Ground and Pound – Drills and Fundamental Techniques

Within the combat sports world the term “ground and pound” as come to define a specific strategy and style of strikes that is implemented upon a downed opponent in order to secure a knockout win. It has been defined, revolutionized and perfected by champions such as: Tito Ortiz, Mark Coleman, Mark Kerr, Randy Couture, and Matt Hughes. The effectiveness, diverse application, and multi-pronged offensive/defensive strategic implementation of ground and pound makes it a vital skill for any mixed martial artist no matter what their preferred strategy. While it may appear that during the fight it looks easy enough to simply strike a downed opponent and inversely to defend such strikes, to the contrary there is a complex methodology to the execution of this skill set. Read on to view some drills and fundamentals of the skill set that has ended countless fights and won multiple world championships around the world.

Ground and Pound- Copyright of

In order for an athlete to properly utilize this strategy he must obtain the dominant position while on the ground. In some cases a takedown specifically for ground and pound is used, while it also can be used to distract an opponent for a submission or be used after a failed submission attempt. In order to effectively damage and potentially knockout an opponent, an athlete must maintain the dominant position long enough to perform the effective form of strikes. On the inverse position, while grappling on the ground an athlete must know how to properly defend and neutralize any potential ground and pound. Similar to the jab in boxing, ground strikes on the ground can not only distract and damage but most importantly serve a defensive purpose while being offensive.

Brian Stann ground and pounds Jeremiah Billington during WEC30, for the record of WEC's fastest knockout. Photo Credit- Staff Sgt. Leo A. Salinas

1) Maintain Position and Press Opponent- Maintaining dominant position is key in order to deliver powerful and effective strikes. Full mount, half mount, guard, half guard, and standing over an opponent by lunging towards them at various angles are the positions that an athlete must attempt to achieve. Collaterally, these positions also provide an athlete with the best openings for submission attempts, which can, as aforementioned be combined with ground and pound strikes. In these positions, it is imperative that an athlete not retain a passive role and press their opponent. In order to effectively ‘press’ an opponent, you must continue to pressure them by swarming your strikes in well timed continuous flurries that do not allow your opponent to recover or properly defend themselves.

2) Striking Effectively- Since these strikes will be implemented from the ground or close proximity to it, an athlete will not have the luxury of striking from your feet for extra power. Just in standing striking, punching simply with your arms will simply tire you and rob you of potential power.  Thus, you must strike by rotating your torso from your obliques to your shoulders in order to provide enough rotational torque that will transfer maximum power. This principle is coupled with a downward thrust from the dominant position which combines the rotational power of the athlete along with the weight of the upper body for maximum effectiveness.

3) Elbows and Knees- Elbows as previously discussed are one of the most underutilized mixed martial strikes but tend to resurface particularly during skilled display of ground and pound. The elbow is not only capable of a tremendous amount of force applied to a very small area but it also is known for it’s propensity to create massive debilitating cuts during combat. Since the elbow is a short blow, the rotational torque combined with downward motion of the athletes weight can yield tremendous damage, as well as a greater chance of a cut being opened. The knee strike can be used while transitioning positions or weakening an opponent in order to achieve a more dominant position. Bring the knee up with the power of the leg muscles and abdominal muscles as fast as possible for maximum damage.

4) Drills and Sparring- In order to drill and spar this type of combat, thai pads, and a grappling dummy or heavy bag is required.

  • Bag Drill- This is a dynamic time increment five minute transitional striking drill. Mount the heavy bag and maintain position while deploying strikes to the bag. For the first two minutes use cycled flurries, hooks, and elbows. At the third minute transition to left side control and use hammer fist strikes, elbows and knees while maintaining position. At the fourth minute transition back to mount for another minute and continue striking. For the last minute transition to right side control and use hammer fist strikes, elbows, and knees while maintaining position.
  • Padded Drill- Have a sparring partner lie on the ground with thai pads on their forearms and held in front of their chest and face. Practice working your way into their guard while striking the thai pads, transition to mount and side control and then back to mount over the course of a five minute round. Your sparring partner should use body thrusts, legs, escapes, and push you with the pads in order to simulate an opponent.

Example of Bag Drills and Techniques

Example to Live Drills and Techniques

5) Defense- When faced with ground and pound, an opponent overwhelms you with strikes that are easily set up from their dominant position. The first thing to do is attempt to change position at all costs while breaking their posture. Do not allow an opponent to continue to lean back and upright, thus using their body’s rotational torque for additional damage. Strike back and attempt submissions in conjunction with transitional escapes. Even though the strikes may be weak and the submissions not viable from your position, this offensive pressure will help break up and distract an impending or ongoing flurry of strikes.

– Papa Swole

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  1. November 18, 2011

    […] Swole Science Strength, Combat Sports, and Athletic Performance « Ground and Pound – Drills and Fundamental Techniques […]

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