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UFC 159’s Rustam Khabilov and “The Art of the Suplex”

Rustam Khabilov

When UFC 159’s Rustam Khabilov stepped into the cage at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale he wowed those in attendance with a series of incredible suplexes that left Vinc Pinchel unconscious. Several fighters have since tried the maneuver in fights since to varying degrees of success. While many believe the maneuver is purely based on strength, there is a certain art to the suplex that requires as much skill as strength.

Any high amplitude throw is based off what wrestlers call the “back arch.” What this does is allow the body’s strongest muscles (lower body) to do the heavy lifting of the throw. Khabilov in particular does a strong job of exploding through the throw, which generates an incredible amount of force when he returns his opponent to the canvas.

The most important part of the back arch, is to realize when to turn so you do not crash on your own head. In wrestling, one of my former wrestling coaches taught us to start our turn as soon as we saw the mat in order to perform a legal return to the mat. In MMA, you can get away with being a little late (and driving through the slam) since you are not constrained by the rules of wrestling.

As Chael Sonnen astutely pointed out, wrestlers should take advantage of not being limited by the rules of wrestling once they get to MMA. While wrestling does not have “finishes” multiple throws and holds (even Eddie Bravo admits that “the twister” comes from wrestling guillotine) can be adapted easily to being finishes in MMA, and the suplex is a perfect example.

If there is one aspect of the suplex that is more important than most others aspects it is your hip level relative to your opponents. You want to have your hip level slightly lower than your opponent in order to get the best amplitude and power behind the throw. This is largely why many of the best throwers in wrestling are short and stocky. If you get it wrong, like Uriah Hall at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, your upper body bares most of strain and you end up losing most of the power on the throw, which also wastes a ton of energy.

There are fairly simple ways to avoid being thrown, like dropping your hips or grapevining your opponent’s leg. That said, if you make even the slightest mistake against a guy like Khabilov you will go for a ride.

In the end, there is a strong likelihood that you will continue to see fighters using the suplex since it is such a crowd-pleaser. This makes fighters who have really mastered the maneuver a lot of fun to watch when they step into the Octagon. Khabilov will be one to watch when he appears on the FX preliminary card this weekend against Yancy Medeiros at UFC 159.

Photo Credit: Josh Holmberg – USA TODAY Sports

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