At this point in the evolution of mixed martial arts, understanding the fundamentals of wrestling is a must. Many would take it even further and say that wrestling is the best base for MMA. The better you are at wrestling, the more likely you are to be successful inside the cage.
Of course, the days of one-dimensional fighters dominating the cage are long gone. It’s called mixed martial arts for a reason, and fighters who aren’t well versed in any aspect of fighting are more likely to struggle.
The main advantage wrestlers have over other combat styles is that they can take a fight wherever they want, which plays right into the current point system used to score MMA fights. If a fighter is on top, the general perception is that said fighter is controlling the action.
Being able to control where a fight takes place means wrestlers are able to take the fight where they are more likely to be victorious. When they are matched against a good striker, they can take their opponent down and dominate them on the ground. If they are going against a tricky BJJ player, they can use their wrestling skills to force a stand-up battle.
This article will focus on highlighting takedowns that have been proven to be effective inside the cage. Adding these to your arsenal will make you more of a takedown threat. Here are four takedowns every MMA fighter should know.
1) Double Leg Takedown
The double leg takedown carries over well into MMA. When done properly, it uses the person’s momentum against them, and it can be very hard to defend against. The key to executing a double leg is to time your opponent’s forward motion. This makes it harder for the person to pull their hips and legs back.
To execute a double leg takedown, from a fighting stance, lower yourself by bending your knees and shoot for the takedown using your back leg to propel yourself forward. Grab your opponent’s legs around the thighs and squeeze them together. Keep your head tight against your opponent’s body, pull your back leg toward your opponent’s outside leg, and drive your opponent to the ground.
Countering The Double Leg Takedown
When going for a double leg takedown, always be aware that your opponent has the option of going for a guillotine choke if you leave your neck exposed. For example, UFC Veteran Charles Oliveira has made many of his opponents pay for sloppy takedown attempts with guillotine chokes.
You can defend against double leg takedowns by sprawling, throwing a well-timed shot (knees are great), or stepping away from your opponent.
2) Body Lock Takedown
Body lock takedowns are very common inside the cage, probably because clinching is a big part of MMA. Generally speaking, it’s easier to clinch with someone than to shoot in for a takedown. Shooting in can leave you exposed to chokes and knees.
The body lock takedown is generally a safer technique to attempt. To execute this technique, work your way into double underhooks by pummeling.
Once you have secured double underhooks, the easiest way to complete a takedown is by pulling in your opponent’s lower back while pushing forward with your head on the person’s chest. It’s a very simple move that is regularly used at the highest levels.
You can also complete the takedown by lifting your opponent up in the air and throwing the person to the ground.
Countering The Body Lock Takedown
Positioning is most important in defending against a body lock takedown. You don’t ever want to be content with anyone having a body lock on you. If an opponent establishes one, you want to break the lock by pummeling or hand fighting.
3) Single Leg Takedown
Here’s another takedown that every MMA fighter should know. It’s easy to learn, and usually, you have many opportunities to grab one of your opponent’s legs during a fight. It is also a good way to follow up a failed attempt at a double leg takedown. If your opponent manages to get one leg away while sprawling, you still have the other to complete a takedown.
To execute a single leg takedown, the guiding principle is to isolate one of your opponent’s legs and pull that person’s center of gravity toward the leg you are holding.
Countering The Single Leg Takedown
Like the double leg takedown, single leg takedowns can be countered with a variety of chokes as well as countering with elbows to the head or a knee with the free leg. Yes, throwing a knee with your free leg while an opponent goes for a single leg takedown is a high-risk technique, but it can be very effective. Yves Edwards used it to defend against a single leg takedown and knocked out Edson Berto at EliteXC: Street Certified.
4) Outside Foot Sweep
Sweeps are very popular in MMA since they are low-risk, high-reward techniques. There are many types of sweeps, but the principle behind them is the same. From the clinch, you offset your opponent’s balance with constant pushing and pulling and then use a foot to compromise the person’s base. As a result, your opponent loses their balance and falls.
Sweeps are often used by MMA fighters with judo backgrounds. Yoshihiro Akiyama is a good example of an MMA fighter who regularly uses sweeps to take down opponents.
Countering The Sweep
The best way to prevent a foot sweep is by anticipating your opponent’s moves and reacting appropriately. You can also counter with a sweep of your own.
Understanding the techniques listed above will improve your ability to dictate where a fight takes place. It will improve your takedowns as well as your ability to defend against them. You can also improve your wrestling skills by regularly training with skilled sparring partners.