(Matthew Polly is our regular semi-regular scribe of note. You can tell that he’s almost done giving birth to his new book Tapped Out because the idea of writing more MMA stuff doesn’t send him into the fetal position any more.)
Texas Jack: You ever seen somethin’ like that before?
Turkey Johnson: Hell, I ain’t never even heard of anything like that.
If you are old enough, as I am, to have studied martial arts prior to the rise of MMA, then you are on intimate terms with the front kick Anderson Silva used to turn out Vitor Belfort’s lights. In kung fu, karate, and tae kwo do studios across the strip malls of North America, it was the first kick that was taught, because it was the easiest to learn. Pick your leg up, thrust your hips forward, and snap your knee.
If you went on, however, to attempt that kick in any competitive context outside that dojo, it was also the first kick you forgot, because it is almost completely useless. First, it is ridiculously easy to either block or avoid. Second, unless you commit every fiber of your being to the kick and leave yourself almost totally vulnerable to a counter-attack, it has next-to zero power. And third, pulling your toes back and landing the kick with the ball of your foot to the groin, solar plexus, or chin is nearly impossible: 9 times out of 10 you end up jamming your big toe on your opponent’s knee or elbow and howling in pain.
How useless is a front kick?
The kick is so useless that serious kickboxing styles like Muay Thai and Chinese san shou don’t even bother teaching it, preferring the forward thrust (or teep). The kick’s only purpose is to give young women in self-defense classes a false sense of security. (“Snap the kick into his groin, Ashley, and then your 6’3” 220lb drunk attacker will double over in pain and you can break his nose with a palm strike. What could possibly go wrong?”)
How useless is a front kick?
Anderson Silva is the only fighter to ever pull off a front kick TKO in MMA history. (Dana White: “The only place I’ve seen anything like that is in a videogame.”) Silva is the only fighter, I’ve heard of, to ever have the staggering, Grand Canyon-sized arrogance to even try it. And he did it as his first major kick in the first round against the most skilled opponent he’s ever faced. I thought perhaps that his Matrix-like head slips of Forrest Griffin’s punches and falling-backward, hand-flick knockout might have been a one-off—divine intervention. But now he’s done the impossible twice. (And that’s not even counting, the Fryklund back elbow.)
Which is why if I were GSP’s new manager, I would be screaming into the abyss. If GSP wins in Toronto, Dana wants him to go up a weight class (!) and fight Anderson Silva this year. I don’t see how it is possible he could win (and I’m a GSP nuthugger). GSP is MMA’s A+ student: anything his coaches teach him he can replicate. But Anderson Silva is a genius and a miracle worker. GSP would never have tried that kick, because no self-respecting MMA coach would ever tell him to use it. Silva perfected that kick with the help of Steven Seagal, who is a joke martial artist and has no self-respect. God knows what other nutjob, horseshit techniques Seagal has been whispering into his ear–techniques that would be utterly useless if not channeled through Silva’s divine-like talent. But I wouldn’t want to be the manager who signed the deal sending my gold-plated fighter into the cage to find out.
(image via Heavy’s UFC 126 gallery)