MMA Technique of the Month
How did Gonzaga end up in this terrible position?
Avoiding the Takedown from the Cage
If you don't want to end up like Gonzaga did (up against the cage taking punches) than you must read this article.
As any MMA fighter would admit, being trapped against the cage is a common place to be. If possible, it is best to reverse the pin to the cage before it happens. This is done by a quick step out and turning motion (with opponent's momentum) right before you make contact with the cage -- which in turn puts your opponent's back to the cage.
However, for this scenario you are already having your back to the cage, with your opponent's weight keeping you locked in place. What you don't want to happen here is the takedown. One of the worse places to be in MMA is on the ground pinned to the cage; especially against a "Ground N' Pound" fighter like Matt Hughes, Tito Ortiz, and Randy Couture.
Prevention is the key to MMA, by this I mean preventing your opponents strategies or worse-case scenario's like pinned to the cage, the mount, or your opponent getting your back.
Here is what to do:
If you find yourself pinned to the cage (standing up), immediately make a wide base -- This means spreading your legs out as far out as possible while still keeping balance. This action makes it very difficult for your opponent to capture your leg(s) and also makes you lower and more balanced (always good against a takedown). In doing this your back should be resting against the cage, you don't need to push your opponent (futile - due to position); in MMA you should never waste energy when possible.
Next, make sure you get underhooks on your opponent -- "underhooks" means your arms are underneath your opponents arms (armpits); meaning you could carry their weight if they went limp. Underhooks are a key factor in grappling, through which many takedowns and reversals are rooted...so getting this position is critical against the cage. When Randy Couture slammed Gabriel Gonzaga (and broke his nose - UFC 74) it was because Randy had "underhooks" which allowed him to capture Gonzaga's leg. Gonzaga's posture and defense in this position is a perfect example of what not to do and what could happen.
Doing these two things forces your opponent to work alot harder than you: One, they have to keep you pinned, meaning they are exerting energy forward to maintain position. Next, they are forced to do one of two things (they can't do nothing) -- to fight back for underhooks (more energy); which will be hard because you are lower than your opponent. Or they will try and sweep your legs by moving to a kneeling position and catching a leg (also more energy); also difficult because your legs are far apart. Since position is key in MMA, your opponent will keep battling for the cage pin; so it is expected that your opponent will try one of these two things. If he goes for the leg catch (remember your legs are spread) he must choose a leg, also you still have underhooks so he must try to escape simultaneously. Because of this his momentum will be aggressive and predictable, all you have to do is push down on his head and slide out (to the leg that he didn't choose)...keep in mind that you should have practiced doing this in slow time and real time. If your opponent tries to get underhooks you have two options: One, keep battling for the underhooks -- your opponent will tire alot faster than you, also the ref will probably get bored and reposition the fight back in the middle. The other option is during his fight for underhooks (while you still have possession) move your legs back up and explode in the direction of his momentum - reversing the position. Take note that if your in the clinch, like Anderson Silva vs Rich Franklin, you must use a different strategy (which is another story).
Remember that all this could have been prevented by immediately reversing the position before contacting the cage. Also remember that practice is essential...do these escapes from the cage over and over, from different sides, different speeds, and with different opponents.
Stay Smart & Keep Heart!!!