To become the Enlightened Fighter you must also learn the defense, and the counters. Those who master these will rule over their less educated subjects.

Cory Hill experiences first hand, the true power of a well placed Knee Block

The future of the leg kick, lies the defensive aspects and counters, and beyond that, understanding how to effectively set up the leg kick and pre-emptively disrupt those set ups (which are entirely different subjects).

We’ve included a number of these set ups in our “The Anatomy of the Leg Kick And Beyond” Article, but will reload them to the members area for faster, higher quality play back.

Best of luck guys and Happy Hunting!

Below is an option for a worst case scenario

Below is MMA Counter to the Leg Kick, The Crumble Takedown

Below is an option for catching the leg kick

Related Articles:

The Anatomy of the Muay Thai MMA Leg Kick and Beyond

The Muay Thai Leg Kick has always held a special place in my heart.

One’s ultimate goal when fighting should always be to break the spirit of your opponent. When you knock someone out they have no choice in the matter. Their spirit is momentarily turned off. When you tap someone out, they realize that the smart move is to live to fight another day. But when you take someone out with a Leg Kick, they are perfectly conscious and aware. They can continue to fight if they want to.

Most times, they choose not to because of the excruciating pain and this is the moment that their spirit breaks.

How do I know this you ask? I’ve been there, on the receiving end, a couple of times.

The following is an in depth look at the anatomical structure of the nerves and muscles in the leg and the most efficient ways to render them inoperable. In addition we have included several set ups, combinations and techniques for using the information provided by the anatomical study.

As a side note, we learned from Dr. Cacciamani that there are two ways to cripple and immobilize the leg. 1 is an attack to the primary nerve structures (e.g. the Sciatic Nerve) and 2 is an attack on the muscle tissue. From our research, the difference is generally that nerve attacks immediately cause the temporary loss of control for the limb. Whereas muscle tissue attacks cause swelling, cramping/knotting, and gradual deterioration of muscle function.

This makes sense if you think about it. You can take out the structures that send messages to and from a muscle/group of muscles or you can pulverize the muscle itself. Bottom line is, if your opponent can’t or doesn’t want to move his/her leg anymore, you’ve pretty much done the job.

Included are some diagrams for reference. And below that are a series of videos showing how we like to apply the information we’ve learned from Dr. Cacciamani and from our independent research.

Anterior Neuromuscular Anatomy of Human Leg

Anterior Neuromuscular Anatomy of Human Leg

Posterior Neuromuscular Anatomy of Human Leg

Posterior Neuromuscular Anatomy of Human Leg

You can watch them in any order you wish, but

I have tried to assemble them in a loosely organized fashion in hopes that our readers will see how the various techniques can be used to compliment each other

and to form a catch all for reactions, energies, and defenses to any one particular attack.

Top View of Fascia and Nerves in Human Leg

Top View of Fascia and Nerves in Human Leg

Due to time constraints, I have initially included only 5 additional clips in this article. I will be updating it often over the following weeks until all the following clips are published:

  • Jab + Cross + Right Kick (unloaded leg theory)
  • Right Kick Counter to the Jab + Cross (loaded leg theory)
  • Jab + Cross + Hook + Right Kick (loaded leg theory)
  • Overhand Right + Left Kick (loaded leg theory)
  • Left Kick Retaliation to Right Kick (loaded leg theory)
  • Draw Step Set Up for the Right Kick (loaded leg theory)
  • Swing Kick Counter to the Right Kick (neutral leg theory)
  • Outside Angle Kick Counter to the Jab + Cross (neutral leg theory)
  • Jab Set Up for the Outside Angle Kick (neutral leg theory)
  • Left Inside Leg Kick Set Up for the Right Kick or Outside Angle Kick (neutral leg Theory)
  • Calve Punt(neutral leg theory)
  • Over-Riding The System, Forearm Chop, Knee, Heel Kick from the Clinch
  • Forearm Smash Attack vs Guard Pass Prevention
  • Elbow Spike Guard Opener

Loaded vs Unloaded Leg Theory (Weight Bearing vs Non-Weight Bearing – Contracted Muscle vs Relaxed Muscle)

Jab, Cross, Right Leg Kick Combination

Leg Kick By Draw

Jab, Cross, Hook, Leg Kick Combination

Kicking the Rear Leg and Inside Leg Kicks

Right Kick Counter to the Jab, Cross Combination

Swing Kick Counter to the Thai Kick

Outside Leg Kick Counter to the Jab, Cross

Jab, Outside Leg Kick Combination

Inside to Outside Leg Kick Combination

Overriding The System for MMA

MMA Karate Chop Guard Retention Counter

Yamasaki MMA Elbow Spike Guard Opener