Jessica Andrade shocked the world at UFC 237 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when she knocked Rose Namajunas out with a slam in the second round. This slam earned her the UFC women’s strawweight title.
At this point Rose was controlling the fight but Jessica was gaining momentum and I believe that once it was established that Namajunas could not (visibly) hurt Andrade on the feet, eventually the latter would start dominating the fight with her relentless pressure. Rose was already starting to get tired when the slam happened.
As you can see in the tweet above, Rose held onto a kimura grip during the slam and since then there has been a lot of debate about whether the slam was legal or not. Here is Big John McCarthy’s take:
When Rose goes for the armbar she has a choice to either let go of the armbar or try and hold onto it and go for the ride that Andrade is going to put on her. There is no illegal slam when a submission is being attempted. It does not matter how she brings her down #AskBJM https://t.co/eBgvzcdZBY— Big John McCarthy (@JohnMcCarthyMMA) May 12, 2019
That being said the focus of this post is not whether slams should be legal or not, but from a technical standpoint, to stress the importance of fighters protecting themselves at all times and letting go of a submission in order to avoid landing on their head.
What is a slam
A slam occurs when fighters lift their opponent off the mat/canvas and return them to the ground with force before their own body hits the mat.
In most submission grappling tournaments takedowns are NOT considered slams, but you must deliver your opponent safely to the mat. Here is some more info.
Are slams dangerous?
Make no mistake, slams are falls and falls are dangerous. According to World Health Organization falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide. Each year an estimated 646 000 individuals die from falls globally of which over 80% are in low- and middle-income countries. Adults older than 65 years of age suffer the greatest number of fatal falls.
A slam is more dangerous when fighters lift their opponents extremely high, jump or apply excessive downward force to gain momentum and add to the impact against the mat. Finally slams are more dangerous when opponents land with their head first.
Slams can TKO opponents or even paralyze them. It’s happened to Gabriel Diniz who lost the use of his arms and legs upon being slammed on his neck. Luckily he has regained some movement and feeling (source). Here is the story posted on BE by Zane Simon.
That being said, lifting takedowns and slams are very exciting from a fan’s perspective and I am against banning them.
Types of slams
In MMA and submission grappling there can be two types of slams: the ones that are the result of a finish to a takedown or a throw and the ones that are used as a way of escaping submission finishes or grappling contols.
In this last type of slams, opponents typically have secured submission control and allow themselves to get lifted of the ground. Most of the times these fighters know that a slam is about to happen but hope that the impact will not be devastating enough to knock them out or injure them. Unfortunately, in many cases, this is not the case.
Hold on to submissions or let go?
In my humble opinion fighters should not hold on to submissions if their opponents succeed in lifting them from the ground. Landing safely should be their main concern and they need to have their arms free in order to do so. In the case of armbars, omoplatas and triangles, unlocking the legs and letting go can also help.
I am not saying here that you cannot finish a submission if your opponent lifts you. There have been many successful submission attempts where fighters were able to survive the slam and tap their opponents.
However, as we will see next, holding on to a submission when getting lifted can cause a fighter to lose a fight or suffer serious injuries.
A brief history of famous slams against submissions.
This is not the first time a fighter gets knocked out while holding on to a submission at all costs.
Here are same famous slam counters against submission attempts:
Slam knockouts in UFC title fights:— Streetfight Bancho (@streetfitebanch) May 12, 2019
-Frank Shamrock vs. Igor Zinoviev - UFC 16
-Tito Ortiz vs. Evan Tanner - UFC 30
-Matt Hughes vs. Carlos Newton - UFC 34
-Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas - UFC 237 pic.twitter.com/HIv2HIh051
-Frank Shamrock vs. Igor Zinoviev UFC 16
-Tito Ortiz vs. Evan Tanner - UFC 30
-Matt Hughes vs. Carlos Newton - UFC 34 (Matt was actually out on his feet but Newton was already high enough to get knocked out from the slam).
A fighter who is famous for his slams is Quinton Jackson.
Here is Rampage’s slam KO of Ricardo Arona back in PRIDE Critical Countdown 2004: gif.clip.
This clip suggests that Arona was also headbutted:
Charles Bennet was another fighter that would often slam his way out of submissions. Here are some examples:
Kimura defense against a takedown attempt
A kimura is commonly used as a counter to wrestling takedowns. This is analyzed in detail in the video below by coach Firas Zahabi:
The problem with kimura defenses against lifts is that keeping your own arm trapped by holding on to the lock prevents you from posting your arm in order to avoid landing on your head.
An example of this is a famous (and scary) slam, Kevin Randleman’s suplex against Fedor Emelianenko
A similar sequence took place when Robbie Lawler slammed Ben Askren back in UFC 235:
Description: In photo 1 above, Askren seems to try and get a a kimura grip but his feet are exposed. Lawler grabs the left foot, picks Askren up and drops him on his head. Askren seems to survive the impact and continues to go for a kimura control as he is getting punched.
Kimura vs high crotch takedowns
As mentioned above, the fight ending sequence at UFC 237 was the result of a high crotch takedown.
Here is a detailed analysis of the sequence:
Coach David Avellan is famous for his kimura trap instructional series. Here is his take:
My take: Instead of holding on to the grip, Rose should have abandoned the kimura attempt, control Jessica’s head and elbow and try to break her grips, cut an angle in order to disengage her hips and go for whizzers and underhooks. Namajunas used a BJJ mentality (submit or sweep when getting taken down) when she should have used a wrestling one (work to stop the takedown). More details in the videos below.
Defending against a high crotch takedown
Here is a list of my favorite high crotch takedown defenses. These are wrestling counters and need to be modified in order to make them work when a fighter’s back is against the cage. I will not embed all the following videos as this will make this post difficult to load. Please click on the links to watch:
Slams against front headlocks
Slams are common counters against front headlocks and standing guillotines attempts.
Finally, there is Wanderlei Silva vs. Kazushi Sakuraba:
In order to avoid this, a fighter should let go of the head and try to use their arms to minimize the impact of the slam as Jon Jones was able to do against Daniel Cormier:
Slams from takedowns.
There are several fighters who are known for their vicious slams when they are able to secure a takedown control. Two of them are Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Rousimar Palhares. Here are two examples:
We will not focus here on slams from all types of takedowns. Rose was slammed trying to defend a high crotch takedown, so we will analyze this takedown in detail next.
Slams from a high crotch takedown
A high crotch lift to a dump or a slam is a very popular takedown in MMA. Watch below for a detailed analysis:
A fighter who uses this takedown regularly is Daniel Cormier.
Below are several examples of DC applying this takedown in action.
Description: Cormier lands a jab and right cross on Josh Barnett and touches the shoulder instead of punching the head, and immediately ducks to get a high crotch takedown. Once Cormier establishes control of the foot, Barnett starts to fly (gif).
Description: Cormier uses a simple jab to left cross, rolls under, snatches the leg and scores an impressive takedown against Dan Henderson. The right cross almost lands, but the intention is not to score a knockout, just to distract Henderson from defending the takedown. Notice how Daniel cuts the corner to load Hendo’s weight under his hips and gets a double leg control. (gif)
Description: Cormier lands a left inside low kick and slips a right cross from Alexander Gustafsson. He is able to duck under and grab the leg while pushing Alex against the cage. Cormier pulls Gus away from the cage and executes an impressive high crotch takedown which can only be appreciated by watching this gif (angle 2).
Additional clip: here is Rousimar Palhares with an epic high crotch. (Source)
As you can see in all examples above, a high crotch takedown is a very effective way to slam opponents and fighters need to be aware of this.
Slams are an unavoidable part of the MMA game but landing on the head should be avoided at all costs. Fighters should let go of submissions when lifted, land in a safe manner and get to live and fight another day.
That will be all for this post, see you again soon with another breakdown.
About the Author: Kostas Fantaousakis is a researcher of fighting concepts, tactics, and techniques, and a state-certified MMA, grappling, and wrestling coach in Greece. He teaches his unique Speedforce MMA mittwork system © which combines strikes, takedowns, knees, and elbows applied in the Continuous Feedback © mittwork system of the Mayweather family. Kostas is a black belt in BJJ under MMA veteran and BJJ world champion Wander Braga (the teacher of Gabriel Napao Gonzaga).