A soccer kick, also known as a soccer ball kick (Japanese: サッカーボールキック) especially in puroresu and shoot fighting, is a reference to a kick that is similar to kicks used in association football. It is the colloquial term for a kick performed against a prone, kneeling, rising or supine opponent by a fighter who is in a standing or semi-standing position, specifically to the head of the downed opponent. The soccer kick was notably used in the first match of the Ultimate Fighting Championship at UFC 1 in 1993. Gerard Gordeau used a soccer kick to defeat Teila Tuli, which also knocked out some of Tuli's teeth.
In mixed martial arts
The Soccer kick has been a source of controversy in mixed martial arts. Some medical professionals have stated their belief that soccer kicks could cause serious injury, based on the assumption that an MMA fighter would be able to generate the same amount of force in a soccer kick as a professional association football player. Some MMA fans argue that no-one has ever been seriously injured from a soccer kick and stated that there were already equally dangerous moves allowed in MMA. Dr. Johnny Benjamin argued that soccer kicks could result in broken necks and paralysis given the correct positioning and velocity.
In 2000, the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts were written with the intention to make the sport of MMA appear more acceptable in a wider society. Under those rules, soccer kicks were explicitly banned and classed as a foul defined as "kicking the head of a grounded opponent". It is noted that while soccer kicks to grounded opponents are fouls, axe kicks are not considered fouls if done to a grounded opponent. In the years after the banning of soccer kicks under the Unified Rules, a number of fans and MMA fighters have argued for them to be permitted under the Unified Rules along with foot stomps. Their justification is that soccer kicks and foot stomps being disallowed hindered fighters who were used to using them under other MMA rule sets. They also argued that elbows were more dangerous than soccer kicks and yet were allowed under the unified rules. Mauricio Rua, who mostly used soccer kicks to earn victories in Pride, argued that elbows caused more pain than soccer kicks and claimed that soccer kicks were safer than elbows. Opponents argued that soccer kicks needed to be banned in order for the sport of MMA to move forward. They also argued that in the face of political opposition to the sport from people such as John McCain, soccer kicks had to be banned in order to ensure that the sport was not viewed as illegal "human cockfighting" and could be sanctioned as legal in the United States by Athletic Commissions. Despite the ban on soccer kicks under the unified rules, they are still used as an example to criticise MMA as "barbaric savagery".
Although soccer kick is a foul when delivered to the head in the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts which prevail in America, the technique was commonly employed in Pride Fighting Championships where it often spelled an imminent end to the contest by (t)ko, owing to the effectiveness of the technique. Notable practitioners of the soccer kick were fighters Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio Rua. Under the Unified Rules, some MMA fighters attempt to use tactics regarding the rule regarding "kicking the head of a grounded opponent", which defined any fighter having any part of their body apart from their feet on the ground was grounded. This meant that fighters, such as Jon Jones, would often try to provoke illegal soccer kicks by putting their hand on the ground or as a way to avoid strikes such as the soccer kick after a failed takedown. However in 2013, referees were encouraged to interpret the rules that if a fighter is deliberately intending to provoke an illegal soccer kick and one was used, then the referee could decide that it was a legal move.
There are still MMA organizations such as Singapore-based ONE Fighting Championship that allow soccer kicks to the head of downed opponent. ONE Fighting Championship previously had an "open attack" rule, which required fighters to get permission from the referee to use soccer kicks. In 2012, the company changed its rule set to the rules used by Pride Fighting Championship allowing fighters to use soccer kicks without asking for permission from the referee.
In professional wrestling
In professional wrestling, the soccer kick is used as a finishing move. It is mostly used by WWE wrestler Randy Orton when acting as a heel, where it is also referred to as a "punt kick". In 1977 in Japan in a match between Antonio Inoki and Great Antonio, Inoki started to shoot on Great Antonio after Great Antonio refused to sell Inoki's offence. Inoki used a takedown on Great Antonio and then used soccer kicks to legitimately knock out Great Antonio.
In video games
In the 2010 video game, EA Sports MMA, soccer kicks were included in the game. In the 2012 video game UFC Undisputed 3, soccer kicks are included in the game in the Pride mode. This mode was intended to replicate Pride Fighting Championships and is different compared with the normal UFC mode which does not include soccer kicks due to UFC following the Unified Rules while Pride did not.
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