I’ve been watching the old UFC 1, 2 … fights in which Royce Gracie uses his double-leg takedown to then mount his opponent, or to have his opponent on top — always taking the fight to the ground.

Why didn’t Gracie’s opponents punch him when the fight went to the ground?

The opponents appear to always hug onto Gracie, perhaps in panic mode, due to their lack of skills fighting on the ground.

I’ve heard the commentator once say something about how people naively assume that Gracie’s opponent should punch. What is naive about this thought process?

(I have no fighting skills / training, by the way.)


  • 1
    You need to actually get to a BJJ school and try it out. Then you'll understand. Suffice it to say, if you try to punch, he can either stay out of range and let you miss, he can simply move in close to you where your punches have no power, or he can take your extended arm and break it or use it as leverage for another submission. If you're distracting your attention away from him to do those strikes, he can very easily be setting you up for a submission, too. When it comes, you will be totally taken by surprise. Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 16:21
  • Thanks, Steve. I'm not a BJJ person, so I didn't know the details of how it works. :-D Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 20:30
  • 1
    @MacacoBranco I think you and I have very similar backgrounds. A little of everything. I remember back in 1991 sparring a friend of mine at college who wanted to teach me this stuff called "shoot fighting". Oh man, my eyes just opened super wide. I was like, "Teach me! Teach me! What did you just do?! More of that!" :) Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 21:54

2 Answers 2


I am a BJJ blue belt 4 stripes and also train wrestling about once a week.

  • The double leg attack is usually preceded by a fake or some kind of distraction before changing the levels. This creates a reaction that opens up an opportunity to change the levels.
  • Element of surprise is a big component for a successful double leg takedown.
  • The closing of distance is very quick. Only if one anticipates a double leg takedown can they have an opportunity to punch.
  • Once the distance has close the power of punches reduces significantly. In BJJ we call this the red zone of distance management.
  • By the time both hands are behind the calf, attacker has changed his levels and his shoulder is in contact with the hip, the takedown is almost certain. Even if you get punched, they are not very powerful.

A punch could work if you can anticipate a double leg takedown, at the right time and distance and power. It is not considered right technique to attempt to stop a double leg takedown with a punch.

The best counter move for a double leg takedown is a sprawl and weighing down on the top back/neck area and then transitioning to taking back.

EDIT: Kinda missed the point when answering first time, but here another attempt.

  • You have control of distance with by pulling and pushing with your closed guard.
  • When on mount you can make a bridge and keep the opponent off balance and forces the opponent to place hands on the ground for retaining balance.
  • There are many attacks from these positions and are well practiced in BJJ. It could easily be a nightmare for a non BJJ fighter.
  • 5
    If I am reading this correctly, the OP asks why the opponents do not punch while being in closed guard or mount specifically. This is partly addressed by the 'red zone' part, but I guess the answer as a whole kind of misses the point. Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 13:16
  • 1
    Yes, I misread. I think in my language when reading even though I can write reasonably well. Apologies OP.
    – Kaushik C
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 22:07
  • Your helpful edits are certainly improvements, but I think an answer to the important essence of the question could still be added: Why not punch? I know for me the answer as to why I wouldn't punch Royce Gracie in that situation is simple: I've never been stupid enough to get in a cage with Royce Gracie! ;) Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 2:44
  • Haha yes! You can punch, there is nothing stopping you from punching and it may be effective too depending on the situation. We do practice what we call "combat/slap jiu jitsu" in the gym sometimes where we replace punching with slaps. However the opponent against the jiu-jitsu practitioner has to remember that every time you throw a punch, you are going to be a bit off balance and extending your arm, something that is actually desirable move especially for a fighter like Royce making his opponent vulnerable to attacks.
    – Kaushik C
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 3:12
  • Here's a video of Combat Jiujitsu (where slaps replace punches) youtube.com/watch?v=bEMw68WLXy4
    – Kaushik C
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 3:19

It's hard to strike effectively off your back.

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