How Effective Are BJJ Sweeps In MMA?

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a melting pot of various fighting disciplines. Among the most important of these is BJJ or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In BJJ, sweeps are critical techniques that enable a practitioner to transition from a disadvantageous position to a dominant one. However, the setup, application, and safety of these techniques become more nuanced when strikes are involved. This article will discuss how effective sweeps are in the context of MMA.


Playing The Guard In MMA

Strikes change the game. In Jiu-Jitsu, lying on your back can work to your advantage, as there is no penalty for playing the bottom position. MMA is different, as the guard’s effectiveness may decrease once the opponent strikes inside the guard. Thus, it is best to get back to the main principle of Jiu-Jitsu; to become the grappler on top. Using techniques like sweeps can help improve your position in an instant. 

Ideally, the best BJJ guard in MMA is the one that will allow you to get back up on your feet quickly and safely. If you are not comfortable with your grappling, the goal is to always stand up. Using techniques like the half guard is a great option if you get taken down at the centre of the cage, far from the fences. 

Variations like the knee shield half guard work well as it keeps you relatively safe and is also a great position for sweeps and wrestle-ups. However, consider that going for the half guard in MMA comes with the risk of getting hit, as the top half guard is a powerful striking position; therefore, your goal is to use the half guard to secure an underhook and stand up as soon as you can.

Getting up is usually a high percentage transition from the half-guard, especially if you can manipulate the opponent’s distance and centre of gravity. A word of warning though, never use the half guard as a resting position, as you can indeed get hit. In cases where fatigue is high, we recommend that you transition to the closed or butterfly guard to either keep them close or push them away.

The closed and butterfly guards are also viable options in MMA. The closed guard is a good tool to lock the opponent down. But note that you must stay active, as your head is a prime target for strikes. The butterfly guard is another fantastic guard to use. It is one of the best guards for defence and keeping distance. While we will focus on the half guard in today’s article, we encourage you to also use the closed and butterfly guards in your training.


Half Guard Sweeps For MMA

When attempting a sweep, it is always possible to get hit; thus, it is critical to first close the distance or establish reasonable control over the opponent’s limbs before attempting the technique. Remember that striking from a crouched position may compromise the opponent’s balance. Use this opportunity to figure out which sweep works best in the situation.

The knee shield is a half-guard variation where your top knee blocks the opponent’s chest. The knee shield acts as a barrier and a frame, meaning you can use it as a means to manage distance. As you block with your knee, your top hand frames across the opponent’s neck to their shoulder. This helps you hide your head with your shoulder when the opponent swings down with strikes. Your bottom hand controls the opponent’s far hand to prevent them from striking. In playing the knee shield half guard, it is vital to first drill the position to ensure that your hands are in the correct position and that your bottom leg is active to help keep your hips away.    

The video goes over several sweeps from the knee shield half-guard. The first technique is the basic sweep from the dogfight. Create space for your left arm by lowering your shield as you dig for the underhook. Kick your top leg out and post your bottom elbow on the mat. Doing so makes you more stable. Start scooting to the side while controlling the opponent’s far hip with your underhook. Get up on your knee and land in the dogfight position. Post your far leg out to maintain a solid base, as your opponent will surely wrestle you from this position. While maintaining control of the far hip, use your other hand to grab the opponent’s far knee and drive them forward for the sweep.

The second sweep also starts from the dogfight position. This is a solid follow-up technique if the opponent prevents you from finishing the first sweep by moving toward your direction. Use their momentum to go underneath and transition your grip from their far knee to the ankle. This will force them to roll over, giving you the side control pin.

Now let’s talk about the last sweep in the video. Again from the dogfight position, if the opponent has a strong whizzer and puts a lot of pressure on your underhooking arm, driving it down, perform a limp arm motion to escape the position. Do it as fast as possible to throw them off balance as you close the space to take their back.  

Overall, sweeps are an essential tool in your arsenal regardless of your preferred guard. Always be open to trying out new techniques and practice the position on both sides if possible. The better you get at performing your favourite sweeps, the more dangerous you become as a competitor. 



In summary, sweeps are a must-learn in both mixed martial arts and submission grappling. Being able to reverse a position is super beneficial and, in many cases, can determine your success in your chosen sport. The techniques we talked about in this article were selected for their practicality and ease of use. Study the sweeps we reviewed, and we guarantee you’ll improve your positional game in no time. 


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