UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey put on a technical display in her UFC 168 title match against Miesha Tate and the Bloody Elbow Grappling team is on the case! The match was so dense with grappling excellence that we are breaking it down into to make the Judo Chops a bit more digestible.
As has been repeated ad nauseam in the lead up to this fight, Ronda Rousey was a very successful, high level Judoka for the United States, winning a Silver medal at the 2007 Judo World Championships and Bronze in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
Judo is a grappling martial art whose rules emphasize the takedown game with rules creating a more upright grappling position than Freestyle or American Folk Style Wrestling. Elite Judoka, like elite wrestlers, are excellent at chaining their takedowns together and countering techniques.
At the highest levels of Wrestling, Judo, and Sambo, grapplers are highly schooled in how to take what an opponent is doing and turn it on its head. And that is just the kind of counter savvy that Rousey showed against Miesha Tate.
Let's start with the success that Tate had in the first round that set up her air time later in that same round.
Ronda had Tate down early in the round, a scramble ensued and Ronda escaped to her feet and Tate shot for a takedown. Tate ended up in a fairly good position as she was not bent at the waist, but her right knee was not deep enough to really drive for a double leg as Rousey was already sprawling, and Tate's head is on the wrong side to "turn the corner" on the double.
Tate quickly went for one of her go to takedown techniques, the outside trip. Above you can see Tate drive off her left foot into Ronda and Tate is hanging heavy on Ronda's hips, which is evident when you see that Ronda's weight is on her left foot, circled in red. Tate then hooks her right leg around Ronda's leg, trapping it in place, circled in blue.
Now Tate, looking in the direction of Ronda's trapped leg, drives forward and circled in blue you can see Ronda's foot is still on the mat. She is stuck in the trip and ends up on the ground, full gif of the trip right here. Ronda was able to work an offensive guard and threaten Tate with a triangle, and they eventually returned to their feet.
Now Ronda has seen Tate's takedown of choice, and in Judo the scoring heavily favors throws as a way to end a match. One clean throw, an Ippon, ends a match the same way a submission would, and two relatively well executed throws ends a match as well. In that rule set a successful competitor must be able to adjust to their opponent very quickly because a single weakness can be swiftly exploited for a very fast win.
What Ronda would turn to is a throw known as the Uchi-Mata, translated as the "inner thigh throw". A very versatile throw the Uchi-Mata can be used from many different angles and set ups and as a result is heavily used in Judo. The Uchi-Mata can be used as a primary attack, or as a counter to outside trips, single and double leg takedowns. It is less used in MMA because proper execution of the throw takes a dedicated time of training just that throw, something many MMA fighters don't have time for as they attempt to round out their multifaceted games.
Not many high level Judoka have crossed over to MMA and those that do can struggled at first to adapt to the no gi clinch fighting in MMA. What has allowed Ronda to become so instantly successful in MMA is her long time relationship with "Judo" Gene LeBell and Team Hayastan MMA. Led by Gokor Chivichyan, who has spent time in the sports of Sambo, Judo, Submission Grappling, and Wrestling, the gym is home to many Judoka turned MMA fighters. The most notable being Karo Parisyan, who was one of the first Judoka to really transfer a full fledged Judo game to no gi MMA.
Karo is a long time friend, training partner, and coach of Ronda Rousey. He was in her corner at UFC 168, and here is a video of him teaching the Uchi Mata counter to an outside trip that he adapted for MMA competition.
Karo Parisyan, Judo For Mixed Martial Arts - Uchi-Mata (via WorldMartialArts)
This is the exact technique Ronda would turn to as Tate very quickly went back to the well and attempted an outside trip later in the first round.
Above is the first of two additional outside trips Tate attempted. This time, Tate is not in the same position, rather than looking behind Ronda, she is looking the same direction as the Champion. Additionally, Tate does not have control of Rousey's hips, and as a result the champion is able to keep her weight off the entrapped leg, circled in red you can see that the foot is completely off the mat and all of Ronda's weight is on her right foot.
Tate's arm is across the front of Ronda, and her right knee is behind Ronda's knee in addition to wrapping up Ronda's left leg. From this position, if Tate is able to get Rousey's balance going backwards, Tate will be able to sit down and get a trip, but Ronda's posture is upright with a slight lean forward. At this point Tate's takedown has failed.
Ronda has her left arm across Tate's back, just as Karo showed in the video, and uses it to force Tate to lean forward. Once Tate has been forced this far forward with Ronda's left leg hooking the inside, she is ripe for the Uchi-Mata.
As Ronda leans forward her left leg kicks backwards and up, lifting Tate's hips above her head and when combined with a bit of torque from Ronda's upper body, results in Tate going airborne. Click here for a gif of the complete throw.
Tate would attempt the outside trip one more time in the round, and this time Ronda was clearly prepared for it an executed her Uchi-Mata with amazing smoothness and force.
This time Tate is shooting from too far outside, she is bent over, and there is a great deal of distance between their hips. Rousey is able to get her grip across Tate's back, circled in red, as Tate is forced to chase Ronda to try to get the connection she needs to get the takedown.
Tate is able to close the distance, but she pays a dear price for it. Often, beginners in grappling struggle with hip throws and spinning throws like the Uchi-Mata because they are hesitant to turn their back and make a solid connection with their opponent. It feels like a highly exposed position. But eventually they learn not to fear the connection because the winner of a clinch takedown exchange is the grappler who has the superior posture and balance.
In the above position, you can see Tate has connected with Ronda, but her base is badly stretched out, the top of her left foot is on the mat, meaning she cannot push off of it for power and balance, and her right foot is somewhat blocking Ronda's foot, but Tate's balance is causing her momentum to go to her left, away from the leg she wants to trip.
While Ronda's weight is on her left foot in this picture, she is easily able to catch her balance and Rousey's planted on that foot to spin around to throw Miesha in the direction her momentum was taking for a fairly high amplitude throw, gif right here, and the round ended soon afterwards.
This sequence clearly demonstrates the skill level gap between these two fighters as Ronda was clearly and easily able to adjust to what Tate was finding success with in the grappling department, while Tate was left attempting the same technique over and over.
And the chess game did not stop after the first round, as Ronda continued to change things up. In first ten seconds of round two Ronda faked an Uchi-Mata and then hit a kouchi gari foot sweep, full gif right here. I would break this down but BJJ Scout has already produced what I consider to be the definitive work on Ronda's kouchi gari, so I leave you with that video.
BJJ Scout: Ronda Rousey Takedown Study - Judo in MMA (via BJJSCOUT)
Special thanks to BE reader and community member the JudoNerd for the tip on that Karo video, and to our Judo/Takedown coach at Team Redzovic and owner of Evolution Dojo in Chicago Maje Omagbaluwaje, a 3-time Olympian for his insights on this throw as well.
Also big thank you to Zombie Prophet for the gifs, and I Iinked a few from the Art of Grappling WordPress and their rundown of the Judo Ronda used in the fight as well.