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How To Change Levels And Strike With Precision According to Coach Brandon Gibson

How To Change Levels And Strike With Precision According to Coach Brandon Gibson

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—body shots win fights. 

They are a great way to drain stamina from your opponent and can end a contest outright if they were not expecting a little fire to the gut. Once a beginning fighter becomes confident with simple 1-2 and 2-3-2 combinations to the top of the body and has good footwork to match, they’re ready to learn how to change levels. 

Being able to change levels is the next step in a fighter’s development and can help a fairly- inexperienced boxer fight as if they had spent more time in the ring. It's a crucial part of increasing a striker’s fight IQ and separates novice fighters from more experienced pugilists. If a fighter can master this, they will have an edge over those who stepped into the squared circle expecting a headhunting excursion. 

In this video, MMA Coach Brandon Gibson shows the best, most efficient way to change levels and catch your opponent by surprise. 



Changing levels is all about squatting while throwing a punch. Gibson explains the reason a fighter doesn’t want to throw body shot at a downward angle while standing up is because their chin is briefly exposed. Dropping down a level and quickly throwing a right to the opponent’s breadbasket remedies the above-mentioned problem. However, a fighter can’t just step in, bend our knees, throw the shot. The opponent will see that a mile away. 

This is where Gibson’s high-low-high technique comes into play. The fighter has to trick the opponent into anticipating a certain combo, then hit them with something else while their guard is dropped. The coach said the best way to do this is by using linear combinations all fighters should be familiar with. 

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“I’m going to establish my jab [to the head] and I’m going to establish my jab to the body. From here I can see if he is coming in and covering down. There’s my up-cross and establish this high-low-high pattern,” Gibson said. “Now, he’s going to keep his guard up. He’s going to be worried about the cross coming off the level change. Once I establish that he’s blocking that cross or trying to parry it...keeping his guard high...now I’m going to look for that effective double body shot.”

In this movement, the fighter wants to throw a jab to the head, bend their knees and throw a jab to the body and then stay low and deliver a right to the body. Make sure to aim for the opponent’s solar-plexus (right below the center of the chest) with each body shot, said Gibson. 

“A double body shot can really put a guy down. So we are going to establish our pattern with the high-low-high,” Gibson said. “I see his guard is up and I’ve established my pattern, I’m looking for a double body shot. As his guard stays high, I know I’m safe and I'm going to take that solar-plexus shot again [and then] looking to exit...looking to move out.”

Gibson said he likes this combination because the fighter is staying a step ahead of their opponent’s defense with fast, efficient and effective shots. The fighter’s opponent is also having to work hard to block the incoming combinations, so they may drain their stamina in the process if their fitness isn’t up to par. 

The coach also pointed out that a fighter needs to look for where their opponent’s guard is at when they level change for the body shot. He said a fighter’s eyes will get tuned in to see when it’s most optimal to take that body shot after a few reps of the high-low-high combination.

“It’s a great, effective movement, especially with four-ounce MMA gloves on,” Gibson said. “I can work my levels. I can have my knees bent and I can work my way into that body shot.” 

Circular Strikes And Kicks

If the opponent is anticipating all your linear punches and not allowing an opening for a body shot, all is not lost, according to Gibson. While they may be blocking all of your linear shots, the opponent has unwittingly exposed their sides to circular shots. The coach suggests switching up your combinations and looking for shots to the lower rib area or side of the face. His favorite is to add a sidekick to the opponent’s head if in an MMA match.

“One of my favorites, no matter if I’m ending with the cross to the body or the cross to the head, is to bring the same side power-kick around. We’re going to jab head, jab body then cross. As I rotate this cross I’m going to keep my hip forward and I wrap the head kick.”

Throwing the cross will make your opponent open up the back of the head, leaving them vulnerable to strikes from the shin to that area, said the coach. Also, because the fighter has moved into a boxer’s range their opponent will not be able to get out of range for the high-kick, even if they see it coming. 

“This is a really effective strike. Cowboy Cerrone has made a career out of these same side power strikes by establishing a hard linear punch, getting their opponent’s defense inside and wanting to parry and roll that shoulder-in. But, it opens [the opponent] up that circular attack,” Gibson said.  

Who is Brandon Gibson?

Coach Brandon Gibson trains his fighters at the prestigious Jackson Wink Professional MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Gibson has been the striking coach for UFC fighters like Jon Jones, Carlos Condit and many others in the MMA world. He started out training at the academy in 2005 and became a coach there in 2009. UFC Magazine named Gibson one of the Top 100 Coaches in MMA in 2012. Currently, he is one of the most sought-after coaches in combat sports.

Six Gun Striking by Brandon Gibson

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