As mixed martial arts continues to make it’s way into the realm of mainstream sports, the level of competition is growing with it. The many facets of the fight game continue to evolve and get more competitive as distinguished athletes from their respective disciplines transition to MMA. The most improved upon facet, without a doubt, is the wrestling game. With most of the best wrestlers in MMA coming out of the United States, more fighters are improving their takedowns and takedown defense. This has far-reaching effects on the sport.
There was once a time when fighters like Tito Ortiz could easily double leg their way to a seemingly endless streak of victories inside the cage. In 2014, those days are long gone. What began with Chuck Liddell and Mirko Cro Cop is now a normal trend among many mixed martial artists–fighters are learning how to sprawl.
As more MMA gyms continue to add high-level wrestlers to their gyms, fighters are improving their sprawls and shot defense. As a result, takedowns like double legs and single legs are becoming more difficult to perform. Additionally, fighters are learning to use the cage to defend takedowns and get back to their feet. This is forcing many grapplers to search for new ways to get their opponents to the ground.
Many times after a failed double-leg attempt, the fight will end up in the clinch. To clarify, “clinch” in this article refers to the Greco-Roman clinch, not the Muay Thai clinch.
The Greco-Roman clinch usually consists of each contestant having an underhook with one arm and an overhook with other. For the Muay Thai clinch, one fighter gains control over his/her opponent by clasping their hands around the opponent’s neck. As Anderson Silva demonstrated against Rich Franklin, the Thai Clinch is very effective for utilizing knee strikes against a trapped opponent.
Often times, when a fighter shoots in for a takedown and his/her opponent successfully defends it via sprawling, the fight will end up in the clinch. Here, neither fighter has a definitive advantage over the other. Even so, a takedown from this position is far from impossible with proper technique.
Here are three very effective takedowns from the clinch that every fighter should practice:
1) Lateral Throw
The lateral throw (or lateral drop) is a wrestling maneuver in which an opponent’s own weight and momentum is used against him.
Step 1: A lateral throw is performed in the over-under clinch position. Once you’ve secured your positioning in the clinch, begin by lightly pushing into your opponents chest.
Step 2: After you feel your opponent pushing back, quickly step to the side where you have an underhook. If your underhook is on your right side, step to the right.
Step 3: Next, while firmly clamping down on your overhook, shoot your hips closer to your opponent’s while turning your torso to your left. You’re left foot should also pivot so that it’s pointing outward.
Step 4: Drop to the side of your left hip while throwing your opponent over your left side and roll over on top of him. It’s very important to hold onto your grip while doing this.
Tip: This is an explosive technique. It’s not meant to be done slowly, you should use all of your force and speed when doing this or your opponent will end up on top of you.
2) Outside Trip
The outside trip is a very simple takedown best done from a body lock. Once you have a body lock with both hands firmly gripped around your opponent’s waist, try to change levels so you’re slightly lower than your opponent and dig your shoulder just under his chest. Next, push forward and snake your leg around his while sagging your hips to that side. While doing this move, it’s very important to squeeze your opponent’s back as hard as you can to apply the most pressure on him as possible.
3) Knee Tap Takedown
The knee tap is done from the over-under clinch position. This technique has many steps that must all occur at the same time.
Assuming you have an underhook on the right side and an overhook on the left, begin by circling to your right side to force your opponent to step forward with his right leg. Once he’s brought his right leg forward, step in with your right leg 45 degrees across in front of his body. This step is crucial, if done incorrectly, it will ruin the rest of the move.
While stepping in front of your opponent, shot put your right arm in the same direction parallel to your 45-degree step. Your left hand should reach down and lightly grab his right knee.
Tip: You should be driving forward off your legs as hard as you can while doing this move. It seems like an upper body move with the shot put arm and the grabbing of the knee, but almost all of the power is generated through your legs. It’s also important to get the angle correct. It must be 45 degrees in front of his body. The move will be less effective without moving in the proper angle and direction.