“The Ultimate Fighting Championship #1 was exciting, and fueled the greatest shift in martial arts since Ooog hit that guy with a bone; it was also mostly clueless. Rewatching the earliest MMA contests generally elicits a couple of basic reactions - "Oh, that's gotta hurt" and "What, no no, don't do that, get position." It is a little hard to fathom now, but in its infancy, many MMA competitors had little or no understanding of position - they would stand up out of full mount, leave lower limbs slack in top or bottom half guard, and otherwise fail to control their opponent's hips, thereby taking a huge amount of unnecessary punishment, and having to attack for longer.
It did not take long at all for a fundamental need to achieve near universal understanding - when on the ground, aim to control your opponent first, and then strike or submit, generally in that order. The great exception to this has been leg locks - in order to leg lock an opponent, you have to give up control of his hips. As a consequence, leg locks are relatively rare in MMA. Giving up position in order to get a submission is not a great deal. It is better to maintain position, strike, and take what sub comes.
That has now changed.
The principle of position then submission has been extended to leg locks, by pioneering martial arts instructor Scott Sonnon. This is accomplished by use of what at first glance would be called a figure four of the legs. But calling the heart of Scott's instruction a "figure four" is like calling the mount "sitting on a dude" - it does not convey the amazing efficiency and sophistication of the technique.
Scott refers to the technique he teaches as "The Saddle." In the first of five disks, he breaks down seven key aspects of the saddle, four variations of the saddle, and seven leg locks from the saddle. Disk two covers switching control or subs when your opponent tries untutored escape movements, and also covers in complete detail how to properly escape the saddle. Disk three details how to handle a sophisticated defense (the counters to the counters) and offers further insight into various saddles. The final two disks cover the heart of fighting - the set up, and goes over how to get the saddle from everywhere.
This is a fundamental improvement in the play of the game, which will take many years to work its way completely through the sport. Get a jump on the rest equivalent to knowing mount in UFC I, and study this set, immediately!"
Kirik Jenness - 1/1/2008
President, Mixed Martial Arts LLC
Kirik Jenness has practiced martial arts since 1973, professionally full-time since 1981. He is the author of the Fighter's Notebook and Fit to Fight, and produced the video Zero to Dangerous. These and other world-class training products are available through MMA Media, an online store at MixedMartialArts.com. Related web sites include MMA.tv, the most popular web page in the sport, and NationallyRanked.com, America's first rating system for Grappling.
Kirik is the Commissioner of the North American Grappling Association, America's largest, and of Mass Destruction and Reality Fighting, the largest MMA promotions in Massachusetts and New Jersey respectively. He co-owns the Amherst Athletic Club, in Amherst, Massachusetts and helps teach New England Submission Fighting, which operates out of the same facility.
Sambo prides itself on fast-wrestling - with only 60 seconds of groundfighting permitted. In mixed martial arts, however, these locks only work 20% of the time and aren’t worth sacrificing quality position. As a result, Scott Sonnon modified traditional Sambo to become a “lower-half” positional approach so that fighters could both strike and defend against strikes, could maintain positional dominance, and could easily transition from one submission to the next in a chess-like fashion, as Brazilian Jiujitsu has become known for in the “upper-half” game.
As more details of the Saddles are published and more people begin training it, it will flash like wild fire across the MMA community, as they offer incredibly greater success in mixed martial arts than traditional Sambo, and soon will become the most useful of the many accepted variations in the leg attack game.