Butterfly Guard: Easiest Way to Defend Ground & Pound

March 26, 2018

Butterfly Guard Sweep


utterfly guard is the most often way of defending in the UFC when an opponent takes you down and tries to maintain a dominant position like side control, side mount or full mount. The role of the butterfly guard is widespread of the opponent’s knees and disabling him from transition and establishing better position. No matter how good wrestler your opponent is, the disbalance butterfly guard creates will set him out of his comfort zone. Nobody can slam you off the ground if his legs are very wide. It is a lot easier to stand up off regular squat than sumo squat. That is the reason why this kind of guard is excellent against wrestlers like Brock Lesnar or Matt Hughes.

In Portuguese, it is called Guarda de gancho or Guarda borboleta. This is definitively one of the oldest ways to defend your opponent. It has even been used in ancient Greece during pankration matches.

There are many ways to perform a transition or a successful defense of the butterfly guard. Here are some examples of the butterfly guard which can be used in BJJ or MMA competitions.

You don’t need to be superstrong if you want to defend from successful ground and pound fighter. Now you can use opponent’s strength against him!

History of butterfly guard

There is another name for butterfly guard – hooks guard. It is one of the oldest ways to stand up from the ground and return to the stand-up fighting or return to the previous position. It is very similar to tomoe nage, a sacrificing judo throw where you throw the opponent over yourself. But there is one significant difference – you need no kimono and lapel to perform this guard!

Butterfly Guard HistoryMitsuyo Maeda had one of the biggest roles during the 20th century in developing butterfly guard in South America when he migrated from Japan to Brazil. Bruno Schindler enabled the entrance of the technique into Kosen Judo fighting style. Brazilian’s developed it during the 1980s and 1990s when also the first very successful transitions and sweeps from this position were established.

The best examples of the perfect butterfly guard use were training sessions between Rolls Gracie and Rickson Gracie. Probably the oldest fight where butterfly guard is clearly visible is the one between Carlson Gracie and Waldemar Santana. When it comes to the fights, a legendary fight between Rickson Gracie and Peixotinho in 1984 is also one of the first examples.

Sergio “Bolao” Souza made this guard his ultimate weapon. He was able to sweep so many legends and he became one of the fighters who were the most dangerous off their back. This should be a bad position, but it was a great position for him! He was also known for “Bolao sweep”, where he found the better sweep positions and used the gi pants in obtaining the better pressure. This sweep was an enigma for many fighters at his age. Take a look at his highlight reel.

There were many fighters at the end of 20th century that were the masters of this guard – Carlson Gracie, Cassio Cardoso, Carlos Gracie Junior, Jean Jacques Machado, Renzo Gracie, Nino Schembri, Flavio Almeida, Renato Miragaia, Leonardo Santos, Robson Moura and many others.

Marcelo Garcia made the final modifications to the butterfly guard. He was able to create x-guard and guillotine with amazing success. Many other fighters started to use those elements after. Other fighters that created their sweeps from butterfly guard are Fernando Terere (favela jiu-jitsu butterfly sweeps), Nino Schembri (killer butterfly) and Flavio Almeida.

What exactly s a butterfly guard

In this position, you need to place your legs on the inside part of the opponent’s thighs. Here is a great tutorial which will explain everything.

In basic butterfly position, you are sitting on your glutes and using your feet to create the balance loss, applying the pressure on the opponent’s thighs. You should sit and keep your legs semi-flexed. Place your feet slightly above the opponent’s knee and push to the side.

When it comes to the opponent’s upper body, there are three possible ways to maintain the control of it.

First way. It is called under hooks. You should grab the opponent’s right arm. At the same time, get closer to your opponent as much as you can and push your left hand under his armpit. Place your left hand on the middle of the opponent’s spine.


If you are fighting in BJJ or Sambo, there is no need to grab the opponent’s right arm since you can use his kimono against him. On the other hand, in UFC or MMA, opponent’s back will slip due to sweat.

Second way. It is also called both hooks. You should push both hands under the opponent’s arms and cross them in the middle of the thoracic part of the opponent’s spine. Make sure you close your head towards the opponent and push your chest into his shoulder for the stronger contact.


This is the best way of butterfly guard control if you compete in MMA.

Third way. It is also called under hooks and over hooks. Push your right arm under the opponent’s armpit, placing it in the middle of the opponent’s back. At the same time, grab his left biceps with your left hand and pull it towards yourself. Push your chest towards the opponent’s chest.


It is applicable both in MMA and BJJ.

In all three controls, you should push opponent towards yourself with the arm which is in the middle of his back.

Here is a tutorial how Cub Swanson escapes mount and ground and punches almost every time.

Establishing position

In BJJ or MMA fight, you will end up on your back in 95% of situations. This tutorial will provide you with detailed instructions.

However, to be able to establish the position, you need to take care of few things:

  • Don’t let the opponent mount you, or your feet will not be able to take him off you.
  • Make sure to disable his arms as much as you can. You can grab his neck and close it towards you or you can hold his hands and try to push away from him.
  • Don’t get too close towards your opponent or he will counter you very easily.
  • If you fight in BJJ fight, hold your hand on his lapel. This will provide better control of the situation.

Holding the opponent, make sure you slide backward while both of your feet are on the inner part of his thighs. Use your rear hand to obtain better balance while attempting a sweep or transition. The balance will be better and your rotation will not require too much strength.


Make sure you sit up as soon as you can. If you are on your back, you will be having a lot harder job and the opponent can pass the guard easier.

Passing butterfly guard

Here are some good ways to pass it.

The easiest way to pass the spider guard is to perform a movement which is similar to the reverse hyperextension. Lift your legs high off the ground and set yourself up to the side control or side mount position (0:30).

The other good way is to push when the opponent tries to create the distance. All you need to do is close the distance between his chest and your chest and bypass his feet. If you are able to place your hips in front of his feet, he will have a big problem.

One more excellent way is placing your left hand behind his head and under his armpit, while your right hand goes under opponent’s left thigh. Extend your right leg and push it backward. At the same time, rotate your opponent counterclockwise and end up in the side mount position.

You can also push your weight forward and make a step with your left leg around his right leg. You will end up in half-guard position.

In MMA, you can also punch your opponent when he tries to decrease the distance between his head and your chest. An elbow is a great option if your timing is proper. You can also risk and try a superman punch while your opponent lays on the ground, but you will risk an upkick counter.

Sweeps and transitions

There are so many ways to reverse the position and make the opponent go to the submissive position.

The most known are definitively the transitions to X guard sweeps. There are so many variants. Despite it can be a risky move in MMA or Pride Fighting Championship, X guard is a great way for BJJ fighters to win their opponents.

If you are in the under hooks position, you have an amazing opportunity for the sweep. If your left hand is under opponent’s armpit, trap his left hand with your right hand and rotate to the right. You will end up in the dominant position.

If you are in the both hooks position, make sure to hold your opponent and perform the same move like the first phase of tomoe nage, lifting your hips in the air. The opponent will stand up, and you will get a chance to submission or transition. You can also use the momentum from this movement, lift your opponent is the air and stand up, adjusting your weight towards him. You will end up in the full mount position on the top of your opponent.


Make sure to catch the opponent slightly above the level of your glutes. Otherwise, he will be able to kick his legs backward and avoid your counter attack.


There are so many submissions which are possible from butterfly guard position. Here is the list of submissions:

There are many other submissions you can perform off the sweeps and transitions. Butterfly guard is an excellent way to prepare an aggressive opponent for the submission and brutal counterattack.

Most common mistakes

Here is a great tutorial which shows the most common mistakes during the butterfly guard.

The first biggest mistake is laying on the ground. There are some fighters who can perform butterfly guard off the ground, but in that case, you must hold the opponent’s biceps muscles to prevent his transitions. You won’t be able to kick the opponent away if he is too close to you.

The second mistake is grip playing. If an opponent holds his grip tight, you will be in trouble. If he grabs your legs, he can move them sideways and you will not be able to perform an upkick and defend yourself. If the opponent controls your ankle and head, he can rotate you to the side and end up in the side mount position. Whatever your opponent does, do not let him grab your gi or body parts. Make sure you release your legs, hands or head.

The third mistake is a non-offense position. But how can perform an offensive position from butterfly guard, which is defensive position by nature? You can! If the opponent moves towards you, you mustn’t let him go around you, you must move your body. If he is able to circle around you and if he is faster, you are in trouble. You need to have a long-distance plan, a medium-distance plan, and a close-range plan. If the distance is small, you need to focus on the control with your hands or moving his head away from you. If he is standing, you can perform an arm drag or trip his legs by putting your feet behind his legs. In the close range, you can think about the classic butterfly guard, sweeps, and transitions. If an opponent puts a lot of weight on you, you can still sacrifice yourself and throw him in the air. There is always a solution, but you need to think offensively, as a winner. You need to be aware that butterfly guard is not only a defense but a great way to turn defense into offense.

Wrapping it up

No matter how strong your opponent is, butterfly guard will not let him defeat you so easily, even if he is the hardest hitter and the best ground and pound fighter in his weight bout.

Perform the technics of the butterfly guard to perfection and enjoy watching great grapplers and ground and pound fighters losing matches. You will be able to turn the defeat into victory in the split of a second.

And at the end, enjoy watching a complete butterfly guard system.

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