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Judo vs Wrestling in MMA

by Tom Reynolds on April 20, 2011

First, a little breakdown of the difference in principles between judo and wrestling take downs that I want to get out of the way:

Setting Up/Finishing Judo Throws

  1. Get Your Grips (Grip fighting is a big deal in Judo. Whoever gets the superior grip usually gets the take down)
  2. Off-Balance Your Opponent(Forget this step and you will probably get countered)
  3. Footwork (Similar to the penetration step in wrestling.  This is what you do once your opponent is off-balanced)
  4. Commit to the Throw

Setting Up/Finishing Wrestling Takedowns

  1. Setup (i.e. head snap)
  2. Penetration Step (Shooting in)
  3. Clinch (Similar to getting your grip in Judo, but this is a very fast step and you typically never stop)
  4. Drive and Commit to the Takedown

The big difference between judo and wrestling is that wrestlers tend to setup their takedown from the outside then clinch to the finish whereas judokas tend to clinch then setup their takedown.

Wrestling has an obvious place in Mixed Martial Arts.  All of the takedowns that are emphasized from day one have a place in the cage because of the lack of clothing grips in both sports.  It is also crucial as a bridge between standing and the ground.  Whoever has the superior wrestling can decide where the fight takes place.

Judo is an often overlooked and under appreciated take on the takedown game in MMA.  Because there is a lot of emphasis on grips for many of the footsweeps and throws to be effective, many fighters and trainers don’t see its use.  Like in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with the gi, a lot of the techniques can be difficult to pull off without specific grips.

On the other hand, many of the athletes in both Judo and BJJ that train with the gi have a side of the game opened up to them that they see and their counterparts don’t.  It’s the nature of being unorthodox. Most fighters don’t train with Judokas so they don’t know how to prepare.

For example, there is a huge emphasis on underhooks in the no gi game for good reason. You can control your opponent and get under their hips for takedowns.  The problem comes when an unprepared wrestler uses underhooks on a prepared judoka.  As you’ll see in this video, many of the big throws come when a judoka uses the overhook that he is given and launches his opponent with a big throw.

It’s a pretty cool video. I ended up watching these throws a few times.


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  • The takeaway in my mind is to learn how to get into the clinch like a wrestler, but learn to add the throwing principles of a judoka. The off balance is critical so always get your opponent’s weight to shift before you try to throw.

  • Antimoilsuper

    Wrestling? FOLKSTYLE WRESTLING hasn’t work in the clinch! Freestyle and greco roman wrestling have high amplitude throws and great work in the clinch!

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