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Takedown breakdown: Jordan Burroughs’ versatile double leg

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The World and Olympic champion is no one-trick pony when it comes to his signature attack

France Wrestling: Wrestling World Championships in Paris Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The sport of mixed martial arts allows for endless creative opportunities. When it comes to wrestling, there is no limit to the ways striking and jiu jitsu can complement the “oldest and greatest” sport. We’ve seen that in the first two Takedown Breakdown articles on Petr Yan and Dominick Cruz.

MMA is still a fairly nascent sport with skill and strategy in early development. To learn new lessons and draw inspiration, aspiring MMA-wrestlers should turn to the source itself, amateur wrestling at its highest level. There, we see hundreds of examples of innovation and problem-solving on a weekly basis.

To demonstrate this. let’s take a look at the greatest American wrestler of the last decade - Jordan Burroughs.

The Double Leg King

Nearly ten years after winning the Hodge Trophy, the “Heisman of wrestling”, five-time World and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs is still battling on the front lines, scrapping for hardware and glory.

For a more in-depth look at his credentials and style, check out this breakdown on his Final X series vs. Isaiah Martinez.

“Not every wrestler has a ‘signature move,’ but for years, Jordan Burroughs has been defined by his double leg. Explosivity, timing and versatility made the Burroughs blast double an immediate threat on the international stage.

Despite a dramatic evolution in his style, Burroughs is still often labeled as a wrestler with “just a double leg.” With the exception of throws from upper body positions, Burroughs can really do it all. We’ve seen him use his stance and motion to set up gorgeous head outside singles, he can transition into a leg lace, Burroughs even outscrambles the craftiest wrestlers in the world like superstar Frank Chamizo. Even if you are committed to scoring on Burroughs, his physicality and ferocious handfighting mean you are in for an absolute dogfight.”

With all of this in mind, the double is still Burroughs’ highest percentage attack, and with good reason. The sheer threat of his powerful shot, along with the ability to fire off doubles from his knees, makes for relatively simple setups. Burroughs can level fake and draw reactions from his opponents, then time their rise back into their stance. The beauty of this is that even if his opponent has barely built up off their knees, Burroughs can shoot low enough that the window is always there.

However, at the 2019 World Wrestling Championship in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, Burroughs ran into a nightmarish style match-up.

Azamat NURIKOV (BLR)

Alexander Medved Prizes Intercontinental Cup Waclaw Ziolkowski Memorial Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix Ali Aliev Tournament European Championship *Key Victories*
Alexander Medved Prizes Intercontinental Cup Waclaw Ziolkowski Memorial Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix Ali Aliev Tournament European Championship *Key Victories*
2012 Gold 2013 Bronze 2014 Silver 2019 Bronze 2019 Bronze 2016 Bronze Bekzod Abdurakhmonov
2014 Gold Zaurbek Sidakov
2015 Gold Magomedmurad Gadzhiev
2017 Gold Boris Novachkov
2018 Gold Agaguseynov Mustafaev
Zurab Iakobishvili
Timur Bizhoev
Isaiah Martinez

A Russian transfer to Belarus, Azamat Nurikov (spelled Nurykau by the Belorussians) has a well-rounded set of skills, but one particular specialty spelled trouble for Burroughs.

He thrives on the counter, and his absolute best position comes from front headlock holds - chest wraps and the head pinch. Meaning, if you shoot straight-on against Nurikov, it plays directly into his best looks for exposures.

In other words, Burroughs’ A-game played directly into Nurikov’s A-game.

As mentioned in the Martinez breakdown, Burroughs can get to a few different techniques, but without taking leg attacks, he’s crippling his offense.

The match was a dogfight, and a complete mess. Burroughs never truly decided on one approach, but in one exchange, he showed the perfect answer to Nurikov’s game.

The key was to use aggressive hand fighting and short offense to move Nurikov into vulnerable positions before blasting through him. Of course, this is easier said than done. The Russian transfer, like the majority of his elite countrymen, is excellent in the hand fight.

It had to be one fluid maneuver.

Burroughs double leg Nurikov

So much of hand fighting is about initiative - clearing your opponent’s ties and establishing your own, learning their reactions. The vast majority of takedown entries at the world level are about picking up reads, eliciting a response and capitalizing.

Sometimes, small victories in this manner can make a tremendous difference. Knowing at this point that Burroughs is wary of his chest wrap and head pinch counters, Nurikov is comfortable aggressively reaching up and snapping, knowing that if Burroughs does level change under the hands, he has an answer.

Noticing Nurikov reaching over to slap on ties, Burroughs clears, and as Nurikov reaches, Burroughs digs a lead right-side underhook along with his collar tie.

He had the position he needed for a dynamic setup.

Burroughs double leg Nurikov

Stepping back with his lead leg and backing out, Burroughs freed his head while retaining the underhook. Burroughs slid his collar-tie hand out and switched it over to a hard post.

Now, Burroughs is using the underhook to hold Nurikov in place as he circles toward the Russian’s left leg. The post compromises Nurikov’s posture and keeps him turned away, creating the angle Burroughs needs to avoid a straight-on shot.

As soon as he has Nurikov lined up, Burroughs goes right-leg lead and takes the double, running straight through with his head across the hip to the right.

The beauty of this finish is that Burroughs has that near-side leg in the air, Nurikov is too focused on staying upright with his remaining base leg to even attempt to turn in and counter.

Burroughs and Nurikov would continue to battle back and forth through the final seconds. Surviving a controversial call at the match’s conclusion, Burroughs prevailed 11-10. Every point mattered.

Application to MMA

The idea of attacking on angles is extremely prevalent in the boxing world, but MMA fighters have been slow to catch on. Of course, when balancing a number of different combat sports at once, fighters are unlikely to reach a particularly high level in any single discipline without specializing.

As you saw in this exchange, angled attacks can be just as important in wrestling. The first major takeaway for fighters should be to consider, conceptually, how they can position themselves outside the windows of their opponent’s weapons. Typically, it’s a matter of recognizing patterns, drawing them out and maneuvering from there.

The takedowns dissected in both the Yan and Cruz articles demonstrated how this can work in MMA.

Approaching wrestling in this fashion in MMA answers a lot of questions that transitioning athletes often face. When teaching wrestling for MMA, you see a lot of mechanical adjustments to avoid the guillotine or other counter submission attempts. Exchanges like this one in freestyle wrestling can be a great place to look, where competitors like Burroughs are navigating having their shots exploited by chest wraps, head pinches, and crotch locks on a regular basis.

Next week’s breakdown will be a return to mixed martial arts, stay tuned!