If you’ve watched a few MMA fights you’ve likely heard the commentators mention the word grappling. It’s a bit of a vague term and it’s hard to figure out what it means by the way it’s used. So, in this article, I will explain exactly what grappling is.
Grappling in MMA is where one fighter grabs another fighter mostly with their arms. They then attempt to wrestle them to the ground or position themselves in a favorable position to land strikes such as knees and elbows. They can also apply joint locks and chokeholds.
However, in some cases, a fighter can entangle another fighter’s legs with their own legs, and trip them up and use that to get into an advantageous position. Below, I will explain the benefits of grappling, and what types of martial arts/sports are considered grappling.
Why Do UFC Fighters Grapple?
A real-life fight involves striking but, the two people fighting can also grab on to each other and try to push and pull each other around while landing strikes. There are advantages to grappling and striking, and here’s what the advantages of grappling are.
Grappling is advantageous for a UFC fighter because it can tire out their opponent, they can get into a dominant position on the ground, or standing and then apply chokeholds or joint locks, or they can hold their opponent to buy time while they recover from a significant strike.
When a fight goes to the ground the person who ends up on top is generally in the dominant position and has a big advantage. The reason is they can land strikes and put their body weight on their opponent. Whereas, the person underneath the other person only has weak strikes, and is also getting ‘crushed’ by the bodyweight of the other person.
There is one exception and that is fighters who are particularly good at the ‘guard’ position. This is where the other person is trapped inside the legs of the person in the bottom position. From the guard position, there are many very effective submissions such as armbars, and triangle chokes.
To understand grappling from underneath the opponent here’s a video of famous UFC fighter Paul Craig:
Grappling can be used to tire out your opponent a lot
Grappling also has the advantage of tiring out the other person. If a person gets taken down and is in the bottom position the objective is almost always to get back to their feet. And avoid strikes from the bottom position.
But, as a person tries to escape, and get back to their feet they expend a lot of energy. Whereas, the person on top is largely relaxing. This makes them far more tired over the course of a fight, which can ultimately lead to them being overwhelmed by their opponent.
For example, wrestlers are particularly good at using their weight to make the other person expend the most amount of energy possible to get back to their feet. A good example of this is the 2nd fight between former UFC heavyweight Daniel Cormier and the very dangerous striker Anthony Johnson.
Daniel Cormier tired out Anthony Johnson so much with his wrestling/grappling throughout that Anthony Johnson was too tired to defend himself, and eventually got submitted by Daniel Cormier.
Grappling can nullify a very dangerous striker in MMA
Another really good example is the first fight between Francis Ngannou and Stipe Miocic. Stipe Miocic was the heavy-weight champion at the time. As you may know, Francis Ngannou is a VERY dangerous striker. Stipe Miocic successfully avoided Francis Ngannou’s strikes and was able to wrestle him to the ground.
Once on the ground, Stipe was able to hold him there where Francis Ngannou’s very dangerous strikes could not be used. Stipe Miocic also did the same thing with the very dangerous striker Mark Hunt.
However, in the second fight, Francis was able to avoid getting taken down and ultimately was able to land his very hard strikes and beat Stipe.
What Are Grappling Sports?
The term grappling is a bit difficult to get your head around because it’s not a term that’s used very much outside of martial arts. Therefore, it’s hard to know what sports are grappling sports and which are not. Here’s what a grappling sport is, and some examples of the most well-known ones.
Grappling sports are sports where two opponents grab a hold of each other and try to apply joint locks, chokeholds, throws, or takedowns. Sports that are grappling sports are judo, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, shuai jiao, and sambo.
Sambo is a bit different because strikes are allowed. Sambo is very similar to MMA except fighters wear boxing-style gloves, and headgear. Fighters also wear MMA shorts and a kimono top. The top is the same as the jacket you see in judo and karate.
Many cultures have a grappling style of sport, but they aren’t very well known. For example, in Scotland, they have Scottish back hold wrestling. It’s very similar to wrestling but both fighters start with their hands clasped around each other’s back.
Is Grappling the Same as Jiu Jitsu?
There can be a bit of confusion about what grappling is, and many of the grappling sports such as jiu jitsu aren’t as mainstream as other popular sports. Grappling is a common term used by MMA commentators during MMA fights but is grappling jiu jitsu?
Grappling is not the same as jiu jitsu. Jiu jitsu is a martial art that is considered a grappling martial art. There are various martial arts that are considered grappling such as wrestling, and judo. These are distinct from striking martial arts such as kickboxing, and boxing.
In general, the main point of difference is the objective of the martial art. For example, in ‘striking’ martial arts the objective is to win by using strikes like punches, kicks, and knees. Whereas, in grappling martial arts the objective is to throw or takedown your opponent, and/or apply join locks or chokes to make your opponent give up.