MMA 101: Looking into the wrestling aspect of MMA prior to the debut of UFC on FOX


In less than three days, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will introduce its product to a very large audience as UFC on FOX 1 will be the inaugural event held on the network television station.

The promotion and the FOX network recently announced their collaboration to give sports fans a dose of mixed martial arts (MMA) on one of the premier sports channels. UFC on FOX 1 will be headlined by a heavyweight title fight between the two top heavyweights in the world today, champion Cain Velasquez and number one contender/challenger Junior dos Santos.

As most fight fans already know the sport is made of thousands of fighters with different combinations of martial art backgrounds. But the one common theme seems to be that one single discipline reigns superior to all as the best true base with which to start. Even though we have already previewed the striking and grappling aspect of the sport, we have yet to really look into possibly the most important of them all.


Ever since the early days of the sport when Mark Coleman, Mark Kerr and Randy Couture helped introduce the wrestling discipline into the sport, competitors and champions alike have captured the effectiveness of wrestling. That can best be seen in UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre, UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and Saturday night’s headliner, UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez (See the fanpost about successful wrestling in MMA today).

A common theme amongst non-hardcore fans of the sport is that misunderstanding or lack of knowledge in the ground game. To help with that, I have dug into some of Saturday night’s competitors and their usage of wrestling.

For more on this, follow me into the extended entry:

Before the massive heavyweight tilt in the main event, the co-main event will feature a stifling, grinding wrestler. Clay Guida, a seasoned veteran of more than five years within the promotion, will look to make a case for his first-ever title shot in the Octagon. Currently on a four-fight win streak, most notably defeating Anthony Pettis, Guida is on a tear and at the peak of his game (For a breakdown on his fight with Pettis click here).

While not being extremely great at any one thing, Guida has made a career of turning fights ugly and frustrating opponents with his unrelenting style, unlimited gas tank and stifling top game. Guida has used the wrestling base to make a career for himself. 


How many possible ways is there to get your opponent to the ground? The answer is several. And this clip of Guida shows a few of them.

Wrestlers tend to rely on the "shoot" method of taking down an opponent and by that I am talking about shooting in on an opponents legs. Most often the takedowns are either a double- or single-leg takedown.

The single leg takedown is focused around grabbing the lead leg of an opponent. It is a very simplistic method because as soon as you explode toward the leg and hug it, all that is needed to complete is another explosion forward that causes your opponent to go backward and then angle the leg off throwing him off balance. Often times you can land in side control or half guard.

The double-leg takedown requires more technique and explosion. When shooting in toward the opponent and wrapping the legs up between the hips and knee. Deep into the middle of the thighs is the ideal place as you drive him backward to the mat. It is possible to slam from there, too.

Guida works the double leg takedown in the clip above. The effectiveness of the takedown is solely based around control and pace. Using takedowns you position yourself in advantageous positions and put yourself in place to land effective strikes with minimal risk in comparison to standing.

The shock and trauma of the takedown can also cause shock and brief paralysis, which can help you gain more dominant position or begin to overwhelm with strikes.

Speaking of strikes on the ground, the heavyweight champion owns some of the more brutal ground and pound in the division and the sport.

Velasquez is a two time All-American wrestler and Junior College National Champion. Those accolades shine in basically each and every fight in which Velasquez has competed. With a 68.2 percent success rate in his takedowns and 60.9 percent success rate for landing significant strikes, it is easy to see how he is the UFC Champion. Velasquez is so dominant in his fights that he also has the best ratio for times he hits in comparison to being hit at an impressive 6 to 1 ratio.

So it is easy to understand the reason(s) his takedown ability and ground and pound are his bread and butter. 


"Ground and pound" is the fiercest part of being taken down in a mixed martial arts fight. The term is used to describe the top fighter using his position to open up with strikes on the bottom fighter. So many wrestlers have refined this skill to really implement a devastating repertoire into the sport.

Above, Velasquez wins his title from Brock Lesnar using his powerful strikes from above. What is important to look for when watching wrestlers like Velasquez is their position and weight distribution. Wrestlers have a knack for being able to sustain a position long enough and effectively enough to land the most powerful strikes.

This is another reason and it may be the main reason as to why wrestling is the most effective base for the sport. Wrestlers can dictate where the fight goes and when they have it where they want they are able to utilize a great base, balance and position to unload strikes or even submissions (For more on top position click here).

Even though Velasquez is an elite caliber wrestler and ground and pound artist, he also has very good Brazilian jiu-jitsu. To read more on that click here.

Continuing with the theme of takedowns and ground and pound, the competitor who will face aforementioned Clay Guida knows a thing or two about the world of wrestling. Ben Henderson is a NAIA Wrestler and one of the best fighters in the world at mixing his grappling skills with his wrestling. Winning 12 of his last 13 fights, Henderson is knocking on the door for a title shot after two impressive showings against highly touted grapplers Mark Bocek and Jim Miller.

He has a very similar style as his opponent, but many will say that he is vastly more versatile and well rounded. While that may be the case, there is no argument that he is one of the most gifted fighters around today.


This clip couldn’t be more perfect to show the essence of a great wrestling acumen. Henderson uses a trip takedown from the clinch to drive Mark Bocek to the mat, the Achilles Heel of a lot of wrestlers is jiu-jitsu. Bocek tries to showcase that by attempting to lock Henderson into an "Omoplata" submission (For more on the battle between wrestling vs. jiu-jitsu click here)

Henderson, using flexibility to escape, sneaks his arm out and immediately begins to punch a grounded Bocek. Henderson not only took the fight to the place he wanted too, he defended the limited offense Bocek could threaten with and responded back with his own offense.

This is where wrestlers excel so much in MMA -- they are able to stand for as long as they want and when they feel like changing the pace and hitting the mats they are able to do so.

With Velasquez fighting a premier striker it will be anticipated that he attempts to ground his challenger. Meanwhile, with Henderson and Guida both being top grapplers, it will be interesting to see who gains the advantage in the wrestling and grappling departments.

That is all for now, if you didn’t catch the first two installments on striking and grappling be sure to do so as we are only days away from a fight card that promises to showcase a variety of the sports disciplines.  

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