Wrestling with the Truth
Wrestling with the Truth | Pic: Pavel PK

Wrestling with the Truth

Over the course of my career I have been fortunate to train and share with many elite level coaches of the wrestling world. As former MMA and Striking coach at the now defunct Rough House MMA and Fitness in Colorado Springs, our proximity to the Olympic Training center and world class staff coupled with the opportunity to train at “high altitude” made us a much sought- after destination for fighters in camp. I had wrestled as a youth, (although to little degree) had been practicing many forms of grappling for years and had even competed in grappling tournaments early on when they would circuit through our state, but nothing could have prepared me for the eye-opening growth I would undertake during my tenure there. I was merely “flirting with the margins” of what was truly possible.

You see, I was still relying on “open mat” traditional type wrestling tactics for MMA, which although essential at the amateur stages of the game would rarely sustain an athlete throughout a pro career. In short, I had to almost let go of everything I thought I knew about wrestling for MMA. Gone were the knee to the mat penetration steps and low- head placement inside the hip on a single leg.

Wrestling became about learning how to utilize the cage via footwork and the utilization of striking transitions to set up takedowns. Work from the over under position became a must and the ability to use fence pressure to take away hips was the dominating factor in the clinch.

I had the opportunity to write notes when watching the worlds teams prepare and probably pestered my coaches Donnie Liles, Tori Adams and Keith Wilson a little more than they’d liked, but it was like a whole new world was opening for me. How many ways could I, predominantly a striking coach come up with to enter the clinch? Set up a strong side takedown out of an orthodox stance? Create an angle to hit a low single out of a perceived scramble?

The method

Pressure on pressure off

This strategy can be likened to world class boxer Vasyl Lomenchenko’s angle cutting technique in which he utilizes a peppering strategy to draw a response followed by the removal of the pressure when he hits an unorthodox angle. A fighter should apply forward pressure with strikes to get the opponent to cover then retreat slightly to create a perceived opening and space. When to opponent moves forward, angle and shoot a takedown. A prime example of this strategy is Demetrious Johnson and his ability to hit a takedown out of anywhere.

Positional flow on the fence

The ability to maintain pressure on the fence and flow from inside head position to outside and back again cannot be understated. The entire basis of his defense is based upon head pressure, hips and a good whizzer so rob him of it by switching.

Listen to his heartbeat

My longtime friend and former colleague Matt Lindland once said: “When running the pipe get him to hop backwards with forward pressure and listen to his heartbeat”. That meant by placing ear to chest would become top heavy over his back leg and hitting a single therefore so much easier.

Hips together/ Hips Away

Years ago during the heyday of early UFC which saw the domination by the Gracie’s the powers that be back then thought it might behoove them to stop allowing the BJJ guys to stop beating up Karate black belts and bar brawlers and bring some heavy Olympic muscle. This heralded the arrival of guys like Dan Severn, Mark Kerr, Kevin Randleman and more to make the sport a little more interesting.

Early results proved so-so until the wrestlers became hip to the fact that heavy hips, good posture and tight defense could often carry them though precarious positions and greatly improve their chances of winning.

End Notes

One thing that the evolution of the sport has shown is that all things can and do evolve. We see traditional strikers pulling off moves that were scarcely less than a few years ago relegated to the wayside, once heralded champions of the sport on the decline and technical advances in the sport growing every day.

As a wise man once said: “If your not evolving, your not growing.”

You may also like: Strategy 101 for Pugilism & MMA.

Gabe Charboneau
Gabe "Kuya" Charboneau has been a lifelong martial artist, MMA Coach, writer and business professional in Colorado for over 23 years and has worked with countless UFC, Bellator and Strikeforce Veterans as well as Olympians and teaches boxing as a cross training opportunity for high level athletes, NFL players and Professional Bull riders at the PBR Elite Performance Center in Colorado with Former NFL player Antwon Burton.

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