Bloody Elbow Judo Chop: Frank Mir's No Arm-In Guillotine Submits Cheick Kongo at UFC 107

Photo via Note Mir's right leg is grapevined around Kongo's right calf, preventing him from standing up and escaping.

Frank Mir's demolition of Cheick Kongo at UFC 107 was a quintessential state-of-the-art example of a thoroughly well-rounded Mixed Martial Artist in full effect. He clowned Kongo with one big punch standing and then immediately follows him down and applies a guillotine.

I hadn't really considered doing a judo chop on it though since none of the techniques he used struck me as being particularly novel on first viewing. But after reviewing the fight it occurred to me that this was a perfect moment to discuss a text book example of one of the most popular fight-winning submissions in all of MMA: the Guillotine Choke.

From Wikipeida:

The Guillotine choke is a chokehold in martial arts applied from in front of the opponent. The choke involves using the arms to encircle the opponent's neck in a fashion similar to a guillotine. The technique is either a type of tracheal compression restraint (wind choke) that prevents air flow to the lungs, or a blood choke depending on how it is applied. When executed from the ground, the person applying it will try to control the opponent by the hips, for instance using a closed guard. This is done to prevent the opponent from escaping the hold, and to be able to apply additional pressure by extending the hips.

This technique can cause unconsciousness if done correctly. It is taught in various grappling martial arts, including Jujutsu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, as well as in mixed martial arts competition. In Danzan Ryu, it is also taught as a neck crank.

Animated gifs in the full entry, plus, Frank Mir's jiu jitsu trainer Robert Drysdale discusses the move, what Kongo could have done to escape, how the cage impacted the execution of the hold and why the no-arm guillotine is preferable to the arm-in guillotine.

Let's look at the fight...

Mir6_mediumGifs by Chris Nelson.

First let's look at the punch that gave Mir the opportunity to go in for the kill. On the right we see Mir feint with his right hand which causes Kongo to put his left hand out to parry and simultaneously baits Kongo into dropping his right hand for a counter. That's what Mir was hoping for as he wings in a hard left over the top catching Kongo right on the button.

Mir7_mediumOn the left we get another angle on the punch and you can really see how upright Kongo is standing as Mir's left hand comes winging in. Mir commented in the post-fight interview that that's a habit of "European Kickboxers." That was a telling statement that indicates the extent to which Frank Mir and his camp review tape of opponents and game plan specifically based on the tendencies revealed in the tape. Question for all the boxing experts out there -- is the punch Mir is throwing a hook or an overhand and what's the difference? Answer in the comments, thanks!

Mir-transition_mediumNow on the right we see Mir transitioning from an arm-in guillotine to a no-arms guillotine.  Kongo is very much a live-threat at this point as he grabs Mir's left leg and works for a single-leg take down. Note that this maneuver entails breaking his grip on the choke and potentially risks losing the hold entirely.

I asked Robert Drysdale, Frank Mir's jiu jitsu coach (and one of the top competitive jiu jitsu players in the world) about this and here's what he said:

Personally I prefer the guillotine without the arm.  It's directly on the throat and makes for a tighter choke. Although it can, depending on the situation, make it easier for your opponent to escape. And yes, you do take chances for the split second you let go of the guillotine with the arm in to transition to the one with the arm out. It all comes down to timing, precision and positioning.

Mir1_mediumOn the left we see Mir securing the choke and dropping down for the finish. You can see him immediately hook his right leg around behind Kongo's right knee. This is essential for leverage and control of Kongo. Robert Drysdale comments:

Frank was smart and grapevined Congo to prevent him from going anywhere. What that grapevine does is it prevents Congo from freeing his knee and standing which might have given him a way out.

Mir3_mediumOn the right we see Mir adapt to circumstances and move his left foot up onto the cage so he can push off to create a little bit of space. I asked Drysdale if the cage was more of a disadvantage for Mir or Kongo in this situation and also what Kongo could have done to escape the hold:

The fence hurt them both. It prevented Frank from hipping out and adjusting the guillotine, but it also kept Congo from moving to his right (the correct way for him to go). And that's exactly what Congo should have done... gotten rid of that grapevine and rolled over Frank to create a scramble and get out of there. He could have also given top position to Frank. It's not the best escape, but often, when in a guillotine, to give your opponent top position can be a way out.

Mir8_mediumFinally, on the left we see Mir pushing off the cage with his left foot, bridging up to tighten the choke and then plant his left foot flat on the ground so he can continue to really torque the hold. Result: unconsciousness for Kongo.

As always the Judo Chops are a group learning endeavor so please point out any mistakes I've made or alternative approaches the fighters could have used in the comments.

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