What Is a Superman Punch In MMA/Boxing? (Simply Explained)

Photo by Tabercil

Are you wondering what a superman punch is in MMA and boxing?

In this article, we’ll look at what a superman punch is, where it comes from, how to superman punch with the correct setup, some of the best superman punch knockouts, and its effectiveness in MMA, boxing, and street fighting.

What Is a Superman Punch In MMA & Boxing?

A superman punch, or diving punch, is a striking technique executed by a fighter jumping forward slightly off the ground from one foot and delivering a straight cross punch. When connecting the punch, a fighter will be in mid-air.

Most commonly a superman punch is thrown with the rear hand. For orthodox fighters, it’s the right hand, and for southpaw fighters, it’s the left.

It’s known as the superman punch because it looks very similar to the famous flying Superman pose seen in the Superman movies.

How to Superman Punch Someone (Correct Technique)

Photo by Delmas Alain

Here’s how to superman punch in 3 easy steps.

1. Feint a rear leg kick to the leg or body to have an opponent slightly drop their guard to block a body kick or focus their attention on checking – it’s simply a distraction.

2. The feinted kick should stop roughly halfway, which allows you to then tilt your weight forward, quickly snap back the feinted leg, and propel yourself forward by pushing off the planted leg and finishing with a cross punch to the opponent’s face by turning your body into it.

3. Land on the foot you pushed away from the ground with.

The key to the success of this sequence is doing it in one swift and explosive motion.

Here’s a short video demonstration on how to superman punch in real-time.

How to Set up a Superman Punch In MMA

It’s all well and good knowing how to perform the punch, but it’s equally important in knowing how to set up an MMA superman punch, in order for it to land.

1. Two or three leg kicks should first be connected. This gets an opponent expecting more leg kicks. It doesn’t matter if they’re successful, as an opponent checking a leg kick is still bringing their leg off the ground, making them less ready to defend a head strike and more unstable as they’re on one leg.

2. With the setup complete, fake another leg kick but quickly transition to a superman punch while they’re anticipating checking another leg kick.

Where Does the Superman Punch Come From? (Origins)

The superman punch is a punching technique that originated from the muay Thai reaching punch in the 1960s.

The reaching punch is similar to the superman punch but users don’t come off the ground. The reaching punch is still initiated with a kick feint, but users then withdraw the kick and throw an explosive straight, reaching as far as possible without coming off the ground.

The reaching punch has been used by boxers since the 1960s, most notably by flamboyant punchers such as Roberto Duran, and more recently by Floyd Mayweather.

The jumping variation of the reaching punch, aka the superman punch, was first used in MMA by Bas Rutten against Kevin Randleman, in their heavyweight title fight at UFC 20 in 1999. Therefore, Bas Rutten must be credited with inventing the superman punch as he was the first to use it in competition.

Outside of professional MMA competition, the superman punch was first used by Gerald Brisco in WWF in 1999.

Is the Superman Punch Effective in MMA?

While Bas Rutten was the first to use a superman punch in MMA, he certainly wasn’t the first to be effective with it.

Before Bas Rutten used the superman punch, he connected a right body kick, followed by a left leg kick, and five seconds later he attempted the superman punch but missed because it was extremely telegraphed and slow.

Not only did he miss, but he exposed himself as Randleman ducked under and drove Rutten to the fence before taking him down.

However, many UFC fighters have effectively used the superman punch since.

The superman punch is effective in MMA for the following reasons.

1. One of the most powerful strikes
The superman punch is very effective in MMA because it’s extremely powerful. Despite being uncommonly used, the superman punch has led to many knockouts and a fair few one-punch knockouts.

It’s so powerful because it allows a fighter to transfer their whole body weight into the cross by propelling their body forward explosively and turning their body into the punch. Fighters can also generate more power by bouncing or pushing off the cage.

2. Huge element of surprise
The superman punch can be effective in MMA because it’s an uncommonly used strike and can therefore catch fighters off guard because they’re not expecting it.

Unexpected strikes often connect flushly and are more likely to knock someone out or make them lose equilibrium.

The superman punch is effective for wrestlers because they’re not the most flamboyant strikers and this adds to the element of surprise.

3. Effective against forward-pressure fighters
The superman punch is very effective against fighters with heavy forward pressure because they have less time to react and are moving forward into an explosive superman punch.

4. Closing distance
The superman punch is effective for closing the distance between fighters. There may be a distance between fighters for reasons such as:

  • Neither are forward-pressure fighters
  • One or both are counterstriking fighters
  • One fighter is short and finds it hard to reach an opponent
  • MMA fighters notoriously keep their distance and move backward against wrestlers to avoid takedowns and grappling exchanges

The superman punch can be effective in closing the distance in any of these situations and more but is most effective for wrestlers as it gets them to the grappling range, and for shorter-reach fighters as they want to avoid being picked apart at range.

5. Can be used as a fake for takedowns
The superman punch is very effective for wrestlers as it can be used as a fake for a double-leg takedown.

If the superman punch is sold and seen by an opponent, they’ll naturally lift their hands up to block it. This allows the superman punch to be used to close the distance, before dropping under their guard and attacking the hips.

It’s more effective if a superman punch has already been landed because the opponent will be expecting another superman punch and not a double-leg takedown.

6. Effective against less mobile fighters
The superman punch is effective against flat-footed fighters and those with not such great bouncing movement because they’re not as quick at reacting to strikes and getting out of the way.

Less mobile fighters are also more vulnerable to leg kicks. This makes the superman punch more effective against them because it’s set up with leg kicks and the start of the movement uses a leg kick feint. 

Ultimately, less mobile fighters are more likely to react to a leg feint and be open to the superman punch.

Are There Any MMA/UFC Fighters That Use the Superman Punch?

While the superman punch is an uncommonly used technique in MMA and more specifically the UFC, here are some fighters who’ve used it effectively and more commonly throughout their careers.

  • Georges St-Pierre
  • Tony Ferguson
  • Anthony Pettis
  • Michel Pereira
  • Jon Jones

Georges St-Pierre is by far the most high-profile MMA fighter to consistently use the superman punch and put it on the map. While Georges St-Pierre did use the cross superman punch, he mostly used the jab superman punch – a variation using the same technique but hitting with the lead hand jab.

His jab superman punch worked very effectively because he could close the distance, follow up with a right leg kick, and connect hard punches because fighters were biting on his takedown and jab feints. He used his left lead hand in the orthodox position to set up most of his actions, even his low kicks.

Another reason his superman punch was effective in MMA is he would set it up by faking a groin kick because most people flinch or react when a strike is directed at the groin. This distraction is enough to land a powerful, quick, and explosive superman punch.

Best MMA/UFC Superman Punch Knockouts

Here are some of the best examples of knockouts courtesy of the superman punch.

  • Gabriel Gonzaga superman punch KO against Kevin Jordan (UFC 56)
  • Matt Dwyer superman punch KO against William Patalino UFC FN:61 2015
  • Travis Browne superman punch KO against Stefan Struve (UFC 130)
  • Anthony Pettis superman punch KO against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson (UFC FN:148)
  • Reynaldo Trujillo superman punch KO against Munil Adriano (Legacy FC 10)
  • Hisaki Kato superman punch KO against Joe Schilling (Bellator 139)
  • Mehdi Dakaev superman punch KO against Makkasharip Zaynukov (Eagle FC 43)

Most uniquely, Mehdi Dakaev literally flew in the air (like superman) and landed a left hook flying superman punch as his opponent turned his back and was trying to retreat. He propelled himself so far forward and off the ground that he landed on his right knee.

Why Is the Superman Punch Rarely Seen in MMA/UFC?

The superman punch is rarely seen in MMA or the UFC for the following reasons.

1. Requires a lot of energy
The superman punch requires a lot of energy, so fighters prefer using significant energy on more successful movements such as takedown attempts or head kicks.

2. Vulnerable to counters
As fighters leave the ground and turn their body when throwing the superman punch, they’re unable to adjust their position and can be easily countered if an opponent reads it and steps back, slips, ducks, or circles.

3. Vulnerable to Takedowns
If the superman punch isn’t set up effectively, they’re easy to read as they’re a big movement. If read, a fighter can slide backward, block them, or duck under and initiate a double or single-leg takedown.

Ultimately, the superman punch is not advised for MMA fighters with poor wrestling ability as they’re jumping into grappling range.

4. Countered the same as a regular cross punch
While the superman punch is great for closing distance and explosively throwing a cross, it’s countered exactly the same as a regular cross.

The most common counter for a cross is to slip left and counter with the right cross, or slip right and counter with the left cross.

5. Everyone knows how to defend it
The superman punch was effectively used for many years because it was uncommon at one point and not many fighters expected it or knew how to defend it.

Since it was successful, many fighters trained and prepared for the superman punch, which slowly phased it out.

6. It’s an all-or-nothing strike and requires 100% confidence
The superman punch is a strike relying on great fight intelligence and the understanding and ability to measure distance. Even if these are ticked, if the superman punch is thrown with hesitation it can see a fighter countered or taken down quite easily.

It needs to be quick, explosive and committed, and many fighters don’t have 100% confidence in throwing it due to its high-risk nature.

Is the Superman Punch Effective in a Street Fight?

The superman punch could be effective in a street fight, but only in the same way that anything COULD be successful in a street fight if done correctly.

The superman punch can be effective mostly because of its surprise element rather than anything else. Not many people are expecting a superman punch as the first strike thrown, so it could land heavily.

However, the superman punch is best left to the professionals in a ring, cage, or octagon because they’re using it with full confidence, and skill, and because of its unpredictability element in a chess match between two very skilled fighters where feints are essential to landing strikes.

It’s also much more effective in a professional setting because fighters are trained to be aggressors. In a street fight, people are hesitant and more likely to move backward and keep their distance, so the superman punch leaves you exposed and punching at thin air.

Also, being unpredictable in a street fight isn’t important so the superman punch is less effective. What’s essential is being solid with the fundamentals of striking, takedown offense/defense, as well as grappling and submissions in the clinch and on the ground.

Using a high-risk move like a superman punch isn’t required in a street fight. It’s also much harder to use when under stress because it’s not often trained under pressure in sparring or competitive fights.

Is a Superman Punch/Jump Punch Legal in Boxing?

Yes, the superman punch is legal in boxing as long as the punch lands above the belt line. Boxers are allowed to jump and there isn’t a rule preventing boxers from punching their opponent while jumping or in the air.

Why Don’t Boxers Use the Superman Punch?

Boxers don’t use the superman punch because it’s effectively a cross punch with a lot more risk of being countered.

The other reason is that the superman punch is a big motion and can be easy to read unless an opponent is reacting to some leg feints. As boxing doesn’t allow kicking, the superman punch is ineffective as it’s easy to read, slip or slide backward, and counter.

What Martial Arts Is the Superman Punch Used In?

The superman punch was first seen in muay Thai and boxing but is also used in MMA, sanda (sanshou), taekwondo (ITF), professional wrestling, lethwei, full-contact karate, and kickboxing.

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