We can all agree that Judo can add a sizable advantage inside the cage, but the question remains which throws are the most effective?
I’ve looked at the data and compared the results with 20 years of experience in Judo and 10 professional fights. I’m here to tell you some of the best Judo throws for MMA and, more importantly, how to use them to level up your game.
By the end of this article, you’ll know some of the best Judo throws to use in MMA practice and become an unstoppable fighter. If you want to know which is the very best, then skip to my favorite Judo throw, the De Ashi Harai.
1. O Soto Gari
O Soto gari is a mighty outside leg sweep to bring your opponent crashing onto their back and take top position. It is a versatile throw for MMA because it can be done both from within the clinch or set up off of our punching combinations.
How To Use O Soto Gari From The Clinch
- Secure a collar tie with one hand and an over-hook or tricep grip with the other.
- Step past your opponents’ legs breaking their posture towards your over-hook side.
- Sweep out their supporting leg by connecting the back of your hamstring and knee with theirs, hinging at the hips like a seesaw.
You should land directly in side-control past your opponent’s guard in the top position when done correctly.
How To Use O Soto Gari From Striking Position
To execute your O Soto Gari in an orthodox position against an opponent:
- Close the distance with a combination to bring your opponent’s guard up.
- Take control of their head with a left-hand collar tie.
- With your right leg, step past their lead leg, pushing them off balance.
- Sweep out their left leg with your own to secure your takedown and ground position.
2. O Uchi Gari
O Uchi Gari is another Judo throw utilizing a sweeping action on the legs. This time you will throw your opponent flat on their back into a closed or open guard position to set up a devastating ground & pound scenario.
O Uchi Gari loosely translates into English as “major inner reap.”
It is most effective when used from the common 50/50 pummeling position towards your over-hook side or with a body lock against the cage wall.
How To Use O Uchi Gari From The 50/50 Pummel Clinch
The 50/50 Pummel is an intermediate skill to learn, similar to a clinch, which signifies the moment being wrapped up with your opponent as your heads lie on each others’ opposite shoulders.
From the 50/50 Pummel position, both fighters are 50-50 in chances as they have the exact same position on each other. Who comes out on top from this position depends entirely on your technique to take advantage of it.
Here’s how to use O Uchi Gari, and take advantage, of the 50/50 pummel:
- Secure and clamp down on your overhook, trapping your opponent’s elbow.
- With the same side leg as the over-hook, enter between their legs, drawing a big circle on the canvas capturing their thigh.
- Look towards your over-hook and apply pressure to their upper body, bringing them down to the canvas.
- Posture up in the closed or open guard to begin your ground and pound!
How To Use O Uchi Gari Against The Cage
- Secure a body lock on your opponent and press them into the cage wall.
- Close the distance with your rear foot giving yourself room to execute the sweep.
- Draw a big circle on the canvas with your lead leg capturing your opponent’s thigh.
- Continue to apply downward pressure with your upper body to pull them off the cage and down to the floor.
3. De Ashi Harai
De Ashi Harai is my favorite Judo throw, and for a good reason! It’s essential to keep in your arsenal because it requires minimal effort to produce maximum results.
That means you’ll have plenty of gas left in the tank after the takedown to finish the fight.
De Ashi Harai can be used from any upper body clinch work where we’re controlling the head and arm of our opponent.
The effectiveness of this throw comes down to your timing. Time this sweep either just as your opponent’s foot leaves the floor or before it touches down for the best result.
How To Use De Ashi Harai In MMA
- Force your opponent to move forwards or backward by pushing or pulling.
- With your outside leg, sweep the back of their ankle with the instep of your foot.
- Pushing from the hip, keep a straight leg, and sweep the foot off the floor.
- Pull down on the upper body to bring them down to the mat for an effortless takedown!
4. Ippon Seoi Nage
Ippon Seoi Nage is a forward hip throw utilizing a strong over-hook grip on one arm.
It is perfect for MMA when your opponent is pushing heavily on a collar tie or continuously pressing forwards to engage in the clinch.
Ippon Seoi Nage can be used to capitalize on your opponent’s forward momentum and leave them flat on their back, wondering how the hell they got there.
How To Use Ippon Seoi Nage In MMA
- Control one opponent’s arm with an overhook/tricep control.
- Step toe to toe with your opponent diagonally towards your over-hook grip.
- With your other arm, punch upwards underneath their arm, connecting your bicep with their armpit so secure their upper body.
- Square up with your opponent to face the same way and bend your knees to load them onto your back.
- To throw, extend your legs to lift them off the ground, hinging forwards at the hips.
- Look back towards your outside leg to increase the rotation of the throw, bringing them over one shoulder and down to the canvas.
5. Harai Goshi
Harai Goshi is an impressive forwards hip throw that the world started to notice watching Ronda Rousey rise through the ranks of the UFC.
Ronda – a Judo black belt – used this sweeping hip throw to dominate her opponents in the clinch, forcefully throwing them to the floor and land immediately past their guard.
When done correctly, Harai Goshi can seriously wind your opponent, leaving them gasping for air and in a difficult position to continue the fight.
How To Use Harai Goshi In MMA
- Control one side of your opponent’s body with an over hook grip (this will be the direction of your throw).
- With your other arm, grip around the neck/shoulders of your opponent. (I prefer taking a hold on the rear of the armpit)
- Breaking your opponent’s posture towards your over-hook side, step across with your leg facing your hips in the same direction as theirs.
- Sweep backward at a 45-degree angle to lift your opponents’ legs off the ground.
- Complete the throw by rotating your upper body driving them down to the canvas, landing directly on top of them in the scarf hold/side control position.
6. Uchi Mata
Uchi Mata is another forward sweeping hip throw with very similar mechanics to that of Harai Goshi. There are 2 essential differences to note.
The 1st is that you will only be sweeping 1 leg to lift them off the ground. The 2nd is that it can be used as a counter to an opponent’s single leg takedown.
With this technique, you will lock up your opponent’s upper body and draw them down to the canvas into a full guard or open guard position on their back to set up your ground & pound.
How To Use Uchi Mata From The Clinch
- Starting from the 50/50 pummeling position, clamp down on your over-hook and begin to draw your opponent’s weight forwards and over that leg.
- With your opposite leg, step to the center of their feet, turning to face the same way drawing them onto your back with the under-hook.
- With your other leg, sweep directly upwards, making contact with the inside of your opponent’s thigh to create lift and rotation.
- Finish the throw by following your opponent to the floor to land in the half guard position on top with an under-hook ready to advance.
How To Use Uchi Mata As A Single Leg Defense
- Break your opponent’s grip on the single leg by taking a strong Wizzer and stamping your leg to the floor.
- With your opposite arm, reach down and secure a tricep grip to control their upper body.
- Turn to face the same way as your opponent, capitalizing on their forward momentum.
- Step in with your other leg and finish the throw by sweeping the inside of their thigh upwards to land in half guard top position.
Picking The Best Judo Throws for MMA: The Golden Rule
Believe it or not, there is one thing that all of these judo throws have in common that provides the key to their success.
That common theme is: Breaking your opponent’s posture.
This is an important note to make as the success of your Judo throws within the cage relies on it.
There are many great uses of Judo for self-defense that makes it such a worthy tool in your fighting arsenal.
I like to think of Judo throws as “assisted break-falls” where all you’re doing is helping your opponent hit the mat quicker than they intended.
It’s important to be aware that not all Judo throws can be done without a Gi, so it can affect the throws at your disposal.
Each throw works because the first step involves controlling their upper body and breaking their balance in a particular direction to secure the takedown.
Without that step, every attempt to throw will feel like you’re running directly into a brick wall.
So remember, for your Judo throws to work, you need to:
- Control their posture
- Break their balance
- THEN complete your throw.
Luke Howard is a lifelong Judoka with over 20 years of experience. He was awarded his Black belt at 17, holds multiple national titles, and represented Australia on the world stage.
He has since earned his Brown Belt in BJJ, transitioned into the sport of MMA for 10 professional fights, and teaches others as a coach with Day One Martial Arts.