Footwork is often the last on people’s minds regarding MMA. It’s a skill that many UFC fighters overlook, but if you know how to use it correctly, it can be a massive game changer. That’s why we will take a look at the top UFC fighters who’ve truly mastered this art and used it to devastating effect.
The one who stands above all regarding footwork in the UFC is, without a doubt, Dominick Cruz. His movement is like no other; it’s frantic and calculated, as if he sees every step his opponent takes before they even take it.
Cruz’s technique is particularly unique, with his hands almost always down away from guarding his head, relying on footwork and movement above all else. This sometimes costs him, but his agility and understanding of martial arts midline concepts have made him a top contender.
Cruz’s footwork isn’t just about dodging; it’s all about positioning and counterattacking. He dips his head to one side while positioning his hips towards the opponent. This move gets activated when a hook is coming over the top. And you know what?
He’s always ready to bow under and immediately counter with his rear hand, using those long-reach punches. The way he switches between two side-on stances and ducks under each strike to come back with another counter, it’s what makes his style truly unique.
Cruz stands out in his knack for understanding the midline, also known as the train tracks by coaches. Instead of attacking head-on, he always throws strikes that put him at an angle, setting him up for a counterattack and his next move. This unique perception of the midline and how to manipulate it has helped Cruz consistently avoid getting hit by strikes.
T.J. Dillashaw, a former UFC Bantamweight Champion, has earned his reputation as an amazing strategist with complex and effective footwork. Despite a rocky history, including a ban for performance drug use, T.J. Dillashaw’s meticulous footwork has made him one of the most talented fighters the UFC has ever seen.
His quick stance switching and switch cross are absolute nightmares for opponents. His smooth moves and natural knack for countering have expanded his skills, making him a constant threat in the cage.
Dillashaw loves throwing feints and using deceptive footwork to bait his opponents into reacting. He sets traps that let him unleash powerful strikes. He keeps his opponents guessing and off-balance by smoothly switching stances, attacking from all angles.
Dillashaw’s footwork is all about those angles. He doesn’t just go straight ahead or back; he moves sideways, cutting angles that catch opponents off guard. His quick footwork makes it hard to land a hit, and he keeps attackers guessing.
Unfortunately, the CEO of EPO shot himself in the foot with the 2-year ban. And with his recent retirement, the world has lost a truly great fighter.
Thug Rose has evolved into one of the UFC’s most precise and composed fighters. Her footwork has been a significant part of this evolution, with fellow fighters and analysts praising her for her crispness and sharpness in the cage.
When there’s a quick moment of someone being off or not paying attention, she seizes it with remarkable efficiency. Her footwork allows her to position herself perfectly to land strikes, and her hands are always up and sharp, making her striking crisp and effective.
Namajunas’s ability to combine footwork with a keen sense of observation sets her apart. She’s really good at seeing opportunities and capitalizing on them. Her footwork is a tool that she uses to create these opportunities, which she has honed to perfection.
Max is, without a doubt, one of the best boxers in the UFC. And, of course, with great boxing comes great footwork. With his intelligent foot movement and impeccable positioning, he has solidified his place as one of the greatest strikers in the history of UFC.
What makes Max stand out is his amazing combination of traditional boxing techniques with remarkable freedom of movement and hand positioning. And being absolutely savage in the ring… but that’s another topic altogether.
He smoothly advances while throwing strong punches, putting non-stop pressure on his opponents from the front. His foot-planting technique is so subtle yet effective that it adds an extra touch of unpredictability to his attacks.
With his killer movement and sneaky fake-outs, Suga Sean has become a knockout artist in the octagon. His slick footwork, slim build, and tall stature make him a seriously impressive talent in the world of mixed martial arts. Who knows, he might even become champ soon.
One of Sean’s impressive skills is his incredible lateral movement, which lets him smoothly dodge opponents’ attacks and respond with amazing strikes. His expertise in baiting attacks and skillfully moving out of harm’s way further demonstrates his mastery of the craft. He then capitalizes on his footwork by throwing deadly strikes that stun his opponents.
Sean also knows how to cause damage. He doesn’t just fight for points. He throws vicious body kicks, knees to the head, and much more.
The Spider is often considered one of the all-time greats in mixed martial arts. His unique fighting style, with killer footwork, allowed him to dominate many top-tier opponents. Silva’s footwork wasn’t just graceful but strategic, helping him control distance, dodge strikes, and unleash devastating attacks. His ability to smoothly move in and out made him a hard target, and his precise timing made his counterattacks lethal.
Silva’s footwork was a major factor in his record-breaking title reign in the UFC. He held the Middleweight Championship for a whopping 2,457 days and notched 16 consecutive victories.
His ability to move with finesse, combined with his pinpoint accuracy and versatility in stand-up and ground combat, made him a force to be reckoned with. Whether up against aggressive strikers or skilled grapplers, Silva’s footwork always made a difference, allowing him to control the fight’s tempo and find openings.
Cory Sandhagen, known for his exceptional footwork skills, has consistently climbed the rankings in the competitive Bantamweight division. His mastery of 45-degree angle switching and rhythmic footwork sets him apart as a true specialist in the sport. Notable moments in Cory’s career include a stunning flying knee knockout against the once-great Frankie Edgar and a mesmerizing display of footwork against Petr Yan.
With a deep understanding of how to seamlessly blend footwork with hand techniques and react to rapid changes, Cory Sandhagen continues to shine as a standout talent in the UFC. His ability to control the octagon with precision and finesse is a testament to his dedication and skill. And with his warrior mindset, we will see Cory Sandhagen remain at the top of his division in the future.
Cody Garbrandt, also known as “No Love,” has made a name for himself in the UFC with his striking abilities, and his footwork is a significant aspect of his fighting style. He often utilizes feints and pressure to bait exchanges, subtly taking angles and opportunities to capitalize in chaotic moments.
With the help of his coach Mark Henry, Garbrandt has been focusing on getting back to his boxing process, using his lead hand more to fill space and incorporating more leg and calf kicks into his repertoire. In a fight against Rob Font, he was noted for attacking the calf and using his footwork to address Font’s forward progress, demonstrating his ability to adapt and recover from stinging shots.
His performance against Dominick Cruz to win the UFC bantamweight title is considered one of the greatest performances in UFC history, showcasing his excellent footwork. To this day, we believe this was one of his best fights ever. Cody went into ultra-instinct mode for that single night and showcased his full potential.
The Last Stylebender is truly someone who stands out. I don’t think we have ever seen anybody like him in the UFC. He loves to be different, for better or for worse, both in and out of the octagon…His footwork and striking techniques combine simplicity and complexity, making him a tough opponent.
Adesanya’s style is all about those sneaky little movements that hide his strikes and keep his opponents on their toes. He’s a pressure-fight boss and shows off some killer shot selection and cage craft.
Adesanya uses different feints, like the ‘frontside feint,’ to trick opponents and mess with their reflexes. His explosive feints make it tough to predict his real strikes. Adesanya’s powerful kicks really scare his opponents. Another significant move is his rear hip feint, where he hides whether he’s gonna kick or throw a punch.
One of Adesanya’s signature moves is the Brazilian Kick (aka the Question mark kick), which starts as a body kick before swiftly transitioning to a head strike. He also employs throwaway punches to disguise his movements or incoming attacks.
For instance, he uses throwaway punches in combination with an angle change to set up a high kick. These strategies make predicting Adesanya’s next move extremely difficult, forcing opponents to react.
Valentina Shevchenko, known as “The Bullet,” is a standout in the UFC, and her footwork is a key component of her success. Her background as a dancer as a child has undoubtedly contributed to her footwork development. This early experience with dance has translated into a graceful and efficient movement in the cage, allowing her to swiftly adjust for distance and range and deliver precise strikes.
Her ability to combine her dancing grace with lethal striking sets Shevchenko apart. Her diverse background in Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and Judo and her dance training has shaped her into a unique and formidable fighter in the UFC.
The King of Rio is known for his impressive defensive instincts and technique. Fans and analysts agree that even back in his WEC days, Aldo showed top-notch defense, hardly taking any damage in fights. His defensive skills are often compared to those of the best defensive-minded fighters in the sport’s history.
Aldo’s footwork and striking defense are major parts of his fighting style. Contrary to what some may think, Aldo’s footwork is actually super dynamic and plays a big role in his success. His ability to move and position himself effectively lets him dodge strikes and counter with precision. This defensive mastery and absolute what set him apart from other fighters.
Aldo’s footwork and defensive reactions are a marvel to watch. His understanding of distance, timing, and angles enables him to control the fight and dictate the pace, making him one of MMA’s most respected and accomplished fighters.
Alexander Gustafsson is easily identifiable as a boxing specialist within the UFC, with a unique focus on his rear-hand uppercut. His footwork is crucial in positioning his opponents in the “Goldilocks Zone,” where his right uppercut can land with maximum effect.
Whether his opponents enter the “Goldilocks Zone” lazily or aggressively, Gustafsson’s footwork enables him to tag them with an uppercut or move off-line to avoid their attacks. This level of defensive footwork is far above-average in modern Mixed Martial Arts. It is a testament to Gustafsson’s skill and intelligence.
Gustafsson is able to combine his footwork with a formidable “Plan B” of taking down his opponent and beating them up from the top. His preferred takedown is the Outside Trip, which allows him to use his height as a benefit.
Gustafsson’s footwork, striking, and ground game make him a dangerous and versatile fighter who has given even the likes of Jon Jones a tough bout. His ability to employ proper defensive footwork while seeking the perfect time to unleash his deadly rear hand showcases a high level of skill, making him a standout in the UFC.
Ciryl Gane is a heavyweight fighter who defies the typical expectations of his division. Unlike many heavyweights who rely on brute force, Gane is known for his speed, agility, and moving like he is three divisions under. His footwork is a critical aspect of his fighting style, allowing him to execute graceful and crushing kicks that are rarely seen in the heavyweight division.
Gane’s kicks aren’t just powerful but also clever and tactically sound. He often tricks his opponents with feints and footwork, setting up his devastating kicks. His body kicks are seriously fearsome, and his teep is his signature move that makes him stand out from other fighters.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is one of MMA’s most badass strikers. His footwork is like a secret weapon that brings him so much success. With his wide, bladed stance, he can dart in and out of range crazy fast, making it almost impossible to time his entries. And let’s not forget his mastery of range, which lets him totally outsmart opponents with his stance and counterpunching. This guy is on another level!
Thompson’s footwork is not just about movement but control, timing, and strategy. He uses his feet to create openings, evade attacks, and launch his own strikes with precision and power. His anti-low kicking game is also a standout feature, countering opponents’ low kicks when their balance is at its worst.
His ability to move backward and forward comfortably sets Thompson apart. His defensive footwork and movement are unparalleled, making it incredibly difficult to back him up to the fence. Even skilled pressure fighters struggle against him. Thompson’s footwork leads to brilliant counters, and even when crowded, he simply pivots away at tight angles.
Even in the twilight of his career, Thompson’s speed still manages to outshine opponents much younger than him. It’s a combination of his impeccable timing and footwork that does the trick. His slick footwork creates the illusion of being naturally faster, allowing him to anticipate his opponent’s moves and throw them off balance. Stephen Thompson’s footwork is truly a masterclass in the art of fighting, which is why he’s rightfully known as “Wonderboy.”
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is renowned for his supercharged footwork, which might be his best combat attribute. Johnson’s ability to throw strikes while moving and not break his stride is a testament to his incredible timing and control.
Johnson’s impressive footwork effortlessly maintains composure and balance, even at lightning speed. He seamlessly throws knees, punches, and kicks while pushing forward, comfortable in both orthodox and southpaw stances. This smoothness enhances his combo options, amplifying the speed of his strikes. His smart and strategic footwork cuts off angles and guides opponents toward the cage wall, where he can either punish them or take them down.
Johnson’s footwork also shows his ability to switch back and forth fluidly between stances. This switching gives him more options in his combos and makes his strikes come together even faster. His ability to maintain balance and control while moving quickly is a hallmark of his style, allowing him to react on the fly accordingly. His footwork is not just about speed but precision, timing, and strategy.
Although not a standout on this list, Condit was well-known for emphasizing his footwork drills and techniques. He stressed the importance of understanding and practicing basic footwork, even for experienced fighters. Condit used drills like the “box drill” to improve forward, backward, and side-to-side movement.
In training, Condit stressed moving with the correct foot first, maintaining balance, and staying ready to strike or defend. His top-level footwork was shared through instructional videos and drills to help others establish a foundation for dynamic striking. Therefore, he could throw some mean combos in the cage and set up powerful strikes.
Condit could keep opponents guessing and off-balance using his footwork as he switched stances at will. His quick feet allowed him to create more opportunities for attack. In addition, his combinations of leg kicks with punches were well-known among fighters. He also used the jab as a setup for big shots, such as his overhand right.
Ah, our favorite Samurai. Jiri Prochazka is known for his unique fighting style, which includes a natural instinct to flow through chaos and land big shots. He’s described as a “physical freak” with good natural instincts. His approach to fighting is often characterized by causing chaos and then flowing through it, utilizing his physical attributes to his advantage.
None of this would be possible without a stellar set of footwork skills. Prochazka’s feet are as quick and unpredictable as his hands, allowing him to easily move in and out of range. His angles constantly change, making it difficult for opponents to anticipate where he’ll go next or what he will do. He uses this unpredictability to create opportunities for his strikes.
His ability to flow and adapt in chaotic situations suggests that he possesses a level of agility and movement that contributes to his success in the ring. His style has led him to become one of the most exciting fighters in the world, with a record of 10 straight KO/TKO finishes.
When McGregor burst onto the world scene, his karate stance instantly made him stand out. While focusing on his boxing skills, he rocked a wide stance that let him move smoothly in and out of range. At featherweight, his 74″ reach gave him an edge, and combined with his grasp of distance and range, he became a master at landing his beloved straight left.
As he increased weight, McGregor relied less on his point karate-influenced stance and shifted to an almost exclusively boxing-centric stance at 155 and 170 pounds. This change emphasized his fight-ending left, and planting the feet and sitting into his punches replaced hopping in and out of range.
McGregor’s movement training also plays a role in his fighting style. He gives a lot of credit to movement training for his recent form. It’s all about free-flowing bodily rhythm and merging the mental and physical aspects of fighting. This training, done with Ido Portal, has helped him navigate combat with a sixth sense of hyper-alertness. It gives him that cool and calm presence he’s well known for, at least in the octagon…
Aleksandar Rakic has a solid striking base that shows how he approaches his fights. With his long and athletic frame, Rakic keeps his lead hand active, using it to poke and fake out his opponents’ attacks. And when he’s in the zone, he unleashes pre-planned combos with powerful kicks from different stances.
Rakic seems pretty comfortable relying on his counter skills, choosing to stay on the outside and find openings over his opponents’ shoulders or under their guard. He’s pretty good at staying defensively aware, whether he’s dodging crosses or slipping off to the side, moving his head, and keeping the distance just right. But he has shown some vulnerabilities in the past regarding his legs and body, so he needs to keep that in mind.
Rakic has also mentioned how confident he is in his footwork and speed in punches, saying he’s got the edge over fighters like Jon Jones in these areas. He says he’s faster and packs more power to end a fight with just one punch, all thanks to his lightning-fast footwork.
Yair Rodriguez is one heck of a dynamic striker who fearlessly brings his taekwondo skills and style into the UFC ring. His fighting game is all about front kicks, aerial attacks, and high-wire offense, ready to go immediately.
Roduez’s footwork and movement are key to his ability to launch these attacks. He’s made some serious improvements in his boxing fundamentals, showing better use of his left hand and spotting counters in the pocket. Whether throwing counter crosses from southpaw or landing check hooks from his orthodox stance, Rodriguez’s footwork sets him up nicely for these strikes.
However, his style does require a fair share of space, and he has worked on incorporating more punches into his repertoire to address this. Until his fight with “The Korean Zombie,” Rodriguez primarily relied on his right side to attack. Still, recent years have seen him become more adept at using both sides.
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