Brazilian Jujitsu and UFC fighter Demian Maia applying the Mata Leo, or rear naked choke.
It seems like 10-15% of MMA fights end via rear naked choke. At first blush, 15% doesn’t seem like a lot. When looking at the whole picture, however, you realize that there are hundreds of other workable submission techniques, in addition to ending fights with strikes. By comparison, you notice how pervasive the rear naked choke really is.
It’s frequency in MMA is due to it’s utility – it works against strong opponents, when fighters are sweaty and slippery, it works for guys with short arms or long arms, first round and last round. Because it is a difficult submission to escape, once a guy locks in the choke, most fights end.
There are several good video tutorials, but this is by far my favorite one on the internet right now. It runs about 10 minutes and covers a lot of details that will make you sharper in this choke.
Steven Kesting’s Step by Step Rear Naked Choke
One point in particular – how to tighten the choke and keep it with the palm to palm grip, has really been useful to me while attempting the submission. It’s rare that your opponents neck is stretched out, ready for you to easily put the choke in place. As soon as you threaten the choke, expect that your opponent will divert attention to defend it. Expect that if you can’t make step by step progress, you’ll probably lose the choke.
Also, learning to get your leg hooks in is a whole lesson in itself. It’s an area that I’m excited to learn more about. In a class down at Fusion BJJ, Dayne Aristizabal showed how improper hooking critically destabilized your position, opening yourself up for unhappy endings.
One last thing. The squeeze. Some guys have killer arm chokes – they latch onto your neck and get tighter and tighter until you tap. I’ve heard that Marcello Garcia is one of those kind of guys, once he gets one arm under you chin its like an anaconda mercilessly sqeezing a guinea pig. No escape.
Anyway, the power squeeze isn’t something your born with. You have to develop a power squeeze in the same way you sharpen you technique – practice and effort.
I am peeing my pants, right now. I’m yelling at the T.V screen.
Second round, Lyoto cleans Rashad’s clock. It’s a knock out.
First round, very slow. Machida lands a glancing roundhouse kick to the head, and a shot or two that stings Rashad, knocking him down. Lyoto pounces, dealing a bit of damage, but Evans stands things up and the round ends.
Second round, a couple of similar back leg round house kicks, a couple of tie ups. During one tie up, Lyoto puched Rashad in the head with 3 strong punches, then Rashad answers with 3 stiff shots of his own. These are the only shots that Evans will cleanly land on Machida.
Rashad on the defensive, Lyoto is chasing him down, scaring him with stutter-step rush-fakes. Cutting off some of the octogon, the karate champ get in distance and explodes into Evans, knocking him down again. Rashad shows some toughness, eventually getting up, but he’s wobbly. Machida takes advantage, landing punches on the chin, whipping Evans head to the side. Rashad slumps to the ground like a drunken failed attempt at the limbo.
Everybody has their favorite fighters. When they win, it’s non-stop hero worship. When they lose, it’s tears and excuse making. Maybe Rashad Evans looks like your dad, or you studied Karate as a kid, just little Lyoto Machida. Who knows why you like ‘em, but you do. And if you’re on this particular fanboat, UFC 98 will bathe you in an epic shockwave of fanboy emotion. Glorious.
Anyway, debating predictions of who’s going to win and why has been intense. Dissecting each guy’s game is really pretty interesting. Here’s the some of my thoughts, as well as those floating around the web on how each fighter stacks up in different areas.
The Rashad Camp: Rashad’s very athletic – he’s got a super strong wrestling background and he hits hard. He can burst with power and knock you out. He’s just too much for Lyoto to handle. Lyoto just can’t throw hard punches in bunches like Evans.
The Machida Camp: Machida doesn’t throw as often as Evans, but he makes them count. He doesn’t waste his power, getting beat up and exchanging blows. He explodes when explodin’ needs to be done. Like an assassin.
The Rashad Camp: Chuck Liddell + Forrest Griffin > Tito Ortiz + Sokoudjou. He’s beat some tough dudes, and he’s undefeated. Plus, you may know this, but he does have the the currently the UFC light heavyweight belt.
TMC: Rashad’s undefeated record isn’t as hardcore as Machida’s. Out of his last nine fights, Rashad had 4 SPLIT decision wins and one was a draw. More than half of the time (5/9), there was a judge who thought Rashad lost those fights. Now with his two big wins – Evans was losing until the last round of the Griffin fight, and beating Chuck recently and beating Chuck in his heyday are two different things.
Take a minute and think about fighters that both Machida and Evans have fought. He definitively beat Tito Ortiz, a fighter that Rashad pulled a lucky draw against. During the Evan’s/Tito fight, Ortiz was deducted a point for holding the fence – without this point deduction, Ortiz would have won the judges cards.
Then there’s the tough Stephan Bonner – who Rashad beat via 3rd round split decision, while Machida put him away in 1 round.
Then there’s Sam Hoger – Rashad got a split decision, while Machida took a unanimous decision.
Outside the fighters already mentioned, he’s put down some pretty tough dudes himself. Rich Franklin, Bj Penn, and (at that time) undefeated Thiago Silva.
The Rashad Camp: Greg Jackson. He’s a mastermind. Listening to his fighter’s post-fight interviews gives you a glimpse at how they unravel their opponents at the gym before the fight begins. Rashad has even said that his KO of Chuck Liddell was an exact copy of a technique they drilled specifically for the Iceman.
Mike Winklejohn, striking coach for Rashad, has said
Machida is a tough nut to crack.He’s a talented guy with good reactions; he steps back, causes a hole and counters real well. [The] plan is to have Rashad not be there when Machida wants to counter. We are going to counter the counter or make Machida come at Rashad.”
I told Rashad if the crowd starts booing, that’s a good thing; we have the right gameplan. [The] plan is to have Rashad not be there when Machida wants to counter. We are going to counter the counter or make Machida come at Rashad.
I told Rashad if the crowd starts booing, that’s a good thing; we have the right gameplan,” said Winklejohn, echoing the sentiments he imparted before Evans knocked out Liddell in Atlanta.
Rashad has said,
… I don’t think he’s too busy with his strikes. He’s a very technical fighter. He’s not going to throw punches in bunches, but when he does throw, he tries to make them count. I’m looking for him to try to explode a lot and see what he can get …
The Machida Camp: He’s a tad bit more tight lipped about the specifics of his game plan. Playing up to the camera’s a bit, Lyoto has put it bluntly: “My strategy is to knock him out … Rashad can’t defend my style. No one can… if you can conquer the will of a man you will conquer the man himself. That is my quest.” (See the UFC 98 trailer).
Rashad is a very strategic and calm fighter. Against Forrest he was being punished badly and turned the fight around, but my father and my brother are helping me a lot to bring up my game. I always dreamed for this opportunity and I’m training harder than ever to get this belt.
The Rashad Camp: GSP, Jason McDonald, Nathan Marquardt, Keith Jardine…
The Machida Camp: Anderson Silva, Machida senior, his brother Chinzo, Olympic Gold medalist Satoshi Ishii.
The Rashad Camp: Brad Imes hit him with some pretty big shots, and he still pulled through.
The Machida Camp: Lyoto’s style is to not take damage – however, he probably has a decent one since he got hit pretty hard in his fight with BJ Penn a couple of times and even with a stout elbow in his fight with Kazuhiro Nakamura. Still, his chin is “not being there”.
The Rashad Camp: He’s stared down Ramapage Jackson. It takes some serious balls to not back down against an aggressive mofo like that. (I hear Quinton eats babies and puppies, just to make him immune to being a pansy.)
The Rashad Camp: So far, we’ve seen accurate punching at range, and some good punching close up. Evans has good take downs, a strong wrestling clinch, mean ground and pound … he can do damage to you at all distances. In addiction to being a precise striker, for a 205 ‘er, he’s exceptionally nimble and quick with his hands. Stylistically, he’s very technical and cautious. Also, Evans has good movement, head fakes, and footwork. He’s fluid. All in all, he’s one of the best striker/wrestler combinations in the game right now.
The Machida Camp: Lyoto excels at striking from outside the pocket, outside of the other fighters range. He’s got solid ground and pound, and uses judo sweeps from the clinch often. His stance is wide and a little lower, making it hard to sweep and take him down. This strong base helps provide power to his long range strikes. His style is elusive, avoiding engagement with the enemy until he has a major advantage with his attack angles and timing. IF he does start to take damage, he can use his clinch game to nullify a lot of the damage he might take, then execute a sweep or throw to gain dominant position.
It’s rare for an undefeated champion like Evans to be an underdog, but then again it’s rare for an undefeated champion to be taking on an opponent like Machida, who isn’t just undefeated but has used his elusive style to frustrate opponents and win all his fights rather easily.
Doing this diet can be a fun, satisfying, healthy way to live. There are a lot of great things about the Warrior Diet and it’s ideas, from tuning up your mental warrior to saving time on meal preparation. But this doesn’t make it useful to an amateur or pro mixed martial artist.
If you haven’t heard of the Warrior Diet (WD), it is essentially this: you eat only one meal a day (at night) avoid processed foods like the plague, and let warrior essence permeate your body until all your enemies lie defeated under your gladiator physique. Or at least something like that.
The Diet Specifics
As I mentioned, the basic idea of the diet is to have a controlled fast during the day and eat one big meal at night. During your evening meal, you can eat as much as you want, even if it would be more than you would consume in 3 regular meals.
For this meal, a few “rules” are to be kept.
Eat natural, unprocessed foods. If it came in a package and has a mile-long list of ingredients (high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated…) , thou shalt not eat it.
Less aggressive tastes first. Start with uncooked fruits and veggies, and move to more aggressive tastes like salty, beefy, etc.
Have a lot of variety. Include as many aromas, colors, textures, and tastes in a meal as possible.
Stop eating when you are full – or – when you become more thirsty than hungry.
During the day, you can eat a little bit – fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, raw nuts, low glycemic index fruits, lean protein – but no pasta/bread type carbs. Also, you should drink lots of water.
If you are very active, the diet makes some concessions and allows some eating post workout.
Outside of these eating based rules, the WD has several themes which run along side the dietary advise.
In general, live more naturally. Eat local, fresh, seasonal foods.
Enjoy what you eat and how you eat. Eat with pleasurable company, have lively discussion and laughter during and after the meal.
Let hunger be a positive thing. After eating like a warrior for a while, you’ll have a certain mastery over food, hunger, and desires. In the day time, stay active, sharp and “hungry for life”.
Workout in short, intense bursts. Make sure exercises build functional strength.
Be a warrior. Insert mental images of the movie 300 here.
Of course, this is just an overview. The book make a lot of claims and makes a lot of explanations. Ori’s scientific reasoning is sound in some places, and suspect in others. There are numerous references to ancient Roman and Spartan lifestyles; some times the history reading is a bit like hero worship, but interesting nonetheless. You’ll have to sort out it for yourself.
I originally read Warrior Diet, by Ori Hofmekler, about 4 years ago and got sucked into the warrior idealism that the book exudes. Certainly, I am not a nutritionist, but I have diligently lived the WD for 6 straight months, as well as lived a modified WD for over a year, so I know what it does to my body. I’ve been reading different forums and diet logs, and all I can say is that your mileage may vary.
Some bodies work well with the whole under eating during the day/overeating at night gig, some people respond poorly. For me, the WD diet worked pretty well on many fronts. The diet works for the author, Ori, as you can tell that he’s fairly ripped.
For me, it the diet was a good lifestyle. You only have to eat once a day – which is a huge time saver – and by the time you get to dinner you are very hungry, which means food tastes really good. By cutting out processed, unnatural foods (overly sweet and salty preservatives muck up your perceptions) I started to have a much more acute sense of taste. I could taste everything I ate at a deeper level, for instance I began noticing the strong sweetness in carrots. As a side effect, junk foods didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t crave them or even like them when I did eat them (very infrequently, I might add).
I loved eating this way – my food tasted better and I felt satisfied every day. I suspect that you get a serotonin boost at night when you eat until you’re full.
The first little while, hunger pains were pretty tough in the afternoon. Part of it was a psychological addiction to food, part was a biological balancing act of blood sugars. The WD says you should eat a little bit to combat the hunger pains, but I wanted the full warrior feeling. No pain no gain. After a while, my body adapted and the cringing pain of hunger was all but gone. To this day, I still don’t get mood/energy swings when I don’t eat.
As a general rule, I used to get sleepy after lunch. By fasting, I avoided the afternoon grogginess. While on the WD, I had a lot more energy during the day and slept pretty well at night.
The warrior diet did funky things to my sex drive too. In general, in made me more aggressive and horny – but not in that uncontrolled high school type of way. Maybe it was all in my mind, but I felt more masculine and sharp. I didn’t “perform” any differently physically, but there was definitely a marked difference in my mental state.
In terms of athletic performance, I didn’t notice any significant change. I was a fit young man before I started the WD, so I didn’t look to the warrior lifestyle to give me a sixpack of abs. In fact, the first few weeks I gained a few pounds of fat. If I had to guess, it was due to increased cortisol levels associated with not drinking enough water. The diet says to drink a lot of water, but I didn’t really start drinking enough till week 3. Eventually, that fat came off.
If you’d like to try the warrior diet, I say go for it. If you are overweight, I’d guess that you’d lose weight because most people have trouble packing in 2,000 calories in one meal if the evening foods are natural and healthy.
However, if you’re looking to increase your MMA performance I just don’t see the Warrior Diet facilitating that. After reading up quite a bit on Billy Rush, MMA nutritionist superstar, I’m sold on the 6 small meals a day plan for fighters. When you’re really into MMA, you probably have more than one workout a day. With those workouts, you have optimal windows of nutrient uptake and serious needs of proper recovery. Your most important meal of the day is the post-workout recovery meal, second only to the pre-workout mini-meal.
Bottom line: The pro’s of daily fasting just don’t out-weigh the gains you could be making by eating more frequently, in time with your workouts.
If you have any questions, let me know or you can crawl the WD forums.
Ahhh….. putting fist into face. What could be better than that? Nothing, of course!
I watched a little interview clip where BJ Penn talked about striking inside the guard and bringing one knee up to make it more effective. He just casually threw out the technical tip, but it got me thinking about how much more there is to know about ground and pound than just top pressure and flailing your arms like a barbarian.
Re-thinking some fights made it even more clear – some fighters are much better and dishing out punishment with G&P than others. Fedor, GSP, Diaz – what makes their G&P good, and what’s more important, how do I get it?
First and foremost, you need to get into an aggressive position where G&P will be effective (side control, mount, guard and half-guard, rear mount, north-south, scarf hold, knee on belly, or top turtle). When you are in a top position you use gravity to your advantage. Also, you can use your body weight to help pin down your opponents body and limbs, creating openings to land your punches.
Just because you’re in a top position doesn’t mean you’re in an aggressive top position. If you’re broken down in a guy’s guard, he has good over-under hooks – you’re not in a situation where you’re strikes are going to do much damage, not to mention open you up for a submission.
I’ve noticed that the high-level ground fighters don’t necessarily out muscle their opponents on the ground, but they do out control them. Without controlling your opponent, ground and pound is weaker and potentially risky. So within the skill of G&P, there are the skill subsets of grip fighting, getting/escaping hooks and posturing/tripoding/stacking.
There are multiple variations on these themes – the following video by Joe Lauzon shows off how to put some sneaky shots into the head with wrist control, bicep control and using your head as an extra limb.
For side control, I love this CSW video with Erik Paulsen and Greg Nelson. Greg shows how to really sink in the cross body control. BTW, for SLC locals, you can see a Brian Yamasaki from the Bountiful Mushin Academy (red under-armor shirt) make a cameo.
This is obviously a tight, heavy control. Bas Rutten suggests a different take on side control where you don’t stay too connected to the person because it fuses you’re bodies together and helps them escape.
Oh, one last thing. While at Fusion BJJ, head instructor Eddie Edmounds was talking about getting submission while in the mount. He differentiated between high, mid, and low mount and how you never want to try to get a submission while in mid mount ( sitting directly on the bellybutton). If you are in low mount, weight down on the hip girdle you want to grapevine hook one or both of the legs and stay low. If you are in high mount, the king of MMA mounts, then you can go nuts. Get your knees under the armpits of the guy on bottom, using your legs to separate the limbs from the body.
Whatever you methods of control, make sure you’re not overcommiting pressure. Your body may be heavy, but stay light mentally, being ready to transition, avoid escapes, and see submission opportunities open up.
Economic Striking and Accuracy
Another thing the pro G&P’ers have in common: they don’t waste energy. A sure sign of an amatuer fighter is when they take mount they spaz out like a starving chip on a pile of bannans. Guys who are good cover up and usually throw them off with a bronco-bump hip buck escape.
Yes, the pro’s drop bombs, but they do it in a measured fashion. If you have strong top-position control skills, you can take your time and pick your shots. That’s what I mean by economic punching – efficient usage of energy. Also, the spazzing punches aren’t bombs – they don’t have weight and power behind them. It’s not possible to fire off many heavy shots in rapid succession.
One good example of too fast G&P: Couture vs Lesnar. After a big shot from Lesnar, Randy goes down and Brock starts hammer-fisting him in the head. The first few were rocking Randy’s head, but as Lesnar keeps going like a rabbit, the punches dramatically fade in power. Still, Brock is a big dude so little punches do damage, but this brings up exceptions to the rule – when an opponent is fazed or on edge of being overwhelmed, a flurry (damaging or not) will often get the ref to stop the fight.
Alright, back on track. Let’s say you get the mount and want to pick your shots. I think you should keep 3 things in mind.
1. You want to take advantage of an openings created by escape attempts. If their arms T-rex and push down (shrimping escape), punish ‘em with a blow to the head. If they try to bridge and roll – know how to s-mount and transition from the mount to the back.
2. Create openings with control positioning. If you are in side control, get your knee under the shoulder and hook the head, like Kru Nelson’s video shows above, or trap an arm between your legs to get into the “beatdown” position.
3. Mix up your strike angles, types, setups and submissions. In particular, for striking from the mount, I learned a ton from Bas Rutten’s Big DVD’s of combat. Don’t throw 10 striaght punches to the face, alternating from left to right with a rhythm. It’s easy to catch on to a pattern like that and block. Instead, throw 3 right hooks, 1 left straight, 1 slipping left elbow, 1 right punch to the body. Mix it up. Use the punches to sneak up your knees and go for an S-mount armbar. Bas even shows a nasty back elbow to the thigh – it does a ton of damage when they don’t expect it. If you want, you can even trick the opponent by “spazzing out” with a series of left-right striaght punches and then throw your true power shot in the form of a hook to the body. When an opponent protects against linear stikes they are typically open up circular strikes.
Don’t get stuck on punches. You’ve got knees, elbows, hammer fists, shoulder strikes while in guard, etc. MIXed Martial Arts.
For punching accuracy on the ground, I like to watch Fedor. He’s so aggressive mentally – even when he’s counter-punching, he’s angry like a bear ( K.O. of Andrei Arlovski anybody? ). He’s really slick at landing bombs while transitioning from one position to the next. He must always have his strikes in the back of his mind, working and wrestling on the ground – when space between bodies is made he’s already mid-punch. The Fedor MMA Book has several techniches that end with a transition strike.
As you can tell, lot of accuracy is based on control and effective setups.
High Damage Attacks
Here’s the deal. The longer a strike travels, the more damage it will do when it hits it target. Next time you watch a fight, take notice of the shots that really stun guys.
In Bas’ previously mentioned DVD’s, he talks about distancing, which is very important to get the strikes to travel the right distance for power. Little looping punches do a minor damage, especially if they’re not hitting a vital target (accuracy!). In general, your arm should be 80% locked out when you connect.
When you’re locked in on top in a high mount, you can cock your fists back to head level and unleash to full extention; when you’re scrambling to control a position, a big wide punch will cause you to loose control.
That’s the trade off. Harder punches take longer to arrive and leave you more open to countering, but do more damage. Every strike to it’s situation.
Was that not enough to slate your thirst for ground and pound?