It doesn't have to be like this. Image courtesy of MMA Weekly
(Apologies but I'm having a lot of trouble embedding some videos)
This is the second post in the series I've dubbed "Technical Wrestling". The first post focused on Matt Hughes use of the arm-in front headlock used to choke out Ricardo Almeida and formed the basis of KidNate's Bloody Elbow Judo Chop.
Dan Hardy has recently made blog headlines for his criticism of wrestling in MMA where he feels it's being used to stall fights and eek out decisions, and the case in point was Hardy's training partner Andrew Winner being pressed up against the cage (and not much else) by Nick Lentz continuing a trend that is becoming known as Wall'n'Stall.
Whether Hardy makes any valid points (he does) or is trying to divert attention away from the holes in Team Rough House's training (he is) one thing remains the same: The Athletic Commissions don't care what you think. There is going to be no significant change to the regulation, rules and officiating of MMA until retired MMA fighters end up working for and heading the commissions. Until we see someone like Randy Couture or Chuck Liddell as the chief commissioners for NSAC, CSAC and NJSACB for regulating MMA, fighters need to focus their time on working with the current system - as flawed as it is.
So here's a crash course in Cage Tactics, for both fighters looking to get a takedown and fighters trying to get off the cage wall.It really surprises me that out of all the instructional DVD's out there - from wrestling to BJJ to Boxing and Kickboxing, even ones with a focus on MMA - there's nothing specifically dedicated to fighting off the cage wall. There's a small section in George St. Pierre's DVD instructional released a few years ago (which I'll reference here) but that's pretty much it. Definitely a gap in the market that should be taken advantage of by a company like Ground Fighter or Victory Belt.
Razor Rob McCullough speaks from the viewpoint of a fighter whose strength is striking (as is the case with Dan Hardy, Andre Winner, Paul Daley etc) and introduces us to the notion that the cage wall can be a great friend or a great enemy. This is from when both fighters are in a clinch and trying to pummel for an advantage.
Up next Todd Medina shows a defence for when a fighter is trying to take you down with a double-leg attempt and the importance of shifting your hips. You have to shift your hips before you can do anything else. Now, I can't stress how under-utilised the cross-face is in MMA. Your head dictates where your body goes in almost every situation from takedowns to slipping punches and doing roundhouse kicks. The simple concept of putting the head out of natural alignment with the body (where you're at your strongest) makes all the difference. If you try continuing in the original direction while being cross-faced you're essentially neck cranking yourself.
Medina also shows a re-counter to secure a takedown. Note he is not perpendicular with the cage as a lot of wrestlers are when trying a takedown. He's now parallel with the cage and is collapsing his opponent's base. The cage wall is a barrier so it makes sense to take down along the cage and not against it (unless you use the cage bounce, but more on that later).
Now, what happens if you're not quick enough to shift your hips and get a cross-face? If a wrestlers shoots in fast you can be pressed up against the fence hard and your hips are square. The next thing you know you could be going for a ride. Here's Yves Edwards and Cole Miller demonstrating what you need to do.
Sometimes in MMA a guy who isn't a wrestler may try to take you down against the cage, and he may make a mistake by transitioning from a Double-Leg to a Single-Leg on the wrong side. A wrestler worth his salt won't do this, but you might be surprised to see this mistake happen even in the UFC. If they do go for the wrong leg, you can make them pay with this Catch Wrestling style neck crank.
Here we have Randy Couture and his infamous 'Cage Bounce' Double Leg takedown. Randy uses the cage to ricochet his opponent back on to him so he can load up and potentially carry the opponent across the ring for a crowd pleasing slam.
When the 'Cage Bounce' doesn't work and your momentum is lost there's no point trying to continue forward into a wall. It's just a barrier at this point. When that happens, it's worth trying the 'Pull Back' double-leg sweep as featured in this video with Chuck Liddell.
Sometimes the 'Pull Back' wont work especially if the opponent has shifted his hips. If that's the case you should transition to a Single-Leg takedown attempt or go back to a clinch against the fence.
Here George St.Pierre demonstrates his takedowns off the cage starting from an over-under clinch position before trying the Single-Leg takedown. The video is in 2 parts, and the sound is a bit out of sync but apart from that it's worth watching one of the best takedown wrestlers in MMA.
Hopefully this provides a little insight into the cage tactics for defending and scoring takedowns off the cage wall in MMA, and shows there are options during stalemates against the fence.
Thanks for reading and watching.