For all of the richly deserved props that the WEC is getting for having definitively built the clearly pre-eminent featherweight division in MMA, Bellator's 145lb tourny is featuring some of the most exciting talent to emerge this year.
And fans should keep in mind that there literally have only been attempts to build top-flight MMA featherweight divisions in the last three years by DREAM and Sengoku as well as the WEC.
Be that as it may, we're here to talk technique and once again Bellator is catching my fancy. This time is was the very interesting series of lower body attacks that Patricio "Pitbull" Freire used to submit William Romero at Bellator XV two weeks ago.
There is talk of a "chess match level" of jiu jitsu and Freire's sequence of transitions was a textbook example. Basically what "chess match" means is that the jiu jitsu player has a sequence of attacks planned like a decision tree -- IF the guy moves right, THEN I'll switch to X attack; IF the guy moves right, THEN I'll switch to Y attack, etc. And Freire did just that. The guy was absolutely determined to get a leg lock and he literally tried four different attacks on three different joints on two different legs before he got the tap out to an inverted (or opposite leg) heel hook.
Once again I have asked BE reader AboveThisFire to break down the moves gif by gif in the full entry. This will spare him the effort of correcting my mistakes in the comment and give you, the reader, more insight to the techniques on display.
SBN coverage of Bellator XV
Gifs by Chris Nelson
Take it from here, AboveThisFire:
Gif 1: You can't be too sure because of the angle, but the standing toe hold attempt here isn't really meant to get the tap; Romero has both of his legs in front of Freire's hips (pretty big no no as this essentially puts Freire past the guard anyhow (Romero is making a tiny effort by at least grabbing at the left foot of Freire, but because his own left leg is in front of Freire's he can't slide into a De la Riva guard for any sort of legitimate defense). It looks like really sloppy groundwork on Romero's part, but he's trying to stave off the toe hold by shucking his right leg back and forth so Freire can't secure the correct lock on the leg.
Gif 2: Freire breaks his own posture down a bit, going low and turning into the lock. Romero's leg is locked and Freire is putting weight into it, straightening it out in the hopes that he can complete the toe hold, Freire loops his outside (left) leg over the body and leaves his inside leg between Romero's legs so he can fully isolate the locked leg; once he does this Romero starts recognizing he's in a lot more danger and starts rolling to try to free his leg (attempting to break the grip via rotation and slide his leg out). At the end of this gif it's pretty apparent that Freire is getting close to completing the toe hold and Romero goes into emergency mode.
Gif 3: Once Romero rolled and they come back around, Freire has caught the ankle on the roll when the leg was sliding out (nice reaction and it's pretty obvious that Freire has some good leg lock experience, as he has a previous win via heel hook on his record as well). The heel hook is put in, Romero reaches to try and break Friere's grip so the ankle can be released, also turning his own hips to try and relieve some pressure (he can't continue to roll to relieve pressure as Friere's legs are blocking the motion now that the leg is trapped).
Quick breakdown of what the generalities involved in a heel hook are:
Gif 4: Big sigh of relief for Romero as his foot slipped through after Friere's grip broke on the lock; Friere catches the other leg and initially goes for the heel hook again before Romero's leg passes up in front of the arm/body gap area. Friere essentially has his legs locked around both of Romero's mimicking a guard type lock; he catches the leg other leg when it passes in front of him and attempts the knee bar, bracing the knee against his body and flexing his hips forward and squeezing his legs together and back so he can apply direct pressure to the knee.
Gif 5: Friere apparently doesn't like his chances at the knee bar (his legs around both of Romero's makes it a little more difficult, easier with your legs both fighting one of your opponents instead of fighting both of your opponents legs). He switches it over, passes the foot to the gap between his arm and body and catches the heel (top of Romero's foot behind Friere's lat).
This crossover heel hook is generally referred to as an inverted heel hook, and is incredibly f'n evil. Friere's left leg is behind and crossing in front of Romero's right leg (the one being heel hooked) and this is generally referred to as reaping the knee and really isolates the rotational movement of the knee especially when the ankle/heel is trapped like that. Friere twists the lock with his body and arms and gets the tap, Romero is unable to mount any real defense because he can't push away (cage is behind him and his legs are both trapped) and Romero is wearing tape on his ankles which severely diminishes his chances of sliding the foot out via slipperiness (also, tip: Don't wear traction shit on your feet if you have a fight against a guy with a leg lock win on his record... du'h).
As a final note, heel hooks are evil and give me nightmares, if you ever roll with me, please have mercy on my knees... I'll give you a cookie.