Axe kicks can be very impressive and effective. It’s a technique that isn’t so hard to learn, but requires dedication to master.
Why do we rarely see them in MMA?
First, since the axe kick requires you to extend your leg vertically above your head, the technique requires a level of flexibility that most MMA fighters simply don’t have. If you can’t extend your leg above your own head, it won’t be high enough for you to generate speed and power before striking your opponent.
Second, while the technique is brutal in kickboxing, karate and taekwondo – MMA is different. There is the threat of the takedown and therefore the axe kick must be delivered quickly and set up well, otherwise you’d be taken to the mat while in full splits position. Few fighters are confident enough with the kick.
There currently isn’t a well-known fighter who would use this as a signature move like Andy Hugg famously did in K1. A fighter must be not only 100% comfortable with the technique itself, but also in how to set it up. Andy Hugg set up his axe kicks so that the opponent didn’t know what was coming. In that scenario, the kick can be devastating.
Hugg used the technique in his Kyokushin Karate days…
…and developed it into an incredible weapon in K1. Anybody doubting the effectiveness of the technique only needs to watch an Andy Hugg highlight real to see the result of a well-executed axe kick.
So far, nobody has landed it well enough in the UFC to get a KO. But it only takes one. Remember Anderson Silva inspiring MMA fighters to start throwing the front kick?
Crocop is the name that springs to mind for most UFC fans if you talk about the axe kick.
Instead of throwing it to the head or collar bone of a standing opponent, we see a lot of fighters using the axe kick to attack downed opponents. Diaz managed to shift to the side when this one thundered down, and fortunately for him, he only took it on the arm and not in the ribs.
How to perform the axe kick:
If you land this to the nose, your opponent will be a mess. Land it to the collar bone, and he won’t be raising the arm on that side again.
Kick with the back leg
Since this would be a very risky kick against wrestlers if the opponent were advancing, you will need to close the distance. Therefore this kick will come off the back leg.
Bring the knee up high
Knee first, like in all karate kicks, and get the knee to your chest if possible.
Extend your kicking leg vertically
The lower leg extends beyond the knee, bringing the heel of your kicking leg as high as possible.
Pull it down fast
Once extended (with just a slight bend at the knee), engage your hamstrings to drive your heel through your target as hard as you can.
Make contact with the heel
If you are fighting for points, landing the axe kick with the ball of the foot is a good option. You can deliver the kick with more speed and not require quite the same level of flexibility. However, in MMA you are lucking to cause damage with the kick and therefore you want to connect with the hardest bone you can – the heel.
Set the kicking leg in front
If you set up the axe kick correctly, your opponent will be moving backwards – likely with a high guard to protect himself from a scary looking kick. You’ll be on the front foot to continue throwing shots.
Now, if you want to try the axe kick, warm up first. Ensure you don’t hyper-extend your kicking leg, and stretch daily.
Be patient. You will gradually improve your flexibility, speed and power day by day. But if you rush and pull a muscle, you will fall weeks behind.