What Is a Haymaker Punch In Boxing/MMA? (How to Throw)

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

In this article, we’ll look at what a haymaker punch is, how to throw a haymaker punch, the effectiveness of a haymaker punch, how to defend and counter a haymaker punch, and other related questions.

What Is a Haymaker Punch In Boxing/MMA?

A haymaker punch is a wild and slow swinging or looping punch thrown with the rear hand and all the power and energy one can muster. Haymaker punches are thrown with the intention of knocking an opponent out.

Haymaker punches use the shoulder and hips to maximize the amount of energy, momentum, and force thrown. They bring the arm and the whole body weight back as far as possible to get the most leverage and most weight thrown forward into the haymaker punch.

There isn’t much technique involved with a haymaker punch, and they’re often thrown by amateurs and those in a street fight because they believe it’s the best way to land a powerful knockout blow – which it is because they’re untrained in proper hook and overhand technique.

How To Throw a Haymaker Punch

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When throwing a haymaker, most often technique goes out the window. However, throwing a haymaker punch can be done in 4 steps.

1. Stand in your fighting stance (orthodox or southpaw) with your hands up and your dominant foot and hand slightly behind the other. Keep the feet planted.

2. Bring the arm back the same way as before throwing a hook but turn the hip back and bring the arm and shoulder as far back as possible.

3. While doing the above, transfer most of the body weight onto the back foot.

4. Quickly transfer body weight onto the front foot, and throw the punch by rotating the hips back to the center line, followed by the shoulder, and then the arm and fist with as much force and momentum as can be mustered.

When transferring body weight onto the front foot, you can also step into the punch by putting forward the lead leg. This gives the haymaker punch more distance, and for some, more momentum and power.

Note: The above four steps can be used for both the wide hooking haymaker punch (around the guard) and the looping overhand haymaker punch (over the guard).

The haymaker punch should be the heaviest punch anyone can land. If a person misses a haymaker punch, they should be off balance or stumbling forward because of the momentum, force, and body weight transfer.

Also, a haymaker is mostly about pulling back, a huge transfer of weight from back to front, and a wide, slow, and powerful punch. The footwork involved isn’t too important and people may use different footwork with a haymaker punch. However, planted feet allow for the most powerful punches.

Is a Haymaker Punch Effective in Boxing/MMA?

A haymaker punch is more effective in MMA than boxing because there are a lot more distractions, a variety of strikes, and offensive techniques that MMA fighters have to worry about it. This makes them more vulnerable to a haymaker punch successfully landing.

Effectiveness of a haymaker punch in boxing
In boxing, a haymaker punch isn’t too effective because it’s a highly telegraphed punch that is easily read and either blocked, slipped, avoided, or countered. It’s easier to see a telegraphed punch such as a haymaker punch in boxing because their eyes are up and mostly focused on punches.

Also, the majority of boxers have great footwork and movement and are well-versed in dodging punches through evasion.

A haymaker punch is most effective in boxing when:

  • A fighter is tired and their reactions are much slower
  • A fighter is already hurt and their vision is affected
  • In the pocket when both fighters are firefighting and not focused on defense (although hugely risky and can backfire because of how slow they are)

Effectiveness of a haymaker punch in MMA
The haymaker punch is more effective in MMA because the above scenarios apply and also it’s more likely to land for the following reasons.

1. There’s a larger pool of MMA fighters who don’t have amazing footwork like boxers.
They don’t move in and out as well because they’re heavier and prefer to plant their feet for knockout shots or to move less to reserve energy. This is mostly heavyweight fighters but also mesomorph MMA fighters in all weight divisions who have a shorter reach and want to be closer.

2. Increased variety of fighting styles to close the distance
MMA has a large variety of martial art fighting styles which means the haymaker punch is more likely to land.

There are wrestlers who want to close the distance continually, high-pressure strikers who don’t give their opponents a second to rest, judo fighters who want to grapple, trip, and throw, and Bjj specialists who want to get the fight to the ground where they can win via submission.

There’s also the skilled striker vs the wrestling-based fighter who has little striking experience and skill. Because of this, the wrestling-based fighter is more likely to lack vision, bite on a feint, and expose themselves to a haymaker punch.

All of these styles of fighting mean a haymaker punch is more likely to land because they rely on closing the distance, are less focused on evasion, and there are plenty of less skilled strikers.

3. Increased variety of offensive techniques means split focus
MMA fighters have a lot more strikes, distractions, and offensive techniques (strikes, grappling, submissions) to deal with and keep their mind and eye on. This means they have a split focus, which in turn means a haymaker punch is more likely to land.

Overall, fewer fighters with great footwork and movement, the extra variety of fighting styles, and the increased variety of offensive techniques mean the haymaker punch is a lot more effective in MMA than in boxing because it’s much more likely to land.

How Do You Defend and Counter Against a Haymaker Punch?

There are a few ways to defend and counter against a haymaker punch in both boxing and MMA.

1. Duck under the punch and counter
This works in both MMA and boxing but it’s more effective in MMA because it opens the opportunity for a level change and takedown counter by ducking under and shooting for a single or double-leg, or connecting the hands for a body lock and trip/sweep/slam/throw.

In boxing, and also applying to MMA, ducking under the punch opens the opportunity for powerful body shots, a counter-overhand, or uppercut.

Ducking under works best when the haymaker punch is a hooking technique because it’s most often aimed at the head. When an opponent is using a looping haymaker technique, ducking under can still work but it could potentially connect to the back of the head which is very dangerous.

2. Slide back or slip
As haymaker punches are highly telegraphed, they’re easily evaded by simply stepping or sliding backward out of range, or slipping and circling to the opposite side the punch is thrown from.

3. Move the head backward
Keeping the feet planted, move the head backward to evade the haymaker punch, and immediately counter with a hook; as this is the best punch when leaning backward (Israel Adesanya is a master with this movement and counter hook technique).

When moving the head backward to evade, make sure to keep the chin tucked and shoulder high to protect from the possibility of a haymaker punch reaching further than expected.

4. Close the distance
A more risky defense, stepping forward and closing the distance works in both boxing and MMA because the force of the punch is much reduced and can therefore be easily blocked or a clinch initiated. 

If timed when an opponent is initiating the punch by pulling the arm far back, closing the distance will also stop a haymaker punch altogether as it requires a large transfer of weight forward and a larger range. It’s essentially cutting the technique off.

5. Straight shots down the pipe
As haymaker punches are hugely telegraphed and slow, simply throw jabs or crosses down the pipe when they’re pulling their arms back to disrupt a haymaker punch and hurt an opponent. These punches are a much shorter range of motion and therefore always connect first against an incoming opponent.

6. Leg kicks at range (MMA only)
When an opponent initiates a haymaker punch, they’re very open defensively to teep kicks to the stomach, oblique kicks to the knee or thigh, and low kicks to the lead leg.

This will hurt an opponent, knock them off balance, and present an opportunity to blitz with combinations.

7. High elbow block and step-in elbow counter
A simple defense against a haymaker punch is the high elbow guard which covers the whole side of the head with the arm, forearm, and hand. The wrist should be on the ear, the hand should be near the shoulder, and there should be a very acute angle (less than 20%) between the arm and forearm.

MMA only: When an opponent initiates a haymaker punch, set up with this defense, then step in and lunge forward with the elbow down the middle.

Note: Always keep a high guard when defending against a haymaker punch until it’s blocked or the technique has finished, especially on the side the haymaker is thrown from. If a haymaker punch lands flush, it could be lights out.

Here’s a very short video showing three ways to defend against a haymaker punch.

Haymaker Punch – Related Questions

Here are some other questions you may have concerning the haymaker punch.

Is a Haymaker the Strongest Punch?

A haymaker punch isn’t the strongest punch in boxing or MMA. The strongest punch is either a hook or an overhand. This is because power equals force times velocity (speed), and a hook and overhand have higher multiplied results.

While the haymaker punch has more force than a hook, a hook has much more speed and is therefore much more direct and explosive than a haymaker punch. Multiplying the two, the hook is much more powerful.

Is a Haymaker Punch Effective in a Street Fight?

A haymaker punch can be effective in a street fight against a very unskilled fighter. However, there are many offensive techniques that can work in a street fight against an unskilled aggressor.

Against someone even slightly experienced or skilled in any type of fighting, the effectiveness of a haymaker punch is massively reduced. It’s slow and easily evaded, and leaves the user open to counters.

Therefore, a haymaker punch isn’t effective in a street fight. Not knowing if your opponent is skilled or unskilled means a haymaker punch is best avoided. Always assume your opponent is dangerous – fight smart, tight, and with proper technique.

Do Professional Boxers and MMA Fighters Throw Haymaker Punches?

While the overwhelming majority of boxers and MMA fighters avoid throwing haymakers because of how slow and telegraphed they are, there are some who use them whether effective or not.

In terms of boxing, Deontay Wilder is the best example of a boxer who uses haymaker punches. He can often be seen putting his whole body weight into punches and ‘windmilling’, as some call it.

The former boxer David “Hayemaker” Haye got his nickname after being known for throwing wild punches with everything he had in them (haymakers).

In MMA, Francis Ngannou is known for having less technique and being an exceptionally powerful puncher. He likes to blitz his opponents with haymaker punches, having little regard for his own defense and looking to end fights in the first round by connecting a single haymaker punch.

Other MMA fighters known for throwing haymaker punches are Chuck Liddell, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Wanderlei Silva, and Dan Henderson.

Here’s a video showing some of Deontay Wilder’s best knockouts; many of which feature haymaker punches.

The Bottom Line

So, ‘what is a haymaker punch in boxing and MMA?

A haymaker punch is a wild and slow swinging or looping punch thrown with the rear hand and all the power and energy one can muster. 

Haymaker punches are ineffective in boxing and MMA because they’re slow, telegraphed, and easily evaded and countered.

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