Your complete guide to underhooks

the combat analyst

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Underhooks


Utilizing underhooks is one of my personal favorite ways to attack takedowns. Not only are there many attacks from underhooks but many of the attacks are not risky to go for. Another reason I love utilizing underhooks is because many of the attacks from an underhook are easy to chain together.

In terms of using them in submission grappling and jiu jitsu many of the attacks from an underhook offer minimal back exposure making the user less likely to get caught in a back take.

The main disadvantage with underhooks however is when one struggles to get to an underhook a huge part of their offense is stifled, making getting to an underhook an essential art to understand.


I've made an entire YouTube playlist breaking down underhooks so let's take a look at the various parts of an underhook.



Fundamentals

Let's start with the fundamentals of an underhook explained in this video by chael sonnen



I would talk more about the fundamentals of an underhook but this video covers it greatly.

Entries

The next part I want to get into is getting to an underhook.

Getting to an underhook is an essential thing to master when one plans on utilizing an underhook. There are many ways to get to an underhook but here are some videos explaining how to get to one.







These are just a couple of ways of getting to an underhook. But regardless of what entry you use to get to an underhook the key element is about getting past your opponents guarding arm. Your opponent's guarding arm is on the same side as the one you want to get your underhook on. A general rule for hand fighting in general is that you want to get past your opponents elbows before you begin your real attack. And this rule not only applies to underhooks but also arms drags the Russian two on one and other offensive hand fighting positions.

Getting past your opponent's elbow should be your second goal with hand fighting; your first should be to establish feints, collar tie snaps, and other offensive actions to disrupt your opponent. Once you use those tools you can transition to your tie up position such as an underhook.

Attacks from an underhook

In this section I want to go over four main attacks from an underhook, the punch single leg, ankle pick or knee pick, the high crotch or high c, and the hip toss

However before you attack one of the first maneuvers you want to use when attacking with an underhook is called a throw by. A throw by is basically suddenly elevating your underhook throwing it in the air. What this does is it prevents your opponent from tightening up their overhook if you go to attack. Clearing a direct path for your own attack

Here are some raw footage examples of wrestlers utilizing a throw by from an underhook to get to different attacks.



But now let's get into the specific attack options you have from an underhook.

The first attack I want to go over is the punch single leg explained in this video below.



This attack from an underhook is one of the most fundamental and basic attacks from an underhook. As seen in the video it revolves around utilizing a throw by and stepping behind the opponent to create a clear path to your opponents legs from your underhook on the same side.

Here's another video explaining the same technique



The next attack from an underhook is an ankle pick or knee pick. As seen below.



This attack revolves around pressuring your opponent with your underhook by pushing it towards the leg you are attacking and pulling their ankle or knee towards you, removing their posting leg. This attack can be done from collar tie as well but it also offers little to no back exposure specifically when attacking with a knee pick.

Here are two clips of grappler Gordon Ryan utilizing the knee pick.



In both examples with Gordon Ryan he obtains an underhook with his right arm before attacking his opponent's opposite side leg at the knee.

Now a key difference to note between an ankle pick and a knee pick is the amount of back exposure that can potentially happen when going for an ankle pick. In general a rule to follow is that an ankle pick will potentially expose your back more than a knee pick making the knee pick generally a safer option.

This next attack from an underhook is what's called a high crotch or high c, seen in the vid below.

https://youtu.be/1NANkR91Mp0?si=aQhmiHJzXIVDK6v-

As demonstrated in the video the guy doing the high crotch will first use their underhook to pressure and push their opponent. And because your opponent doesn't want you to push them to set up an attack they will likely push back at you. However this technique relies on that very action from them by using the momentum of them pushing back at you. you can use the momentum of them pushing back at you to allow them to fall right into your high crotch. And this is a concept used all the time in wrestling that I will probably cover in a future breakdown.

The next example of an attack from an underhook is the hip toss as seen in this video with Henry cejudo.

https://youtu.be/HmojkDqXIK4?si=F6ZHS2CnXbA8qSiC

There are many attacks from an underhook but the hip toss is probably the most high risk out of all of them. The reason is that not only do throws inherently require much commitment to be successful but in many cases if a throw fails to takedown your opponent it will be hard to recover or chain the failed throw into a different attack. But however the underhook plays a distinct role in this throw.

By using your underhook to elevate and throw your opponent it makes it much harder for them to lock their hands and counter your throw with a bodylock.

The key element with all of these techniques is that as long you maintain your underhook you can chain these attacks together seamlessly. Meaning if you try one attack and it fails as long your underhook is maintained you can seamlessly transition to another attack immediately after the first one fails.

Other attacks

Now I want to get into some other attacks from an underhook. The first subject I want to cover in the other attacks from an underhook is the pinch headlock. The pinch headlock is a position that requires you to have an underhook on one side. This position can be easily obtained from an underhook and can be utilized as options to attack from an underhook. The pinch headlock can also be used to make your underhook more secure and stable. So here is a video talking about using the pinch headlock to set up a duck under.

https://youtu.be/poDBw78dnAU?si=lVi6oPSoejKBX0RR

The next attack from a pinch headlock is what is right now my personal favorite setup to a throw. And here is the video where I originally learned this technique.

https://youtu.be/0MRi94zwJq8?si=ZydZq-CDvcu-mbLm

The reason this technique in particular is right now my favorite setup to a throw is because many times when you end up trying to setup a throw if the throw fails you do not have any follow up attacks to go for, however this technique completely solves that issue.

You first attempt one kind of throw by elevating your underhook and if that throw fails you can actually use your opponent's defense against the first throw to help set up a second throw, using your higher arm to go for what I call a headlock throw.

Moving on from the pinch headlock this next attack shown by tito ortiz is really a simple one shown in this video below.

https://youtu.be/Yvum9Lvsy-0?si=5n6MHGRQxOUE7kIG

While this video is mainly about using an underhook and collar tie to obtain a front headlock the main thing to take away from this video is the beginning where tito explains how each technique is used to set up another attack. If he puts his opponent into a pinch headlock and his opponent pulls away he will attack with a knee pick. If his opponent knows he is going for a knee pick he will attack a single leg on the same side as his underhook. And if his opponent knows he is attacking a same side single leg then he will pull his opponent into a front headlock as shown in the video. Each attack can be easily chained together as I mentioned earlier. And when you are able to easily chain a failed attack into another attack your attacks will inherently become less risky to go for because you have a plan b already in place before your opponent goes to defend against your first attack.

The next option from an underhook is actually a variation of an arm drag shown by MMA legend Dan Henderson in this video below.

https://youtu.be/1d_Aujmva_4?si=P_5b0vUK6lnTV_E1

While this technique isn't a takedown it serves as a good alternative attack from an underhook that you can use to chain together with a different attack.

The next attack I want to get into is actually a move commonly used in the art of judo.

This attack is known as an uchi mata, and as shown in the video below it not only serves as a common throw in judo but also as a core position to set up a number of different moves.

https://youtu.be/DJ6Rs3Snjj4?si=fAubq4UMShMFoAMU

This video goes into not only the uchi mata throw itself but also the other offensive actions you have from the uchi mata position.

The uchi mata is basically a variation of a hip toss, but rather than using your hips as a wall for your opponent to roll over you use your leg on the same side as your underhook.

Although the uchi mata itself is a throw it can also be used as a position to set up other techniques which transitions to the next technique I want to show.

This next technique was shown in the previous video but this next video made by YouTuber Ramsey Dewey goes more in depth in the technique.

https://youtu.be/8BjdzYSCgl0?si=QFC74TtPI1erkZ9Z

This technique is about using an ankle pick or knee pick as an alternative finish to the uchi mata. You use your leg on the same side as your underhook to not only go for the uchi mata throw but to also alternatively clear a path to your opponent's opposite leg making way for your ankle pick or knee pick. Now in my opinion this technique works better with an ankle pick because an ankle pick requires less pressure from you in order to finish. There are two types of takedown finishes in grappling: running finishes and quick finishes. Running finishes are where you use your forward momentum to run your opponent into the ground, such as running the pipe, driving into a high crotch or running into your opponent with a knee pick. Quick finishes are where the takedown itself quickly takes your opponent to the mat giving little opportunities to counter or scramble, a perfect example of this would be a blast double leg, a quick mat return or a definitive throw.

Now in the case of this uchi mata set up to an ankle pick you want to use the ankle pick to score a quick finish because it is much harder to maintain consistent forwards pressure for a knee pick when you have one leg In the air for the uchi mata.
 
Underhooks
Underhooks and striking

The next subject I want to get into is about underhooks and striking. In this part I want to get into how you can use underhooks to not only set up and amplify strikes but also use strikes to set up other techniques.

As seen in the video below with Tito Ortiz you can use an underhook on one side to control the opponent while using a frame with your other arm to create space for a strike.



In the video you can see how this position can be used to set up a variety of different strikes. The key element however is that the underhook is used to maintain control over your opponent to keep them close, while your other arm is meant to create a controlled amount of space so you can generate power in your strikes and break your opponents posture making it harder to defend strikes.

The next video I want to show is actually a knockout in boxing.



In this ko the winning fighter obtains double underhooks in the clinch. The key details to notice about this ko is how the winning fighter elevates his right underhook and uses his feet to cut an angle to line up his left hand. And this gives his left hand a clear path to his opponent's body which he capitalizes on, taking out his opponent with a brutal body shot.

The next set up is about using strikes to actually set up a takedown from an underhook.



In that video with MMA fighter Matt brown you see brown has a deep underhook and uses his hands to break his opponents posture and create space for strikes. Now in this example brown will use his opponents defense against them in order to set up a single leg takedown.

The most common defense to knees in the clinch is to either block them or to move your body closer to the opponent to smother their strikes. The second defense is meant to smother the strikes giving them no space to generate power. However in this example Matt brown uses the smothering defense to his advantage allowing his opponent to close the distance putting them right in position for Matt browns single leg takedown.

Underhooks with gi and belt grips

This section is about how you can use certain grips with a gi or belt to enhance your underhook. A good saying I like when comparing gi and nogi grappling is that the gi will make you more sticky. The gi itself will actually strengthen your grips because you can not only obtain a certain tie up but the tie up has an extra level to it because the gi or belt can be grabbed and used to make your grip stronger and more stable.

A good example of this comes from the sport of sumo wrestling. Featured in this video is a small sumo wrestler named Enho Akira.



Enho is smaller than your average sumo wrestler but this video showcases how enho utilizes underhooks while grabbing his opponents belt with his underhooking arm to strengthen his grip and set up attacks.
I would break this down further but here is a video made by YouTuber Austin senn that actually goes more in depth to enho’s underhook attacks.



Underhooks on the ground

The next topic I want to get into when it comes to underhooks is how they are used when grappling on the ground.

The next two videos I want to reference are two videos that talk about how fighter derrick lewis has an ability to just seemingly stand up without any prominent technique involved.

In other words he just stands up as if his opponent isn't even trying.

However while it may seem like there isn't much technique involved with derrick lewis standing up he is actually just using a simple technique, a technique so simple it seems very hard to pull off on a high level opponent.





As seen in the two videos above derrick lewis is actually just using a very simple underhook escape to stand up from the ground.

This is a simple escape but the part that makes it more difficult to use is because when complete it generally puts you into what is called in BJJ the dog fight position. This position is basically a grounded contest between your underhook and your opponents overhook. There are many options for both sides in this position and when it is not understood it makes your underhook escape harder to go for because it puts you into a position where your opponent still has many opportunities for offense even though they have an overhook.

And this video goes in depth on how to use and understand the dog fight position.



Now the second video on derrick Lewis's underhook escapes is about an escape from side control. However this same escape can actually be used to set up a grounded single leg shown in the video below.



This move relies on using an underhook to elevate your opponent and create space for the grounded single leg. Once you obtain the single leg you can use it to transition right into a wrestling style breakdown. In the example from the video the guy doing the move does a simple far knee far ankle breakdown commonly seen in wrestling.

So overall underhooks are a great weapon to utilize that have many uses, set up many weapons and apply to many positions.

So what do you guys think of this breakdown?

Was it good? Did I miss anything? And what are some of your favorite ways of using underhooks?

Also I specifically didn't talk about the over under position because there is so much to go over from there, I think I want to make it a separate breakdown.

Also what kind of breakdowns do you guys want to see in the future from me?
 
I can see you have put a huge amount of work into this which is great

It's something that will be vital for me as someone who is relatively new to training MMA and grappling so I'm looking forward to checking this out properly soon and hopefully learning some good techniques
 
Don't miss out on the Younes Emami Underhook study by DPS breakdowns.
It's a whole system layed out on a flowchart. It's really good stuff.

I've been working on that for a while, but I don't have a wrestling base, so pretty much all those maneuvers, at least if you include the proper setup, are way to energy consuming for my taste.
I've gone over to work mainly on getting a russian tie and this is has become more of my wheelhouse now. Still nowhere near wrestling level standup, but the full length Beloglazov instructionals on YT are very helpful.
 
Sidakov and Yazdani probably have my favorite underhook systems in wrestling.
 
coincidentally i was checking out the DPS Emami underhook breakdown yesterday. I also purchased the Gabe Dean instructional featured in the opening post a few years back. I have some wrestling but alot more jiujitsu experience. Wrestling with the jiu jitsu guys is night and day. In my experience, the jiujitsu guys are mostly looking out for wrestling shots, but will let you do all the underhook entries in the OP for free all day. It's a game changer for me because with an underhook, you're relatively safe (in my experience) but there's a whole slew of attacks you can throw at the opponent.

thanks for the content

edit: in one of the DPS videos, he talks about hitting kouchi garis (footsweep) from an underhook. For me, it seems far out, but i'm going to look for it tonight in training
 
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coincidentally i was checking out the DPS Emami underhook breakdown yesterday. I also purchased the Gabe Dean instructional featured in the opening post a few years back. I have some wrestling but alot more jiujitsu experience. Wrestling with the jiu jitsu guys is night and day. In my experience, the jiujitsu guys are mostly looking out for wrestling shots, but will let you do all the underhook entries in the OP for free all day. It's a game changer for me because with an underhook, you're relatively safe (in my experience) but there's a whole slew of attacks you can throw at the opponent.

thanks for the content

edit: in one of the DPS videos, he talks about hitting kouchi garis (footsweep) from an underhook. For me, it seems far out, but i'm going to look for it tonight in training
Here's a video for you.
 
coincidentally i was checking out the DPS Emami underhook breakdown yesterday. I also purchased the Gabe Dean instructional featured in the opening post a few years back. I have some wrestling but alot more jiujitsu experience. Wrestling with the jiu jitsu guys is night and day. In my experience, the jiujitsu guys are mostly looking out for wrestling shots, but will let you do all the underhook entries in the OP for free all day. It's a game changer for me because with an underhook, you're relatively safe (in my experience) but there's a whole slew of attacks you can throw at the opponent.

thanks for the content

edit: in one of the DPS videos, he talks about hitting kouchi garis (footsweep) from an underhook. For me, it seems far out, but i'm going to look for it tonight in training

If they're anything like me (tall lazy heavyweight black belts with judo backgrounds), it's because they're baiting an overhook game.

Like I'll let you get pretty deep on a single leg if it gives me a chin strap grip and an overhook that I can connect into front headlock. I can counter throw off front headlock with one leg going into uke waza or sumi gaeshi.

I'll let you get side by side underhook to hit overhook uchi mata aka whizzer kick throw.

Sometimes it's bait.


This is a great little kneetap assist on the ko uchi gari, I've also been taught and used a similar nogi judo entry where we're a bit more aggressive with lifting the reaping leg on the ko uchi gari in order to feed it to your left hand as an ankle pick.

This combos well off the uchi mata, we enter uchi mata with our right leg, opponent backsteps with his left, we chain directly into a driving ko uchi gari on his planted right leg.
 
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Here's another neat attack from an underhook by one of the best to ever do it. Timestamped to the specific attack.

EDIT: Fixed it
 
Underhooks and striking

The next subject I want to get into is about underhooks and striking. In this part I want to get into how you can use underhooks to not only set up and amplify strikes but also use strikes to set up other techniques.

As seen in the video below with Tito Ortiz you can use an underhook on one side to control the opponent while using a frame with your other arm to create space for a strike.



In the video you can see how this position can be used to set up a variety of different strikes. The key element however is that the underhook is used to maintain control over your opponent to keep them close, while your other arm is meant to create a controlled amount of space so you can generate power in your strikes and break your opponents posture making it harder to defend strikes.

The next video I want to show is actually a knockout in boxing.



In this ko the winning fighter obtains double underhooks in the clinch. The key details to notice about this ko is how the winning fighter elevates his right underhook and uses his feet to cut an angle to line up his left hand. And this gives his left hand a clear path to his opponent's body which he capitalizes on, taking out his opponent with a brutal body shot.

The next set up is about using strikes to actually set up a takedown from an underhook.



In that video with MMA fighter Matt brown you see brown has a deep underhook and uses his hands to break his opponents posture and create space for strikes. Now in this example brown will use his opponents defense against them in order to set up a single leg takedown.

The most common defense to knees in the clinch is to either block them or to move your body closer to the opponent to smother their strikes. The second defense is meant to smother the strikes giving them no space to generate power. However in this example Matt brown uses the smothering defense to his advantage allowing his opponent to close the distance putting them right in position for Matt browns single leg takedown.

Underhooks with gi and belt grips

This section is about how you can use certain grips with a gi or belt to enhance your underhook. A good saying I like when comparing gi and nogi grappling is that the gi will make you more sticky. The gi itself will actually strengthen your grips because you can not only obtain a certain tie up but the tie up has an extra level to it because the gi or belt can be grabbed and used to make your grip stronger and more stable.

A good example of this comes from the sport of sumo wrestling. Featured in this video is a small sumo wrestler named Enho Akira.



Enho is smaller than your average sumo wrestler but this video showcases how enho utilizes underhooks while grabbing his opponents belt with his underhooking arm to strengthen his grip and set up attacks.
I would break this down further but here is a video made by YouTuber Austin senn that actually goes more in depth to enho’s underhook attacks.



Underhooks on the ground

The next topic I want to get into when it comes to underhooks is how they are used when grappling on the ground.

The next two videos I want to reference are two videos that talk about how fighter derrick lewis has an ability to just seemingly stand up without any prominent technique involved.

In other words he just stands up as if his opponent isn't even trying.

However while it may seem like there isn't much technique involved with derrick lewis standing up he is actually just using a simple technique, a technique so simple it seems very hard to pull off on a high level opponent.





As seen in the two videos above derrick lewis is actually just using a very simple underhook escape to stand up from the ground.

This is a simple escape but the part that makes it more difficult to use is because when complete it generally puts you into what is called in BJJ the dog fight position. This position is basically a grounded contest between your underhook and your opponents overhook. There are many options for both sides in this position and when it is not understood it makes your underhook escape harder to go for because it puts you into a position where your opponent still has many opportunities for offense even though they have an overhook.

And this video goes in depth on how to use and understand the dog fight position.



Now the second video on derrick Lewis's underhook escapes is about an escape from side control. However this same escape can actually be used to set up a grounded single leg shown in the video below.



This move relies on using an underhook to elevate your opponent and create space for the grounded single leg. Once you obtain the single leg you can use it to transition right into a wrestling style breakdown. In the example from the video the guy doing the move does a simple far knee far ankle breakdown commonly seen in wrestling.

So overall underhooks are a great weapon to utilize that have many uses, set up many weapons and apply to many positions.

So what do you guys think of this breakdown?

Was it good? Did I miss anything? And what are some of your favorite ways of using underhooks?

Also I specifically didn't talk about the over under position because there is so much to go over from there, I think I want to make it a separate breakdown.

Also what kind of breakdowns do you guys want to see in the future from me?

Nice collection and breakdown and I like how you have drawn on many different sources from wrestling to sumo.
 
edit: in one of the DPS videos, he talks about hitting kouchi garis (footsweep) from an underhook. For me, it seems far out, but i'm going to look for it tonight in training

That's one of my go to moves. I couldn't find any instruction on youtube for the version I was taught, but you kind of see Fedor do it at 3:26 of this video:



He's dropping onto his knee and using it as a trip as he drives forward, but the version I was taught is:

1. Insert your leg as Fedor does, dropping onto your knee.

2. You drop your underhook onto his leg so your elbow is preventing him from lifting it up.

3. Pivot your knee so your heel moves underneath you. This will bring his heel towards you and your thigh will force his knee outwards, collapsing him.

You can hit this all day long from underhooks.
 
That's one of my go to moves. I couldn't find any instruction on youtube for the version I was taught, but you kind of see Fedor do it at 3:26 of this video:



He's dropping onto his knee and using it as a trip as he drives forward, but the version I was taught is:

1. Insert your leg as Fedor does, dropping onto your knee.

2. You drop your underhook onto his leg so your elbow is preventing him from lifting it up.

3. Pivot your knee so your heel moves underneath you. This will bring his heel towards you and your thigh will force his knee outwards, collapsing him.

You can hit this all day long from underhooks.

That's an ouchi gari (not trying to initiate those judo-esque discussions, it's just to correct)
 
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