4 Tips On How To Maintain Dominant Top Control In MMA And BJJ

As a primarily ground-based martial art, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu relies heavily on using body position to control an opponent. Using correct body positioning in your rolls can make your game efficient, making you less prone to mistakes. 

One of the best ways to develop a powerful game is to work on your top control. Top control is a broad term where you use positional techniques and tactics to stay on top of the opponent. Having a solid top game is always helpful because you can easily crush someone just by staying on top of them. It also keeps you relatively safe from submissions while giving you options to attack with your own. 

Today, we’ll talk about tips on how to maintain top control.


Benefits Of Being On Top

Being efficient with your moves will always make you a better grappler. Using pins like side control, knee on belly, mount, and north-south can be incredibly beneficial because you have gravity on your side. In the sport Jiu-Jitsu context, pins equate to points as it means you can immobilize the opponent for as long as you can maintain the position. 

In self-defense and mixed martial arts situations, being on top can ensure that you stay safe from knockout blows. It is also the best position for you to rain down strikes or go for a submission

There are several great options to choose from when talking about top pins. The most common one is the mount. The mount is a position where you place your weight on your opponent’s midsection. Your body position is parallel to your opponent, meaning you can climb up and down their body depending on the mount variation you like. 

Another pin that you can use is side control. Side control is a crushing pin where you lay perpendicularly over your opponent. This is a tough position to escape from and is a favored technique of grapplers from heavier weight divisions. 

Other options include the north-south, a position where you primarily control the opponent’s upper body, and the knee on belly, a floating pin that uses your knee to block near their abdomen.

Nowadays, many BJJ athletes pull guard whenever they start a match. They do this for numerous reasons. One of the most common reasons is to establish the initial grip exchange. Once they get their preferred grips, they now work on either going for a submission or attempting a sweep, then pass the guard and work on top pins. Pulling guard may look counterintuitive, but the intent is to reverse the opponent to get to the top position.


Tips To Maintain Top Position


Mount Maintenance

In this video, Chewy explains that using the grapevine is a nice option but may not be enough to control a bigger grappler. He suggests that you control the head and arm as you go to high mount. This is an intelligent approach because you reduce the risk of being reversed with a hip bridge and control an arm in the process. He said it is also good to stay heavy by driving your weight against their torso as you go to the high mount.


Side Control Maintenance

This video shows the critical concepts you need to learn to maintain the side control position. The first important concept is to always block the opponent’s hip. Blocking the hip prevents your opponent from inserting their knee and going back to guard. You can block the hip using your own hip. Some side control variants also allow you to use your hands to block the hip area. 

The next concept is to prevent your opponent from turning to a side. You can do this by simply controlling the nearside shoulder and arm area. You can lift the arm and raise it near the shoulder line to lessen their ability to move. 

The last concept is to understand that if you control their head, you also control their body. If you force their head to look to the left, it is impossible for them to turn their body to the right. 


North-South Maintenance

BJJ black belt Donnie Baltazar demonstrates the basics of maintaining the north-south position. A straightforward way of controlling the bottom player is simply getting the inside position as you grab near their hip area. Jam your elbow under their arm and hold the pants near the hip. Another tip is to pinch the opponent’s head using your legs so that they can’t turn to the side. Doing these will nullify many escapes your opponent can attempt. 

The north-south is an excellent controlling position because your opponent’s legs are away from you. Leg pummeling is the ingredient to most guard recoveries. Keep their legs out of the equation, and you’ll be able to maintain the position for as long as you like.


Knee On Belly Maintenance

In this video, BJJ black belt Erin Herle explains the fundamental concepts of the knee on belly position. She mentions that being mindful of your weight distribution will make your knee on belly highly effective. Being able to surf on top of your opponent requires you to adjust your position as the need arises. Therefore you must stay active on top and always look for opportunities to stay balanced. She prefers to plant her foot on the mat to stay connected. Doing so gives her the ability to adjust quickly to the opponent’s movements. 

Remember that you can always dismount if you feel that you can transition to a better position. Exploit your opponent’s attempts to escape to take the back, go to mount, or chase a submission.



Developing a dominant top game is one of the best things you can do for your BJJ. Think of how many MMA, IBJJF, and ADCC champions have reached the pinnacle of their sports by using the top position to control their opponents. We highly encourage you to try these techniques today, and let us know how it goes!


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