In fact, wrestling is one of the very few forms of martial arts that seemingly matches up well against all other martial arts.
That is just part of the reason why wrestlers have been so dominant in mixed martial arts for a long time now.
Ben Askren, who is one of the very best wrestlers to have entered mixed martial arts, recently retired undefeated after 19 fights as a professional. Not only did Askren defeat every opponent in front of him, but he also did so in an utterly dominant way every time.
So, if you’ve been watching the likes of Askren or even UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley for a while now, you might be starting to wonder how exactly you can compete against a wrestler in mixed martial arts.
You’re not going to be able to defeat Ben Askren just by reading this article, of course, but it will certainly help you gain a slight competitive advantage against many wrestlers.
Today, Evolve Vacation brings you “How To Combat A Wrestler In MMA”.
Why are wrestlers difficult to defend?
Before we jump in and discuss all of the strategies and techniques that you can use to defend against a wrestler in MMA, let’s take a look at exactly what a wrestler brings to the table.
First of all, wrestlers are incredibly explosive and use tremendous speed and power to overwhelm their opponents.
Secondly, wrestlers have the kind of top pressure that makes it feel like you’re stuck underneath a small truck.
And last of all, wrestlers are notoriously difficult to unbalance. They have a tremendous base and use excellent frames and posture to maintain dominant grappling positions.
You might be thinking, so how does this translate into ‘impact’? If a wrestler gains top control and applies remarkable pressure, you will likely be on the end of some significant ground and pound that might force a referee to jump in and stop the contest before you know it.
Striking against a wrestler
In the video above, BJJ Scout provides an outstanding breakdown of how Conor McGregor uses various techniques to avoid the wrestling threat from his opponents.
Further to the points above, you can extend on some of these advanced techniques by implementing some fundamental strategies.
Fight at a distance and be conservative with your strike selection. Don’t be completely hesitant, because you won’t offer enough of a threat to your opponent to stop them from shooting in from all angles. But instead, you should actively strike with long punches (such as the jab) so that you can keep pumping your strikes out at your opponent while maintaining a safe distance. The further you can keep a wrestler away from you, the less penetration they will get with their takedowns and the more chance you have of defending the takedown attempt.
If your opponent moves into your range and you want to slam some heavy punches toward them, mix it up between the heady and body and always pivot after your combination. If you finish your punches and remain in the same position, a wrestler will already be in under your hips and ready to pick you up and slam you to the mat. The reason for mixing up the strikes to the head and body is simple. Not only does it keep your opponent guessing, but a body punch is marginally safer against a wrestler because your arm will likely be in a better area to dig for an underhook if they shoot in for a takedown.
If you’re striking background is primarily a kicking-focused one, you might find yourself extremely hesitant to attempt your kicks because of the takedown risk. A wrestler will likely be waiting for you to kick them so that they can catch your leg before dragging you into a single leg takedown. If you want a kick an opponent who is grappling-focused, you need to mix in your kicks carefully with other strikes.
The unfortunate news is, however, that your opponent might eventually get in underneath your hips. When they do, you’re probably going for a ride, and it’s now time to use your BJJ and grappling skills to either sweep your opponent or submit them while on the mat.
Grappling with a wrestler
If you do get taken down by a wrestler, it’s not the end of the world – especially if you have excellent BJJ skills.
See, a wrestler will likely pick up and opponent and slam them into the mat, or just dig for a high crotch takedown and sweep you after unbalancing you. Either way, a wrestler wants you on your back.
Absolutely everything is fine until you’re on your back. Once you’re there, it’s likely that an experienced wrestler is going to apply heavy pressure and outstanding control either through various mount techniques or the use of rides (see Ben Askren).
If you’re confident in your grappling skills, there is no a need to be afraid when the fight hits the mat. There are certainly opportunities to shine. Most wrestlers give up their back freely (experience in protecting their back from hitting the mat), and that means that you will often find the potential to dig your hooks in and secure a tight seatbelt control. If you’ve taken the back of a wrestler, the chances of finishing them with a submission are also very high because they are relatively unfamiliar with the position.
There are also opportunities from the guard position. Wrestlers often carelessly leave their hands and arms in dangerous areas, that would otherwise be completely safe in a wrestling match. If you ask wrestlers what was their greatest difficulty when learning BJJ or MMA, they’ll probably inform you that they were often caught in triangle chokes unexpectedly.
You can also use some sweeps or transitions to put your opponent on their back. A wrestler is not even remotely close to being threatening when they are on their back.
If your BJJ is that good, a wrestler might not even want to take you down.
Remember Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia? Woodley was (rightfully) careful to engage with Maia on the ground and instead employed the classic ‘sprawl and brawl’ technique so that he could keep the fight standing and avoid the BJJ techniques of Maia. It was almost painful to watch as Maia unsuccessfully attempted a total of 21 takedowns and failed on each and every one of them. Of course, it also helps that Woodley now has some of the most dangerous hands in the UFC’s welterweight division.
Maia’s inability to defeat Tyron Woodley or Colby Covington (two wrestlers) proved – more than anything else –that you need to have a true mixed approach when it comes to martial arts.
When it is all said and done, the better mixed martial artist will win the contest. Work on your takedown defense, improve your boxing, and practice getting back to your feet, because if you have more ways to win than your opponent, it is likely that you will win.