Just like every other facet of MMA, the takedown game continues to evolve as fighters look to gain the upper hand in the technique department. Still, there are staples that just about every competitor comes back to in a pinch. These are the top four most useful takedowns in MMA.
1) The Double Leg:
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The double leg is the most basic takedown and the first move you learn in wrestling. It’s simple, efficient, and effective. It’s more useful in the cage than in a ring, because you can push your opponent up against the fence and really get in deep on his hips before you pick him up and dump him on his back.
Another important fact about the double leg is that it can easily be taught to strikers who have relatively little grappling experience. However, perhaps due to its simplicity, performing the double leg brings certain risks with it in a mixed martial arts fight, especially the risk of receiving a knee or upper-cut to the face. Since you’re going straight in, if you don’t set it up properly, it can be easily predictable, and an experienced fighter will make you pay for it. The best takedown practitioners avoid this with an effective setup. Watch GSP shoot his double legs; he waits for his opponent to throw a flurry of punches and then explodes right under them. He doesn’t even hit a knee to the floor; he just attacks at hip-level and grabs the legs.
Another effective way to utilize the double leg is to shoot from the clinch, or set it up with some punches. Randy Couture does a beautiful job at shooting from the clinch and using the duck-under technique to slip through his opponent’s defenses to get straight to their legs. Tito Ortiz has also displayed a very quick double leg which he usually shoots fairly low, often dropping a knee to the ground. Although he shoots from far out, he times his shot based on his opponent’s footwork, so he tends to avoid being countered.
Another danger of shooting the double leg is the guillotine choke. How do you avoid that? Keep your chin tucked in and fight the hands before it’s too late.
Tips: try to avoid hitting both knees to the ground, unless you’re in really deep, or your name is Randy Couture.
2) The Body Lock:
There are many different variations of the body lock, but my favorite is adding an outside leg trip to this one. Just watch any of Dan Henderson’s fights, and you’ll see him do this move over and over again. Henderson likes to set up his body-lock-trip after throwing his trademark overhand right. He usually leans so far into his favorite punch that he does a slight level change and steps right into it. So if he hits you, he hurts you. If he misses, he still gets close enough to you to secure a body lock and get the takedown.
Another effective way to use this technique is to push your opponent against the cage where he has no space to outmaneuver you. You can also try to pummel your way into a body lock from the Greco-Roman clinch, but this takes more energy and can be very exhausting.
Risks: Be ready to take knees to the midsection and possibly an elbow strike to the face. What you should worry about the most is the double over-hook suplex. If you’re fighting an opponent who is a better wrestler than you and has very explosive hips, watch out for the suplex, especially if he locks both of your arms with double over-hooks. The counter: sag your hips and hope for the best.
3) The Single Leg:
The single leg is the highest percentage take down in collegiate wrestling. This is a must-know move for all wrestlers. One of the major benefits of the single leg over the double leg in a mixed martial arts fight is that you typically shoot it with your head on the inside. Therefore, you’re less vulnerable to falling victim to the guillotine choke. There are many different variations to a single leg, and there are many fighters who use them. But there’s no fighter who executed it more brilliantly than Kazushi Sakuraba. Sakuraba’s variation of the single leg was what we call a sweep single.
He did an outside pivot when he’d shoot in order to take the weight off of his opponents sprawl. This allowed him get takedowns on people who were much heavier and stronger than him. If you’re fighting up a weight class, the single leg should be your go-to takedown. He also performed a brilliantly timed low single, like when he fought Wanderlei Silva for the second time; he caught his leg kicks with impeccable timing (unfortunately he still lost the fight). I could try to describe Sakuraba’s single leg in the most crystal clear details, but it wouldn’t do it any justice. It’s better to just YouTube it and see it for yourself.
4) The Suplex:
I know what you’re thinking, this isn’t professional wrestling, it’s MMA. Contrary to popular belief, the suplex is a real wrestling move, and it can be done in a variety of ways: from the Greco-Roman clinch, or by getting behind your opponent. My personal favorite is from getting double over-hooks in the Greco-Roman clinch. Once you have those over-hooks firmly locked in, your opponent can’t do much to stop you except to try to sag his hips. Anyone who’s seen Jon “Bones” Jones fight has probably seen him do a variety of suplexes and lateral throws. He makes it look easy because he’s so athletic and explosive. But these moves should definitely be practiced a lot before you try them in an actual fight. If you do a suplex poorly, you could just end up with a mean ground-and-pounder sitting on top of you in his favorite position.