Ground & Pound – How to Avoid & Escape Proactively


In MMA and UFC, if you’re taken down and mounted, everybody thinks you’re in big trouble. 

That’s true, MMA ground and pound is one of the most efficient ways to finish your opponent in this kind of fight.

Escaping this situation is a challenge, even with a BJJ black belt and submission specialist like Royce Gracie or Demian Maia.

But a good BJJ fighter is known for the unreal ability to turn defeat into victory.

There were no weight classes in the early stages of the UFC. Royce Gracie weighed around 180-185 lbs, and he forced many 260+ guys to surrender.

Sounds impossible, right? But, he can do more.

In the finals of UFC 4, Royce squared off against 265-pound wrestler Dan Severn, and intentionally let “The Beast” take him down. Despite Dan was trying to pound him off the top, the Brazilian BJJ expert locked a devastating triangle around his neck and choked him out!

From such examples, this article will lead you through the fabulous world of countering ground and pound strikes.

Besides introducing 6 most devastating ways to stop a takedown and how to escape ground and pound in 6 most dangerous situation, this post also include deep analysis of 30 footage videos which can help you visualize how to do it

Remember, even the greatest wrestler in the world would have a hard time against the submission expert on the back!

 Ground and Pound – What Is It?

Smashing through the boundaries
Storming through the burning fields

Oh, of course, guys, i don’t want to mention about the song “Operation Ground and Pound” of DragonForce. Haha!

Ground and pound is a fighting aspect that makes mixed martial arts different compared to all other combat sports. Such a way to finish the opponent also exists in Brazilian Vale Tudo and Polish “Wotore”.

Frankly, ground and pound simply mean “taking the opponent to the ground and finishing him via ground strikes–punches, elbows, knees, or even kicks (Pride FC).” Many say that the former UFC champ Mark “The Hammer” Coleman fathered this wonderful element of fighting.

Exciting, you can also see many ground and pound in street fight, so, let’s well-prepared!

Now, the very first step of a counter is understanding and detecting when your opponents use a ground and pound against you.

When A Ground And Pound Could Happen?

In the early stages of the UFC, ground fighters were only going forward and trying to take their foes down and begin a ground and pound. But you’ll rarely see a one-dimensional wrestler like Ben Askren today.

Some Octagon warriors are specialized in one aspect of fighting, but almost every fighter learns striking, grappling, clinching, and ground game.

Here are some situations where ground and pound might occur nowaday:

  • A fighter shoots in, grabs the opponent’s legs and takes the fight to the ground;
  • One guy counters takedown attempt and ends up in north-south or side control;
  • One octagon warrior was knocked down after a blow and ended up on the canvas;
  • Clinch, a fighter uses Judo or wrestling skills to take his foe down;
  • A fighter eats a strike off the clinch and ends up on his back;
  • Sometimes, BJJ phenoms intentionally pull guard, lose the point and end up on their back (it is actually a superb position for them).

Ground and pound mostly happen when a wrestler/grappler meets a striker, but you’ll rarely see this aspect of the game if two strikers share the cage. When two grapplers fight, the ground game is inevitable.

When a man wishes to grasp something, he moves his hand, but just before that, at almost the same time, the shoulder moves.

Going even further, the hips react first, with every action in the body, there is an “origin”. Those who reach the pinnacle of martial arts, are able to detect these and read an opponent’s movements. With that knowledge, no technique of the enemy can find purchase while also enabling you to prepare devastating counters.

Hence, next parts, we will show you list of UFC ground and pound techniques, how to avoid and counter them and analyze many real cases in MMA and UFC via footage videos.

UFC and MMA Ground & Pound Techniques

The list of UFC ground and pound techniques powerful bombs that end the fight on the canvas, include:

  • Punches–straight punches, hooks, uppercuts;
  • Elbows–horizontal elbow, uppercut elbow, downward elbow, slashing elbow;
  • Double chops–sometimes you can
    attack a grounded opponent with both hands.

Pride FC rules (some promotions like ONE FC and RIZIN accept it) allow knees to the head of the grounded opponent and soccer kicking and foot-stomping the downed rival.

So these are also MMA techniques, but you mustn’t use them everywhere.

OK! I think you already knew about this technique.

But if you are a fighter who prefers kicks and punches, you will want to avoid ground and pound as much as possible. Therefore, in next part, we come to 6 ways to protect your from diving into a dire situation.

AVoidIng GNP – 6 Most Devastating Ways

Fighters were not all-rounders in the early stages of the UFC, so it was practically impossible to defend against a stronger guy who constantly goes forward. He’d end up in the mount eventually.

Yet, the sport was developing, and strikers had to do something, especially after the Pride FC fight between Mark Kerr and Branko Cikatic. Kerr was attacking from a huge distance and the Croat kickboxer had poor takedown defense, so he used illegal techniques to stop him and lost the fight via disqualification.

As the sport was developing, fighters were finding new ways to stop aggressive wrestlers from taking the fight to the ground.

Mirko Cro Cop was the first fighter who made to keep the whole fight standing against a wrestling expert (it happened in his Pride FC match against Mark Coleman).

So here are the most devastating ways to stop a takedown:

  1. Knee counter: Kazuyuki Fujita was known for his outstanding ground game and long-range takedowns, but it didn’t go well versus Cro Cop, because Mirko cut his forehead open with a nasty knee to the head. The ref stopped the fight later.
  1. Flying knee: when the opponent grabs one leg, his head is wide open for the dangerous incoming blow
  1. Sprawl: a fighter puts his hands on the opponent’s head or neck dropping his hips and legs forward. Look at this match between Mirko Cro Cop and Mark Coleman… despite Coleman one of the best ground and pound MMA experts back then, Mirko anticipated every single move.
  1. Pummeling: it is also known as the Muay Thai clinch, if you wrap your hands around the opponent’s neck, you can easily control him and rain knees, which increases the chances of ending up the fight.
  1. Movement: it is hard to take down the opponent who circles like Kyoji Horiguchi, don’t you think so?
  1. Choke: when a wrestler goes for a takedown, he usually leaves his neck open, so an experienced BJJ fighter might intentionally pull guard and counter via stunning guillotine, ninja choke, Japanese or Peruvian necktie.

However, even you have done your best, sometimes, you still land on your back, what should you do?

Don’t worry, in next part, you will find some skills to escape an incoming ground and pound. You don’t need to be a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert, just practice and remember them. 

Escaping Ground And Pound Via BJJ Techniques

If you’re unable to defend a takedown attempt, the fight is taken to the ground. You will probably end up on your back.

But don’t despair. There are many ways to defend against the opponent in the dominant position, especially if you’re a BJJ expert.

Let’s now briefly analyze ground and pound positions:

  1. Top mount: In grappling, the mount is a dominant position where a fighter sits on the foe’s torso. The face is pointed towards the opponent’s head. It is the worst position for the downed opponent, unless you’re Aleksei Oleinik, the modern pioneer of MMA ground game (at 12:40) in the interview of one of my friend.
  1. Side Control: You’ll hear some combatants calling this position “side mount”. The fighter on the top is on the side of the fighter on the bottom, with his legs free, controlling the downed foe with his chest.
  2. Half guard: There is another name for this position–half mount. The fighter on the top is in the dominant position, but one of his legs is entangled.
  3. Guard: This is the best position for a BJJ specialist. The downed guy is remaining on his back and trying to stop or control the top fighter with his legs, while the man on the top is trying to pass his guard and end up in the side control or full mount. There are many variations in MMA–closed guard, open guard, butterfly guard, spider guard, and rubber guard.
  4. North-south: One fighter is on his back, while the fighter on the top is prone on the top “invertedly”, mostly keeping the head on the bottom foe’s chest.
  5. Side control crucifix: It is one of the most dangerous positions for the controlled rival. The dominant fighter is remaining perpendicularly behind his rival, controlling one of his arms via legs, one arm controls the neck, while another one serves to disable the opponent’s other arm.

#1 – Top Mount – Worst Ground and Pound Position

This is the worst position for the guy on the bottom. The rival can land devastating elbows and punches and finish the fight via KO or TKO.

You don’t have many options here. But there are some solutions:

  • Ezekiel choke: Aleksei Oleinik taught Czech competitor Viktor Pesta a lesson at UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs Penn in 2017. Despite Pesta was punishing him, “The Boa Constrictor” was simply too superior and shocked him.
  • Sweep or transition: look at this instructional video. Maybe it will be harder to apply this in MMA because of a sweaty opponent, but give it a shot. If you evade, you’ll mostly end up in the full guard.

#2 – Size Control – Difficult but not Impossible

It is also considered “a bad position”, but a skillful BJJ fighter can transition or roll to a better one. But an opponent on the top is vulnerable too!

Submitting fighter on the top is nearly impossible, but you can improve the position. It is difficult because your foe could land a barrage of elbows or punches but look at this instructional video below.

Lift your hips and slide under the opponent’s leg to transition to the half guard. You can also trap his leg and end up in the full guard. That’s a good position for the Octagon warrior below.

You must eat a punch or two, maybe you’ll bleed. But the doctor might stop the fight because of the cuts, so you must defend well.

Ronda Rousey’s ground and pound skills were not awesome, but she was finishing almost every foe via slick armbar.

Liz Carmouche tried to escape side control via slick transition. Liz was so close to winning the bout, but Ronda’s Judo skills were too much for her and the match
was ended via armbar. (Ronda, she is not GNP expert but an armbar expert)

#3 – Half Guard – Good Transitioning Skills Are The Key

Half guard is the position on the ground where one fighter is lying on the top of the other one, but the Octagon warrior on the bottom has one leg entangled.

Here is one of the best sweeps in BJJ, super-applicable in the world of MMA. Look at this instructional video.

You can finish the opponent via Kimura, Omoplata, or an armbar, but you need good transitioning skills. But this video shows you the possibilities.

#4 – Guard – Many Ways to Finish Your Foe

A BJJ guy can finish his foe in many ways with guards. Let’s analyze each position.

1. Closed Guard – Good position for countering ground and pound

It’s a standard position where one fighter is on his back on the ground. He is trying to control the other opponent by locking legs on his back.

It’s actually a good position because your rival cannot posture up and land big strikes. If you wrap your arms around his neck, the referee might even stand you up due to inactivity. You also have an open guard in this video

There are many lovely submissions from this position–triangle choke, guillotine choke, Kimura, Gogoplata, Pace choke… Good leg work is all you need.

Yet, think twice before attempting a triangle choke against a super-tough wrestler, because he might turn the lights out on you via big slam.

2. Open Guard

It is the position similar to closed guard, but the legs of the combatant on the bottom are not crossed on the foe’s back.

Look at the closed guard above, you have the same submission possibilities.

3. Butterfly Guard

It is also called “hooks guard” because the fighter on the bottom uses his feet as hooks to jeopardize guard passing and stop his foe from transitioning to side control or full mount.

Butterfly guard is one of the best positions for the fighter below because there are endless ways to outsmart your foe, from sweeps and transitions to heel hooks and calf slicers.

You can read more about this technique in one of my previous post:

4. Spider Guard

Even if you’re on the back, it doesn’t mean the fight is over. Good spider guard is a great way to turn defense into offense and win the fight.

You can read more about this technique in one of my previous post:

5. Rubber Guard – Lead The Game to Stalemate

Rubber guard is one of the most efficient ways to block your opponent and wait for the referee to stand you up because of inactivity. The fighter on the bottom wraps his leg around the opponent’s back and neck, grabbing his foot with the opposite hand. 

You can transition to mount or side control or you can finish the fight via submission. Yet, you need a high level of flexibility.

Yet, there is one big problem–the opponent might slam you. So please, be very careful!

6. North-South

If you take part in a Pride match, the opponent might finish you easily via knees to the head.

However, in UFC, you’ll rarely see a finish from this position. One of these moments, it happened in the match between Juan Adams and Greg Hardy, despite many believe the call came too early.

The opponent could attack you via north-south choke or strikes, and this instructional video teaches you how to escape.

7. Side Control Crucifix

If you watched the Flyweight title fight between Valentina Shevchenko and Katlyn Chookagian, you saw how dangerous crucifix can be. Valentina annihilated her opponent and finished the match via third-round TKO. Chookagian’s left arm was trapped, and she had no solution.

But even if you face the best ground and pound phenom in the world, this tiny trick might save your day. You can transition to half guard or full guard with ease.

Ground And Pound Workout And Drills

There are defensive and offensive ground and pound drills.

While offensive ones mostly turn the lights out on your foe and end the fight, the defensive ones are used to teach the aggressive wrestler a lesson. We will focus on defense.

When you defend, it’s all about a transition. If you end up in a bad position, you must improve it.

Here are some high-quality defensive ground and pound drills:

  1. Half guard to closed guard transition
  1. Defending crossface and escaping from side control
  1. Smashed half guard recoveries
  1. Mount escapes
  1. Back mount escapes
  1. Non-stop transitions, scrambles and counters

Final Thought

If you want to defend ground and pound properly, you must become a BJJ expert. Even the best wrestler in the world might have a hard time when he’s mounted or when the opponent wraps the arm around his neck.

Read our tutorial properly and train the GNP defense regularly. You can be the most powerful striker but ending up on your back could mean the end of the fight. Don’t let it happen, be ready!

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Teaching, Friendly, Young, Passion. Always wanna go up & down. Hey, you gotta live, do you?  

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Robert Sterling  //  Author

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