3 Key MMA Defense Grappling Moves With Carla Esparza

FightCamp - 3 Key MMA Defense Grappling Moves With Carla Esparza

Current ranked #2 UFC Champion Carla Esparza takes us through the 3 basic defensive grappling moves to take your MMA fighting skills to the next level.

Published: June 29, 2022

Topics: Tips & Technique, Training

Author: FightCamp Team

If you’re looking to start grappling and want tips on how to get started with the basics, there’s no better pro than Carla Esparza. Carla is the current ranked #2 UFC Champion and one of the best pound-for-pound women’s fighters. Additionally, she is a national wrestling champion and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) brown belt. Today she is going to take us through some introductory defensive techniques, with Raquel “Rocky” Harris, for some of the most common submissions seen in MMA.

3 MMA Defense Grappling Moves

Rear Naked Choke Defense

  • Begin seated on the ground with your partner holding you in a rear naked choke

  • To start, grab your partner's wrist/forearms with both hands like a car seatbelt

  • Bridge High To Avoid Choke

    • Drive backward, use your hips to rise away from the ground into a high bridge position to avoid being choked

    • The higher you bridge, the less likely it is that you will be choked

  • Push Arm Up and Pop Head Under

    • From there, elevate your partner's arm up, and pop your head under their arm, and over to the other side

  • Keep Head Pressure On Tricep and Rotate Into Opponent

    • Keeping pressure on their tricep with your head, rotate into your opponent

    • Make sure to keep a firm grip of their arm while keeping pressure on it

    • As you rotate, you should now have top position

  • Be Careful To Not Expose Arm

    • As you rotate through, keep the pressure on your partner’s arm so as to not leave yourself susceptible to an armbar

Key Points Recap:

Rear Naked Choke Defense - Bridge High To Avoid Choke
Rear Naked Choke Defense - Push Arm Up and Pop Head Under
Rear Naked Choke Defense - Keep Head Pressure On Tricep and Rotate Into Opponent
Rear Naked Choke Defense - Be Careful To Not Expose Arm

Armbar Defense

The Set-up: Have your partner start off lying on their back on the ground. You should be on your knees facing them, in the guard position. Have them grab your arm to set up the armbar attempt.

  • Grab Bicep and Place Opposite Hand on Hamstring

    • As your opponent swings their leg around your head, to start the armbar, grab your own bicep with your arm being held and place your opposite free arm on their hamstring

    • The goal is to “grab/catch” their incoming hamstring as deep as possible to control power and use more leverage

  • Walk Fingers Up To Deepen The Position

    • “Walk” your fingers deeper onto your partner's hamstring to gain a more advantageous position to avoid getting armbarred

  • Move Body Perpendicular

    • From there, move around to the side of your opponent, perpendicular to their body

  • Bring Outside Leg Up

    • Once set, bring your outside leg up onto your foot, to a 90-degree angle to establish your balance (opposite leg should still be on your knee)

  • Tip: Use and press your nearside elbow on your opponent's face to add pressure and deter them from continuing the armbar attempt

  • Continue to apply pressure to their hamstring

  • Also, use your bodyweight to keep as much pressure downwards onto their head, keeping your opponent from extending their legs

  • Forcefully attempt to inch your locked arm back away from your opponent's grasp

  • Once cleared and outside of their grasp, circle around to your opponent's opposite side for a side control position

Key Points Recap:

Armbar Defense - Grab Bicep and Place Opposite Hand on Hamstring
Armbar Defense - Walk Fingers Up To Deepen The Position
Armbar Defense - Move Body Perpendicular
Armbar Defense - Bring Outside Leg Up

Footlock Defense

  • Begin seated on the ground facing your opponent

  • They should already have your foot positioned, ready to secure a footlock

  • Make a Boot Shape With Foot

    • To start, make a boot shape with your locked foot (strong dorsiflexion)

    • Make sure your non-locked foot is strong on the ground

  • Bump Off Leg and Grip With Outside Hand

    • Next, bump off your partner's outside leg and secure it with your outside hand

    • Keep pressure on the opponent's leg at all times

  • Use Hand To Help Scoot

    • With your opposite hand, scoot your body towards the pinned leg

    • Once in position, lift yourself and sit onto your opponent's pinned leg

    • Continue to scoot around until you are cleared

    • Push your opponent's leg away while bringing the free leg up into a scramble position

Key Points Recap:

Footlock Defense - Make a Boot Shape With Foot
Footlock Defense - Bump Off Leg With Outside Hand
Footlock Defense - Use Hand To Help Scoot

Real World Application

These are simple, easy, and effective grappling defensive techniques taught by the current ranked #2 women’s UFC strawweight Carla Esparza. As is with any fighting technique drills, these take practice to learn how to do them effectively.

The only difference is this time you will need a willing partner to be able to learn them. The best part of learning these defensive techniques is that they can be applied as real world self-defense moves. Master them, and watch your confidence grow as you learn to protect yourself!

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FightCamp Team

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