Bloody Elbow Judo Chop: Mac Danzig's Dangerous Guard Work and Upa Sweep Defeat Justin Buchholz at UFC 109

Photo by Dave Mandel via Sherdog

There was a good bit of discussion in the last couple of weeks about whether or not the guard was dead in MMA. So I thought I would do a Judo Chop on Mac Danzig's devilishly effective use of the guard against Justin Buchholz at UFC 109. 

For fun, here's the wikipedia definition of the guard:

The guard (in Judo sometimes referred to colloquially as do-osae, "trunk hold"; in Catch Wrestling, the "front body scissor") is a ground grappling position where one combatant has their back to the ground, while holding the other combatant using the legs. In pure grappling combat sports, the guard is considered an advantageous position, since the bottom combatant can attack with variousjoint locks and chokeholds, while the top combatant's priority is to transition into a more dominant position, a process known as passing the guard. In mixed martial arts competition or hand-to-hand combat in general, it is possible to effectively strike from the top in the guard, even though the bottom combatant exerts some control. There are various types of guard, with their own advantages and disadvantages.    

Danzig dominated pretty much every aspect of the bout, but Buchholz was a game opponent who was only technically outmanned, but was every bit the physical equal -- if not superior -- to his opponent. 

Danzig's stand-up acumen played a key role in the fight, but for my dollar it was Danzig's guard work at the end of the second round that really did Buchholz in.

Let's look at some gifs in the full entry.


Gifs by Chris Nelson.

Mac Danzig elbows from the guard In this first gif we see Danzig landing some nasty elbows to the top of Buchholz' head from the guard. Diego Sanchez used these very effectively against Clay Guida in their Fight of the Year bout. Note that when Buchholz puts his hand above his head to block further elbows, Danzig places his right foot deep into Buchholz' hip to push his opponent down and create an opening for more attacks.

Mac Danzig double punches from the guard

On the left we see Danzig working Kazushi Sakuraba's famous "double punch" to Buchholz' head. This isn't going to knock anyone out, but it has to be deeply uncomfortable and annoying. It also scores points with the judges.

Mac Danzig uses the Upa Sweep

Finally, Danzig ended the round by pulling off a lovely sweep. I asked Luke Thomas to break it down for me and here's what he said:

This is famous. It's called the Upa Sweep and there are a million set-ups for it. In this case Danzig fakes the guillotine and the light hold gets Buchholz to do two things: sit down on his base & wait until the forearm comes across for leverage to pull.

You'll notice Danzig's hips sit out and his right leg acts as a block on Buchholz's left leg because Justin's base is so relaxed and not sturdy once he's in motion he can't use a leg to base out.

Danzig not only has to turn and block as I described but elevate his hips at the same time in one fluid motion while also grabbing the back of Buchholz's elbow to pull him over. If you can time it right -- which Danzig did beautifully -- it's simple but highly effective.

If you are so on your knees with your ass in the air you can post a leg out but if you're sitting on your ass and you get one leg blocked and turned with the element of surprise, you're getting flipped over.

Some guys can do it even when someone resists with better base, but the trick is speed and timing. You only get one shot -- there's no real reset on this one. Notice Danzig's backhand is already positioned in place for the turn. The hand that isn't doing the pulling of the opponent's elbow should be diagonal out. Also note Danzig walks up his mount into Buchholz's armpits once he turns him. That's just solid BJJ fundamentals right there, getting high mount.

Below is Mike Fowler demonstrating the Upa Sweep:


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