I’m a big muay Thai and kick boxing fan so I follow the K1 tournaments whenever I get a chance. One of the up and coming fighters is Gokhan Saki, a Dutch fighter with Turkish roots. What impressed me the most were his leg techniques. Mind you, his punching is pretty good as well; especially his left hook has a tendency to land with laser-like accuracy. But he excels at kicking techniques. Here’s a short clip of one of his fights.
He takes on Rick Cheek, a relatively unknown fighter. Gokhan uses the typical Dutch style of fighting: short combinations and lots of leg kicks. He reminds me the most of Rob Kaman in that regard; He has a similar style of fighting even though Rob was a bit “stiffer” in his movements. But what is most striking with Saki is how he so often leads with the rear leg kick. No set up with the hands, no feinting, no countering. Just flat out using the leg kick like you would a jab.
This is generally something you don’t do that much in the ring. The rear leg low kick is easily blocked, the opponent just has to raise his knee a little (I’m oversimplifying, I know) and it feels like you just kicked a wall. That’s why you usually prepare the rear leg kick with punches or feints. Or you do it as a counter when the opponent is not in an ideal position to block. Either way, Saki seems to violate those principles with impunity.
The main reason he can do so is his speed and power. He uses both the half and full hip turn in his kicking techniques which makes him very versatile. It allows him to choose speed over power or vice versa, depending on the requirements of the situation. That said, even if he focuses on speed, his shin still lands with tremendous power.
Chekc out this clip:
His opponent isn’t that much of a fighter but this clip showcases his leg kicks the most. At 1.16-1.20 he delivers two very powerful rear leg shin kicks in that specific way: no preparation. He hardly even steps forward with his lead leg, which you normally do to bridge the gap. So he’s basically within striking distance (and risks getting countered) when he fires the kicks. Because of his explosiveness (there’s little telegraphing) and his power (the opponent can’t ignore the kick or try to power through) they land perfectly. The rest of the round he does the same thing until Puu has to give up.
You’ll also notice that he doesn’t just run forward to chase the guy once he starts doing damage. That’s a lot of maturity for a fighter of only 26 years old. He frequently takes a step back to disengage and measure the distance for yet another insanely powerful kick.
That said, there are some inherent dangers to his style. The angle of Gokhan Saki’s leg kick is such that he risks breaking his own shin bone when he runs up against a guy who has the reflexes to put up a short “wall” block to catch the kick. We’ve all seen this clip before:
The fighter here does a full power leg kick without a set up. His opponent has all the time in the world to use the upper part of the shin or knee to block. And because of the angle, the kick lands on the strongest part of the structure that does the blocking. Result: instant broken leg.
That’s what Saki should be worried about. He’s a great fighter and at his age still has the best to come. But the problems will start when he gets a little older and loses some of that explosiveness or when his opponents have done their homework and prepare accordingly. Personally, I’m hoping he’ll go on to have a great career and stay injury free. He always puts up a good show and fights with heart.
On a related note, I’m doing a series of posts on the leg kick. A little “how-to” guide. Stay tuned for more.
UPDATE: The Leg Kick: Your Ultimate Guide to Using The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts is now available! Click the link to get the book or click this picture: