Cuban judo Olympian Hector Lombard followed the same path as many other prolific grappling to MMA transfers.
Noticing fairly early that he had the physical attributes and technical aptitude to knock people out, he made less and less of an effort to initiate wrestling situations and work his base advantage.
Needless to say, it’s a more difficult proposition for a judoka to constantly have to punch their way into favorable tie-ups and find the positioning for throws than for a wrestler to take leg attacks from space with much less effort.
Fortunately, Lombard did not completely abandon his judo, his fight with wrestler and “American jiu-jitsu” black belt Jake Shields was by far his most clinical display.
There are a few reasons for this.
The most obvious is that there was an absurd physical disparity between the two. Not that Shields is “weak”, but the former middleweight juggernaut Lombard was clearly in a different class athletically. In simple terms, it was easy for Lombard to move Shields around.
On the feet, Lombard was able to walk Shields down and bomb on him consistently, the American’s lack of backfoot craft meant he ran out of real estate relatively quickly. His answer to Lombard’s aggression was to tie up, or shoot. Lombard’s brutally strong hips and handfighting kept Shields from getting any clean attacks off, and after defending, it was Lombard’s world in the clinch.
One final detail, and the one we’ll be focusing on in this article, is how the threat of clinch striking put Shields in vulnerable positions.
Using clinch striking to set up takedowns
Early in the second round, Lombard barrels forward with a combination, prompting Shields to shoot a single with his back to the fence.
Lombard gets his hips back while applying a whizzer on the reaching arm and a frame or crossface against the face, backing Shields off and standing him up. Shields bails on the shot and comes up to a collar tie, giving Lombard a right-side underhook. Lombard grabs an inside tie on the left side.
This is already a great throwing position for Lombard. They’re in an open stance matchup, and Lombard has an underhook on Shields’ lead side, meaning his strongest tie is right where Shields has all his weight.
In judo, the idea is to set your opponent off balance before executing any scoring maneuver. For a foot sweep in particular, also known as de ashi harai or okuri ashi harai in this case (thanks Tom!), you want to hit the sweep either as they’re transferring their weight to the sweeping side, or you can catch them mid-step as you move them across to that side.
Instead of trying to muscle Shields or start stepping himself and likely complicating the exchange, Lombard encourages Shields to create that motion himself.
With this open stance matchup, Shields’ body is completely exposed on Lombard’s left. Lombard drills the rear knee to the side.
Shields’ reaction does all the work for Lombard.
The first change is that Shields steps in to close the gap between their hips. A lot of the power in clinch strikes can come from the distance they’re able to travel, so smothering and going hips-in can be helpful in some cases.
One key dynamic to look at is the push-pull flow of this exchange. Before firing the knee, Lombard is pressuring in, forcing Shields to step back with his left leg. After the strike lands, to close that gap, Shields naturally steps back in with that same leg, favoring the left side of his hips.
That is a huge win for Lombard. Shields is now standing bladed, or side-on. If you’ve ever had basic martial arts instruction, you’ve probably learned the pros and cons of each stance. A squared stance will make it easier to resist lateral pressure, but a straight push will blow you over. A side-on stance, will let you stand your ground linearly, but you become vulnerable to pressure from either side.
Foot sweeps, or reaps, come from the side.
As Shields steps in and blades himself, Lombard digs that underhook across the back, pushes Shields to the left, hooks around the lead leg of Shields with his right, and pushes Shields to the right over the reaping leg.
In fact, Shields’ stance is so narrow that it appears Lombard is able to hook behind both legs and completely take out his base. The underhook and attacking leg sends Shields’ lower body to the left, the pushing hand forces his upper body against that pressure to the right. To add power, Lombard is pivoting on his left leg and twisting toward his right, guiding Shields and aiding the push.
As a result - Shields is horizontal.
Watch it all at once using the link below.