I posted this on another thread and see that there are actually a couple of threads asking "what to do while getting rushed down" so I decided to make it it's own thread.
First off, you got to know what you're getting hit by.
If Liu Kang is in your face you HAVE TO BLOCK LOW. His low 3 hit string that starts his big combo is safe on block so Liu Kang players arent afraid to overuse it. Just remember though, that when you do block it, YOU are at the advantage after blocking it.
Barely any strings when blocked GIVE advantage to the person getting blocked. Even if the string is safe it still gives the person who blocked a little amount of advantage so they could start their own pressure or do a defensive option.
Now you might be asking, "Okay, so I have advantage.... what do I do with it?". Well.... you have to pick one of the defensive options that every character has:
The basic defensive options in this game are:
1. Jump away (safest option)
2. Jump over (goes into combo opportunity if the opponent keeps attacking)
3. Neutral Jump Punch (If you predict that they want to jump over you, you spike them down and start a juggle)
4. Down Jab (stops them in their tracks and gives you the advantage on hit and could be canceled into a special move)
5. Fast Specials (risky because punishable on block. this option should be rarely done)
6. Down toe tap (fast but not damaging and gives very little advantage on hit and hits low)
7. Down kick (slowish but gives alot of advantage on hit and hits low)
The low pokes down jab and toe tap are EVERYONE'S fastest move in the game. Even Kung Lao's spin is the exact same speed as his down jab. This means that if you do decide to interrupt your opponent with an attack, these low pokes are the ones you should go with because they are safe, they are fast, and they begin YOUR pressure.
Also, because you could cancel downjab into a special move, you could instantly do a safe special or mixup straight from a downjab. Sure, it won't actually combo, but it's a great way to instantly stop your opponent's offense with your own.
Example: Reptile doing downjab and canceling it straight into an Acid Hand
Once you master all these options, upclose pressure characters shouldnt be that big of a deal. Just look for those gaps in their pressure and choose one of these defensive options to slip in and catch them off guard. Just takes practice.
Most people like characters with fast specials because they get a "free get out of pressure" special move. But seriously no character needs a fast special to stop pressure. Fast specials are actually the most risky thing you could do to stop pressure and should be a rare option you pull out.
The key is to not have your opponent be on the offense at all. This game is all about offense, even when you're zoning. Against a good player, if you're on the constant defense you will lose because they are mixing you up with strings and grabs or w/e... and you're just taking it.
Learn you're opponent's moves, see where they like to overhead, or do a low, or grab, and find those gaps so you could pull out one of your defensive options.
Find those gaps and capitalize!
How to avoid getting zoned out by projectiles:
1. Dash Block (Dash in between the projectiles, then block the next one)
2. Jump Over the projectile (This advances you further than dash blocking does but its more dangerous because you could get anti-aired. Do this when you're opponent isnt expecting it)
3. Do a special move that avoids projectiles (RISKY!!!!! Don't do this too often because ALL of these moves are punishable on block by full combo. Throw this out when you KNOW it'll hit)
Example: Kung Lao's Dive kick, Smoke's teleport, Scorpion's teleport, Raiden's EX Supermans
4. Duck under projectile (Stalls for time, doesn't really benefit getting close to the opponent but does give you time and sometimes makes the opponent anxious enough to approach you if you are close enough)
The safest of all these options is by far dash blocking. Use it the most you possibly can and mix in the other three options sometimes to throw the opponent off. DON'T ALWAYS JUMP FROM JUMP DISTANCE IT'S REALLY OBVIOUS!. Try dashing into a range where one of your normal strings will land and start pressure like that instead. Only jump in at your opponent when you KNOW that they are doing something and your jump will succeed.
Also note that in this game dashing could be canceled by ANY MOVE or a block. This means you could backdash or forward dash into a desired position where you know your longest normal move will hit and start your pressure quickly and effectively. Dashing around constantly is perfectly safe because you could block at any point. This makes it so there is no excuse just to turtle and block in one place like a statue and wait for the opponent to come up and mix you up with their attacks. Stay moving, and that doesn't mean jump around like a maniac.
If you guys have any character specific questions on how to deal with pressure just ask and hopefully someone else or myself will answer it for you.
Hope this helps everyone