To me, controlling the octagon serves the purpose of helping hit your opponent in the face without repercussion. As a added bonus, it can add points to your judges scorecard. Today, I give a few of my thoughts about cutting off the cage, or fencing in your opponent.
In essence, it is just removing your opponent’s ability to escape your danger zone. Let me explain by way of pictures.
Between your feet, looking down at the mat, you have a light-bulb shaped area where your strikes have power. If your opponent is on the outside of it, you’ll find its difficult to hit him/her with power, if at all.
Above, a common scenario – you and your opponent both have strikes that are in range (standing inside/on the edge of the pocket). Both of you are at more or less equal turf to strike one another. For sake of argument, lets say that your opponent doesn’t want to continue trading strikes with you and feels it too dangerous to press forward; there are only a few options to get out of your danger zone.
If they retreat straight back, they get closer to the cage wall and more fenced in. The lateral escapes are more interesting, and cutting off the cage involves making these two options either impassible or very dangerous.
Pretending you and your opponent are orthodox stance fighters, if they move to your left you can beat them with your footwork – getting your left foot on the outside of their right foot-and can shut down that particular escape path. This will more or less guarantee they’ll try to escape towards your right … directly into your power punches AKA the hammer. A lot of fighters will try to avoid getting hammered by circling to your left, so cutting them off as shown above is a good thing to get good at.
Remark: I’m aware that to side-stepping to your left potentially exposes you to your opponent’s power hand. However, we’re looking to cut off the cage and that comes with risks and rewards.
More often than not, your left hand will be the fence, your right hand will be the hammer. Your jab, left hook, and stepping to the outside (cutting them off) fences them in. Your right cross, overhand right, and right kick or knee are collectively, “the hammer”. Occasionally, a right uppercut or hook can also work. While you can pick any target on your opponent, I know many boxers like to keep an enemy on the ropes via body shots. The premise is that if your headshot is dodged, your opponent escapes to freedom (and is no longer fenced in). Body blows, on the other hand, keep escape routes shut down even if they are blocked. See this video on cutting off the ring for a little more about that.
There are a few variations of note. You can fence opponents in either with actual strikes or fakes; if you’ve pounded a guy with a solid back-leg knee, they’ll fear the fake and react to it (see Lyoto Machida vs Randy Couture).
You can cut off the cage to your right side too – it just means your hammer will have to be the front leg karate style kick (no wind up, as a thai kick would be too slow to keep them fenced in) and the leaping left hook.
I’ll leave you with this video that shows Frankie Edgar keeping an opponent on the cage wall.
Let me know your thoughts, tips and tricks in the comment section below.
When thinking about progressing in your training, you want to list the things you need to learn and improve on. You highlight four or five things and find techniques and tweaks to get good at them, rotating your practice evenly over a period of time to cover all the things throughly.
You review your progress, make some tweaks, and go through the cycle again. If you don’t consciously control how you train and what you techniques you choose to train, you cannot make consistent progress.
Making a game plan, especially if you’re a beginner, is fraught with pitfalls. Even if you’re fairly advanced, having a coach to help you progress is virtually a must. Which moves do you choose? Which positions and transitions?
Steven Kesting, one of the most gifted grapplering instructors I’ve come across, has 35 page pdf called “A Roadmap for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu”, a copy of which can be found here. It’s a solid overview of BJJ and which positions and submission you should learn first.
In his own words, Steven says
The goal of this book is NOT to teach you specific techniques – you can learn those from your instructor, your fellow students, and other resources such as books and DVDs. My goal here is to give you a basic framework to help you make sense of all the different techniques you are learning. In essence I am trying to give you a big picture which functions as a kind of filing system to help you learn more efficiently,and to access the correct technique quickly in the heat of battle.
If you want to get good at BJJ – fast – check it out. If you want to tailor your own road map, try picking a half-dozen things from the chart at the top of the page, and then learn and drill techniques that associate with them.
When you step into the ring, its time to play by your game plan and win. If you go into a match without a concrete plan, you will be at the mercy of the opponent, forever reacting, countering, and trying to squeeze in your moves. In the BJJ Road Map linked above, Kesting has a solid progression to use when grappling.
You’re in the opponent’s Guard and break it -> Side Control -> Knee Mount -> Full Mount -> Rear Mount.
The idea is that you should always know where you’re going. It shouldn’t be a time of meditation, “Okay, I’m in side control, what now? As you progress through the chain you should try one or two submissions at each place. Immediately go for one sub, then the other, then transition into the next position. Quickly, but smoothly – 1,2,3.
Here’s a map I made for when you begin grappling from a standing position.
When you start, you’ve only got two options – so not much thinking. Fake one to set up the other. You hit the next level down and still, only a few minimal choices.
Wherever you are in a fight, you should have a pre-memorized, ready-to-fire-off technique. Limiting your options speeds up your reaction time. No hesitation.
Bang, bang, bang. The opponent should always have to be defending your constant attacks. You flow don’t the chart, constantly trying to make it worse for your opponent by gaining progressively better positioning.
Now then, memorize at least one good escape from all the disadvantageous positions, and if you find yourself there, escape back into somewhere you recognize and continue down the tech-tree.
I know I haven’t covered all avenues, but I think you get the idea. Reading the BJJ Roadmap will help fill in the gaps, then start learning techniques to plug into your game plan. Happy scheming!