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How to Beat Karate/Point Fighters in Striking and MMA

In MMA and BJJ circles, there are a lot of jokes made at the expense of Karate. Some people think that Karate is a joke martial art that gives out black belts to 10 year olds.

But if you take a seasoned Karate specialist like Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, you’re in for a bad night. There are some seriously dangerous fighters with backgrounds in point sparring style Karate that are top 10 in the world.

If you mess up against them, you will take a kick and go to sleep. As Karate fighters are starting to get their respect back fighters need to have specific gameplans to fight them.

There are specific things you need to do when fighting a Karate specialist in MMA. We’re going to give you a definitive list of what to do and not do against a Karate fighter in MMA. First, we’ll go into things you can’t do against them and then how to beat them.

Do Nots Against A Karate Fighter 

There are specifically three things you can not do against a Karate fighter. Let them control the ring/cage, chase them, and let them keep you at kicking range. If you do these three things against a Karate fighter, they will piece you up all night.

Allow Them To Control the Space/Ring/Cage

One of the primary objectives of a Karate fighter is gaining ring/cage control in a fight. This allows them to take control of the fight and allows them to set up their strikes.

If you have ever watched a Stephen Thompson or Raymond Daniels will understand why you can’t let this happen. Once they get control of the ring/cage, the fight is just about over. 

Once they get control, they don’t give it up. They are going to take you, where they want you to go and look to finish the fight.

Let Them Get In Kicking Range

A fighter that specializes in Karate are experts in using a variety of kicks. Once they find the kicking range, they will look to keep you there and set up their powerful kicks.

There are numerous highlight videos of Wonderboy turning his opponent’s light out with devastating kicks. Raymond Daniels’ spin kick KO in Glory that everyone has seen is one of the  all time great knockouts. If you don’t want to become part of a knockout highlight reel, you can’t let a Karate have kicking range.

Chase Them Down

The last don’t against a Karate fighter is chasing them. You cannot try to chase a Karate fighter in a fight. This opens you up for numerous attacks.

There are many Karate fighters that are also counter fighters. They are just waiting for you to make a mistake to hit you with a counter.

If you go straight ahead and leave your midsection open, then you’re liable to eat a nasty sidekick. A sidekick is a powerful kick usually thrown to the midsection. It can knock the wind out of you and at worst break your ribs.

Chasing a Karate fighter also means that they have control of the ring/cage, so you’ve made two mistakes. Probably three, because they will most likely also have the kicking range.

When you chase them all a Karate fighter has to do is angle off and connect with a counter strike. Once they land a roundhouse or straight counterpunch, the fight may be over.

Things To Do Against A Karate Fighter

Now that you know what to do against a Karate fighter, we’ll get into how to beat them. If you follow these tips and stick to your gameplan, then you’ll be able to beat them.

Pressure Fighting

Since you know not to let a Karate fighter control the range and find kicking distance, you fight with pressure. Pressuring a Karate fighter will knock them off their game and give you the advantage against them.

They need to be at a certain range and have control of the cage/ring to win. If you get them on their heels it totally messes up their game plan. 

That is why you have to stay in the face of a Karate fighter. Cutting the distance to brawl and clinch with a fighter will put the fight in your advantage. 

Fighting in these areas generally isn’t their strength, so if you can keep them there, you’ll be in good shape. It’s going to tire them out making them less explosive and making their strikes less effective.

Control The Ring/Cage

Obviously not letting them control the ring/cage means that you have to control it. You do this by taking the center.

By taking the center of the ring or cage, you limit the movement of a Karate fighter. They can only go left or right and when you do this, they’ll gradually have their back to the cage.

When you do this and mix pressure together with this, you can gradually set up your combos. It will be difficult for them to respond to this and recover.

Leg Kicks

If you are good at leg kicks or have a Muay Thai background definitely use that against a Karate fighter. Being well versed at Muay Thai and having great leg kicks will do you a wonder of good.

The main weapon of a Karate fighter is their feet and they will look to use them early and often. This is why you have to immediately address this problem and chop down their legs.

If they don’t have their legs, then they can’t use them against you. For an example of this working watch Joe Vatellini fight Raymond Daniels in Glory Kickboxing.

Joe immediately asserted dominance against Daniels landing leg kicks at will and pressuring him. After taking Raymond’s legs, he was able to set his combos up and finished the fight with a head kick.


Karate fighters are great strikers, but their hands are generally lacking. Also with their stance, they generally fight with their hands lower than other types of fighters. This is because they fight in a longer stance to try to keep you at kicking distance and land counter punches.

Once you get inside of their kicking range, you can definitely outbox a Karate fighter with weak hands. Go watch when Anthony Pettis KO’d Stephen Thompson with a Superman punch.

Anthony wasn’t winning the fight until the KO, but he was fighting smart. His hands were up defending Wonderboy’s strikes and walking him down. 

As soon as Thompson made the mistake of leaving his hands down and chin up it was a wrap for Pettis. He landed that beautiful Superman punch giving Wonderboy his first ever KO loss.

Wrestling/Jiu Jitsu

This is applicable if you are doing an MMA match.

Generally wrestling and Jiu Jitsu isn’t the strong suit of Karate fighters with a point sparring background. Once they start getting pressured with takedown attempts and have to start doing Jiu Jitsu, the fight changes for them.

They have a hard time fighting off their back and defending takedowns. This is why Stephen Thompson had a hard time fighting Tyron Woodley.

Being forced to fight close, doing BJJ and wrestling was not in his gameplan. Usually BJJ and wrestling is not the focus of Karate fighters. They either do enough to know how to defend takedowns or get up and land their strikes.

Final Thoughts On How To Beat Point Fighters

Karate fighters with a point sparring background have a particular set of skills that makes them dangerous to deal with. People have made Karate people the butt of jokes, but you have to respect their skills in an MMA fight. 

They are accomplished martial artists with dangerous weapons able to take you out in a fight. If you follow this list of do’s and don’ts against a Karate fighter, you’ll be better prepared to fight them.


Bobby currently lives in Brazil. He has been practicing martial arts for well over a decade and holds a black belt in Karate as well as a purple belt in BJJ. He has also trained and coached MMA, kickboxing, boxing, and no gi BJJ.