Wednesday night's UFC lightweight bout between Gray Maynard vs Roger Huerta was a vintage three round war between two top contenders in one of the most stacked divisions in all of MMA. And yet, judging by the fan response here on BloodyElbow, it's not being appreciated for the great fight it was.
A lot of this is due to the fact that neither fighter is currently a fan favorite. Roger Huerta has burned up most of his goodwill with the fans by refusing to resign with the UFC, ostensibly because he is leaving fighting behind for an acting career (we'll see if he signs with a major movie studio or Bellator FC first).
His opponent, Gray Maynard is saddled with an undeserved reputation for being a lay and pray artist. Yes, he does have an excellent wrestling pedigree and yes he has used positional dominance to grind out a few wins. But Maynard showed at UFN 19 that he is well on his way to becoming an accomplished mixed martial artist who is mastering the different phases of the game.
First off, he consistently beat Roger Huerta to the punch, landing hard straight rights. It's true that Huerta was able to often get the advantage in longer exchanges in the first round, but in the second and third he adjusted his footwork and begun to clearly get the better of Huerta on the feet.
More impressive to me was the kimura he locked on to Huerta in the third round. Maynard didn't get the tap but that's because Roger Huerta is a tough, tough man who doesn't know when to quit.
What's more, Maynard wound up in a position more often seen in old catch-wrestling bouts than in jiu jitsu matches by catching Huerta in a head-scissors with his legs.
Here's some background on the Kimura:
Kimura (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), chicken wing/double wristlock (wrestling), or reverse keylock are terms used to specify a medial keylock known in judo as gyaku ude-garami (reverse arm entanglement) or simply as ude-garami. The application is similar to the americana, except that it is reversed. It needs some space behind the opponent to be effective, and can be applied from the side control or guard. Contrary to the americana, the opponent's wrist is grabbed with the hand on the same side, and the opposite arm is put on the back side the opponent's arm, and again grabbing the attacker's wrist and forming a figure-four. By controlling the opponent's body and cranking the arm away from the attacker, pressure is put on the shoulder joint, and depending on the angle, also the elbow joint (in some variations the opponent's arm is brought behind their back, resulting in a finishing position resembling that of the hammerlock outlined below). The kimura was named after the judoka Masahiko Kimura, who used it to defeat one of the founders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Hélio Gracie.
We'll get into the details of how Maynard locked the hold on and how Huerta escaped in the full entry, with lots of animated gifs.
The gif on the right starts with 1:54 left in the third and final round. Maynard and Huerta are in a scramble that quickly resolves into Maynard in Huerta's half-guard and applying the kimura. At the beginning of the sequence, Maynard has grabbed Huerta's right wrist with his left hand. Then he takes his right hand and grabs his own left wrist. From there he cranks Huerta's arm behind his back. That's where the old catch-wrestling name "double wristlock" comes from.
On the left we see Maynard take the crucial step of stepping his right leg over Huerta's head. This gives Maynard control over Huerta's body and allows him to really crank on the shoulder. Check out this photograph of Kimura breaking Gracie's shoulder. That step-over is a crucial part of getting the leverage needed to crank the hold. Note how Maynard immediately torques Huerta's arm even further back as soon as he steps over.
Here's Kimura talking about applying the hold that now bears his name on Helio Gracie, from Wikipedia:
I grabbed his left wrist with my right hand, and twisted up his arm. I applied Udegarami. I thought he would surrender immediately. But Helio would not tap the mat. I had no choice but keep on twisting the arm. The stadium became quiet. The bone of his arm was coming close to the breaking point. Finally, the sound of bone breaking echoed throughout the stadium. Helio still did not surrender. His left arm was already powerless. Under this rule, I had no choice but twist the arm again. There was plenty of time left. I twisted the left arm again. Another bone was broken. Helio still did not tap. When I tried to twist the arm once more, a white towel was thrown in. I won by TKO. My hand was raised high. Japanese Brazilians rushed into the ring and tossed me up in the air. On the other hand, Helio let his left arm hang and looked very sad withstanding the pain."
Now on the right we see Maynard add his own special twist. He's got his right leg wrapped around Huerta's head and he hooks his right foot into the back of his left knee to get a figure four lock and trap Huerta in a head scissors. This is the kind of move that you read about being pulled by famous catch-wrestlers like Clarence Eklund back in the early 1900's.
I actually think that Maynard had already made a positional error by turning so far onto his left side. If you look at the image of Kimura applying the hold, he is posted up on the thigh opposite to the step over leg. This anchors him and lets him torque the hold.
But when you look at the gif on the left it's really impossible to say that Maynard made any errors whatsoever. Huerta's shoulder is visibly twisted like a ghastly pretzel. Maynard talked about what he was hearing just then:
"I had it in deep," Maynard said. "I heard his arm popping. I said to the referee ‘Holy [expletive], do you hear that?’ I thought it was going to break. I’m glad it didn’t break and that’s a good ref [Dan Miragliotta] in there, he made the right call [letting the match continue]."
In another interview, Maynard talked about what he might have done differently:
I heard (his shoulder) pop a couple of times, I was like ‘Hey it's poppin'.' I guess I could have tweaked it a little harder but he did a good job. He's a tough kid, a warrior.
On the right we see El Matador's near-miraculous escape. He capitalizes on Maynard's unanchored position to roll "the Bully" onto his back. And despite the headscissors that Maynard is using to maintain relative control of Huerta's position, once Gray is on his back, Roger is able to step around into the north-south position and relieve the horrible pressure on his shoulder.
This is the epitome of mixed martial arts, a life-and-death battle for control and dominance, testing one man's ability to apply leverage to inflict pain against another man's ability to withstand pain until he can escape.