Taking the opponent to the ground is a crucial skill in MMA, with many different approaches. Judo specializes in breaking the balance and sending the opponent crashing down. Despite not being the most popular form of grappling in MMA, it is still widely used. Like all other martial arts, some Judo techniques are better for MMA than others. But which were the best throws?
Many Judo throws work well for MMA. The Uchi Mata, Harai Goshi, and Ouchi Gari are all excellent options you can execute without the gi, the biggest factor when using Judo techniques in MMA.
You can transfer many techniques in Judo to mixed martial arts; some don’t even need a lot of modification. We’ve covered the best of them and their implications in an MMA fight.
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How Well Does Judo Work in MMA
Judo has proven itself time and time again in the MMA cage by many high-level practitioners. Where BJJ places positioning and control on the ground as its highest principle, Judo does the same but for taking the opponent to the ground.
Wrestling takedowns like the double and single leg are great, but Judo reigns supreme in bringing the other guy down once the fight gets into the clinch.
As a martial art, Judo has takedowns that include grabbing the legs. But grabbing the legs was banned in Judo to differentiate it from wrestling. This may be a bad decision for Judo as it limits it as a martial art.
Still, the positive thing about this is that the remaining techniques are perfected to a higher level. There is still some overlap between the two sports, especially in the sweeps department, but where Judo truly shines is in the clinch.
Judo is, of course, done in a gi that plays a significant role in everything. This is why some throws and techniques are not transferable to MMA, where there is no clothing to grab. But other techniques work just as well as they do in Judo.
They can be modified and are usually executed with under or over hooks. After all, most of the techniques found in Judo existed in some form long before the relatively modern martial art and did not always rely on clothing.
The most critical skill a judoka can learn in his transition to MMA is how to use the clinch and get into the positions required to perform the throws. Once mastered, opponents start flying around and tumbling to the canvas.
Another strong point of Judo, as opposed to BJJ, for example, is the explosives and pace of Judo, which catch many fighters off guard. The nature of BJJ is much more slow-paced and methodical, whereas the vicious pace of Judo is better suited for the nature of an MMA match.
Here is an amazing clip with many different Judo throws executed in MMA:
The Best Judo Throws For MMA
Let’s see some of the best proven Judo throws that work great in MMA.
The sweeping hip throw, called Harai Goshi in Japanese, directly translates from Judo to MMA, where you can frequently see fighters flying to their backs in a beautiful arc. The Harai Goshi can be done either with a headlock or from an overhook.
The headlock version is excellent as it leaves you in a better position on the ground, but this is more common at lower levels. The most common in MMA is done from an overhook with the free hand controlling the opponent’s other hand.
The throw is done over the hip with the help of elevating the leg on the throwing side. It helps with the torque and stops the opponent from moving in that direction.
The Uchi Mata is very similar in mechanics to the Harai Goshi. The main difference in the implication of this very popular throw is the sweeping leg. In the Harai Goshi, the leg is swept outside the opponent’s leg. In the Uchi Mata, it is swept between them.
The Uchi Mata in MMA also doubles as an excellent single-leg takedown counter. As with all Judo techniques, the key is to break the opponent’s balance.
O Soto gari
The O Soto Gari is a powerful outside trip that can quickly knock your opponent to the mat. Like in the previous two throws, the key is upper body control. This throw is more versatile than the others because it can be used both in the clinch and set up using punch combinations or even feints.
O Soto Gari Is done by controlling the opponent’s head and one arm with a triceps grip. Then you push him off balance and step outside of his legs, sweeping him clear off as he is not stable.
The De Ashi Barai has perhaps the lowest effort-to-results ratio in Judo. The key here is timing. You need to perfectly time the movement of your opponent. In this case, it can even sweep without a solid grip.
Still, you will find it easier to execute while dragging the hand in the same direction as the sweep. There are a few variations, but each can be very successful in MMA. The De-Ashi-Barai is not only energy efficient but also very safe. It doesn’t leave you compromised, even if unsuccessful.
Best Judo Throws Against Bigger Opponents
I will start by saying these Judo techniques are excellent in MMA against an opponent your size. Still, against bigger opponents, you always need to have a unique approach.
Weight classes in combat sports are there for a good reason. Despite what you may hear in aikido or other similar martial arts, you are NOT going to manhandle someone much bigger than you. In competition, even if your opponent is stronger, you are still in the same weight division.
But in sparring or self-defense, you may come across someone who greatly outweighs you. In these cases, the flashy throws are not going to cut it. But Judo has other options that work against bigger opponents and are also perfectly usable in MMA. These are the foot sweeps called Ashi Waza.
Not only are some sweep techniques much easier to do against bigger opponents, but they are safer. You can get out of them safely if not successful, unlike the Uchi-Mata and Harai Goshi, which can get you easily countered.
The Ouchi Gari, or major inner reap, requires the opponent to be misbalanced backward with your weight and then swept. This is an excellent move without a gi, so it’s perfect for MMA.
This may not always work against a bigger guy, but at least if it doesn’t, you remain in the same position before the attack. The Ouchi Gari is also very effective with a body lock against the cage.
The outside reap, or the Kouchi Gari, is very similar to the inside reap. The advantages of using it against a big guy are the same. Both moves are very good from the 50/50 pummel or the head and arm tie-up (where both have the same position on each other)
Are Judo Throws Allowed In The UFC?
There are a few banned techniques in the UFC and MMA in general, and Judo throws are not among them. The only banned throwing technique is spiking. And this does not mean throwing your opponent on their head, which is a viable submission defense.
Spiking is dropping your opponent downwards in an upside-down position, commonly known as a piledriver in WWE-style professional wrestling. But this has nothing to do with Judo, so all Judo throws are allowed in the UFC.
Who Has the Best Judo in MMA
It’s hard to say who has the best Judo in MMA. Still, the one and only Ronda Rousey has done more than anyone else for the popularity of the Japanese martial art in cage fighting.
She rose to stardom on the back of her Judo throws and armbars, which were the bane of most of her opponents. She can be the perfect example of how to transition from striking range into the clinch, then take the opponent down and put him in submission.
Ronda is far from the only prominent Judoka that has succeeded in mixed martial arts. Kayla Harison is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and is currently reigning as the PFL champion; and is undefeated in MMA at 15-0.
Satoshi Ishii is another Olympic Judo champion that has carved his name in MMA, with a legendary career mainly in Japanese MMA.
Then there are fighters like Yoshihiro Akiyama and Karo Parisyan. They don’t have the credentials of an Olympic medalist. Still, They have made successful careers in MMA by heavily utilizing their Judo background.
Judo’s mastery of upsetting the opponent’s balance and slamming him to the ground is an excellent fit for MMA. Techniques like the Harai Goshi, Uchi Mata, and Ouchi Gari are among some of the best Judo throws for MMA.
They can be done without a gi and are commonly used by Judokas who have transferred to MMA and fighters who’ve learned them without formal training in Japanese martial art.