Fedor Emelianenko, the greatest heavyweight of all time. His run through the Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight division is legendary. Well known for his striking and dynamic ground-and-pound a less talked about area of his game is his takedowns. See he doesn’t shoot for singles or double legs, he’s a master of Sambo and a Judo black belt. This means all his takedowns have come from trips or throws in the clinch.

Clinch Entries

First, let’s take a look at his entries into the clinch. His most common clinch entry is a right-hand lead and step (The Fitzsimmons Shift) . This is where he throws a lead right-hand punch while at the same time taking a step forward with his right leg which enables him to fall into a clinch position. Now the right-hand punch is thrown as a legitimate shot and not as a fake. If it lands and his opponent starts backpedalling. He will follow up with further strikes.

The next entry used is hand trapping where Fedor will briefly block his opponent’s hand. Against Zulu his lead right slaps down Zulus left allowing him to jump in with a leaping hook, he used the same combination against Tim Sylvia. If we concede that the clinch starts as soon as your opponent’s hands and your own are touching then this offers a good entry into the clinch.

Fedor would use his lead right to block down his opponents front and rear hand and will even use his lead left to block his opponents lead left. For a brief moment, his opponent is unable to retaliate with strikes on their covered hand and Fedor uses this moment to close the distance.

Fedor could also initiate a clinch after catching a body kick. If he caught a kick he could either slide straight up the leg into an upper-body clinch and takedown or he would hold onto the leg to keep his opponent on one foot. Otherwise, he would return fire with a straight right that could knock his opponent down or even knock them out.

Outside Trip

Now that he has successfully entered the clinch one of his most common takedowns from there was the outside trip. This is where he steps his foot around behind his opponents with his knee resting on their thigh trapping their leg. He would then drive his weight over the top of that foot preventing those opponents from regaining their balance and forcing them to fall over. This move is ideally done while trapping your opponent’s under hook by clamping down with your over hook and driving them to the same side, but Fedor was skilled enough to pull this move off from any over hook or under book combination. Ideally, you’re using the smallest steps possible to get your foot around behind your opponents and Fedor will use his momentum from entering the clinch to help finish the takedown.

Inside Trip

The inside leg trip was another one of Fedors takedowns where if their hips and feet were close enough to him, he would step his foot in between their legs and then bring his heel on the back of their calf and sweep it out from underneath them. While he drives his upper body weight forward he makes sure to keep his head on the opposite side of the trapped foot enabling him to fall into their guard.

Knee Block

The knee block is where Fedor will reach down with primarily his left hand hooking behind his opponent’s knee and then driving forward. Using his under hook to lift his opponent’s upper body or a collar tie to push forward on their neck and shoulder. This is a good move when Fedors hips are away from his opponents and it’s closer for his hand to reach down rather than to step around with the trip It’s also a good move when it has a lot of forward momentum to help knock down his opponent

Foot Sweep

If the opponent starts leaning their weight forward over Fedors body he would look to execute an outside foot sweep. His right leg will step forward blocking his opponent’s feet and he will then rotate his hips to the right and sag his body forward knocking his opponent over that blocked foot. If Fedors executing this move from an over-under position. He will look to rotate onto his overhooked side.

If he rotates towards his underhook side he will look to perform a shoulder bump and take his opponent back to perform this his main goal is to get his shoulder underneath his opponent’s armpit. While he drives his under hook up and across their back while at the same time stepping around and as he steps around he’ll grab a tight waist allowing him to perform a trip, a sweep or throw from the back.

Scoop Slam

If Fedor secures double under hooks on his opponent his preferred takedown is the scoop slam. This is where he lifts them up into the air while rotating his elbows in a circular motion with one elbow driving up into their ribs and the other down into their hips. This rotates their body midair taking their feet out from underneath them and making them easy to slam into the mat This is the closest takedown that Fedor gets to a double leg and is a very explosive movement.

Hip Toss

If Fedor winds up with double over hooks, which is technically an inferior position he will look to go to a hip toss which is where he rotates his hips past the line of his opponents and throws them over his blocking leg or thigh and he will also sometimes bring one over hook up into a collar time to help assist with the throw. He will sometimes also go for the hip throw from an over-under position

Off Balancing (Kuzushi)

Now that we’ve gone through the techniques that Fedor used let’s look at the underlying concept of off-balancing that allows all these throws to work and look almost effortless when executed you can see when an opponent has put themselves Off-balance with a failed shot that can easily be tipped over using only one arm. But Fedor was also able to tip over a standing opponent with one arm after colliding into them. This is because of Fedors expert understanding and application of balancing his opponents. In his training, he places great emphasis on spending time in the clinch and moving your partner around to get a feel for the change in weight distribution and balance.

This off-balancing training is vital to understanding the timing needed to throw an opponent and can simply be pushing or pulling them until they fall over, but when you attempt to do this in a fight that will likely push or pull back so once you have them reacting to your movements then you can blend your energy with theirs so you exaggerate their motion until you force them to be off-balance using maximum efficiency.

This is where the chaining together of throws becomes important as your first throw might attempt to get your opponent to place all their weight in one direction where you can then switch techniques to help take them further in the direction that they were bracing.

You will notice that Fedor is constantly engaged in this dynamic rocking movement from side to side and that it will chain the momentum and shifting of his striking entries down attempts together this effectively allows Fedors off-balancing techniques to begin before he’s even entered into the clinch with the constant rocking motion allowing him to score takedowns at the slightest off-balancing of his opponent. It will also allow him to work into devastating striking attacks like this hook off a failed hip toss now.

Lessons from the Last Emperor

What lessons can we learn from the last emperor well certainly that? Constant dynamic movement as a means to off-balance your opponent and keep you always scrambling and moving towards a takedown is a very important element of his game and also that he relied on the clinch and upper-body takedowns without the use of single or double leg shots as by comparison the risk and going for an upper-body clinch is a lot less than the risk of being sprawled on from a double leg shot.

Lastly, making sure that you have drilled and practised your techniques so that you have a throw ready from any position or combination of over hooks and under hooks possible so that no matter how you end up clinching you always have a go-to plan of how to launch your opponent through the air and to the mat.

Now that concludes this study on Fedors clinch work!