When Ryan Jimmo locked horns with Igor Pokrajac at UFC 161, the results were less than exhilarating. In fact, so thin was the entertainment gruel served up in the fight, that UFC President Dana White expostulated furiously on Twitter: "THIS FIGHT SUCKS!!!!!" Five exclamation marks indicates a truly dire situation, and there is indeed an epidemic of boring fights spreading through the UFC, like an STD in a wife-swapping ring. The genesis of this tragedy is simple: most MMA fighters don't know how to fight from a clinch against the cage.
Ryan Jimmo is a Karate champion and powerful striker, but much of the fight was spent tightly embracing Igor while pressing him against the cage. This resulted in protracted periods without action as each fighter nullified the other. The referee had to separate them multiple times in the hope of jump-starting some sort of actual fight. However, Jimmo and Igor are hardly the sole perpetrators of the boring and decidedly un-martial phenomenon of cage clinch stasis.
When Daniel Cormier took on Frank Mir at UFC on Fox 7, the result was an equally tedious, interminable display of man-on-man hugging against the cage. Daniel leaned on Frank, and Frank embraced Daniel. That travesty recalled Cheik Congo's equally boring win over Shawn Jordan, another fight that took place largely in a clinch against the cage, with neither man doing any damage or advancing his position. There have been many such stinkers in MMA's annals.
This inability to do anything when clinching against the cage is not because there is nothing that can be done when clinching against the cage. It is because the army of MMA wrestling coaches is culpable for teaching MMA fighters that winning the clinch comprises turning your opponent's back to the cage and leaning on him for three rounds. Occasionally, they counsel, to break the monotony one may stamp on his toes, knee him ineffectively in the thigh, attempt a single destined to fail due to a lack of momentum, or daintily rabbit punch him in the ribs. Fortunately, there is a better way than this.
Like many Judoka, I suffer paroxysms when I behold static cage clinching, because Judo affords numerous ready opportunities for effective takedowns from this position. If these were more widely known in MMA, fans would nevermore have to endure the mind-numbing, yet disturbingly erotic spectacle of muscular athletes embracing fiercely against a metal fence for extended periods of time. So here are a few basic Judo throws that can and should be used to advance a fence-clinching situation.
The broad principle: In any clinch situation, a fighter will have his arms around his opponent's torso. Every single permutation of this clinch is an opportunity for a specific throw. It also makes no difference whether the fighter's back is on the cage or if he is the one away from it. Based on the advanced fighting principle of adapting to the situation rather than forcing it (the 'be like water' paradigm), turning your opponent around or fighting for a better clinch position is a waste of time and energy. In the clinch, you are ALWAYS in position for a takedown. These are the possibilities:
1. If you have an underhook: Having your arm under your opponent's and around his torso sets him up for Judo throws like O-goshi, Uki goshi or Harai goshi. These simply involve blocking your opponent with your hip, pulling him off balance with your non-hooking arm, and throwing him over your hip with your under-hooking arm. Side control results.Voila:
2. If you have an Overhook: If your opponent has the underhook, then by definition, you have an overhook, meaning you can control his under-hooking arm by wrapping it from above. Using this grip to unbalance his upper body, you can execute variations of the hip throws above. Voici:
3. If your arm is around his head: If your opponent has an underhook, your same-side arm is in position to wrap tightly around his head and execute Ronda Rousey's favorite and signature throw, Koshi guruma. Simply block him with your hip, use your head-and-arm grip to unbalance his upper body, and fling him over your hip. Like so:
4. If his legs are in proximity: And in the clinch, when are they not? There is therefore no excuse not to immediately deprive him of his primary means of support. There is a vast range of possible leg attacks (aka Ashi-waza), but in summary you can sweep his legs out from under him with your own foot, reap his leg off the floor using yours as a scythe, or block his leg with yours to prevent him from stabilising as you unbalance his upper body. For example:
An MMA fight can take place at striking distance, in the clinch or on the ground. There is no excuse for fighters to have striking skills and a ground game, but become petrified when clinching against the cage. Every clinch, against the cage or otherwise, is an opportunity to seize control of the fight with a take-down, and to innoculate fans against the terrible affliction of watching a boring fight. Hopefully in future, more fighters will realise this and get their Judo on.