What Is A Superman Punch In MMA? Easily Explained


Photo by Tabercil

MMA is the most versatile combat sport where fighters use all types of spectacular techniques. That said, one of the flashiest moves in modern cage fighting is a popular “Superman Punch”. An advanced striking technique that is very effective for both MMA fighting and real combat. 

Superman punch is an unorthodox striking technique that requires a fighter to slightly jump off the ground to execute a straight punch (cross). The origin of the superman punch is not clear, but the superman punch became known during the 1960s when it was used by pro boxers and Muay Thai fighters. It is called “Superman Punch” because it resembles the Superman pose from the popular action movie.

Of course, there are also many other variations of this technique. Keep reading this article to learn more about the history of the superman punch and how to use it in a fight.

History of Superman Punch

Superman punch is a very popular technique that has origins in various martial arts like Sanda, Lethwei, and pro wrestling. The true origin of the superman punch technique is not exactly clear, but the superman punch came into existence during the 1960s when it was used by pro boxers and Muay Thai fighters. It is called “Superman Punch” because it resembles the Superman pose from the popular action movie.

The man who first introduced the superman punch to the world of Mixed Martial Arts(MMA) is Bas Rutten. Bas was the first fighter who landed a superman punch in an MMA fight, and he did it at UFC 20 on May 7 1999, against Kevin Randleman. Though this was a fight in which Rutten became a UFC champ, it also marks the birth of the Superman punch technique in MMA fighting. In some way, Rutten showed the world that the superman punch is a practical move, and more fighters would start using it thereafter. 

Photo Credit: Basrutten.com

One of the fighters who truly put this technique on the map was the former UFC champ, Georges St. Pierre (GSP). Though Rutten was the first one to use it in an MMA fight, GSP showed the world the full effectiveness of this technique.

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How Do You Execute A Superman Punch?

Superman punch is an advanced striking technique and it takes a lot of time and practice to master it. Since this specific technique has origins in various martial arts, there are also many variations of how you execute this move. Here is a simple explanation of the most common way used in MMA fighting.

Superman punch is not a simple technique like a jab that you can throw whenever you want to. No, to make it work and be effective, you must set it up first by faking a kick. Most fighters do this by landing a couple of leg or body kicks first. 

Once you landed a couple of leg kicks, the key is to read the opponent’s reaction before executing a superman punch. This is crucial because it all happens in milliseconds. As you are lifting your leg to land another kick, you must stay focused and look at what the opponent is doing. Fighters like GSP would even fake a kick to the groin despite this being an illegal kick just to get the reaction from the opponent. In most cases, the opponent would expect another kick and go for a check while slightly dropping their guard, and this is what you want to see.

Stop the kick halfway, switch your weight forward, and do not pivot with the grounded foot. Instead, take the small jump (a couple of centimeters) with your grounded foot and follow with a cross down the middle to hit the opponent’s face. There is also a quicker variation where the grounded leg stays on the ground.

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How Do You Defend Against A Superman Punch?

When you take a closer look at it, superman punch is “just” a kick faint with a cross that comes behind it. The main trick is to always keep your hands up, and check the kicks without dropping your guard. Even if you bite on the faint and try to check the kick, just keeping your hands up in the guard is more than enough to defend against the superman punch. The key is to pay attention all the time, stay focused and keep your defense tight.

But on the other side, superman punch is a versatile strike and the reason why it is so hard to defend against this punch is a combination of different factors:

Positioning – most fighters get blasted with the superman punch while moving forward and walking down their opponent. You will rarely see fighters getting caught with this shot while moving backward. This is because, as you are following the opponent, you have less reaction time to move away, dodge a strike or counter the attack.

Perfect set up – skilled fighters would never throw a superman punch out of nowhere. In most cases, they would set it up by landing a couple of hard leg or body kicks with the same leg. Once they lift their leg up for another one, your initial reaction would be to check another kick, right? But this time around, they would wait for you to bite on the faint before they blast you with a hard cross. This unorthodox transition from a kick to the flying punch is what catches you off guard. 

Unpredictability – as a skilled fighter, you can always see a hook, or a kick coming at you because you are drilling these common moves all the time. Or in other words, you have developed automatic reactions to block these strikes and counter them without even thinking about it. But a superman punch is one of those techniques you don’t practice that often in the gym, which catches up on you on fight night.

Element of surprise – you will never see a top MMA fighter throwing more than 2 superman punches per fight. In most cases, fighters good at it would throw it just once per fight, and it is very hard to predict when that would happen.

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Who Made The Superman Punch Popular?

A Dutch MMA fighter, Bas Rutten, would use Superman Punch for the first time in MMA/UFC history. He did it at UFC 20 in a title fight against a skilled wrestler, Kevin Randleman, to win the UFC crown. However, bear in mind that superman punch had remained an unpopular move used every now and then inside the MMA cage.

But this would change with the rise of Canadian star, George St. Pierre. GSP is a man who deserves a lot of credit for making the Superman Punch very popular in MMA as this was his trademark move. He was a master in catching his opponents off guard with it and doing big damage. The best example of him landing superman punches was his fight against Matt Hughes at UFC 129.

Is The Superman Punch Effective In MMA?

When set up and executed the right way, it’s a very effective technique in MMA because it’s a very powerful punch and it’s very hard to see this punch coming.

A fighter who knows how to time it and place it well can generate a lot of force and even knock the opponent out cold as Anthony Pettis did at “UFC on ESPN+ 6” against Stephen Thompson. Though it looked like a “soft” punch, the force behind was huge and more than enough to knock Thompson out cold. Bear in mind that Thompson is a fighter with an iron chin and that this was the first time he got KO’d like that in his career.

And as mentioned, the second reason why superman punch is so effective is the fact that the opponent, in most cases, doesn’t see it coming at all. When set up the right way, the opponent would look down and drop their guard expecting to receive another kick. They do not expect and are not prepared to take a full-blown flying punch to the head, and the punches you don’t see coming are usually the ones that hurt the most or knock you out.

MMA Fighters Who Have Utilized Superman Punches

Throughout MMA history, there have been many great fighters whose trademark move was a superman punch. One of the most famous ones is, of course, Bas Rutten who pioneered this move in MMA. Here are some of the others:

  • Georges St. Pierre
  • Anthony Pettis
  • Tony Ferguson
  • Josh Thompson

Can You Use The Superman Punch In Street Fighting?

Yes, you can apply superman punch in street fighting, and this move can help you stay safe and get out of trouble. But bear in mind that pulling such a move is not easy, notably in street fighting where there are many variables and different scenarios. In short, the crucial aspect is the place of the fight.

First of all, you need a bit of space to pull this move. If you are in a closed space like a room or a bar, timing and setting up the superman punch won’t be easy. In fact, jumping and throwing a punch in this scenario could only create more problems. A much better option would be to go for a basic boxing combo, or a grappling move if you are close.

But things are a bit different if the fight is in an open space like a street or a parking lot. Here, you would have enough space to move around and set up the superman punch the right way. This won’t be hard to do against average people who are not trained fighters. Even if they are, no one expects to see their opponent exploding with a flying punch. This element of surprise is often more than enough to destroy the attackers’ confidence, and in the best-case scenario, the assailant’s nose as well.

And for last, bear in mind that this is an advanced move. It would be hard and even dangerous to throw a superman punch if you are not a trained striker. It takes time to learn how to set it up the right way, and develop timing. The margin for error is so small that you can easily get yourself into more trouble with it because you can easily lose your balance, fall, or miss the target.

What Is The Actual Origin Of The ‘Superman Punch’ Used In MMA and Kickboxing?

The exact origins of the Superman Punch are not clear. This technique is present in various martial arts like Boxing, Muay Thai, Lethwei, and many others. For instance, it is a very popular move in Thai boxing where they call it “reaching punch”. It is also present in western boxing, but of course, the way you set up and execute this punch differs a lot between these martial arts.

Can You Use The Superman Punch In Boxing?

Yes, boxing has its variation of the superman punch and it is called a “reaching punch”. However, bear in mind that this technique is not as effective as in MMA for instance. This is because there are no leg kicks in boxing, or in other words, you can’t set up the superman punch by faking a leg kick, no one would react to this faint. Without a proper setup and kick faint, superman punch is not an effective technique and it’s very easy to defend against it. 

This is the main reason why boxers rarely use it in a fight. It takes a lot of time to deliver this flying punch, a time the opponent might use to catch you coming in with a hard counter shot. 

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Can You Do a Spinning Punch In Boxing?

No, throwing a spinning punch is considered illegal in boxing, and boxers are not allowed to use it. According to rules, boxers must throw punches with a clenched fist, and they can strike only the upper body area above the waist. Landing with the inside of the glove, back of the wrist, forearm, or elbow is illegal.

And on the other side, spinning punches are not as effective in boxing as in other combat sports like MMA or Muay Thai. Throwing a spinning punch requires a lot of body movement, and time to deliver. On top of that, it’s very easy to put yourself off balance as you are doing it, which creates an ideal opportunity for the opponent to counter attack.

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