Former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is widely considered one of, if not the best lightweight MMA fighter of all time, and he did it all with a brutally crushing top game. The “smesh,” as it’s commonly known, led to victories over the likes of Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Rafael dos Anjos, and Justin Gaethje. In a recent video with Bernardo Faria of BJJ Fanatics, Nurmagomedov shared the details behind his legendary top pressure.
The key, says Nurmagomedov, is using your hips and legs to control your opponent, rather than your arms. This is a form of control and muscle memory that requires practice, and to that end, Nurmagomedov likes to try to hold his training partners down without using his arms. This way, he can develop the muscles and sensitivity to hold an opponent with only his legs.
“When I drill this, I just put someone down, I sit on mount, and I tell him, ‘escape.’ I don’t do nothing with arms,” he said.
This type of control works particularly well in an MMA contest because it frees his arms for punching. As long as his opponent is defending those punches, Nurmagomedov can hold the position. If his opponent moves his arms to escape the position, Nurmagomedov now has free access to punch his opponent. Essentially, his opponent is trapped.
“You have to control your opponent with legs. Arms are used for punching or submission,” said Nurmagomedov.
Khabib Nurmagomedov retired from MMA last year with a perfect 29-0 record and the UFC lightweight belt.