The Frame Clinch and other stuff I have stolen from Demetrious Johnson.


In MMA the clinch position along the cage is practically another martial art in itself. None of the combat sports which make up MMA address the position as their rule sets do not usually allow athletes to smash each other into chain link fences.

In the eyes of most judges, if an athlete has their back on the cage they are at disadvantage and are therefore losing that part of the round. When a fighter finds themselves in this predicament their fundamental athletic stance is disrupted, they cannot throw strikes with the same effectiveness and they must sprawl differently (wall sprawl vs ehm sprawl sprawl). The constant repummeling, wall sprawling, dragging guys up of your hips and efforts to turn off the cage make this area of the bout incredibly gruelling.

Some of the most interesting developments in mma are happening with athletes working to use this unique environment to their advantage.. One such development comes from Demetrious Johnson who utilises a unique framing clinch along with the more traditional plum clinch to great effect in his bouts.

Strikers clinch Vs Grapplers clinch.

A grappler style clinch would be something like the over under or double under hooks positions. Here you are limiting the opponents ability to strike and gaining a great deal of control over the opponents body. The final aim is to hold the opponent and achieve a takedown.


The strikers clinch differs from the grappler’s clinch in that there is always some form of barrier creating chest to chest separation. This again allows the athlete to limit the opponents ability to strike but also gives them the ability to effectively strike back. The Thai Plum clinch is a great example of this. Other examples are single collar tie for dirty boxing  and any clinch where head position is used to create chest to chest separation.


The Frame Clinch

Demetrious Johnson is primarily a striker style clincher. He utilises the plum position excellently. He seamlessly enters into the clinch from punches and kicks and batters his opponents with knees to the body and head. Elbows and punches follow when they try to break away clean.

But things get really interesting when you try and pin him against the cage as we saw throughout his bout with Ali Bagutinov. What was really interesting about this fight was DJ’s ability to be the more effective athlete even when his back was pinned to the cage by a much more powerful opponent.

How did he do it? Well lets look at his Frame Clinch position.

This position is characterised by two main features the bicep frame and the lat frame (as in on the latissimus dorsi muscle).

framclinch2 frame clinchpic

The Bicep Frame

The bicep frame is massively important and serves a number of purposes.

  • Creates distance and angles: opponent cannot make true chest to chest contact. The shoulder of the bicep controlled arm is kept out. The space this creates will regularly filled with an onslaught of knees to the body.
  • Prevents opponents hands connecting: its hard to think of a more effective takedown in mma than the double leg against the cage with the hands locked below the hips. The bicep frame prevents the opponent from connecting their hands in double unders or when dropping down to double leg positions. The opponent is forced to commit to the single leg and as we can see in the video at the end of this article DJ is rather good at turning his hip out of those.
  • Opponent cannot use framed arm to strike: by monitoring the bicep you will no longer have to worry as much about strikes from that limb.

The Lat Frame

While the bicep frame is pretty constant the Lat frame is more of a mobile trouble shooter, moving around to create space, defend takedowns and bash the opponent. The latissimus dorsi (side of ribcage/armpit area) tends to be the reset point but it can end up in a variety of positions depending on the aim.

  • Creates space and angles: the hand on the lat helps the athlete to keep the opponents weight of them and allows them to slide the hips out along the cage to create angles, knee or move along the cage.
  • Striking: As the arm is not trapped in an overhook the athlete is free to wing the framing hand over the top to strike the opponents head. This is not a knock out shot but it is annoying and can force the opponent to move.
  • Transitioning to a single collar tie:by angling out with the hips, pulling on the opponents neck and framing on the bicep the athlete will be able to secure a single collar tie and a beneficial angle to strike or move of the wall.
  • Transitioning to the head push knee: by angling the hips towards the lat frame side the athlete can push the opponets head into a knee strike. DJ does this a lot.
  • Moving to an overhook to defend the level change: while the bicep frame prevents the opponent connecting their hands on the double leg the lat frame can transition to an overhook and assist in dragging the opponent upright to where the frame clinch is most effective.

Linking the Frame Clinch with the Plum

Against a powerful clincher like Bagutinov one does not simple turn off the cage. What DJ did was use the frame clinch to create an angle on the cage before latching onto a plum clinch and pummelling Ali with a poo tonne of knee strikes to the body and head.

The plum is a great striking position but is not very effective when your hips are square to the cage. The frame clinch allowed DJ to angle out where the plum became much more effective.

Here is a sequence which covers a tonne of the stuff mentioned above.

Using the Frame clinch and Plum offensively

When you have the Frame, plum or an intermediary version with your opponents back to the cage you are in a great position to cause damage. Not only are your strikes no longer hampered by chain link fence biting at your ankles and messing with your movement you are free to create real separation and land more long ranged attacks at will before crashing into your opponent once more.

Getting this sort of rapid separation from grappler clinches is much more difficult as the opponent has over hooks to lock you to them.

Another cool feature of clinch work that encourage a lot of knee strikes is that it tends to bring an opponents posture up as the try to avoid getting decapitated. Unfortunately for them this puts them in a great position to be double legged.

DJ does a lot of other cool stuff with his clinch work, such as using double under hooks to move off the cage before transitioning to his vicious plum clinch or doing that cool Dekkers inspired jumping elbow thingy on Dodson, but I think we will leave it there.

If you want to check out more have a look at the full video of clinch awesomeness below.

Let me know what you think in the comments section.


JT Torres De La X Guard

When it comes to watching Jiu Jitsu matches I always tend to pick a specific athlete and watch a crap tonne of their matches as opposed to simply watching  full events. When focusing on a certain athlete you start seeing the type of positions they favor and the go to techniques that they prefer.

I watched an interview with JT Torres a few weeks ago and he had a great attitude to competition and training. That is what encouraged me to have a look at some of his matches in depth. . Initially I was looking at doing a breakdown with his awesome leg drag passing, but then I noticed the De La X Guard appearing time and time again, seriously like every match and with a freaky high sweeping percentage as well.

The frequency with which JT goes for this position and the success he has with it says a great deal about its effectivness, and when guys like Michael Langhi are getting nailed with it you have to respect it.

At the lower levels of Jiu Jitsu mastery we have a tendency to abandon positions when we come across obstacles. At the higher levels the athletes know the positions they are great at and consistently find a way to get to those spots. From these strong positions they are ready to implement their attacks based on how the opponent responds. As with everything in jiu jitsu you earn what you have got. JT has certainly but the time in with his De La X Guard and has a tonne of faith in this position.

The De La X Guard

The deep DLR hook on the hip and the lower leg hook effectively ruins your opponents ability to  move laterally. Using upper body grips and the powerful leg pressure of this position the bottom guy can effectively tilt their opponent to either side depending on their objectives.

If the top man drives forward or is pulled forward in this position he can expect to be on the bad end of the dump sweep shown in the first section of the video. If the top man keeps his weight back he is susceptible to single leg attacks.

One of JTs most common ways to get onto the single leg occurs when his opponent hides the far arm. This effectively prevents the dump sweep as the top man has a hand to post with. By switching to a collar grip and attempting the dump sweep JT can collect the posting arm and complete the initial sweep or use the momentary lack of forward pressure to come up onto the single leg take down.

Finally if the top man avoids the dump sweep and drives back into the single leg JT will sit back into the single leg X, very much like Torquinho would, but instead of heel hooking somebody’s leg to pieces he quickly changes to the full x guard and completes the sweep from there.

All in all there are not a great deal of fun options for the top guy when the De La X Guard is latched on and its a great way to deal with the combat base position.

The Lapel grip.

JT will change the nature of his grips depending on what he is trying to do. He is always going after the far arm to complete the dump sweep. But if thats not available he may go to the collar to help load his opponent onto the hips as mentioned above or grip on the lead leg to secure it.

One of the really cool grips he utilises really well is a variation on the lapel wedgy grip. I am sure there is a better way to describe this but my inner child have prevailed, he passes the far lapel to his outside hand behind his opponents knee. This kills the top mans posture and forces him to the inside and towards the dump sweep which is the first link in a chain of great positions JT uses really effectively.

Let me know what you think of this breakdown and if you would like some more,


Paulus Maximus

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