Bloody Elbow Judo Chop: Renato "Babalu" Sobral's D'arce Choke

A discussion of Renato "Babalu" Sobral's fight winning D'arce choke against Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou at Affliction Day of Reckoning.

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I had high hopes coming into last weekend that there would be something between Affliction and the WEC that I could use for a Judo Chop and sure enough my man Renato "Babalu" Sobral came through for me.

In the second round of his fight with Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, after a very close first round, Babalu managed to get a gassed Sokoudjou to the ground early on. They spent a couple of minutes on the ground close to the ropes before Big John moved them to the middle of the ring.

From there at around the 2:38 mark, Babalu is in half-guard and Sokoudjou gets a whizzer and rolls out but Babalu's wrestling back ground comes in and he counters the whizzer, gets a front headlock and then moves to what Tito helpfully informed the viewing audience is a "3/4 stack" -- which as my man Luke Thomas informs me means that Babalu had three points of contact with the ground while having Soko pinned.

Note: In the comments Luke says he has new information: "the 3/4 stack is the same as a 3/4 nelson where the three points are the two shoulder blades and a wrapped leg. That would not mean Babalu’s position in the case. Not sure who is right, just repeating what I learned." Regardless, the impressive wrestling in the sequence isn't so much the position Babalu achieves at the end as it is the way he countered Soko's whizzer escape from 1/2 guard. There's a gif of that sequence in the full entry. You can really see how gassed Soku was.

From there Babalu quickly transitioned from the front headlock to a D'arce choke. Tito called it an anaconda choke but I believe that's incorrect (please correct me in the comments).

Wikipedia says the D'arce choke is like this:

The D'Arce choke is similar to the Anaconda choke. The difference being that the choking arm is thread under the near arm, in front of the opponent's neck, and on top of the far arm. The choke gets its name from Joe D'Arce, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie. Though not the inventor of the choke, D'Arce performed this choke often and with great success in many Jiu Jitsu and submission grappling tournaments. Another name for this choke is the Brabo choke.

Luke tells me the difference is that "you wrap around the neck FIRST and the back of the arm SECOND" and that the difference between the D'arce and the Brabo choke has to do with your relative position when starting the choke -- D'arce is more from the north south, Brabo more from the side.

Asking Luke about all this naturally brought up Denis Kang's failed front arm triangle choke against Alan Belcher at UFC 93. Luke tells me that the reason Kang lost his choke was that he over-rolled. "You're only supposed to roll to the opposite side from where you begin the roll. So if I drop to my left thigh, I roll to my right thigh." Kang rolled all the way over and because they were sweaty, lost his choke.

Babalu was one of the first top MMA grapplers to come primarily from a wrestling background and combine that with a top-level submission grappling game starting with Luta Livre then switching to BJJ where he got a blackbelt. (Anyone know if Babalu is a Luta Livre blackbelt as well?)

In the late 1990's when Babalu first emerged, he was widely expected to be a heavyweight champion of the world. A hard fought decision loss to Fedor Emelianenko in RINGs chased him out of the heavyweight division and two losses to Chuck Liddell have so far ended his dreams of holding a world title. But his win over Sokoudjou has him back on the rise. We'll see if he contends for a title again. I still have hopes he'll return to the UFC. Either that or fights Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in Affliction.

Babalu's stylistic heirs include Jake Shields and both Jim and Dan Miller. A wrestler who really focuses on integrating submissions into their game is a very dangerous animal as he's mastered 2/3 of the sport. Add a decent striking game and voila, championship material.

There's an animated gif in the full entry.

UPDATE: Not only does it appear that the 3/4 stack is a pin where the losing wrestler's shoulders and one leg are pinned, but Kenny Florian on Inside MMA definitively stated that this is an Anaconda Choke and NOT a D'arce choke. I'm sticking by my call that this is a D'arce choke after checking with a couple of other sources.

About the name of this feature:
I chose Judo Chop because it’s an utter misnomer that is sometimes used by poorly informed MMA commentators during fights. It’s also from the Austin Powers movie. I chose it because it reflects my own lack of expertise and what this column is: my stumbling along in the dark trying to get a handle on the technical aspects of the fights. The techniques featured here will sometimes involve judo but not always. Sorry if that's confusing.

Photo by Tracy Lee.

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2nd gif by Smoogy.

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