What Is a Check Hook in Boxing/MMA? (How To Check Hook)

Are you wondering what a check hook in boxing and MMA is?

In this article, we’ll look at what a check hook in boxing and MMA is, how to throw a check hook, check hook variations, whether a check hook is effective, and some boxers and MMA fighters who use the check hook.

What Is a Check Hook in Boxing/MMA?

A check hook in boxing and MMA is a defensive lead hook punch thrown while simultaneously pivoting on the lead leg and stepping with the back leg 90 degrees around to the side to evade and counter an advancing opponent.

Put another way, a check hook is landing a hook while simultaneously sliding out the side door to evade an advancing opponent. If facing an opponent at 12 o’clock, you should be facing 3 or 9 o’clock when the check hook connects, depending on whether you’re southpaw or orthodox.

For orthodox fighters, the check hook is thrown with the lead left (check left hook), while southpaw fighters throw a check hook with the lead right (check right hook).

A check hook is used with the intention of checking an opponent’s forward momentum by catching them off guard and disrupting their movement. It’s also intended to stun and score points, rather than being a powerful knockout punch.

Here’s a short video of one of the most famous check hooks in boxing history; thrown by Floyd Mayweather against Ricky Hatton in 2007.

How To Throw a Check Hook in Boxing/MMA

Here’s how to throw a check hook in both boxing and MMA – the technique remains the same.

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your dominant foot should be slightly behind the other, and your knees should be slightly bent.
  2. Rotate your hips outward and pivot your lead foot
  3. Drop the rear shoulder back to keep the distance from incoming shots and rotate the body out toward the direction of the exit.
  4. Execute the hook with accuracy over power, with the chin tucked, and the elbow higher than shoulder level – the elbow being high protects against potential overhands.
  5. Step back with the rear leg on a 90-degree angle
  6. After you’ve thrown the punch and you’re on the outside facing 3 or 9 o’clock, continue to circle into space or follow up on your opponent with another strike or takedown (in MMA).

The key to success with a check hook is doing it in one swift motion and timing it against an advancing opponent. Here’s a short check hook video demonstration.

What Are the Check Hook Variations?

There are many check hook variations, which are all differentiated by footwork.

1. One variation of the standard check hook is to first step out and slightly back with the lead leg before pivoting on the lead leg and executing the check hook. This helps take the head off the centerline by stepping further to the outside, which makes it less likely to get successfully countered.

The problem with this variation is it takes much longer to execute and check hooks rely on perfect timing. Therefore, most of the time it’s an evasion rather than a successfully landed check hook.

2. Another variation is to step back first to evade any punches, before pivoting on the lead leg, delivering a lead hand hook, and stepping the back leg 90 degrees around.

3. The Russian, or Cuban check hook is another variation that hooks with the rear hand. It’s very similar to the step-out check hook variation mentioned above. 

Simply set up the check hook with the lead jab, pivot on the lead leg, step out to the rear-handed side on a 90-degree angle with the rear leg, and throw the check hook with the rear hand.

Whether using the traditional check hook or some variation of it, a check hook is simply a hook whilst exiting to the side with footwork to evade an opponent.

Is a Check Hook Effective in Boxing/MMA?

A check hook is a very effective defensive tool in both boxing and MMA for the following reasons. Points 1 to 4 apply to both boxing and MMA, and 5 to 7 apply to MMA only.

1. Effective against forward-pressure fighters
One of the best ways to deal with forward-pressure fighters is to evade and counter. This makes the check hook a perfect technique for defensive counterpunching fighters who manage distance with the jab or oblique kicks while waiting for an opponent to over-commit.

If timed perfectly, the check hook can be a powerful punch. Combined with the fact an opponent’s hands are busy throwing punches and they’re also coming into the punch with forward momentum; it can result in a knockout blow.

A check hook is also very effective when moving backward while pretending to be hurt. Combined with how uncommon the strike is, the onrushing opponent is never expecting slick footwork and a hook.

2. Effective against fighters who telegraph strikes
Less technical boxers and strikers in MMA often telegraph their strikes because they lack guile and setups, or because they’re getting tired and their strikes are slowing down.

This makes the check hook a perfect counter to an opponent seen shifting their weight forward for a powerful strike, as you can exit to the side and catch them off guard with a hook.

3. Effective against fighters in the same stance
When fighters are both in orthodox or southpaw, the check hook is effective against fighters who don’t defend well with the nonthrowing hand when jabbing.

This is more effective in MMA as fighters aren’t as well drilled to defend the head, and they also have to focus on defending other parts of the body.

4. Effective against the jab of the opposite stance
When fighters are in opposing stances, the check hook works great by coming around the side of an opponent’s jab.

Also, looking to time an opponent’s jab with a check hook keeps a fighter away from the opponent’s power hand when they’re in opposing stances. 

If the opponent does throw a power shot with their rear hand, MMA fighters have a tendency to lower their lead hand which exposes them to a check hook.

5. The check hook is an uncommon technique in MMA
This makes the check hook effective as it’s unexpected and therefore open throughout a fight. This makes the check hook all the more effective when used by fighters known for their Bjj or wrestling talents because of how unexpected the strike is.

6. Effective against wrestlers
Wrestlers like to forward pressure and get an opponent to the cage as it makes for an easy takedown. This makes the check hook an effective technique when a fighter is close to the cage and can no longer step backward. Exit to the side and hook an onrushing wrestler looking for a takedown.

7. Effective for taking the back or starting combinations
Slipping out the side door and executing a check hook can surprise, hurt, and off-balance an opponent. It also presents the opportunity to take the back and submit them or blitz from the back or side with combinations.

Which Fighters are Best with Check Hooks In Boxing and MMA?

The best check hook fighters in boxing and MMA are as follows.

In boxing:

  • Floyd Mayweather
  • Canelo Alvarez
  • Ryan Garcia
  • Manny Pacquiao
  • James Toney
  • Naoya Inoue


  • Dustin Poirier
  • Alex Perreira
  • Junior Dos Santos
  • Conor McGregor

Best Check Hook Knockouts in MMA

  • Joe Stevenson vs Mac Danzig (W) – UFC 124
  • Brandon Vera (W) vs Mauro Cerilli – One Championship 85

Best Check Hook Knockouts in Boxing

  • Ryan Garcia (W) vs Romero Duno
  • Floyd Mayweather (W) vs Ricky Hatton

Why Don’t More UFC Fighters Use Check Hooks?

Check hooks are uncommon in the UFC for the following reasons.

1. The check hook is an expert boxing strike that most MMA fighters haven’t mastered. The timing for a check left hook is very narrow and the ability to pull it off in a fight takes elite skill.

2. The consequences of making a mistake with a check hook are high. If the timing isn’t perfect, a powerful jab or cross can easily connect down the pipe. Most fighters prefer sticking to the fundamentals which lead to success, such as staying tight with a high guard, straight punches, and looking for takedowns.

3. In-the-pocket boxing is not as common in MMA, so the opportunity is much less frequent. Fighters like to keep their distance, and if fighters do get close, they’re more focused on takedowns, takedown defense, clinching, or escaping. Also, up close, UFC fighters like to use slicing elbows instead of check hooks.

The Bottom Line

So, ‘what is a check hook in boxing and MMA?’

A check hook in boxing and MMA is a lead hand hook landed while pivoting on the lead leg and exiting at a 90-degree angle by stepping back with the rear lag. 

A check hook is a defensive counterpunch effective at stunning an opponent, finding gaps in their defense, and against telegraphed strikes, and forward pressure fighters.

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