Conor McGregor’s Grappling Game

Fightland Blog

By Nick "The Tooth" Gullo

Everyone knows Conor McGregor strikes like lightning, but since he broke onto the scene a few years ago, core fans have questioned his ground game—until they saw him drop Dennis Siver against the fence, then execute a seamless transition from leg-drag to mount.

It’s a jiu jitsu nerd thing, noting a sequence like that. Blink and he’s pounding Siver into a stoppage. Nevertheless, McGregor’s proficiency in the progression reveals not only countless hours of grappling, but grappling at a highly-technical level.

So what, you might say, all fighters train jiu jitsu.

True, but not all jiu jitsu training is equal. As an ever-evolving martial art, there now exists a line in the sand separating old-school BJJ from the new school. Only this line isn’t measured by calendar years, or the incessant debate of self-defense versus sport—but the techniques emphasized during your neighborhood jiu jitsu classes.

In an old school academy just about every session you’ll learn a new choke, or a new variation on an old choke. But in a new school academy, the hours are spent drilling transitions to superior positions, because how are you gonna choke someone if you can’t pass their guard?

You see the same thing in MMA. Standing over a downed opponent, most fighters stand tall in order to avoid up-kicks, then they try and drop sporadic punches. This isn’t a bad strategy, but passing the guard and working for a submission, or more damaging strikes, is better, because from side control the potential attacks are numerous, and your vulnerabilities are about nil. Only problem is, even on a half-decent opponent passing the guard requires skill.

To this end, check out McGregor employing the leg weave to mount Siver.

In case you doubt Conor’s new-school pedigree, watch this video from a few years back, and take note of his going inverted, his deep De La Riva guard and his inverted De La Riva, his baby-bolo to back attempt.

Last night I watched McGregor’s leg-weave sequence with Rafael Mendes, 4x IBJJF World Champion and 2x ADCC champion, and he demonstrated similar techniques that he’s drilled with numerous UFC fighters, including BJ Penn.

Sequence A

During an MMA fight, it’s critical to block the upkick with your knee

Leaning forward with both legs trapped weakens your opponent’s hips

In no danger of a strike, you are now free to concentrate on the leg drag

Now it’s just about over

After dragging the leg, you drop down and close the distance, setting up strikes or a transition to the back

Sequence B

First and foremost, block the upkick… and now grip the other ankle

Stuff the leg and close the distance, hips low to mash his ankle against his butt

Once the leg is mashed, then ‘jump’ the hips to almost ninety degrees, landing with your bottom knee between his legs, and your top stretched far across the mat

Now move back to mount, and finish the fight

At this point McGregor seems a prodigy, but he’s so new on the scene, and the hype is so blinding, that it’s difficult to discern what’s glare and what’s substance. The title shot with Jose Aldo should remove the blur. After that, well, here come the wrestlers.


Check out these related stories:

Conor McGregor Finally Gets His Title Shot

Jack Slack: How Conor McGregor Dispatched of Dennis Siver

Title Shots: Conor McGregor