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Underhook Fundamentals with Chael Sonnen

Underhook Fundamentals with Chael Sonnen

Angles can make or break your wrestling career. Being able to get your opponent off-balance requires more than just a head-on approach. You’ve probably seen this in boxing, where the knockout punch doesn’t come from a straight right but rather a sneaky left hook that catches the opponent right on the temple. It’s because of angles that wrestling has evolved from a linear sport to a battle for lateral conquest. 

One of the best ways to get an angle on your opponent is with the underhook. How you get into that position is largely dependent on your body frame versus your opponent’s stature, but there are still some common details that must be addressed. Here to analyze the underhook position is retired UFC and Bellator fighter Chael Sonnen, who gives his take on the series. 

Underhook vs. Overhook

Before going over specific details with the underhook, one of the first things that needs to be addressed is positional dominance. More specifically, who has control with an underhook? Chael points this out at the beginning of the video where he has an underhook on his partner that responds with an overhook. In this scenario, his partner has positional control because Chael’s underhook is shallow and weak compared to the partner’s pinning overhook. To remedy this, Chael flares his elbow out and keeps his palm flat against his partner’s back, which makes their overhook weaker. 

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Front Headlock

While the double leg and single leg are readily available with the underhook, many times you can force an angle on your opponent by moving backwards. In this scenario, Chael has an underhook on his partner and takes a backstep with the leg opposite the underhook arm (his left and right respectively). Doing so forces your opponent to dip their head just enough for you to cover with a headlock. From here, you have many options, including a snap down and spinning to the tail, a chin-and-lace hip bump finish, or transitioning into a gator roll. If the opponent resists the headlock and postures up, that leaves them exposed for a clean shot. 

Collar Tie to Knee Pick

You can force your way into an underhook by pummeling in and creating separation between your opponent’s arm and torso. Another option is to rely on separation that the opponent makes voluntarily. Chael’s partner initiates a collar tie on Chael’s right side. Chael bumps the collar tie out of the way using his opposite arm (in this case, his left arm) by pushing the elbow away. This creates enough space for him to lock in the underhook. Notice where Chael is positioned afterwards, specifically the angle he’s created. He has dominant head positioning by staying on the outside. As mentioned earlier, wrestling is a game of angles, and the angle Chael’s created leaves his opponent open for a knee pick. To finish the move, simply move towards the leg opposite the underhook side and catch it with the far side hand. This creates a push-pull motion by pulling the knee in and throwing the underhook out. Doing so at this angle limits your opponent’s ability to move and thus results in the takedown. 

Knowing how to cut your opponent’s angles off is paramount in establishing your wrestling career. Moving forward and backward simply will not cut it in advanced competition, but using underhooks in the manner that Chael Sonnen shows above mitigate your opponent’s ability to move and make your takedowns easier to hit. 

Fundamentals are crucial to success regardless of what level you are at. Chael Sonnen was one of the best wrestler's to enter into MMA, and he used his foundational wrestling to get there! WRESTLING FUNDAMENTALS FROM THE BAD GUY BY CHAEL SONNEN  HAS WHAT YOU NEED!