How To Develop A Good Ground Game For MMA

The level of fighting has significantly increased in today’s competition. To become a well-rounded fighter in MMA, you must be outstanding in every aspect of your game – from wrestling, including takedowns and takedown defense, striking or kickboxing, and the ability to finish the opponents on the ground with ground and pound or submissions. MMA greats Georges St. Pierre and Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson are perfect examples of well-rounded fighters.

To excel in MMA, one must know how to mix every element of the art effectively. Some fighters are dominant in the stand-up, which we refer to as the “striker.” Its rival, the “grappler,” is the type of fighter who is dominant on the ground and is excellent at taking the opponent down. And there’s this small group of elites that excel in both. In this article, we will talk about how to develop a good ground game for MMA.


Ground Game For MMA

Before we start talking about ground techniques, let’s first discuss how to take the fight to the ground. In an MMA setting, takedowns work best if you conceal your intentions. This means you must make the opponent think you are moving forward with strikes. Below are five striking takedown combinations you can practice and add to your game.

In addition, keeping the opponent’s mind occupied with your threat of takedowns opens them up for strikes. Now that you can practice setting up your takedowns from your strikes, watch the above video for 3 takedown entries. Remember that you need not learn a lot of takedowns. Choose your favourite takedown or two and create different entries from there.

  • Inside Head Single Leg
  • Outside Leg Single Leg
  • Single Leg to High Crotch Lift-off


Top Control Drill

To maintain a dominant top control in MMA, you must keep the opponent occupied by striking. Raining vicious ground and pound forces the opponent to react by fighting back or covering up and defending. This forces the opponent to become vulnerable and it can open them up for submissions. Below is a drill you can perform to develop a dominant top control in MMA.

This drill starts with your training partner in the turtle position. With you being the top player, your main focus is to keep your training partner turtled while looking to rain down strikes. This drill is not strictly focused on wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but rather on applying the concepts of ground control from both arts to MMA.

In this drill, you aim to put your weight on top of your training partner the whole time. Remember not to stay on your knee or with both knees down. You can use your arm to wedge right between the opponent’s legs and straighten your arm to put a lot of pressure on the opponent’s spine. This position locks you in place while your other arm strikes.

To keep the drill dynamic, move to the front headlock position and switch to the opposite side. You can control the opponent’s far arm while striking with your near arm or go behind them, getting double underhooks and getting around to the other side. The key in this drill is to keep the top pressure and control the whole time while striking.

Throughout the drill, your training partner decides when to go back flat on the mat. As part of the drill, maintain control and follow your training partner as soon as they roll over. When this happens, you can transition to the knee-on-belly position before they recover the guard, and you end up in open guard. Remember that allowing opponents to control you with their guard can be disadvantageous.


Stapling The Opponent To The Ground

The crucifix position is a nightmare position to be stuck in. Though in a strict grappling match, there are limited submissions you can do from this position, the crucifix unlocks its full potential when used with strikes.

The crucifix position is when your near knee goes over the top of the opponent’s bicep while your toes are firmly planted on the ground. Doing this traps the opponent’s arms, allowing you to attack with little to no resistance. In this position, the opponent’s arm is stapled on the ground, making them predictable in which side they will turn in. The opponent has two options from this position: turn to your body and grab an underhook, or face the opposite side. How they react doesn’t matter, as you can now hit them with strikes or submissions like the D’Arce.

Apart from the crucifix, stapling your opponent can also be done from the knee-cut position. Driving your knee straight toward the opponent’s gives you more leverage and weight, making it impossible for the opponent to move. You can use this position to perform vicious ground and pound. Likewise, forcing the opponent into a flat half-guard is one of the best ways to pass the guard. You can do so by dropping your weight onto the opponent while securing an underhook. 


Sweeps For MMA

It isn’t easy to talk about the ground without mentioning the guard. While the primary goal in MMA and even in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is to get top control, knowing how to play the guard will save you a lot of trouble. The safest guard to perform in both grappling and MMA is the closed guard, as in this position, the opponent is at your mercy as long as you keep the guard active by controlling their arms and breaking their posture.

As shown in the video, many sweeps start from the closed guard. You can then open your guard and transition to other positions to initiate the sweep. Remember to practice your guard techniques, as it comes in handy whenever you get to your back.



A good ground game allows you to finish your opponents dominantly. With that being said, it is also essential to practice your defense so you can fight back and sweep the opponent or get up on your feet, giving you a chance to work your way to the top.


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