Demian Maia Magic: How To Do An Armbar From Side Control

Last updated on 18.12.2020 by

Who do you ask how to do an armbar from side control? Why not the best grappler in MMA? The answer to the question of who has the best Jiu Jitsu in the UFC has always been in flux. However, looking at the past 2 decades, one name keeps popping up whenever people talk about BJJ in MMA – Demian Maia. His technical and tactical grappling skills are nothing short of phenomenal, and when he teaches, we listen. In the video below, Maia demonstrates to Bernardo Faria how to do an armbar from side control. 

How to Do An Armbar From Side Control

Side control is a position that offers a lot of attacking options, but you need to be wary. If you think you can just stay in side control like you can in mount you’re in for a rude awakening. Side control is a much more dynamic position, and the bottom person actually has plenty of options to attack or counter. If you’re thinking along the lines of hold first and attack later, you’re going to be fairly unsuccessful  when looking at how to do an armbar from side control. 

If, on the other hand, you accept the dynamic nature of side control and use it to your advantage, you’ll be able to set up pretty much everything you set your mind to. When you’re looking at, for example, how to do an armbar from side control, you’ll need to factor this in. It will be quite difficult if you’re just staying put to isolate and attack an arm, regardless if it is the near or far side one.

However, if you attack in transition, while your opponent is setting up defenses, like frames, your chances of getting an armbar are much higher. While Demian Maia doesn’t talk about this in his demonstration, it is the principle upon which his setup of a far side armbar works.

Another key principle for attacking limbs from side control is finding a pivot point. Since we’re talking about attacking armbars, that means using an opponent’s arm as a pole that acts as a pivot point. You need to make sure you’re attached to the arm you are attacking at all times, even when all of your other body parts are not in contact with the opponent’s body. In conjunction with the dynamic nature of side control, this will actually make your attacks much more efficient and successful, rather than trying to slowly set them up. 

So, the bottom line on how to do an armbar from side control is to look for a setup during movement and stay attached to the limb you’re looking to attack at all times. Far or near side armbar, both these principles will make a world of difference when you’re attacking from side control. 

Demian Maia-Style Spinning Armbar Setup

From side control, you could attack both arms with various variations of armlocks. However, going for a far side armbar is one of the best options, given that it is a low risk one and has several “safety nets” along the way. The setup, however, is anything but simple, and learning how to do an armbar from side control from Demian Maia is arguably the best possible way to make sure you don’t fail with this setup.

Maia begins his setup from the basic sid control and uses Faria’s positioning of the far arm for an escape, to actually set the far side armbar up. Answering the question of how to set up an armbar from side control starts right there – with the opponent’s first defensive positioning. The goal here is to trap the arm, first with your head and shoulder, and secondly, with your grip, scooping the elbow. 

The grip actually makes all the difference here. You should aim to grab right above the elbow, but you should also be wary of where you position your own forearm. Simply grabbing above the elbow means that the opponent can sneak their arm out. You should instead aim to get your elbow close to your body so that the grip is tighter. Next, you should press the elbow and forearm into the opponent’s ribcage, placing them under pressure. Finally, Maia adds a very snaky twist as he pulls the elbow close, completely locking the arm in place. That creates the crucial pivot point.  

As Maia progresses through explaining how to do an armbar from side control, he goes into weight placement. Since it is a far side armbar setup in this video, you can’t just jump up and spin hoping to land in the perfect armbar position. Instead, Maia makes sure that he shifts his weight from his hip to his shoulders by going into a down dog like position and placing the shoulders on Faria’s hips. This, along with the grip on the arm will keep the bottom person in place. 

Getting into a position to finish an armbar by spinning is the final step of the positional puzzle of how to do an armbar from side control. keypoints include staying attached and keeping your shoulders on the hips, while you make sure you push the head of the opponent away. Your free arm should then post on the ground, so that you are free to move your legs, one by one, into the perfect position.

Speaking of the legs, the nearside leg should step over first, with your calf behind the shoulder of the arm you’re attacking as a reference point. That leg will fold underneath the shoulder when the other leg goes across the neck as you spin to sit on the ground. 

Getting that first leg deep behind the shoulder and holding tight to the initial grip are the key points in making this setup work. Achieving both means you end up with great control over the shoulder, and an extended arm that you can attack right away. If you don’t know who to do an armbar finish from there, just focus on pinching your knees and hugging the arm as close to your body as possible, and you’ll have no problems tapping everyone out. 


The question of how to do an armbar from side control does not have an easy answer. However, if there was ever anything as near to a perfect explanation of how to do an armbar from that position, it has to be this Demian Maia spinning far arm setup. In the video above, you’ll find every detail to make this move work, you just have to make sure you put in your time into mastering it! Good luck!