Counterattacks

Although it's important to always be offensive in a fight, at some point your opponent will throw an attack of his own. Falling victim to the attack is the worst possible scenario because it causes you damage and increases your opponent's confidence. Blocking the attack is better than getting hit, but it does little to sway your opponent from immediately launching another attack. The best possible scenario is to make your opponent's attack miss, and then launch an attack of your own while your opponent is still trying to recover from his failed attack. Not only does this eliminate any damage you might have suffered, but it also causes your opponent some pain. If you manage to inflict damage every time your opponent comes at you with an attack, his confidence will quickly shrivel and he will instinctively fall into defensive mode. This allows you to gain some serious offensive momentum. However, becoming a good counter-fighter does not come easy. It requires a keen sense of distance and impeccable timing, both of which must be earned through hours of drills and sparring in training.

Countering Strikes with Strikes

If you're primarily a striker and want to keep a fight standing, countering your opponent's strikes with strikes of your own is a good option. Deciding what counter strike to throw depends largely upon what strike your opponent threw and how you evaded it. When your opponent throws a straight jab down the center, you want to slip the punch by moving your head to the side. This gives you a couple of options. You could throw a jab of your own as you reposition your head, using the momentum of the slip to derive power for your punch. I personally like this option because you're making contact with your opponent's face as his punch sails by your ear. Another option is to slip the punch and then follow with a right hook, uppercut, or overhand. With this technique, your hips get coiled from the slip, and then you uncoil them to derive power for the punch. It's slightly slower than slipping and firing at the same time, but it packs a good deal of power. You're taking full advantage of your opponent's compromised positioning.

The same options are available when you slip the cross. You can immediately throw a right overhand, using the momentum of the slip to derive power for the punch, or you can coil your hips by slipping the cross, and then uncoil them to generate power for a lead hand strike such as a hook to the body or head.

If your opponent throws a looping punch such as a hook, things change a little. Because looping punches have to travel farther to reach their target than straight punches, a straight jab or cross is a great counter. The idea is to land your straight punch while your opponent's looping punch is still traveling on its circular path. Your other option is to slip the hook, which cocks your hips just like it does when you slip either the jab or cross. As your opponent's punch sails over your head, it throws him off balance and leaves one whole side of his body exposed. This creates an opening to land a hook to his body or head.

Learning how to counter strikes with strikes isn't just important for those who want to keep a fight standing. Even if you're a die-hard grappler, you will benefit from experimenting in this arena. Not only will it increase your chances of ending a fight with a knockout, but it will also increase your chances of executing a successful takedown. It's pretty much a win-win situation.

To develop the timing and sense of distance needed to properly counter strikes, have your training partner slip on a pair of focus mitts and throw punches at you. Avoid the punches by slipping from side to side, and then launch your counter-attacks at the mitts. Incorporate the countering techniques I show in the upcoming section into your shadow boxing and heavy bag training. And when sparring, constantly think about how you will deal with your opponent's strikes. Even when you're on the war path, you want to constantly be thinking about counter-fighting strategy.

Countering Strikes with a Takedown

Taking an opponent down in MMA competition is not always the easiest thing to accomplish, especially when going up against an opponent who is excellent at sprawling. If you shoot blindly in on an opponent who is standing in a proper stance just waiting for you to try and take him down, the chances are you're not going to achieve your desired outcome. Setting up your takedowns will dramatically improve your success rate. As 1 demonstrated in the last section, one way to do this is to unleash a combination of strikes at your opponent and then quickly transition into a takedown. Another way is to slip or duck one of your opponent's strikes and then quickly transition into a takedown. Any time your opponent throws a strike with conviction and you evade it, he will be vulnerable to a takedown for a brief moment.

A good way to develop the timing and skill needed to shoot in off an opponent's strike is to practice a drill I call "Striker vs. Grappler." To start off, your training partner will play the roll of striker and you will play the roll of grappler. His only goal is to land strikes and defend against the takedown, and your only goal is to avoid his strikes and get the takedown. In the beginning you should start very, very slow. You might even want your training partner to call out which strike he is going to throw until you are familiar with what they look like and how to evade them. Once you are comfortable with slipping the hook, jab, and cross at drilling speed, pick up the pace and turn it into a sparring drill. This will prime your reactions, as well as get you accustomed to slipping a strike in such a way that you have the proper base and balance for executing a shot. If you do not have that base and balance when you slip a strike, you do not want to execute the shot. Just reset and try to catch your training partner on his next strike. To prevent you from getting in the habit of running away from your partner's strikes, remain within striking distance for the duration of the drill.

I can't stress enough the important of this drill and others like it. To become a good MMA fighter, you not only need to understand the core principles of each discipline involved in the sport, such as kickboxing, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu, but you must also understand how to seamlessly blend those principals together so they work in conjuncture with one another. Every time you slip a jab or cross or hook there will be a select number of takedowns at your disposal due to the positioning of your body and your opponent's body, and drills such as "Striker vs. Grappler" allows you to learn those options. This is what the sport of MMA is all about. It is not about how good you are in wrestling or striking or jiu-jitsu—it is about how efficiently you can blend the basic principles from each of the main disciplines into a fighting style that makes your options infinite.

Key Concepts for Counterattacks

To effectively counter an opponent's attack, you must evade his attack and launch an attack of your own at the same time.

^When avoiding an opponent's attack, only move as far as necessary.

^As you slip from side-to-side to evade punches, maintain a solid base and keep your hands up. ^When countering, base your attack on available openings.

A master counter fighter uses his defense as his offense.

Slipping Left Jab

< The jab is by far the easiest punch to slip due to its angle of attack. Since it comes straight at you, all you have to do is slip your head to the side to avoid it. However, the jab only has a short distance to travel to reach your face and it is the quickest of all punches, so you must develop your reaction speed and sense of distance through thousands of repetitions in training. It is important to stay balanced while slipping, and it helps not to overdramatize your movement. You ^ don't have to shift your head two feet to one side or the other; you only have to move it far enough to evade the punch.

When done correctly, the nice part about slipping the jab is that it sets you up perfectly for the double-leg takedown, as lij well as a number of strikes, h

I'm squared off with Albert in the pocket.

Albert throws a left jab at my face. As the punch comes toward me, I drop my right shoulder and maneuver my head to my right, allowing his fist to slip past my head. Notice how I keep both hands up and maintain a solid base.

Having successfully slipped Albert's jab, I return to my standard fighting stance.

I'm squared off with Albert in the pocket.

Albert throws a left jab at my face. As the punch comes toward me, I drop my right shoulder and maneuver my head to my right, allowing his fist to slip past my head. Notice how I keep both hands up and maintain a solid base.

Having successfully slipped Albert's jab, I return to my standard fighting stance.

Counter Jab With Jab_

When possible, you want to avoid backing up and running away from an attack. As long as you possess the skills to make your opponent miss, it is much better to stand your ground or step forward because it will put you in range to C

counter with a takedown or strike of your own. However, in order to be successful with such a counter you must launch your attack before your opponent has a chance to recover from his missed attack. With this technique, you want to land your jab at the same moment your opponent was supposed to land his. —

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