The Sprawl position in mixed martial arts

The Top Sprawl Position

When avoiding a double or single leg takedown attempt one good defense is to get into a sprawl position. Often stand up fighters will find themselves in this position because a grappler will quickly want to takedown a stronger stand up fighter. The sprawl position can be a very dominant position after a failed takedown mainly because you have the opponents back and he therefor doesn’t have many offensive options. If you can control a sprawl position form the top without letting the opponent slip out easily you can tire him down substantially and possibly end the fight right from this position.

Belfort sprawling in UFC 142

To get into a dominant top sprawl position, when an opponent shoots in for the takedown you need to shoot legs back to avoid the opponent from grabbing them. If your opponent can get ahold of either leg or ankle in the sprawl he has a much better chance of passing to a beter position. Also a firm grip around their neck provides a solid hold and a way of depriving the opponent of oxygen. Lastly you should be up on your toes pressing your hips down and pressing your body into the opponents back so it is harder for him to move.

Submissions from Top Sprawl

The two most notable and fundamental submissions from this position are probably the anaconda choke and the guillotine choke. The anaconda choke is a pressure choke that has a simple setup and simple execution. This move however is easy to defend against as well. The guillotine choke from the sprawl position can sometimes be executed as soon as the sprawl happens catching the opponent off guard and allowing him to slip into the submission. However with a little positioning and agility the guillotine can be worked durring the sprawl as well.

A rear naked choke is also a posible submission because you already have the opponent’s back. To perform a rear naked choke you can use your opponents position as a sort of pivot point and scurry around 180 degrees to be in the correct position to execute the hold.  This submission also takes some agility to use effectively because it takes a second to get into the right position and in that time the fighter on bottom has time to escape.

Striking from the Sprawl

Most fighters who opt for a sprawl durring a takedown prefer to use striking over grappling in the first place. From a sprawl position the opponent has no way of hitting you because he has his back to you. This leaves the opportunity to land some powerful strikes that could be blocked but matched by the opponent. The opponent’s body and his head/face are all ready targets for some quick powerful strikes from a dominant position.

Also a move called the cement mixer puts you in an extremely dominant striking position from the sprawl position

Possible Escapes

There are a host of possibilities for your opponent to consider when he is on the bottom of the sprawl position. A common defense is for the opponent to use a sit-out in which he essentially drives his body up and twists around to a sitting position throwing you to one side, then he takes a back mount position. There is another variation of this escape where the opponent fully rolls over you from the bottom switching to top sprawl position. These two escapes can be avoided by pressing into the opponent by staying on the toes and keeping yourself centered over the opponent not allowing him to throw you to one side.

Also the opponent on bottom will try to grab and control you legs to use them as leverage to better his position, possibly getting into dogfight position. By keeping on your toes and keeping your hips raised and pressing down you can avoid this escape as well. One other defense to watch out for is the opponent simply rolling back and pulling you into full guard position, which is especially dangerous for striker oriented fighters against a strong grappler.

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