Guard Bottom

I've seen many excellent jiu-jitsu practitioners forget about submissions and sweeps when they find themselves in the bottom guard position in MMA competition. Instead of working their jiu-jitsu, they throw an assortment of strikes in an attempt to knock their opponent out. It wouldn't be so bad if they used strikes to help set up submissions, but often times they don't. They simply get comfortable striking from their back. Unless you land a strike just right or get extremely lucky and manage to open a cut, you generally aren't going to end a fight with strikes while lying on your back. You can irritate your opponent, you can force movement with strikes, but usually the only way you can end a fight from the bottom guard position is with a submission. For this reason, you should think of the bottom guard in straight jiu-jitsu terms. You have to tailor your jiu-jitsu to deal with incoming strikes, but your goals on the bottom should be purely jiu-jitsu oriented. The three goals you want to work for are a submission, a sweep, and an escape back to your feet. It is important to focus on all three, not just submissions. If you're up against a good ground and pound fighter who is a master at slipping out of submissions, he is going to make you pay every time a submission attempt fails. If you don't use the movement your submission attempts generate to set up a sweep or an escape, you can quickly wind up a bloody mess.

Sit-Up Guard

When an opponent postures up in your guard, his ability to lock in a submission is greatly reduced, while his ability to land strikes greatly increases. He can throw an assortment of punches, as well as pin your head to the mat and land brutal elbow strikes. Not wanting to be on the receiving end of a beating, I will usually sit up with my opponent by posting on one arm, and then drive my opposite elbow into his neck, face, and chin. Because I close the distance between us, it greatly reduces his ability to land strikes. He can still get off some punches to my body, but they certainly aren't those devastating elbows to the face.

If your opponent should capitalize on his ability to throw body blows when you're playing the sit up guard, it shouldn't always be considered a negative. As long as your opponent is striking, he can't hold you, which means you have mobility. Since you are already up on one arm, you can sometimes make a quick escape back to your feet when your opponent strikes. The whole idea behind the sit-up guard is to take the least amount of punishment while still working toward bettering your positioning. As you will see in the upcoming section, there are many options at your disposal, and most of them work hand in glove with one another.

A Damn Good Guard

When an opponent postures up in your guard, the sit-up guard is a great option to utilize because it eliminates space and makes it very difficult for your opponent to land solid blows. However, not every opponent who wants to do damage with strikes from the top guard position will posture up. If your opponent likes throwing strikes while keeping his weight pressed down on top of you, it is critical that you open your guard and get your knees involved. You have to make your opponent hesitant to strike for fear of getting caught in a submission, and the best way to do that is to put yourself into a position where submissions become possible. The "damn good guard" is such a position, and it can save you from getting beaten into oblivion. By opening your guard and involving your legs, you open up a ton of submissions. If you fail to secure the "damn good guard" and your opponent postures up, you can immediately come up with him and play the sit-up guard.


Staying active in your guard is sometimes hard to manage. In order to get comfortable working your jiu-jitsu when your opponent is throwing downward strikes, it is important to constantly drill such a scenario in training. Have a training partner climb into your guard and work his ground and pound. All he can do is throw strikes, and all you can do is work for a sweep, a sub, or an escape back to your feet. If your opponent postures up, sit up with him. Once there, you can work your jiu-jitsu from the sit up guard or break him back down.

It is important to drill with as many different types of fighters as possible. Every competitor you face will behave differently when he is in your guard, and there are many different styles of ground and pound. There are guys like Mark Coleman, who will try and beat you up with his posture broken down, and there are guys like Caol Uno, who will try to posture up and ground and pound. There are fighters completely content staying in your closed guard and striking, and there are fighters who will use striking to pass your guard into a more dominant position. You have to train with all different kinds of fighters to learn what works best for you in any given situation.

Key Concepts for Guard Bottom

^Always be working for three things: A sweep, a submission, or getting back to your feet. » Keep your opponent extremely close to you or far away.

✓if your opponent postures up, you can utilize the sit-up guard or break him back down and work from the clinch, ✓if nothing is working for you from closed guard, open your legs and make something happen from open guard.

Troy is postured up in my closed guard.

Immediately I shoot my left arm up to the left side of Troy's head and come up onto my right elbow.

Driving the sharp side of my wrist into Troy's neck, I continue to sit up and post on my right hand. From this position I can not only avoid getting hit with damaging elbows to the face, but I can also escape up to my feet, transition to Troy's back, or set up submissions.

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