How To Use The Cage In MMA
Your objective as a mixed martial artist should be to become proficient at using the cage to your advantage and dominate your opponent with modified techniques and refined strategies that involve the cage.
However, there are many athletes out there who view the cage as just a ‘wall’ that serves no purpose. This is absolutely the wrong approach. In fact, many of the most successful mixed martial artists in the world today all use creative techniques and gameplans by using the cage to their advantage.
We’re not speaking about using the cage like Anthony Pettis, who climbed the cage to connect with a brilliant “Showtime Kick.”. Instead, we are talking about how to dominate otherwise 50/50 positions and turn the cage into something that helps you gain an edge over your opponent.
Firstly, we’ll cover using the cage to defend takedowns before discussing how to attack an opponent who is against the cage and then also reviewing some fundamental clinch positions that will help you maintain a strong position when clinching against the cage.
Today, Evolve Vacation brings you “How To Use The Cage In MMA”.
Defending takedowns against the cage
Two of the very best wrestlers in all of mixed martial arts, Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley, share similar strategies when it comes to using the cage in MMA.
“Most people use the cage wrong in MMA,” Ben Askren declares in the video above.
“What I think about the cage, is that it is like a third leg. People who are smart use the cage defensively to make it really easy to not get taken down.”
It’s for this reason that you will see expert wrestlers like Askren and Woodley remain comfortable when their back is against the cage.
This strategy encourages the opponent to switch to a single leg takedown and start attacking the exposed leg that is closer to them. From this position, it is incredibly easy to defend the single leg takedown, and your opponent will be expending energy that otherwise could have been saved.
From this position, you are relatively safe – depending on your balance – until your opponent connects his hands and forms a body lock. If your objective is to keep this fight standing, you shouldn’t panic about having your back against the cage, but you should be actively trying to disallow your opponent from connecting his hands around you.
Possibly the best way to understand how to defend takedowns from against the cage is by studying the process of taking down an opponent when they are backed up against the cage.
How to take an opponent down while against the cage
If an opponent is using the cage as a tripod to keep himself upright and defend the takedown, you shouldn’t pursue the takedown attempt just yet.
Instead, you can use the position as a way to drag him away from the cage by using a body lock and then execute the takedown.
It all begins with securing a tight grip around your opponent’s torso, and this can be done via either an over/under clinch or using double underhooks. Tighten your grip at the back of your opponent’s body and then connect your chest with his to lock his body to you and reduce the strength required in this sequence.
Once you drag your opponent away from the cage, his “third leg” is removed from the equation, and now he only has his own two legs to defend the takedown. The degree of difficulty to defend a takedown now increases significantly. Even worse for your opponent is the fact that you already have secured an excellent grip around his torso and can begin to drop down for a double leg or maintain a body lock while they are still attempting to rebalance.
Simply speaking, stop trying to take down an opponent who is using the cage as a “third leg.” Instead, drag him away before finishing the takedown.
Clinching against the cage
Clinching isn’t the bread and butter of every mixed martial artist’s skill set. In fact, it is often the most forgotten of all aspects of the sport.
Of course, Muay Thai fighters are naturally superb at transitioning to clinch warfare in mixed martial arts, but for boxers and those who have practiced taekwondo or karate, the clinch requires great study and practice, especially against the cage.
Generally speaking, the objective of each fighter in the clinch is to control the other fighter.
Control can be achieved by a variety of grips and positions, but the real impact of the clinch is via striking or takedowns. To strike your opponent and avoid receiving a punch, elbow, or knee in return, you need to create enough space to operate.
For the fighter who is pushing his opponent against the cage in the clinch, he will enjoy an incredible advantage in all of the clinch warfare. In particular, he has almost all of the opportunity to create space and control his opponent, while the fighter with his back to the cage is left worrying about defending the incoming onslaught of strikes.
Additionally, the person who is pressing the other fighter to the cage will likely exhaust his opponent out by restricting his ability to breathe.
When striking from the clinch, a fighter wants to be in control of his opponent and create space to send a powerful strike towards the head or body of the controlled fighter. Once that space is created, fighters have everything from uppercuts, to knees, to elbows at their disposal.
In the video above, Dan Henderson demonstrates excellent clinch position in MMA against the cage.
As in most cases when clinching against the cage, the underhook is of vital importance. This underhook should be deep and reach up toward the shoulder muscle of your opponent to maintain a secure position. It is also essential to maintain excellent posture by keeping your hips in and forward (not out or back) while maintaining a strong alignment in your back. If you bend over or posture downward, your opponent will easily be able to control you and connect with knees to the body. The next step is to keep your chin tucked on your opponent’s shoulder.
This is the simple positioning for brilliant cage control with the clinch. If you have practice and become proficient in this position, you will be able to strike your opponent with ease while also having the option to take your opponent down to the mat.
Becoming aware of these three different strategies and techniques will allow you to become more comfortable with using the cage to your advantage in MMA.
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