Cage Warriors

MMA Grappling Recap – Kimura Traps, Comebacks, and Unconventional Attacks

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With numerous major promotions putting on cards (Bellator, ONE, the UFC, and Cage Warriors three times) there was a ton of MMA grappling to get through. It was managed through, and here we are. Normally I like to cut it down to three highlights but there was just too much of the good stuff to make any less, and here we are. Enjoy – the biggest MMA grappling highlights from last week.  

Jake Hadley – Cage warriors 117

Striker vs grappler is just about the most basic style match up imaginable. Different styles, different martial arts, different objectives. It was fights like these that the first UFCs were based on. Such matchups always produce entertaining bouts, and they’re easy for the uninitiated in MMA grappling to understand. One of which best explains in Cage Warriors 117.

Luke Shanks came out fast – too fast, and rather than countering with striking that could easily have gone south for Jake Hadley, he countered by changing levels and taking the match to the canvas. You should always fight your enemy where he is weak, and that’s just what the challenger did, taking him down again and again and landing excellent ground and pound. He was inches from a choke in the first round, muscles out of an omoplata in the second, and hit a beautiful switch to end up on top.

This article aims to highlight good, exciting grappling, and that’s just what Hadley displayed, even if the ground and pound were measured. Where Luke was reckless, Jake pulled off a perfect strategy in every round. 

Decky Mcaleenan vs Adam Ventre – Cage Warriors 118

If the last match was the traditional striker vs grappler, this was the traditional wrestler vs jiujitero. In Cage Warriors 188, Adam came out with the big takedowns and looking to ground and pound, while Decky countered immediately with an armbar attempt. I think that opening sequence defined the first round, and it was an excellent display from Ventre about ground control and standing up in guard to land strikes, the traditional wrestling attempt.

The second round, much more dynamic. With an attempt to Victor roll into a kneebar and an excellent sprawl out to maintain position, it quickly moved from a chaotic cage clinch battle to a textbook back take and fulcrum choke. It was a great example of using submissions to counter wrestling. Style matchups are always fun, and this was no exception. 

Liam Gittins vs Josh Reed – Cage Warriors 118

This was an excellent grappling battle, back and forth, with chained submissions and narrow escapes. From the outset, Josh chased the takedown, got turned around and was right on a guillotine attempt. From there, back and forth, and another guillotine that looked tight; if you want to know how close that was, just listen to the commentary. Dan Strauss is a guillotine master and he sounded alarmed. The guillotine fails, he transitions to an omoplata, a triangle, and armbar and a sweep, all chained together perfectly. It was a fantastic display of guard work and how different submissions interact, and for those who don’t understand grappling so well, this is an excellent match to look up.

In the second, it was Liam’s turn to display the interesting grappling work. Traditional takedown defence is sprawling and stuffing the head. It’s not going for triangles off the single leg defence, but that’s just what Gittins did, winning with a fantastic submission finish. This match was thin on striking but definitely had the excitement factor. 

Charles Oliveira – UFC 256

I have no doubt that just about all my readers have seen this by now, but I can’t very well highlight MMA grappling without including this. If you’ve somehow not seen it, stop reading, find a video, watch it. This could be a real passing of the torch match, Olivera who has sat as an exciting, but the middle of the pack contender for years, versus Tony, top of the pile and often considered one of the best not to have achieved the title of (undisputed) champion.

Charles Oliveira dominated from start to finish, there was ground control, exciting takedowns, submission attempts, beautiful stack passing, and slick ground and pound. This was MMA grappling at it’s finest. A really notable takeaway was that this was against Ferguson, a man who is normally considered to be top of the pack in BJJ ability, especially off his back. He just didn’t have anything to come back with, but I have to commend the toughness of Ferguson. Just look at the armbar in round one and try not to wince. Neither of these gentlemen ever have a boring fight, so keep an eye out for their next matches, because I certainly will. 

Chase Hooper – UFC 256

This was a long night for Chase. Where Ferguson dominated from start to finish, Chase Hooper had a hard time making anything work. Until it went his way, Chase was losing pretty drastically – beaten up, bloodied, unable to take his opponent to the mat, he was down on the scorecards. He did have some success through the fight, working some excellent leg lock entries and attacks, but he only entered with about ten seconds left in round one and failed to keep it on the canvas in round two. He was getting beaten up on the feet, and classical takedown attempts were getting stuffed badly.

He switched it up well though. Where standard takedowns weren’t cutting it, he moved to single-leg-x off the takedown and Imanari rolls – there is no better time to use these unconventional attacks than this. He’s tough as nails and his persistence paid off. 

Two minutes to go, he just showed a clear skill differential to Barrett who lacked the defensive knowledge to escape. I can’t knock Barrett for that, he was dominating until then after all, but it’s clearly an area that Hooper was leagues ahead in. This is one of the reasons I think MMA grappling can be so exciting. What’s better than a come from behind story? It was hard to not root for Hooper by the end, and submissions change the direction of the fight in a second. They turn the battle on its head, subverting expectations and shocking the audience. That’s the beauty of BJJ in MMA.      

Honourable Mention – Tetsuta Yamada – ONE: Big Bang II

This was a good fight, perhaps more for the striking and ground and pound from Kim Jae Woong, but there’s a particular sequence that I really enjoyed. Take a look at the 1:50 mark in round one. Kim works his way to the back (Tetsuta potentially lets him?) and Yamada immediately takes it and uses it to roll to the ground. This ties in well to earlier mentions of Chase Hooper and using non-conventional takedown methods, but this was just perfect.

Sakuraba would be proud – he really pioneered this in MMA grappling, after all. Yamada ends up on top, loses position, sweeps, and threatens an armbar all from the kimura position. That’s a submission used as a position in a perfect fashion. It was a damn shame he didn’t finish the armbar after that, but if you’re looking for useful sequences and techniques to add to your arsenal this is the place to look.

Miss last weeks grappling recap? Give it a look.  


Featured Image Credits to ONE Championship

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Training martial arts since I was a fat child, Muay Thai since mid-2013, BJJ since mid-2015, and MMA since start-2016. Competing when I can, I'm more interested in the martial arts side of MMA, and write everything from style breakdowns, to highlights of martial arts culture, to concept pieces about what we learn from combat sports.