Kicks can be extremely powerful, and, many times, even a successfully defended one can cause a lot of pain. After all, blocking means stopping a strike aimed at a vulnerable body part with another that can withstand more punishment.
But blocking kicks with your legs is a different kind of defense. Blocking a kick with the hard part of the shin or the knee is called a check. And, unlike any other type of defense, it causes more harm to the person throwing the kick than to the defender.
But how does this apply to MMA? And what should you avoid when you are the one kicking?
What Is A Checked Kick In MMA?
A checked kick in MMA is the same as in every other martial art. A kick is checked when the defender blocks it with his shin or knee. The vast majority of checked kicks are aimed at the legs, but body kicks can be checked using the traditional Thai style block.
Kickboxers, and especially Muay Thai fighters, usually keep less weight on their front legs to be able to react and block quicker. Still, the availability of takedowns in MMA makes this stance much less practical, making low kicks more dangerous.
Having a low center of gravity for fast sprawls and powerful punches compromises defense against leg kicks and opportunities for a good check. On the other hand, if thrown too predictably, you can use the leg kick to score easy takedowns.
This is why, in recent years, the calf kick has become far more prevalent in MMA than the traditional thigh kick. It is not only safer because you can throw it from a greater distance, but it is also more challenging to defend.
Calf muscle damage is more difficult to tolerate than thigh muscle damage. This is because a few kicks can easily damage the peroneal nerve, which runs along the outside of the knee and calf and controls the foot and ankle muscles. When a fighter’s leg, seemingly out of nowhere, turns to rubber, you can easily see the effect.
Leg kicks usually hamper the opponent’s movement and mobility, but they can also be fight-ending. A few shin bones to the thigh and even fewer to the calf can completely disable the leg.
No amount of guts or determination can make the nerves in the leg work. That’s why it’s crucial to defend leg kicks properly, and the best way to do that is by checking.
A good check kick means the hardest part of the shin is opposed to the weakest part of the kicker’s shin. Here is a quick guide on how to do it:
- Transfer your weight to the rear leg from a standard guard and lift the front leg vertically with the shin perpendicular to the ground.
- Rotate your hip out and point your knee at a 45-degree angle. The rotation lets the force of the strike be transferred to your hips rather than just to the leg.
- Flex the foot with the toes pointing forward. This way, the muscles around the shin are contracted and provide extra protection to the bone.
- Don’t let your hands down, as other strikes may also be coming.
To be honest, checking low kicks hurts both parties. But while the defender will get away with bruised shins, the attacker may suffer far graver consequences. This way, the check becomes a powerful weapon that can discourage the opponent from kicking or even end the fight.
The growing use of leg kicks in MMA also increases the awful shin breaks fighters suffer. Believe me, this is one of the most gruesome injuries in the cage.
The bottom part of the tibia and fibula are not so strong, and when they clash with a knee, there is a chance they will fracture. Which is precisely what happened with Chris Weidman:
He is far from the only person to suffer a broken leg. In fact, he was on the other side of the same incident a few years prior when Anderson Silva broke his leg on a Weidman check. There are ways to minimize the chance of such a fracture happening.
The first is by ensuring the kick lands with the sharp part of the bone instead of the flat. Another thing that can help is always kicking with a tight and flexed foot. As a result, the muscles will help to protect the bone.
Checking kicks is an integral part of defense in MMA. A wrestler may prefer to catch a leg kick and use it for a takedown, but this is a high-risk move.
Blocking with your leg and thus checking an incoming kick is an excellent way to convince the opponent that kicking your legs is a terrible idea. Believe me, only those who have not felt the amazing experience of getting their kick checked will not think twice about low kicking.