Roger Gracie said on the Lex Fridman podcast that leg locks are bad in MMA. And we should pay attention to what he says, because Roger Gracie did MMA (on top of being a multiple time BJJ world champion). So here’s Roger Gracie’s 3 reasons why leg locks don’t work in MMA, with some videos of UFC matches to prove his points.
Also read: 7 Reasons Roger Gracie’s the best grappler ever
1. You don’t dominate your opponent
The goal of jiu jitsu is to dominate your opponent. Especially in MMA. And you don’t dominate with leg lock positions.
You can control people from leg lock positions (kind of), but it’s not domination.
For example, if you have a saddle and you also control the secondary leg (aka double trouble). This is pretty much the most controlling leg lock position you can get. But you’re using both your arms and both your legs to control your opponent. You can’t progress without letting go of some of your controls.
True domination happens from places like mount and bellow down back mount. There you can control your opponent with only your legs, and you have your arms free to progress, punch, choke, whatever you want to do. That’s domination. And that’s what you need in MMA.
Also read: What’s the most dominating position in BJJ? (It’s not back control or mount.)
2. You can get punched in leg lock positions
You can always get punched and kicked in leg lock positions. No matter how good you are.
You don’t believe me?
Exhibit A: Garry Tonon gets knocked out cold from various leg lock positions (single x, double outside ashi garami, the reap and the outside heel hook)
Exhibit B: Ryan Hall gets knocked out cold with hammer fists as he tries to enter a leg lock position (from an inverted guard)
And these are not random guys. Ryan Hall and Garry Tonon are by far the 2 best leg lockers ever in MMA. Nobody has more leg lock finishes that Ryan Hall in the UFC. And Garry Tonon is in the top 5 best leg lockers ever in Brazilian jiu jitsu (pure BJJ, not just mixed martial arts).
If they can’t make leg locks work in MMA, nobody can.
3. MMA fighters don’t have to tap to your leg lock
The biggest problem of leg locks in MMA is that your opponent doesn’t have to tap to your leg lock.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that leg locks don’t work. MMA fighters should tap to leg locks in my opinion, but the truth is that they often don’t tap.
You know why?
MMA fighters are crazy.
They just don’t tap. They keep fighting. It kinda makes sense for them too (I mean, kinda). They try to continue fighting with broken bones all the time. And they even come into the fight with a torn ACL from their training camp anyway. They’re more stubborn than us.
So you have to be sure that you can break your opponent’s leg so hard that he can’t fight anymore. But as I said, Ryan Hall and Garry Tonon can’t even always do that. So I’ll bet you all your money that you can’t either.
And by the way, the same isn’t true for arm locks. Because when you have an arm lock, you’re usually in a dominant position. So even if your opponent doesn’t tap, he can’t get away, and the referee might stop the fight.