MMA is an extremely dynamic sport which has been heavily influenced by Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
That does not mean that if you practice the art of BJJ that you will be successful in the MMA cage as most BJJ practitioners are not learning the art with MMA as their focus, in fact most jiujiteiros practice for self defence and sport BJJ purposes.
A totally different approach is needed to succeed in the cage at the highest levels and with certain fine tuning of your BJJ engine, you will be a totally different animal when entering the cage and a force to be dealt with.
Here are the things you need to change if you want to sharpen your BJJ for the cage.
Yes, this is about BJJ but if you want to be able to use your BJJ you will need to be truly able to take your opponent down into a dominant position as wrestling does not only teach you how to take someone down, it teaches you how to take them down into the position you want so half of the positional battle is done and you are much closer to your goal of attaining a superior position and getting a submission.
Always Be On Top
Statistically if you are on top, you are much more likely to win as when on top you have a huge advantage on the ground in striking as well as making your opponent carry your weight and tiring them throughout the rounds.This is not to say that having a good guard game is not beneficial but it is much better in terms of offense and defense to be on top.
Another advantage of being on top is you always have the choice of standing should you need to as it will be much easier to stand up from a top position than a bottom position.
As mentioned in the above section, a great way to increase your chances of being on top is by adding some wrestling into your game.
Increase Your Scrambling Skills
A lot of the MMA ground game is won or lost in the scramble for dominant position prior to the slowing down to a tight position. A good example would be a fighter performing a lateral drop and scrambling to get side control while the opponent would scramble to attain guard or reverse to a top position prior to one of the fighters winning the position and then the fight becomes more tight in nature (close positioning, not much movement etc….).
The best way to get better at scrambling is to add wrestling training into your training repertoire including wrestling par terre – by eliminating bjj ground training you train the body to fight for the pin and in doing so you subsequently train the fighters brain to hustle into position or stand up and not to clunker down and close a position tightly.
Know When to be Tight and When to Move
If you watch all the top BJJ MM athletes such as Jacare, Maia, Burns, Werdum, Nogueira, Bustamante and Rodolfo you will notice that when in the cage their style has a very old school taste. This is not to say they are old school but it is to say that they are going for high % moves and positions as well as always maintaining tightness and full pressure on the opponent when they can.
They never are in a position where the opponent can stay within the pocket on the ground, it is always a case of being tight or moving with a specific goal in mind (can be changing position, getting a sweep or slapping on a tight submission)
Learn How to Properly Strike on The Ground
Top fighters all learn how to properly strike when down on the ground, it is technical and if done properly it can deal a lot of damage to the opponent and create great openings to capitalize on for submissions and escapes. You should learn from both top and bottom positions and definitely learn when and how to proley upkick as it is a very effective way to deal damage as well as space for you to move back to your feet should need be.
Become a Master of The Cage
Knowing how to fight off the cage and use the cage to your advantage is a huge advantage as it is a barrier that will be used against you if you do not know how to use it against your opponent.
A great way to get used to the cage is start your grappling sessions right beside a cage or if you do not have access to a cage then right beside a wall or corner. Another drill is to start meters away from the cage and try to stop your opponent from getting to the cage.
A huge benefit of cage training is it does allow you to more easily escape the mount when you have a cage to work your feet off of. So in the case that you are a very good guard player…..the cage is only going to help you if you know how to use it accordingly.
Many top BJJ fighters have lost as they simply were not used to the cage and did not have enough training to truly implement their game as they got stacked against the cage and the victim of a savage ground and pound beating with nowhere to go.
Know When to Abort a Bad Submission Attempt
MMA is not forgiving and holding onto a submission attempt too long could place you into a very bad reversal and ultimately getting hit hard. If you are losing the submission then change to a secure position or another submission.
There is a saying that a good grappler knows how to put a submission on properly but a great grappler knows when to abort a bad submission attempt. The more you watch MMA, the more you will see this is true for top submission based fighters and even fighter from many different grappling styles.
Train Fight Specific
Creating the same fight conditions is paramount to getting a fighter prepared for MMA battle, some of the best ways to do so are:
1. Always train with MMA gloves
- Always train with no shirt as well as your training partner without no shirt
3, Train with the exact same time limits and rest time periods
- Train with multiple people screaming directions with the fighter needing to pick out the right command form the right coach
- Stick to high % submission and perfect them off of a slippery body
- Try to roll on a canvas ring and even wet the ring to have areas of sweat to slip off of
BJJ truly is an amazing and combat effective martial art for the MMA ring but it needs to be trained differently in order for the practitioner to truly implement their game and use it as effectively as possible.
If you add these tips to your game, you will be sure to increase the effectiveness of your BJJ game for mixed martial arts.