Takedowns are one of the tools you should have in your arsenal as a mixed martial artist. It scores points during fights, and it can save you from getting knocked out if one of your opponent’s strikes lands and wobbles you.
Takedowns allow you to control your opponent on the ground and dominate rounds with your ground game. Good takedowns should always be coupled with tight top control, so you get the most out of all your hard work.
Wrestlers have had lots of success in mixed martial arts competitions. Their ability to control where fights go gives them an edge, and it was the wrestlers who brought an end to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu era during the early days of MMA.
Improving your takedowns for MMA
Taking someone down in a wrestling match or BJJ class is not the same as taking them down in a self-defense scenario or MMA fight. You don’t have to worry about getting kneed in the face like Ben Askren’s fate when he faced Jorge Masvidal or getting plastered with an uppercut as you shoot for a takedown like Derrick Lewis did to Curtis Blades during their 2021 showdown.
MMA complicates the art of taking someone down. Timing becomes even more crucial in an MMA setting since going in for a takedown at the wrong time can have dreadful consequences.
Here are some things you can do to make your takedowns more effective for mixed martial arts:
1) Get better at striking
The days of being strictly a wrestler and enjoying a high level of success are over. The same goes for any other discipline. MMA has evolved into a combat style of its own over the years, and most fighters are well versed in all areas.
Expecting to dominate mixed martial arts competitions with only your wrestling skills will get you in a world of trouble. You might be a better wrestler than your opponent, but their takedown defense might be good enough to stop yours, especially when they know you’re always going to shoot.
The last pure wrestler who managed to recently dominate in MMA was former ONE Championship welterweight champion Ben Askren, but his luck eventually ran out when he faced Jorge Masvidal.
Most of the wrestlers who have recently dominated in MMA like Jon Jones, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Henry Cejudo are also phenomenal strikers.
It might seem counterintuitive, but the better your striking is in MMA, the easier it will be for you to take opponents down. The same goes for your striking by the way. The better your wrestling is, the easier it will be for you to land your shots.
Earning respect with your striking forces your opponent to worry about other things besides your wrestling. The more shots you land, the more the person standing across the cage from you is thinking about their striking defense instead of their takedown defense.
Good takedown defense also requires a low stance – which is not ideal for striking. Your opponent’s strikes become less fluid, and they are less likely to throw combinations as their mind focuses on stopping your takedowns.
2) Drill more often
Timing goes a long way when it comes to securing takedowns in MMA. Your opponent becomes less balanced when they throw a strike, especially if it’s a kick. They are also more vulnerable to being taken down after absorbing a huge strike.
Drilling your takedowns until they become muscle memory will allow you to take advantage of opportunities that arise during fights. It’s always better to drill with training partners with solid takedown defense so you can’t get away with bad technique and being lazy during your drills.
3) Expand your arsenal
Some of the more traditional wrestling takedowns like the single leg and the double leg takedown can be the hardest techniques to pull off in MMA if you don’t time things properly. That’s because these techniques have been used countless times, so most fighters have a basic idea of how to defend them.
However, lesser-known trips and throws can be easier to pull off since many non-wrestlers are not familiar with them. They might not even recognize what you’re trying to do until it’s too late. Former UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier used the fireman’s carry with a very high success rate multiple times in his career, while Khabib Nurmagomedov is known for his limitless inventory of unorthodox throws and trips.
4) Improve your stamina
Wrestling can be extremely tiring, and you going for takedowns repeatedly during a fight can end up wearing you down. Fortunately for you, defending against takedowns and trying to get back up can be even more tiring for your opponent.
Some of the most effective wrestlers in mixed martial arts are cardio machines. Their stamina allows them to chain takedowns until they get the fight where they want it to be. Cain Velazquez, in his prime, was a great example of this. He would take his opponents down so many times during his fights they would eventually break mentally. Velazquez used this strategy to avenge his loss to Junior dos Santos and reclaim the UFC’s heavyweight title. He did the same during their rubber match, successfully defending the title.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is another example of a wrestler who combines his takedowns with his insane cardio. Khabib is relentless from the moment one of his fights starts, and he never lets up. He’s constantly moving forward, going for a takedown, hitting his opponent on the ground, and forcing them to work.
Conor McGregor managed to neutralize Khabib’s grappling during their hyped UFC 229 showdown, and he even became the only man to win a round against Khabib. However, fatigue crept in during the fourth round of their encounter, and McGregor pretty much looked for a way out when he gave Khabib his neck. If you want to be an effective MMA wrestler, your cardio has to be top-notch.
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