Bloody Elbow Judo Chop: Randy Couture Gets Swept But Survives an Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Arm Triangle at UFC 102

In this installment of the Judo Chop, we'll talk about Round Two of this instant classic bout. I've written already on what an epic bout UFC 102's Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs Randy Couture was. Here's Kevin Iole talking about the back and forth drama of the bout:

Nogueira knocked Couture down about two minutes into the fight and then spent about a half-minute with a choke, trying for the submission. It was a pattern that would repeat itself throughout the fight.

The former UFC and PRIDE titleholder would get Couture in a compromising position, Couture would make a heroic escape to bring the crowd to its feet and then they'd go toe-to-toe for a while before the cycle started over.

Nogueira had to fight the inclination to get frustrated when nothing he was doing would result in a finish.

"I'd just try something else, a different submission, something different," Nogueira said. "I knew he was prepared to have a good fight. I knew it wouldn't be easy to fight Randy. When I got his back, he escaped. When I got the triangle, he escaped. He threw some very tough elbows. I knew it was a tough fight and I was prepared for that."

In the second round, Couture found himself in Nogueira's guard after foiling a guillotine attempt by the Brazilian. Couture's famous for his ground and pound game, but Nogueira's also known for having the most dangerous guard game in the heavyweight class. We'll talk about what happened in the full entry.


Nog6_mediumWe'll start with Randy in Big Nog's guard, a little over three minutes left in the round. At this point, Nog had already won round one, but the second was still very much up in the air.

BE commenter AboveThisFire pointed out in the comments of the last Judo Chop that Randy is staying up high in Nogueira's guard in order to stay out of submissions and that this made his base less than perfectly balanced. Note that Nog's left arm is under Couture's right arm pit and wrapped around the back of Randy's head. This is called an underhook and Nog uses it to push Couture to Couture's left. This invites a response from Couture, but pushing back against Nog's pressure proved fatal.

As Nogueira bumps his hips to his left, he uses his left foot under Randy's right knee and his left arm under Couture's right elbow to prevent Randy from posting up and anchoring himself. With both of the limbs stabilizing Couture's right side compromised, Nogueira pushes up with his right thigh, down with his left thigh, and combined with Couture leaning that way in response to the pressure from the underhook is enough to roll Couture over. Nogueira talks about sweeps extensively in his manual on using the guard in MMA, repeatedly emphasizing the importance of getting your opponent to move in the direction you want to sweep and preventing them from posting up to stop the sweep.

Nog9_mediumNext we have the sequence that shows what Nogueira did with that top position. About 45 seconds after he reversed Couture, Randy has fought back to half-guard position. But Nogueira is going for the kill by securing an arm triangle choke.

He's got his left arm wrapped around Couture's neck and has Randy's left arm pinned against his own neck. At this point, with Couture's arm floundering helplessly above his head, all Nog needs to do is get his right leg free from Randy's half-guard.

Nog10_mediumOn the left we we see Nogueira get his leg free. But by the time he succeeds in getting clear of Couture's guard, Randy has curled his left arm so that his left hand is close to his ear. This opens up some space and keeps the blood flowing to his brain.

What Nogueira wants to do is get his left leg to Couture's left and start spinning so his body is perpendicular to Couture's. That angle will cut off the blood flow and force Randy to tap.

Nog11_mediumNext we see Nogueira coming as close as he gets to getting the tap out. He's got the arm triangle locked on, despite Couture's defensive positioning. But part-way through this gif we see Nogueira elect to release his grips and start using his right arm to batter Couture. He's trying to force Couture to make a mistake in positioning. Note how he keeps his head tight against Couture's arm.

Nog12_medium Here we see Couture escape from a locked-on submission by the deadliest submission artist in the history of the sport for the second time in as many rounds.

As Nogueira batters at Randy's flank with his right hand, he makes a crucial mistake and adjusts the position of his head. This is all Randy needs to snake his arm free of the trap and wrap it around the outside of Nog's head, thereby escaping danger.

Joe Rogan rightfully pointed out that the Portland crowd's roar of appreciation when their home-town hero got out of this deadly predicament was a testimony to their level of education as MMA fans. We've come a long way from the days when virtually all ground fighting was reflexively booed by American fans. Now enough have learned to appreciate the nuances of the ground game that a dramatic escape like Couture's is appreciated.

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