Zapping Your Opponent’s Energy


One of the most enduring strategies in any martial art is to wear down your opponent’s energy until they make mental mistakes that you can then exploit. With jiu-jitsu, this kind of strategy is often more defensive—you force your opponent to attack, and then use technique to defend and escape from holds until they’ve tired themselves out. In mixed martial arts fighting, it’s far more common to take a more aggressive approach, and to wear down your opponents with a constant barrage of strikes.

One specific strategy Shane Fazen and Vince “The Anomaly” Cachero of FIGHTTIPS described in the above video involves overwhelming them with pressure: first as you push them towards the cage, then once their back is against the cage, and then finally on the mat. If done successfully, your opponent will either begin to panic, which means they will not think strategically about what they’re doing or why they’re doing it, or they will become physically and mentally exhausted, which also means that they will likely make mistakes that will allow you to end the fight.

Shane and Vince outline this strategy in three steps:

1. Apply Pressure and Corner

To get someone caught against the cage, you want to drive with your feet while peppering your opponent with punches and feigning the takedown. When you strike, their hands go up to block. When you pretend like you’re going for the takedown, they lower their hands to block that attempt. If you keep switching it up, it’s going to put them constantly on the defensive, which can sap their energy.

At the same time, you also need to use those strikes to cut off angles of escape. If the opponent steps to your right, cut them off with a strike from your right to bring them back to the center. If they step to the left, cut them off with a strike from your left to bring them back to the center. If done successfully, they will eventually end up with their back against the cage and nowhere to go.

2. Cage Bullying

Once you have your opponent against the cage, you then want to drive with your legs and use the structure of your body to further pin them down. Getting in tight like this gives you a strategic advantage for a few reasons. First of all, it prevents your opponent from generating momentum. They’ll be able to strike you, but these strikes won’t do a lot of damage. Secondly, if you can manage to get your head underneath your opponent’s chin and drive your shoulder into their solar plexus, it can be extremely unpleasant for your opponent, who may then make a strategic mistake as they try to escape.

Similar to the first step, as you’re driving them against the cage, you also want to be peppering them with strikes and threatening the takedown. Once they make a significant enough mistake to exploit, take full advantage of it, and then take them down to the mat.

3. Ride Time

Once you’ve taken your opponent to the mat, you can then stay on top of them and force them to carry your weight. However, you don’t have to stay in one position. You can attack from the front and put them into a headlock or switch to the side, full mount, or even knee on belly. Throughout all this time, though, your goal is to keep the pressure on them and to stay in the dominant position.

Maintaining Pressure Is Key

As Shane notes, when you come at an opponent with an aggressive offensive strategy, you put them on their toes from the start. Your opponent ends up fighting your fight at your pace, which is draining physically and psychologically. Your opponent ends up feeling overwhelmed and as though they are always one step behind you. If you can maintain this pressure for long enough, they will eventually trip themselves up. As Vince says, “People don’t realize that mental energy is a real thing. If you’re already tired and I’m putting mental pressure on you…it snowballs up.”

Meanwhile, if you pull back, you give them time to recover and to regain composure. If you’re going to use this strategy, your foot cannot come off the accelerator until you have clearly established a dominant position where you can then use more sophisticated strategies to break down their defenses and force a submission. “If you get someone tired,” Vince says, “you can have fun with it. You can start to pick them apart.”