top of page

Make Stomping the Knee Great Again

Credit to Quora, Google images result.

MMA's most contentious and supposedly "dirty" technique is today's topic. Taking advantage of an extended holiday weekend my weapons grade autism led me to wonder, what happened to MMA's most prolific and overpowered technique of circa 2010-2019? Why did the low line side kick go from unbeatable MMA meta to something I can't remember seeing used in the UFC in the last few years? We look at potential reasons why this is the case and make arguments why I believe it should return again.

As shown in the above figure, the low line side kick is simply a kick executed with the fighter's lead leg jamming into the area right above the knee of the opposing fighter's lead leg. Our picture above shows two Orthodox or right hand dominant fighters engaging in this battle but the LLSK, as I will now call it, works in Southpaw VS Southpaw or left hand dominant matchups as well as Orthodox VS Southpaw. The utility is endless though Bruce Lee first popularized the technique as a self defense move from Southpaw executed against an Orthodox opponent. I'll write about the myth of the Southpaw soon enough, but for now Lee's reasoning for this stance boiled down simply to this matchup resulting in Lee wanting the reach advantage of taking your longest, nearest weapon and putting it into the closest target. His idea was that when put in an unavoidable self defense situation the LLSK would keep the attacker at bay and control their movement while you had time to take other precautions or plan your counters. While many of Lee's ideas and techniques would be considered "Bullshido" now a days this technique would have a huge role in MMA from roughly 2010-2019.

Why the LLSK gained popularity and declined during this time in use seems really simple to me. It was effective and easy to use once other fighters witnessed it used at the highest level to the greatest effect. In his first defense of the light heavyweight championship, Jon Jones used the LLSK or as it's also known, the oblique kick to set up an absolute dismantling of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Jackson had no answer for this and absorbed the full force of the kick every time finally leading to the knee buckling and Jones securing the rear naked choke finish. Just as pro athletes and runners used to think running the mile in under four minutes was impossible, all it took was one athlete to do it and show it was possible and effective for the walls of the dam to give way.

 Orthodox VS Orthodox, it works
Credit to UFC, Endeavor, WME, Zuffa

Jones successfully demonstrated the LLSK, oblique kick, whatever name you give it worked at high level competition not just in the mind of a traditional martial artist. No technique is foolproof and unbeatable but the LLSK would go on to terrorize opponents clueless to counter. MMA is a game of exploiting habits, weaknesses are contentious but every fighter has habits no matter how hard you try to break them. The habit of LLSK works because it stops movement, Rampage was not known for being nimble and fleet of feet so the LLSK was especially devastating. It allowed Jones to successfully execute the number one game plan of combat sports that allow striking, hit and not get hit. The LLSK wasn't just racking up points and significant strikes, it led to a finish and according to Rampage, recurring knee injuries that forever hampered his career.

Which leads us to why I think the LLSK fell out of favor. Just as intelligent and ambitious fighters look for successful strategies to implement from their accomplished peers, they also are prone to disgust when it comes from a fighter as polarizing as Jon Jones. While I'm no fan of Jon Jones the man, I am a fan of him as a fighter and what he has accomplished. Regarded as MMA's dirtiest cheat by a country mile due to drug test failures, legal issues including an infamous hit and run on a pregnant woman, eye pokes, oblique kicks, etc. many fighters were equally impressed by the LLSK and revolted by the damage caused by it. Darren Till VS Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson and Till's use of the kick in their 2018 fight resulted in Thompson tearing his MCL and publicly campaigning for the kick to be banned. Yoel Romero in his first fight with Robert Whittaker also used the kick to great success and though he lost the fight, Rob was forced out of competition for a year due to knee damage suffered and a staph infection in recovery. Shoutout to Jack Slack for this, Teemu Packalen fighting Marc Diakiese resulted in Teemu running onto a Diakiese counter and getting finished while suffering numerous knee issues through the rest of his career. There are numerous other examples out there but these are just highlights of a long list. In a sport struggling with CTE and brain trauma it was interesting to me to see such a backlash against a valid technique, but I get why. ACL and MCL injuries are no longer the death sentence of an athletic career but the time away from a sport where if you don't fight you don't get paid results in understandable frustration. I'm still inclined to agree with Jones's coach Mike Winklejohn on this though. "I also would rather have dinner in twenty years with a fighter who limps into the restaurant than with the fighter who can't remember his own name, because he never stopped his opponent's striking advances. The knee joint is very strong if people know how to defend that kick properly."

I think the main thing that resulted in the decline of the LLSK would be the backlash and honor code around it. Agree or disagree I think this is the biggest factor. Like any technique though, it has associated habits with it that can neutralize it. Rather than whine about it in the first fight, in the second Romero fight Robert came out throwing it onto Romero first and often shocking the Cuban. This is how you counter, not through complaining. It led to another Robert victory and proved the first major defeat and counter to the kick. I'm not here to go into how to neutralize the kick however, I'm here to make an argument why it should come back. After this if you want to know how to counter I suggest Jack Slack's "Stomping the Knee: A Guide to Countering MMA's Most Ungentlemanly Tactic." The Yang to my Yin in this debate.

The LLSK should come back for a variety of reasons which would be 1. It's effective through countless examples at the highest level of competition. If you stop reading right now that's fine and all you honestly need to know. As a fighter you have numerous resources to draw from and plan accordingly. 2. It severely limits opponent movement. I mentioned Rampage was a plodder with footwork but imagine the use against those annoying Adesanya, Yair, and Shara types and the ability to compromise their footwork and leave them sitting ducks. To negate their height and reach which is a core of their plans. 3. Once again credit to Slacky here, "Low line side kicks are easily the most frustrating kicks for wrestlers to deal with because they are only within grabbing distance for an instant, are longer than round kicks, and can easily be faked and followed with lead leg hook or round kicks." The LLSK can also open up other counters on wrestlers. Enough of this kick and this could force sloppy shots that leave grapplers a sucker for the fight ending uppercut or flying knee counter. Running onto a straight is also at play, the possibilities are endless and the frustration, surprise, and disgust are exactly what you want your opponent dealing with. It's current year and you come out with an LLSK, I know what's going to happen we are going to party like it's 2011 or whatever Prince said. Your opponent isn't expecting it, it's prime time to bring it back. If you're a grappler and find your takedowns unsuccessful, recognize this early and it can benefit you also like it benefitted Jones. Just like good body shots pay dividends later in the fight so does the LLSK and it can lead to a collapsed opponent open to your imposed grappling and a submission win. If you are dead set on this being a dirty and disgusting technique, I'll offer you this in the words of Chael Sonnen. You can also take the Holly Holm approach and hit the thigh and get the same results. I'm not sure you will buckle the thigh as easily as the knee, this is one I don't use in sparring for obvious reasons, but the movement limiting advantages and other benefits are still there. Fighting other strikers and get them expecting the LLSK only to throw a Teep or round kick, once again a great plan offering a lot of utility. As a standalone or part of a larger game plan, the LLSK is just what we need again in 2024.

I'm asking YOU to side kick more

Thank you for reading and following, I write these articles for free to discuss my combat sports passion and share it with you all. Please also follow and look into Jack Slack MMA as I owe a debt to him for sources I cited above in this article.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page