Two mixed-martial artists boasting spinning-backfist knockouts historically square off tonight despite the UFC’s octagon witnessing just three such fantastic finishes in its history.
“The backfist is hard to land because a lot of guys don’t do it right,” Paul Felder explains to Breitbart Sports about sparse spottings of the spectacular technique. “They don’t know how to set it up. A lot of guys just throw it. If it lands, it’s powerful. But a lot of guys literally just twist and spin.”
A spinning-backfist knockout is MMA’s walk-off grand slam, game-winning hail mary, or natural hat trick—just less common. It’s not quite as rare as Halley’s Comet. But it’s at least as spectacular.
The martial artist performs an about face of sorts, generating momentum before connecting the back of his closed hand with his opponents head. Shonie Carter and Alexander Shlemenko nailed one. Emanuel Newton did it twice. It’s effectiveness, both as a crowd pleaser and as a consciousness reliever, stems from the fact that no one sees it coming.
Felder landed one at UFC 182 that immediately contorted a fluid Danny Garcia into rigor-mortis stiffness. The Philadelphian subsequently dropped consecutive decisions to fall to 10-2. But the prospect of the Irish Dragon again unleashing the powerful pirouette compels hardcore fans to tune in and the UFC to schedule his bout with Daron Cruickshank for the subscription-based “Fight Pass” portion of tonight’s program.
“The best way to land those things is off a counter or when you’re knocked off balance,” Felder advises. “That’s the best time to spin. It’s not just, ‘Bwaaa, I’m gonna throw this technique.’”
Long before Felder did, the 16-7 Daron Cruickshank joined the exclusive spinning backfist knockout club. The Detroit Superstar turned the lights out with the forearm side of his fist in his very first fight. He appropriately followed it up with a backflip as if to announce, “Your extraordinary is my ordinary.”
“Spinning techniques are known from taekwondo, karate, different martial arts,” Cruickshank informs Breitbart Sports. “A lot of guys today only concentrate on their boxing, their wrestling, their muay thai. They were never taught properly how to throw a spinning technique. They just mimic what they see and that’s why they don’t land it and that’s why they don’t hit anybody with it.”
Does the pair’s experience in spinning strikes mean that we likely see one tonight or that they likely see it coming before one can launch tonight?
“I still think we could land them on each other but I do think we will be a little more hypersensitive to the craziness of this fight,” Felder reasons. “We both are aware of the finishing capabilities of the other.”
Cruickshank offers more optimism on this front. “I don’t think so,” the Detroit Superstar responds to whether the pair’s mastery of it makes the maneuver more difficult to land for both men. “That’s kind of my bread and butter, that’s his bread and butter. Anything’s possible.”
Felder notes that experts in spinning techniques don’t telegraph their intentions. He sees as giveaways from more amateurish practitioners a “heal turning a certain way,” “kind of leaning to the side,” “shifting their weight,” “the way they circle,” and “trying to get you to circle in a certain way.” Because its effectiveness depends on surprise, a spinning backfist hinted at generally means a spinning backfist avoided.
“The reason the power is there,” Felder explains, “I don’t think it probably lands harder than a guy with a good overhand right. I think the fact that it catches everybody off guard is what [knocks men out]. People don’t see that. It’s their blind side usually. It’s as they’re throwing a combination they get caught out of nowhere. Anytime you get caught with something you don’t see coming it’s more devastating because you can’t clinch from it.”
Their foes don’t expect it. Their fans don’t expect it. That provides the power to the unorthodox punch that sends one man down on the deck and thousands of others up off their seats.