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MMA Mastery: Ground and Pound

MMA Mastery: Ground and Pound

by Mark Hatmaker

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Offering cohesion and clarification for what is currently a loose collection of strategies, this reference delves into the “ground and pound” fighting method—winning a fight by striking an opponent after a takedown. Demonstrating through fight metrics how just as many matches are won by strikes as submissions, this manual addresses the importance


Offering cohesion and clarification for what is currently a loose collection of strategies, this reference delves into the “ground and pound” fighting method—winning a fight by striking an opponent after a takedown. Demonstrating through fight metrics how just as many matches are won by strikes as submissions, this manual addresses the importance of proper “grounding” and lists an array of riding, pinning, and transitioning skills. Following the first element up by introducing an exhaustive “pounding” vocabulary, this guide is key to making stand-up strikers all the more formidable on the floor. Guaranteed to improve the game of even the best submission players, this handbook ensures tighter defense and enhanced offensive tactics, offering a one-stop solution for this vital but often overlooked aspect of the mixed martial arts arena.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A great book on boxing techniques from training, strategy, defense, and punching that could take a person who has never laced up a pair of gloves and teach him to be an effective fighter.”  —USA Boxing News on Boxing Mastery

“Focuses on the core aspects of grappling used inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship Octagon. In short you’ll learn how to fold a man up like a cheap suit.”  —Maxim magazine on No Holds Barred Fighting

Product Details

Tracks Publishing
Publication date:
MMA Mastery series Series
Product dimensions:
6.96(w) x 11.28(h) x 0.41(d)

Read an Excerpt

MMA Mastery

Ground and Pound

By Mark Hatmaker

Tracks Publishing

Copyright © 2010 Doug Werner and Mark Hatmaker
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-884654-89-3


Static rides

What follows is a complete arsenal of static rides for the ground and pound game. These static positions are destinations or stopping points along the journey of aggressive fluid riding and should be trained using the already introduced Ground and Pound Training Continuum.

These rides are ground and pound specific thus making them MMA and (in worst case scenarios) street ready. I call your attention to this point in the happenstance that you notice your favorite ride is not present in the arsenal. Or you may wonder why we introduce a distinctly different version of a common ride. It is because just as we can strike from the top, we can be struck from the bottom, and often the introduction of strikes alters the way a ride should or would normally be utilized in a strike-free rule set.

Cross-body ride

• Hit your bisections and hip-in.

• All the weight will be on your opponent and the inside balls of the feet.

• Although the hips are low, they are held off the mat to keep pressure on.

• For those still not used to the hip-in concept and mistake the photographed position for one easy to re-guard, keep in mind that a strong hip-in punctuated with a hip-cut (turning the hip-side pelvis point to the mat) will block the re-guarding knee.

Sit-out cross-body ride — toward head

• This is a transition position and not designed to be an effective static hold. The trouble lies in taking your sternal arrow out of alignment.

• Slide the hip-side leg toward the head. The weight will be on your opponent and on the inside ball of the outrigger foot (the foot at right angle to the body) and the blade of the sit-out foot.

• Despite appearances, the hips are off the mat to keep maximum pressure on your opponent.

Sit-out cross-body ride — toward hips

• Another transition position.

• Reverse the steps from the preceding ride.

Top body ride / lateral press / "69" — under arms

• Align your sternal arrow and hip-in giving pressure to your opponent's head.

• The weight distribution is as in the cross-body ride.

Top body ride / lateral press / "69" — over arms

• The same as the preceding ride except that your arms are over his.

• There is no need to make a distinction about which is "better," arms over or under. These positions will be determined by accident of scramble. The constants will always be bisection and hipping-in.


Top saddle/mounted rides violate bisection and sternal arrow concepts and can be harder to maintain on skilled opponents precisely because of these violations. We compensate for these rule violations by using some hand assists.

Top saddle / mount — spurs in

• Hip-in and hook spurs in (also called double grapevines). Wrap your insteps over his lower legs from the inside.

• Use spur control and a harsh hip-in to stay on top.

• A harsh hip-in will leave your knees free floating above the mat.

High top saddle / mount — face post

• If you choose to ride high, elbows to armpits, you must ...

• Run your knees directly into his armpits and squeeze in with your legs — leave no space between your lower legs and his body.

• You must also use head control to stay on top.

• You can post one hand on his face driving it into the mat with aggression or ...

High top saddle / mount — head lift

• Scoop the back of his head from the mat and lift.

• A good head lift removes bridging.

Squat mount

• This one is ideal for when your opponent tries to avoid punches by turning his back.

• Slide the knee that is against his back to be even with the top of his head.

• Pull the stomach-side foot tight to his body.

• The knee and foot positions are important to thwart escape gambits.

Head and arm ride

• A powerful static ride, but leaves little options for pounding. We include it as a potential transition ride.

• Sit-out toward his head using the weight distribution described in the sit-out cross-body ride toward head.

• Hook the head in a head-hold position (a headlock is a completely different technique from a head-hold — we'll discuss that another day).

• Hook his near arm with your outrigger arm and pull it tight.

• Keep your head low to block escape attempts involving head/face work.

• Keep your hips off the mat — think sliding your body (and his) toward your outrigger foot.

Shoulder choke ride

• This position is most commonly seen as a submission (and a damn powerful one), but here we use a perhaps failed submission as a transition position.

• Hit your sit-out and head-hold as in the previous ride.

• The difference is his near arm will be shoved across his face/neck.

• Lock that arm into place by dropping your head/neck onto his trapped arm and ...

• Grip your hands together.

Cobra mount ride

• You transition to this tight ride from the shoulder choke ride, whether from top saddle (mounted) or sit-out position. Here we go from sit-out position. This is simply a squat mount with the addition of the arm control.

• From the shoulder choke ride, underhook his head with your outrigger hand and grip his trapped wrist.

• Pull his wrist tight as you pop up and step your hip-side leg over his stomach. Pull your heel tight to his abs to prevent escapes.

More images next page.

More cobra mount ride

• Pull your heel tight to his abs to prevent escapes.

Shoulder and arm ride (aka broken scarf hold)

• Another transitional ride.

• Utilize the principles of the head and arm ride with the only exception being that your far arm, rather than encircling the head, underhooks the far shoulder.

Crucifix ride

• This is an opportunistic static ride.

• As you transition from a cross-body ride to a sit-out toward head cross-body ride, if ...

• You find your far arm underhooking his far arm and if ...

• Your sit-out leg drives underneath his near arm, shelving it on top of your sit-out thigh ...

• Scissors or figure-4 lock your legs to trap his near arm.

• Trap his far arm by gripping the back of your own neck with your hip-side hand.

• This is a strong pound position, but I urge you not to force or seek it out. Instead take it if it falls into your lap. Fighting for position when you are on top is a waste of energy — you already have the advantage. No need to sweat more than necessary.

Reverse head and arm ride — arms under shoulder

• Another transition ride. Please use only the arms under version in MMA and street work. Arms over allows too many counter opportunities for the bottom man.

• Think of it as a sit-out toward hips cross-body ride with the only significant difference being that your far arm is positioned under his far arm.

Knee on chest ride

• First, notice that we place the knee on the chest, driving the point of the knee through his sternal arrow as opposed to "knee on belly." Knee on belly provides significant diaphragmatic pressure, but knee on chest provides more pressure overall due to sternum compression as well as avoiding an opponent's bridging hips.

• The outrigger foot is positioned well away from the opponent to prevent its being easily swept or used as a turning hook.

• The foot of the knee on chest is held off the mat to insure that all the weight is driving through the chest.

Note — Like the top saddle / mounted rides, the knee on chest rides violate bisection and sternal arrow rules and are easy for skilled opponents to counter. But sometimes in a scramble they do present a nice opportunity.

Knee on chest ride — face post

• Just as with the top saddle/mount position, you can make this one tighter by using hand assists.

• Here we post on the face.

Knee on chest ride — head lift

• Here we hit an aggressive head lift.

Knee on chest ride — head and shoulder lift

• A powerful form of this ride, but it removes the hands-free aspect.

• Underhook his far shoulder with your far arm.

• Underhook his head with your near hand.

• Grasp your hands together and lift.

• Sometimes an aggressive lift and knee drive can pull the tap by itself.

Posture inside bottom scissors / guard


The bottom scissors/guard is one of only two positions (the other being the 1/2 guard) where being on the bottom can have some advantages. It is for this reason that you must approach your top work inside these positions with a more cautious eye.

• The key to most submissions for the bottom player is to break you down/bring you in close, so that serious attacks can be launched against your head/neck and arms. For this reason, we start with posture first and foremost.

• Sit up tall, chin high with your weight distributed equally over your hips and knees.

• You will be on your knees and the balls of your feet. Although it is hard to see in the photo, there is a hip-in.

Sprawl inside bottom scissors / guard

• The posture assumes you are able to maintain base, but a good bottom player will seek to break you down every step of the way. If you find yourself with your weight tipped off your equal distribution any more than 10 percent in any given direction ...

• Immediately sprawl as if defending a takedown.

• Hip-in hard against your opponent's groin/inner thighs.

• Any time you feel one leg go on the offensive (as the legs must do in all bottom scissors/guard submission attempts) hip-cut hard against the offending inner thigh.

• Riding low and back into a position where you can bisect the height line keeps your head/neck out of easy jeopardy that high sprawling permits.

Clamp inside bottom scissors / guard

• A cage behind you will not permit a sprawl in the event you lose your base. In that case, go to this second choice position.

• Maintain your knee and foot position ...

• Crunch and clamp your elbows to the inside of you.

own knees and keep your head low.

• This is purely a defensive posture and does not allow for th. free floating return to offense that the sprawl does.

Biceps ride inside bottom scissors / guard

• There are times when you need to rise from your posture to strike or drive your man to the fence. In these cases you need some defensive protection because you leave a good base position.

• Place both palms on his biceps — thumbs pointing to the mat. This is exactly as it's done in a standing biceps ride in wrestling.

• Drive his arms to the mat as you pop to your feet — both legs at the same time. Stepping one leg and then the other allows for sweeping opportunities as you unbalance yourself.

• Once you are on both feet, keep your biceps ride tight and apply an aggressive hip-in.

• At the first sign of balance/base trouble, hit your sprawl.

Head lift inside bottom scissors / guard

• This one is purely opportunistic — that is, accidental or incidental.

• If at any time in the inside bottom scissors/guard scramble you find that you can gain head control of your opponent ...

• Pull the head hard, taking his chin to chest and ...

• Hit an aggressive hip-in.

• Rookies may tap, but don't expect that from experienced players. Instead view it as a control position to split the legs or as a handle to drive the bottom man to the fence.

Half-pressure squat vs. bottom scissors /guard against cage

• Speaking of the fence, once you have driven him there, you want to keep him there. This is not a problem for all other top rides except the inside the legs position. We must have a strategy to prevent him using the fence to reverse you.

• If at all possible, keep the orientation with his head driven into the fence. If/when he tries to escape/scoot/wrestler's kick/shrimp out to either side ...

• Immediately drop the escape side knee to the mat and lift the nonescape knee.

• Example: If your opponent scoots his hips to your right, drop your right knee to the mat, leave the left knee up and use a hip-in and inward drive of the lifted knee to keep him pinned to the down knee.

1/2 mount sprawl

• First, a thinking shift. Regard this as less a position to escape than a position to go offensive from. A 1/2 bottom scissors or 1/2 guard to the bottom man is a 1/2 mount to the top man.

• You can be swept from this position if you ignore your bisecting, so stay diligent.

• Also, you can be returned to full guard position easier if you stay close to his legs. With that in mind ...

• Get Perpendicular — Throw your hips toward his head gaining as much of a right angle as you can and then ...

• Hit your sprawl and hip-in aggressively.

Note — The 1/2 bottom scissors or 1/2 guard is the second position of advantage for the bottom player. While not as strong as the two-leg position, it has enough offensive potential to warrant staying diligent.

1/2 mount turk

• You can assist the pressure of the 1/2 mount sprawl by turking (lifting his near leg with your "trapped" leg).

• To do this, hip-in and then hip-cut the head-side pelvis point to the mat and think lifting your "trapped" leg heel to the sky back and over your body. You won't get much lift, but this is the direction to envision.

• You will have an easier lift if you maintain back-of-knee to back-of-knee contact.

1/2 mount step-over

• Another opportunistic position.

• If you've been able to manage a bit more than 90 degrees on your sprawl position and ...

• Find that you can easily drive his head toward your hips with the back of your head-side elbow ...

• Step the head-side leg over his head catching his head/neck with the back of your knee.

More images next page.

More 1/2 mount step-over

• Scoop it back toward your hips and strive to scissors your legs. Often this won't be possible, but the direction of movement can be enough for control.

• This position provides a surprising amount of control if you obey the bisection rules. Allow yourself to glide on top of him, and you will be reversed easily.


• Place the back of your hip-side hand again the inside of his far thigh.

• Brace your hip-side biceps across his far kidney.

• Post your hip-side knee against or in front of his near side knee.

• Keeping your sternal arrow tight and bisection pressure on, think lifting outward with your hip-side hand.


The turtle or referee's position provides a huge vocabulary of rides for the top player, but the vast majority of these are related to nonstriking breakdowns and turns for pinning sports. Here we concern ourselves with the top three high return turtle rides for MMA and the street.

Far one-on-one

• Underhook his far armpit and grip his far wrist with your hip-side hand.

• All other pressure is like the pry.


• The end result here will be your hip-side leg trapping his near leg between your calf and hamstring.

• To set this up there is no need to step between his legs. Simply step over his far ankle with your hip-side leg and scoop your heel toward you for the overleg ride.

• Combine this with the pry or the far one-on-one while cranking his hip by driving in against his near knee with your head-side knee and dragging his caught ankle toward the outside.

Getting legs in (setting hooks or double-knife riding)

• We include this since it's a popular position for submissions. But our focus here is ground and pound. With that in mind, putting legs in violates the rules of good riding (hips are high and there is no way to bisect). While great for subs, less so for pounding unless ...

• You get your legs in and stretch him out by driving your hips through his while striving to touch the ceiling with your heels.

• You can assist breaking him down by using one-on-one wrist control or by aggressively pulling his head up.

• At this point we have a powerful punching position and not until then.

Now we have a ride vocabulary. It's time to start putting these "words" together as sentences. Time to go from static to fluid.


Fluid riding

Fluid riding is transitioning from one static position to the next. There are essentially two ways to approach fluid riding: clock and half clock, sometimes called 360 or 180 degree riding.

Clock or 360 degree riding means that you start at destination A, say a right side cross-body ride, and travel either toward your opponent's feet or head, around to the far side of his body and continue until you wind up in your starting position. Clock riding builds a great deal of fluidity, but there is a caveat. You must pass his legs in clock riding and, as we all know, the legs are the foundation of the bottom man's best defensive positions.

Half clock or 180 degree riding means that you will travel from hip to hip, but making the journey going only over the head and avoiding the feet at all costs.

Although half clock riding is safer and the easier skill set to inculcate, you will need both versions of riding for a complete and successful grounding game. Since half clock riding is the easier of the two skills to learn, let's build facility here first.


Excerpted from MMA Mastery by Mark Hatmaker. Copyright © 2010 Doug Werner and Mark Hatmaker. Excerpted by permission of Tracks Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Mark Hatmaker is a highly regarded coach of professional and amateur fighters, law enforcement officials, and security personnel. He is the founder of Extreme Self Protection (ESP), a research body that compiles, analyzes, and teaches the most effective Western combat methods known. He is the author of the No Holds Barred Fighting series, which includes More No Holds Barred Fighting, No Second Chance: A Reality-Based Guide to Self-Defense, The Ultimate Guide to Conditioning and Boxing Mastery, and The Ultimate Guide to Submission Wrestling. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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