Fighting a grappler 101: The Sherdogger's guide to keeping it on your feet

Discussion in 'Standup Technique' started by Matt Thornton, Jan 8, 2006.

  1. Matt Thornton

    Matt Thornton Amateur Fighter

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    I like making these "101" threads, because I can provide my limited knowledge, and leave the thread open to other people. If you all contribute, in the end, we have a big resource for the topic, and we all improve. So please, understand that I am not trying to claim I know it all. On the contrary, I started this thread partially because I want to learn other people's strategies for keeping the fight on the feet, in your range of combat. Please, if you have strategies or know anything on this topic, don't be shy to share what you know. It helps everyone.

    Alright, so, given my (soon to be) 3 years of wrestling, studying some fights, instructionals, reading books, and my own personal sparring experience, I'll give you guys what I know, or have learned, about keeping the fight on your feet.

    Please remember, in my post, the principles aren't universal. There are exceptions to all of these in MMA, which is why I called them "principles," not "rules." So please, no "Well I saw CroCop do that, so that's B.S." Guys like CroCop are exceptionally gifted at their game, and do not represent the majority of fighters or people who train. Our goal here is to provide a reference for the widest demograph that we can.

    PRINCIPLE #1: Face your opponent
    This is a little more obvious to anyone who has trained in wrestling, Muay Thai, Kyokushin karate, or K-1 style kickboxing. But for those of you who have more side-oriented boxing stances, who train in TKD, or other side-facing TMA's, listen up.

    This is important for both functional striking and for proper takedown defense. Your front toes must point towards your opponent. Where the back toes point, this is debatable. Some like their back toes pointing 90 degrees outwards, while those who are the parallel opposites (i.e. Bas Rutten) prefer to have the toes of their back feet pointing straight ahead. It's up to you. I settle for a median between the two. I like to have my back (right) foot pointing about 45 degrees to the right; slightly forwards, slightly sideways.

    In any case, you should be on your toes, facing your opponent. You shouldn't be really high up on your toes, but at the same time, you shouldn't be resting weight on the heels. I might get debated for this, but any wrestling coach will tell you to never let your heels touch the ground when you're standing. Staying on your toes allows you to move faster, prevents you from getting knocked backwards, and best enables you to sprawl quickly, stuffing a takedown.

    If your front foot is facing away from your opponent, you're going to run into trouble. A good kickboxer will begin hacking away at the back of your leg, and you'll be unable to defend the kick. He also might throw a kick to your body or head on that side, because you'll be unable to defend it. The reason Thai fighters rarely use any kick besides the round or push kick is because any other kick temporarily renders them facing away from their opponent. When kicks are allowed, you need to at least have your front toes pointing down your opponent's centerline.

    A good wrestler will shoot in for your legs. If you're facing sideways, you're no longer able to use your hips and hands to stop a shot. Many wrestling techniques such as arm drags are used to create the same angle that you're giving him by facing sideways.

    EXCEPTIONS
    Genki Sudo. He likes to use a sideways stance sometimes. Of course, the entire idea of this is to throw his opponent off. It's so strange to whoever is fighting him, because for a good MMA fighter, facing your opponent is a rule. Genki makes it work for him, but remember that the idea is confusion and trickery, because it's technically incorrect to have a stance like his in MMA.

    PRINCIPLE #2: Be conservative

    A perfect strike will close off almost all of your opponent's options for a counterstrike. This is the idea of striking arts. The jab is used so much in boxing because it does not require committment, hence, counterpunching cannot be used against it, for the most part.

    However, what striking arts never train for is a wrestler. A perfectly executed punch may leave you safe from strikes, but can leave you open for a takedown.

    What I've learned from Renzo Gracie's book, Mastering Jujitsu is that you cannot throw long, complicated combinations in MMA. One of the most common ways to counter a flurry, or a long combination, is to clinch. In boxing, you don't have to worry much about this, because the worst case scenario is the ref breaks you up and you work to hit your opponent again. In MMA, though, the fight doesn't stop in the clinch, and you can very well be taken down, or dominated by a better clincher. You should still throw combinations, but train to be more of a power and speed oriented striker rather than one who prefers to flurry with lots of punches to score points.

    Now, if you've created a perfect opening, this can be a different story. If your opponent is absolutely rocked by one of your short combinations, you can follow up with more strikes to finish him off.

    Remember that all systems of grappling train to take down a standing opponent. That's why grapplers often beat pure strikers, because grapplers still know what to do on their feet. Pure strikers only train to fight as long as the opponent also stays standing. So don't be so eager to give them the openings that they train to go for.

    Short, powerful, effective combinations are the best bet for MMA striking. Focus more on being effective rather than being flashy.

    EXCEPTIONS
    None that I really know of. Vitor Belfort effectively used a straight blast, but remember, it's because he set it up. The straight blast is only effective when your opponent is already disoriented and can't think quick enough to either shoot low or circle away.

    PRINCIPLE #3: Be careful with your kicks
    Almost a subtopic of #2. But I felt that kicking needed its own section.

    Kicking was once frowned upon in earlier MMA fights. It was viewed as ineffective. Nowadays, obviously, it's a vital part of the sport; you need to learn it so you can at least defend against it.

    Against a really good wrestler, you need to be conservative with your kicks, unless you're a great guard fighter, but remember that we're focusing on strategies to keep it on your feet.

    A wrestler is going to look to either jam your kicks or catch them and take you down. Either one is going to take you off balance, and that's no good if you want to stay standing. Some people like to throw lots of leg kicks, thinking that this leaves them safe, but MMA is evolving, and even leg kicks can be safely caught. Study some San Shou, and you'll know what I mean.

    One great thing I learned from Rodney King's Street Boxing DVDs is the best 3 times to throw a kick:

    1) After a punch setup.
    2) When your opponent is hurt or covering up.
    3) When your opponent is backing up.

    If you throw a hand combination, you'll at least distract him by getting his hands high and forcing him to defend. That's the time to throw a good low kick.

    If your punches connect and hurt him, or if he's shelling up, it's also a good time to throw a low kick, because his mind is on defending, and he's not in a great position to stop your kick.

    When your opponent is backing up, he cannot fight or defend effectively. If he backs up, (which can happen if you're a better striker and he backs away too much), he may be out of range for you to punch him, but you can kick him, and he really can't defend.

    Rodney didn't list this, but I feel the best rule is to kick when you have a superior angle or position on your opponent. For example, if you slide your leg back to let his low kick miss, and he doesn't recover immediately, you can punish his kicking leg when it hits the ground. If you sidestep a punch and pivot step, so that you're perpendicular to your opponent, it's a good time to throw a hard kick. If he throws a higher kick, or picks his leg up really high to check kicks, he's not in a very stable position, and you can undercut his supporting leg. Finally, to my knowledge, kicks are great immediately after a scramble. He shoots, you sprawl, there's a scramble, and right when you get away, he's momentarily out of position. Then you kick.

    Watch Andrei Arlovski fight. He's an excellent striker who knows how to keep it on his feet. He throws kicks, but the majority of them are inside leg kicks. They may not be super powerful, but they distract the opponent, they can't be countered with a takedown (that I know of), and they eventually take their toll on the leg and slow the opponent down. He can still throw harder kicks, but he's really conservative with them, and as a result, it's a VERY rare thing to see Andrei Arlovski taken down, even by Vladdy, who's a champion wrestler.

    EXCEPTIONS: Cro Cop, obviously. However, he does set up his shots. Plus, the head kick is not as easily countered by a takedown as the body kick. He may throw lots of kicks, but also remember that he throws some of the hardest kicks in the business, and so people are more concerned with avoiding those kicks than catching them and paying the price. It's been argued that Coleman couldn't take him down because he was worried about getting hit with those hard shots.

    Watch a San Shou match and see how easily some of these guys catch kicks at all levels. It's only a matter of time before this science becomes even more present in MMA.


    PRINCIPLE #4: Learn how to apply grappling and wrestling
    It goes without saying that effective strikers in MMA are also good wrestlers and grapplers.

    First things first, let's focus on takedowns and the clinch. Learn how to fight in the clinch. The guys at Chute Boxe (who I'll be constantly using as examples, because they're awesome at applying striking to MMA) spend extra time on clinching at the end of every session. It obviously pays off. If you get good at this, then when a fighter tries to negate your strikes by clinching, you can either break away and bring the fight back to the free-movement range, or you can outwrestle him, stopping all his takedown defenses and defeating him with knees and dirty boxing. Good clinch fighters dictate where the fight goes.

    Before you learn how to stop takedowns from the free-movement and clinch ranges, learn how the takedowns work, and their setups. When you understand the mechanics of an attack, in any form of combat, you have a better chance of defending that attack. Learn how and when a wrestler sets up his takedowns, and have it on your mind when you're open for that takedown. Learn all the possible ways a grappler might finish a double leg takedown, and stuff all those attempts.

    Once you've learned takedowns, then you should start learning takedown defenses. There are WAY more counters to leg attacks than a simple sprawl. I'll list some soon. Drill these into your head, and obviously, spar constantly with takedowns and takedown defenses.

    If your defensive attempt fails, you need to be ready for the battle on the ground. Obviously, master escapes from dominant positions like the sidemount or mount, and get used to fighting from your guard.

    If you get to the ground, but you want to strike, I think your first concern should be getting to your guard, and then standing up. Learn submission defenses, but your concern should be getting back to your feet.

    If your opponent starts posturing up or tries to hit you from high up in your guard, kick him away, being careful of leglocks, and stand up.

    If your opponent tries to pin you down in your guard, stopping you from making distance, do this. (The guys at Chute Boxe have mastered this stand up). Sit up in the same position you'd be in for a kimura sweep (hand posted behind you, hips scooted out to the side), but use your free hand to post on his head. Keep pushing down on his head as you stand up. He cannot hold you down. He can't even take you back down as long as you stand up fast enough, because you're pushing his head away. Master this stand-up. It works awesome once you have it down.

    Exceptions:
    None. There is no good MMA fighter out there without some sort of a wrestling and ground game. It is possible to knock out a wrestler or grappler, but you won't last long in the MMA circuit before you eventually get taken down and beaten.


    PRINCIPLES TO DEFENDING A TAKEDOWN

    Control the head. If you've ever wrestled, you know that you need to keep your head up. When your head and chin point down, you're susceptible to being flattened out by a sprawl, getting quarter nelsoned, etc. If you stuff a wrestler's head down when he shoots in, it increases your chances of staying on your feet a lot.

    The sprawl. The striker's best friend, next to his strikes, of course. He shoots in for your leg(s), and you shoot your feet back. There are several key points to the sprawl:

    -Use your hands and arms in tandem with the sprawl to fight his upper body.
    -Arch your back and shove your hips down as hard as you possibly can. The greater the arch, the better.
    -Stay on the tops of your feet, not your toes. If he pushes you when your shoelaces (or tops of your feet) are touching the mat, you'll simply slide back, whereas if you're on the balls of your feet, his forward motion will stand you up and drive you onto your back.
    -Stay off of your knees at all costs.
    -If you can sprawl away at an angle, do it.
    -Do not lock your hands around his waist.

    [​IMG]

    The best example I could find. He's arching as hard as possible, while keeping hip pressure on the opponent's head. If you can arch harder, do it.

    The front quarter nelson An awesome attack to use in combination with a sprawl. Your sprawl doesn't need to be as hard and perfect to execute this. He shoots, you sprawl back. From this position, push down on his head with one hand. With the other hand, overhook the arm closest to your free hand, and slide your arm through so that you grab the wrist of your posting hand with your overhooking hand.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    You can execute a turnover from here, or you can simply use it to break his grip and take him out of position before you break away.

    The Whizzer Use mainly against an opponent who reaches too wide on his takedown attempts. Overhook one of his arms as deeply as possible, and shove your overhooking shoulder into his overhooked upper arm/shoulder. You can use this to throw him to the ground, where you can choose to follow him or not. There are also throws off of a whizzer grip, but the whizzer itself can be used to redirect him, sending him crashing to the mat.

    [​IMG]

    The top man has a whizzer grip.


    That's it for now. I have more, but I spent almost an hour making this damn thread. I gotta go eat and study for a history test that I have 1st period tomorrow morning. Feel free to comment, add, and/or correct.
     
  2. Matt Thornton

    Matt Thornton Amateur Fighter

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    Mods, I'd really love it if this thread could be made into a sticky. I think it'd be a good idea to have a readily-available guide for strikers who are frustrated in their transition to MMA. I also want to keep this thread going as the sport grows, especially now that we're beginning to see the rise of the striker's role in MMA, and so we can discuss and share different strategies and techniques used by strikes in Mixed Martial Arts, without having to start new threads.
     
  3. Morgano

    Morgano Orange Belt

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    Looks pretty comprehensive to me....great job
     
  4. delfiend

    delfiend Orange Belt

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    Nice thread, good info
     
  5. Sinister

    Sinister Doctor of Doom Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    This thread can be added to a sticky. Sure. And I'll add my feedback later.
     
  6. Soulfly

    Soulfly Guest

    Wow, nice job.
     
  7. blanko

    blanko Guest

    my first advice would be:
    Don't confuse Chuck Lidell, Vitor, Gomi, Mach as "strickers". Meaning they were grapplers (wrestlers, bjj fighters first) before becoming "hitters". They can afford to be taken down because they have no qualms about fighting on the ground/getting back up. Look at Bas, M.Smith, Bang, CC, or Hunt as the "blueprint" for a striker making it to mma.
     
  8. True2KungFu

    True2KungFu King Of No Pants

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    nice, dont forget knees to the face as the shot comes or after the sprawl ala mark kerr :)
     
  9. aaron_mag

    aaron_mag Purple Belt

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    Very good!

    I've never done full MMA so I'm certainly not an expert. But your observations are very similar to mine. I love, for example, complex kicking combos. I love to jab with my hands. But I also noted that the power shot seems to be the norm in MMA. A non power shot seems to be inviting the clinch.

    And I think you are right about Cro Cop. The reason that he gets away with so many kicks is because those are knock out shots (except to Hunt, of course ;) ). So people don't risk trying to catch those. They run the heck out of there.

    Also. A comment on Genki. He uses the sideways stance. But he is also a ground wizard. Plus the dude is faster than anything. Have you seen how fast he regains his feet? It is like lightning (totally got cheated in his last match, btw).

    Oh yes. I'd also say that the time to kick is when your opponent is moving backwards. Very difficult for them to reverse direction and shoot when they are moving backwards. That seems to be the time when Cro Cop gets knockouts (when they start backing away from him).

    People seem to be reading that in him too. He needs to change is game a little.
     
  10. farmboy

    farmboy Banned Banned

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    I must admit that this thread is very well put together. I think I'm going to have to get a binder and go through the stickies, printing out and collecting what I need. I can't sit and read all of these on the computer! And, I look forward to Kabuki's additions, too.
     
  11. phenomfan1529

    phenomfan1529 Brown Belt

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    great stuff iceman
     
  12. USAMMAFAN

    USAMMAFAN Proud member of the "Reality based community"

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    good stuff, i enjoyed the read
     
  13. falloutvomb

    falloutvomb Yellow Belt

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    ive done mma/kickboxing for a while now and anyone i spar with will tell you my kicks are my greatest asset, one thing id like to add is when to launch a stray kick, im talking like crocop style, one kick that is fast and hard and has a good aim,

    aim for an uncovered area, look at the way they are standing and holding there hands
    and this it the step that takes art
    watch their weight placment between there legs, one cannot shoot in if one is switching weight from one leg to another.
    agian im going to use cc as an example: when someone runs at him fists blazing he moves side ways or runs backwards.
    that turn or stop they make is when you have to land, its hard at first but after a while someone who is lesser at kicks will get caught agian and agian and agian and people get very frusterated when there legs hurt and when they cant stop somthing from happening

    advancement
    once you get that you can start to time when they are pretty much standing still, when they switch legs or they rock forward or backward you have time to generate anough force to stop someone in there track and hopefully do some damage, when used properly

    sry i dont know more but im learning my self, i like constructive feedback and will be happy to answer any questions
     
  14. Fist of Asia

    Fist of Asia White Belt

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    Fantastic! Thanks for an informative read bud
     
  15. Marvin Covar

    Marvin Covar Amateur Fighter

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    great thread! thanks for the info!
     
  16. scorcho

    scorcho Brown Belt

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    Very nice. thanks.
     
  17. Matt Thornton

    Matt Thornton Amateur Fighter

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    Thanks for all the positive feedback, guys. Expect another addition to the thread sometime this week.
     
  18. Michael Wanaka

    Michael Wanaka Amateur Fighter

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    ttt sticky this
     
  19. Sinister

    Sinister Doctor of Doom Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    It's already in a Sticky.
     
  20. Shooto Panama

    Shooto Panama Gold Belt

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    Sorry to step in but I noticed the thread is not sticky. It should be now.
     

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