What Is an Oblique Kick in MMA/UFC? (Should They Be Illegal?)

Are you wondering what an oblique kick is after hearing it referenced in the UFC or another MMA fight?

In this article, we’ll look at what an oblique kick is, why they’re called oblique kicks, how effective it is in MMA, whether oblique kicks can be checked, some examples of oblique kicks being used in the UFC, and whether oblique kicks should be illegal in MMA.

What Is an Oblique Kick in UFC/MMA?

An oblique kick in MMA is a sidekick or push kick aimed at an opponent’s knee (either side) or just above it to the thigh. An oblique kick can look similar to a stomp kick but is thrown diagonally rather than vertically. 

Oblique kicks are thrown with the toes facing outward so the foot has a higher chance of hitting the knee or thighs. Oblique kicks can connect with the ball, the heel, or the arch of the foot.

Oblique kicks are used in MMA/UFC to hyperextend an opponent’s knee joint; which is bending the knee backward beyond its limit. If a knee is hyperextended, it can result in pain, swelling, tissue damage, or ruptured ligaments.

To successfully use an oblique kick to hyperextend an opponent’s knee, an MMA fighter looks to use the technique on an opponent’s planted food. This causes the maximum force to be transferred directly to the knee and it leaves only one way for the joint to bend.

If an oblique kick isn’t successful in hyperextending an opponent’s knee joint, it can successfully rack up damage over time as it can damage nerves. If nerves in and around the knee are damaged, a fighter may experience numbing, burning, or tingling sensations and their movement will be compromised.

Here’s an oblique kick in action:

Why Is It Called Oblique Kick?

The oblique kick technique in MMA is named this way because it often damages the oblique popliteal ligament (OPL), which crosses the back of the knee joint.

The oblique popliteal ligament acts as a stabilizing structure for the knee’s posterior aspect, as well as preventing hyperextension and excessive external rotation.

The name oblique kick has nothing to do with the angle the kick is thrown or the oblique muscles which cover the sides of the abdominal area.

Is an Oblique Kick Effective in MMA/UFC?

An oblique kick is one of the most effective striking techniques in MMA for several reasons.

1. Keeps an opponent at a distance
Firstly, an oblique kick is very effective at keeping an opponent at distance, which is especially effective when used by taller fighters with long legs

An oblique kick is a long-range technique in MMA that attacks the closest part of an opponent, their knees. This stops them from pushing forward and ultimately allows the user to control the range and tempo of a fight.

2. Oblique kicks can be used offensively and defensively
An oblique kick is also very effective because it can be used as both an offensive and defensive technique. When used defensively, it keeps an opponent at bay and in the preferred range of the user, and when used offensively it can set up punches and various combinations, as well as put an opponent on the back foot.

Oblique kicks are also effective because they can be used as a feint to set up punches or be used as a disguise for teep kicks to the stomach or head of an opponent. In terms of disguise, oblique kicks can be thrown with either leg, front, or back, and also thrown forwards or sidewards.

Also, because fighters fear the consequences of having a planted food struck by an oblique kick, they can be used to offset an opponent’s rhythm and make them more defensive than they usually are.

If an opponent becomes more concerned with defending or avoiding oblique kicks, they become more open to strikes to the head.

3. High damage and point-scoring with minimal energy output
Thirdly, an oblique kick is also effective at causing a lot of damage with minimal energy output. Techniques such as takedowns and wide heavy hooks require a lot of energy, but oblique kicks require little energy, can be thrown quickly, and have the potential to end a fight with the damage they deal.

If they don’t end the fight, they deal damage to an opponent’s knee and compromise their movement, footwork, and ability to generate power. Oblique kicks can also bruise and damage the thigh.

Oblique kicks are also easy to land because they’re not a focal defensive point like the head is. This makes oblique kicks very effective at scoring points and explains why greats like Jon Jones often win via decision.

4. Oblique kicks can’t be checked
The last reason oblique kicks are effective in MMA fights is they can’t be checked, which means there’s little chance of injury for the user and the reason why you see a fighter oblique kick so often.

Also, one of the only ways to avoid an oblique kick is to catch the foot, but this leaves the catcher open to counterpunches as their hands are now low.

Can Oblique Kicks Be Checked in MMA/UFC?

In MMA, Oblique kicks can’t be checked as checking a kick means lifting the leg and turning the shin towards an incoming leg kick. If done successfully, it causes the kicker to slam their shin into the defending fighter’s shin or knee, resulting in a lot of pain and possible broken bones.

As oblique kicks strike with the ball of a foot, the heel, or the arch, the person taking the strike will always come off worse if an oblique kick connects.

As oblique kicks can’t be checked in MMA, it’s best to avoid an oblique kick by sidestepping, switching stance between orthodox and southpaw by bringing back the targeted leg and putting the nontargeted leg forward, or switching between a bladed stance (side stance) and a square stance (face on).

Bladed stances are often more susceptible to oblique kicks while square stances are more susceptible to punches. Fighters can avoid oblique kicks by adapting stances throughout a fight to see which works best.

An oblique kick can also be defended or avoided by catching it and sweeping the opponent’s other leg, but attempting this leaves the defender vulnerable to punches.

The last way to defend or avoid an oblique kick is to simply lift up the targeted leg, the same way the leg is lifted before turning it to a side when checking a kick. In this way, a fighter’s body weight isn’t on their leg so it helps avoid hyperextension.

Examples of Oblique Kicks in the UFC

Here are some examples of the oblique kick being used in UFC fights to win a fight and cause damage to a fighter’s knee.

The use of oblique kicks is a lot more common in the UFC and MMA today since they were popularized by Jon Jones, who showed how effective they are.

1. Jon Jones Oblique Kick Vs Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson (UFC 135)

Jon Jones is well known for using oblique kicks against every opponent, but none of his opponents were so vocal against the use of oblique kicks as Quinton Jackson after his UFC 135 loss against Jon Jones.

In an interview with ESPN, Rampage said, “It should be called the illegal kick. It should be banned and it shows a lot about the fighter’s character that he would throw it. How would he like it if somebody threw it at him and stopped him working for a year?”

Years on from their fight in 2011, Rampage Jackson maintains that Jon Jones ruined his left knee and that it hasn’t been the same despite multiple surgeries.

2. Khalil Rountree’s Oblique Kick Vs Modestas Bukauskas (UFC FN:191)

As recently as September 2021, Khalil Rountree shattered Modestas Bukauskas’ knee with an oblique kick, resulting in a KO victory. This became the first and only time in UFC history a fight was ended by a direct oblique kick. Most of the time they’re effective at scoring points and breaking an opponent down slowly.

Bukauskas required knee surgery and was told he’d be unable to train for 5 months, which is considered a short time after having knee surgery. However, Bukauskas’ next fight was in November 2022, 14 months after his oblique kick loss to Rountree – which shows his recovery took longer than 5 months.

3. Yoel Romero vs Robert Whittaker (UFC 213)

UFC 213 featured a title fight between challenger Yoel Romero and middleweight champion Robert Whittaker.

In the first round, Yoel Romeo successfully landed 3 clean oblique kicks. After the fight, Whittaker revealed he’d sustained a partially torn medial ligament (MCL tear) due to the oblique kicks in the first round, and had no stability on his left leg. However, he still managed to fight through the pain and win the fight.

It took 2 months of recovery and 2 weeks of knee rehab before Whittaker could start training again.

4. Robert Whittaker vs Yoel Romero 2 (UFC 225)

Being the intelligent fighter that he is, Robert Whittaker effectively used the oblique kick roughly 30 times against Yoel Romero in their second fight.

As Yoel Romero is huge and powerful with not such great footwork, the oblique kick was the perfect strategy to stop him in his tracks, keep him at bay, and prevent him from his greatest strength which is his explosiveness.

Despite the oblique kicks buckling Romero’s knee on multiple occasions, somehow the man wasn’t injured after the fight. However, Whittaker gained a lot of points from the oblique kicks and ultimately won the fight by using them.

5. Robert Whittaker vs Darren Till (UFC FN:174)

In a chess match between the two, Whittaker chipped away at Till’s defense at range with leg kicks and oblique kicks.

In the second round, one of Whittaker’s oblique kicks blew Till’s knee, which turned out to be a medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear.

Darren Till somehow managed to fight through the pain to the end of the 25 minutes, but unfortunately lost 3-2 on the scorecards. Till didn’t require surgery on his knee but was in a brace for 2 months while it healed.

His next fight was 14 months later in September 2021 against Derek Brunson, so it’s likely his knee took longer to heal than expected.

After the fight, Till expressed how he thinks the oblique kick should be banned because of its danger. That’s ironic though, considering he used oblique kicks against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson who also suffered an MCL tear. Thompson was out injured for roughly 2 months.

Should Oblique Kicks Be Illegal in MMA/UFC?

There are two camps on whether oblique kicks should be illegal in MMA. Let’s look at some arguments from either side.

Yes, Oblique Kicks should be illegal in MMA/UFC
1. Knee injuries can often become chronic and never fully heal, despite surgeries and long recovery periods without fighting.

2. Other devastating injuries can be stopped by someone tapping, whereas oblique kicks can severely injure someone’s knee and there’s not a lot they can do about it.

3. Oblique kicks are intended to hyperextend the knee. No other strikes are intended to severely injure an opponent. For example, a punch is not intended to detach an opponent’s retina.

4. MMA promotions like the UFC could see their insurance premiums rising if fighters are continuously requiring knee surgery.

5. Many UFC and MMA fighters support the oblique kick being banned as they believe it’s a dirty tactic that can badly injure an opponent and keep them away from fighting and earning a living for a year or more.

6. MMA is a sport where matchmaking can take a long time. Many of the best fighters being out with knee injuries make the matchmaking process harder as more fights are canceled and unable to be made.

No, Oblique Kicks shouldn’t be illegal in MMA/UFC
1. MMA fighters are in the hurt business, so an effective strike that allows them to hurt an opponent and win makes sense.

2. Oblique kicks can be defended and avoided. Fighters need to put more time into training and preparing themselves for the strike. They can either lift their leg, sidestep, step back, switch stance, catch an attacker’s leg, or counter it with a takedown or punch – overall, fighters have to adapt.

3. Only one fighter has ever been stopped inside the UFC from a direct oblique kick – Modestas Bukauskas.

4. In a sport where brain injuries are likely, a knee injury should not be seen as the same level of danger.

5. The checking of the more popular leg kicks has caused many more injuries than oblique kicks ever have. Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman are prime examples of bones being broken because of kicks being checked. Should leg kicks be illegal in MMA? Obviously not.

Here’s Israel Adesanya showing how he deals with an opponent using an oblique kick:

Daniel Cormier went up against Jon Jones twice, the best and most notorious oblique kicker in MMA and UFC history, and he believes oblique kicks should be legal because they can be easily defended.

To Conclude

An oblique kick in MMA/UFC is a sidekick or push kick aimed at an opponent’s knee or just above it. 

Oblique kicks are named because of the oblique popliteal ligament (OPL) in the knee.

Oblique kicks are extremely effective in MMA/UFC as they can be used to open an opponent’s guard, control the range of a fight, as a feint to set up other strikes, used both offensively and defensively, to score points, and they also can’t be checked.

Many of the best MMA fighters in the UFC such as Jon Jones and Robert Whittaker use the oblique kick often, despite many fighters and fans believing the controversial oblique kick should be illegal because of its danger of injuring an opponent for extended periods of time.

Overall, there are many reasons posed by either side, but oblique kicks shouldn’t be illegal in MMA because fighters should be able to avoid or defend them. While they can be dangerous, there’s only been one case in the UFC of an oblique directly ending a fight because a fighter was unable to continue.

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