The First 4 Wrestling Positions To Learn For MMA

We have a lot of athletes, instructors, MMA Fighters etc…  come to looking for advice on learning/teaching wrestling.  Many wish to take their MMA game up a notch by munoz-sweepintegrating wrestling techniques and skills into their existing skill set and others just want to increase their self defense prowess.

I have spent some time talking with members or our community about what they most want to learn as well as speaking with wrestlers and wrestling coaches that have spent time in the cage and coaching fighters, on what are the essential wrestling skills that athletes from other disciplines would want to first master.

Anyone that has ever wrestled knows the hours of blood, sweat and tears it takes to master the techniques, develop chain wrestling skills, build wrestling strength and conditioning, master the mindset, build the confidence, etc…  needed in the great sport of wrestling.

So I wanted to give martial artists that come to our site a guide or blueprint to the most crucial and fundamental techniques and positions as well as some insights into each of these positions.    

First off, there is no reason to feel that you need to become an advanced wrestler to take your MMA or self defense skills to the next level .   Although continuing to build your wrestling repertoire and utilizing common training methods used by wrestlers will increase your body awareness, scrambling abilities and allow you to build the conditioning and mindset prevalent in experienced wrestlers.  

Main Areas of Focus (In Order)

  1. Takedown Defense

  2. Clinch Tactics

  3. Offensive Takedowns

  4. Escapes & Reversals

liddell sprawl Takedown Defense:

Takedown defense is going to be the first area to focus on.  The main techniques and skills needed to become proficient in stopping shot attempts are…

  • Stance
  • Motion
  • Footwork
  • Basic Sprawls

Although the skills mentioned above are very basic and fundamental, they are skills high level wrestlers work on regularly throughout their entire careers.

Unfortunately, the very basic skills are many times taught incorrect.  Upon searching the web for instruction on these technique and skills, I found most of the video instruction was missing very crucial ingredients or techniques were taught in the wrong progression, leading to the development of a shaky foundation in the core skills need for success.  This was especially true when it came to the proper sprawling techniques.

Clinch Tactics:

Next position to focus on would be upperbody clinch tactics.  Understanding this position is crucial.  If for no other reason then have weapons for being able to defend when they clinch is forced.couture clinch  

Athletes that have skills in this area can easily force the clinch and it’s not like a takedown defense where you can clear out after sprawling if you want.  The clinch can be much more difficult to escape so an understanding of this position is crucial any time close quarters fighting is on the table.  

For instance, when asked “What are the Wrestling skills that are most valuable in MMA?”  This is what UFC Veteran and World and Olympic Greco Roman Silver Medalist, Matt Lindland had to say:

So wrestling greco-roman and really understanding how to fight close gives wrestlers such an advantage. When I first started fighting there was no way i wanted to stand and exchange punches with some of the best strikers in the sport so I relied on my Greco experience and closed the distance and put guys in the clinch. From the clinch you can really control the ranges and do a lot of damage and make your opponent carry your weight and use a lot of energy.”

About-Coach-Matt-LindlandWorld & Olympic Greco-Roman Silver Medalist
UFC Veteran
Team USA Head Greco-Roman Coach
Co-Founder of Team Quest MMA
Matt Lindland




Offensive Takedowns:

Third skill to focus on would be takedowns or leg attacks.  For someone with no wrestling experience this can be difficult to master and that is why it is important to understand what to focus on and what not to focus on.

When learning wrestling takedowns, it is easy to get overwhelmed with all the shot options, set ups, finishes, angles, footwork etc…  

Before you can even think about developing a solid leg attack you must learn to maintain the proper stance, create motion in that stance and the footwork needed to execute a proper penetration step.  Keep in mind a MMA stance is going to be different than a pure wrestling stance.  

The skills mentioned above aren’t overly difficult and they are fundamental, but in order to program your body to instinctively move in these positions and hold good position while attacking takes many repetitions and if not taught properly from the the beginning can be very difficult to master.

The best leg attacks to focus on would be a double leg, first, and then a single leg.  Things to keep in mind are to always try to stay on your feet and drive through shot attempts.  If you are going to attack using these techniques in self defense of MMA it is going to be very important to NOT get caught on your knees.

Learning to drive through shot attempts, in good position, and using the most fundamental finishes will provide the best results by finishing takedowns clean or leading to effectively attacking the body.   

mma-escape-skillsEscapes & Reversals:

The last of the fundamental techniques and positions we will discuss are escapes and reversals.  These techniques can be valuable for several reasons but two of the most prevalent are:

  1. Knowing how to escape danger immediately after getting taken down
  2. Learning how to scramble and develop body position awareness

Final notes:

-While learning takedowns be sure to always transition to finishing tactics and techniques.

-The more proficient you are in Striking the better your setups for takedowns in MMA will be just straight shooting on an opponent in MMA is asking for trouble you need to get a response or reaction out of your opponent to open them up for the leg attacks and striking combos work great!

-There are many benefits of wrestling beyond the technical aspects.  By integrating live wrestling and other training methodologies used for training wrestlers you will develop incredible conditioning specific to combat sports.  These training methods also provide a vehicle where you can learn to push your mind and body further than ever before, which will lead to more mental toughness and confidence.  

When asked ”Why has wrestling become known as such a valuable weapon/tool in MMA?”  This is what UFC Veteran Charlie “The Spaniard” Brenneman had to say…

“There is nothing in the world that builds the mental fortitude that wrestling does. There is no way to fast track it. You only have it after a lifetime of wrestling. This mental state has translated into physical performance in the cage and has raised the awareness and importance of wrestling in MMA.”

Charlie “The Spaniard” Brenneman

UFC Veteran

Division One Wrestler







About Daryl Weber


Coach Daryl Weber was a 3x All-American and D-1 NCAA Champion under legendary Coach Dan Gable. He is also the founder of Attack Style Wrestling, the #1 resource for wrestlers and coaches on how he taught the Attacking “Gable” Style he learned to youth and high school wrestlers in Christiansburg, VA. Christiansburg won 14 consecutive team state titles while Coach Weber was there.  the first 5 with Coach Weber as assistant and the last 9 with him as head coach. Many of Coach Weber’s wrestlers have gone on to wrestle in college, some of which have had success at the D1 level.