Don’t: pull guard when strikes are involved
BJJ for competition is different than BJJ for MMA.
Even though you may have a great guard game in a pure grappling competition, as soon as strikes are involved everything changes and top position becomes much more valuable than bottom position. The top player has gravity and ease of mobility on their side, not to mention most MMA judges tend to view the top player as the fighter who is winning. Even if you are threatening subs from guard, judges may not be savvy enough to award much for a good offense from bottom especially if their understanding of BJJ is limited.
In MMA the guard is not a position you want to go to willingly except as a last resort.
Do: Work on your stand up game.The days of being a one trick pony in MMA are over. Every round starts standing and much of the rule set benefits the striker. For example if ithe fight gets boring on the ground you’re likely to be stood back up, also regardless of how well you're doing on the ground, at the end of each round you’ll be stood up, so ignore your striking skills at your peril.
Whether you like it or not you will be standing in MMA, be sure you prepare for that part of the fight. Also don’t forget the more dangerous your hands are the easier the take downs will be
Don’t: Use berimbollo or any other technique that leaves you open to getting hitSome modern guard systems are great and can be clever innovations that allow a savvy competitor to rise to the top in a pure grappling competition but once strikes are involved things change.
If a position you like in BJJ class opens you up to immediately getting your face smashed, save it for the next NAGA tournament and find another way to win on the ground that keeps you safe from strikes.
Do: Consider using some closed guard and butterfly guard strategies if you get stuck on the bottom.
If you end up on the ground and on your back some styles of guard are better than others. As mentioned earlier bottom position isn’t great for MMA. Here are a few options to help get your hand raised.
1) break your opponents posture in closed guard, stop the action and get stood back up again. MMA promoters don't like boring ground exchanges, if you're on the bottom and you feel you're unable to win from this position, tangle up your opponent, break their posture and get stood back up. It usually won't take long but beware, this will only work for guard. If you're getting dominated on the ground don't bet on getting stood back up by the ref.
2) work to stand up - rather than trying to submit from the bottom actively work to stand up, butterfly guard can be useful to make space to stand up using technical stabd up or possibly to sweep and take top position
Don't: Get taken down/don't neglect your wrestling
It's easier said than done but if you don't put some effort into training your takedown defense against the cage and in the middle of the cage (because it's not always the same thing) you will be at the mercy of an opponent with good wrestling or judo. Even if you get right back up, takedowns don't look good in the eyes of a judge and can mean the difference between winning and losing a round
Do: Take it to the ground if you're the better grappler... unless...
If your are winning on your feet keep it standing, otherwise take it to the ground especially if you feel your ground game is stronger than your opponent's. There are tons of ways to take a fight to the ground check out some common options here.
Don't: Fight in your opponents preferred 'range of combat'
Just like BJJ, in MMA different competitors have their preferred 'game'. MMA can be divided into four ranges of combat, kicking range, boxing range, clinch (on and off the fence - dirty boxing - Muay Thai 'plum'), grappling range. Avoid your opponents strongest areas.
Do: Move the fight to your game
Look at each range and try to determine in which area you have the greatest advantage and move the fight to that combat range. Once there you may discover your opponent is stronger in that area than expected, at this stage you may need to shift to a different game plan.
Don't: Ignore Brazilian Jiu Jitsu!
BJJ in MMA is a requirement, even at the amateur level you can't ignore the ground game. If you don't train your grappling and you can't prevent the takedown you'll get in trouble even if your striking is great.
Do: Remember the rule 'position before submission' especially in the cage.
The strategic drawbacks for losing top position is even greater in MMA than in pure grappling. If you attack a submission before gaining solid control you may lose dominant position. For example if you've mounted your opponent and have the opportunity for some good ground and pound you may not want to drop for the arm bar. Why? You're winning and in a dominant position and can strike without virtually any danger of getting hit back by your mounted opponent. If you miss the arm bar against a slippery fighter (without a rash guard much less a gi for friction) you may end up on the bottom.
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