6 MMA Tactics For Fighting While Going Backwards

Fighting while going backwards is never fun, it’s very taxing on the body and it does certainly make you gas out sometimes before your opponent does.

You don’t always get to be at the center of the ring or the Octagon, sometimes you have to let your opponent control the center and accept to dance with them.

Before getting to the techniques on how to fight and punch while going backwards, I want to emphasize on the fact that this style demands an endless gas tank and infinite cardio, that’s why Muhammad Ali used to run backwards for miles and miles to adapt his body.

Golden rule

You should never go backwards on a straight line more than two steps, because eventually you will hit the wall, the cage or the ropes. Instead, you should cut angles left or right.

With that being said, let’s get to our list of techniques:

1. Stepping back with a jab

The jab is your first line of defense if you feel pressure from your opponent you can simply retreat with a step back while throwing a jab simultaneously.


  1. When you initiate the step, avoid jumping backward, instead, slide your feet on the mat or the canvas without losing much contact with the ground.
  2. The jab is destined to stop your opponent from advancing further if you feel that it didn’t do the job well enough, feel free to combine it with a cross or a hook.

2. Dropstep cross

Sometimes a jab is not enough to stop an aggressive brawler from charging forward, in some cases you will have to use a stronger blow to make them reconsider their decision of charging forwards.

The cross is the answer, it is considered your second line of defense after the jab, therefore it has more power to inflict damage.

A dropstep cross can also be used as a counter-punch by simply making your opponent believe that they have full control of the center and that you don’t want to engage and lock horns, then surprise them with that sweet strong cross.


  1. This technique relies heavily on footwork, step backwards with your rear leg and keep your weight on your front leg to make the punch significantly stronger.
  2. If your opponent is throwing a flurry of punches don’t flinch, keep your eyes on them and be very selective of your punch
  3. Counter-punches like these need surgical precision and perfect timing, so you’ll have to drill this counter many times before it can serve you well in a live fight.

3. Roundhouse kick to the midsection

If your opponent is headhunting, odds are their midsection is left wide open for counters. One of the best counters you can throw is a roundhouse kick to the ribs, liver or kidneys.

This is a high percentage counter, your opponent won’t be able to catch the kick since their hands are in the air to punch.

Also, the impact of this counter is very powerful, your opponent runs right to your shin which makes the collision even greater.


  1. When kicking, you have to be very selective of which side to strike. You have to wait until your opponent launches a punch then quickly kick that side, under the punch.
  2. This counter reequires you to be able to kick with equal force and speed with both legs. So make sure to drill it with both legs.
  3. Do not do a Muay Thai switch kick when countering. A switch kick will make your counter telegraphed. Your kick has to be thrown with a rapid snap like a Taekwondo or Karate kick.

4. Backward Low kick

This technique can work literally on any opponent. Wait until they make a step forward, then launch your attack while going backward.

It is easy to catch your opponent with a low kick because when they are advancing, all their weight gets shifted to their lead leg.

Also, because of their weight being shifted to their lead leg, the damage you can inflict can be great, and with repetitive crippling low kicks like these, a TKO could easily be on the way.


  1. It doesn’t matter if your opponent is adopting an orthodox or a southpaw stance, just target their lead leg.
  2. The point of impact can be outside or inside your opponent’s leg.

5. Catch Your opponent’s kick

Some fighters prefer to walk down their opponent while throwing kicks of their own. Conor McGregor is famously known for doing that, he pressures his opponents with kicks until he corners them against the cage.

An effective counter to this strategy is catching your opponent’s roundhouse kick as Muay Thai fighters do.

Once you catch your opponent’s kick, the odds reverse in your favor and your opponent remains at your mercy. Once you have their leg under your armpit, you can literally do anything to them, you can do a sweep and take them down, counter with a punch using your free arm, etc.


  1. When catching the kick, make sure to trap your opponent’s leg under your armpit. Their foot has to be trapped behind your arm and you should be squeezing on the lowest part of the shin.
  2. When trying to catch the kick, make a quarter step to the opposite side of the kick to avoid full impact on your ribs. Get away from the center axis of the kick to absorb the impact and minimize the shock.
  3. Once you catch the kick, make sure to lift your opponent’s leg high enough to keep them always out of balance. This will cause them to hop and try to regain balance and will prevent them from thinking about throwing a punch at you.
  4. Always keep your head away to avoid getting struck by a punch.

5. Russian step/Out step

This counter is used a lot by russian boxers. Instead of stepping backwards, the russian step is more to the side of your lead leg.
Please note that the russian step is always combined with a lead hook.


  1. When your opponent advances forward, step with your lead leg outside (an orthodox would step to the left with their lead leg, a southpaw would step to the right with their lead leg)
  2. When stepping outside with your lead leg, keep your rear leg at its place. Don’t move it at all.
  3. Now, throw a lead hook at the same time as you are stepping outside with your lead leg
  4. When throwing a lead hook, keep your shoulder high to protect your chin
  5. After throwing the hook, make a step with your rear foot to recover your stance
  6. Once you have recovered your stance, throw a cross
  7. Congrats, you have created a new angle for yourself to strike your opponent

6. Reactive double leg takedown

GSP was the king of counter double leg takedowns, he was famously known for triggering his opponents to march forward and launch punches, then he would surprise them by going under their punches with a double leg takedown.

GSP’s opponents were always surprised with that well timed takedown finding themselves flying in the air with a big question mark on their face.


  1. While stepping backwards, throw a jab to trigger your opponent for throwing punches
  2. Once your opponent engages in their first punch, change levels and duck under the punch, then explode like a missile for a double leg takedown
  3. If your opponent has a wide stance, go for a single leg takedown, it works equally well if not better than a double leg takedown

Fighting while going backwards is a very dangerous game with serious consequences. If you want to master this style, you will have to be a perfect counter striker and you will have to spend hours and hours perfecting your timing and accuracy.