Rousimar Palhares is best known for his dangerous leg locks, but his wrestling is Judo Chop worthy. Photo via UFC.com
With the middleweight contender clash between Nate Marquardt and Rousimar Palhares tonight at UFC Fight Night 22, I thought I'd revisit the Judo Chops I've done featuring the two fighters. I also wanted to touch on some of their best known UFC moments that didn't get the Judo Chop treatment.
First let's talk about the favorite Nate Marquardt. A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, former King of Pancrase and top student of famed MMA coach Greg Jackson, Marquardt is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the UFC, if not all of MMA.
He got the Judo Chop treatment for his amazingly unhinged karate-Muay Thai-WTF-was-that finish of Wilson Gouveia at UFC 95. Read it here: Nate Marquardt's Crazy Karate/Muay Thai Combination. Here's a sample:
Note that the key to throwing this kind of wild combination so late in the fight is conditioning. If Nate wasn't in incredible shape he wouldn't have the gas in the tank to risk spending the energy trying to finish the fight rather than holding back and going for the decision.
The second point to make about this combination is that its a mastery of the "traditional" holy trinity of MMA -- wrestling, jiu jitsu and muy thai -- that allows Marquardt to make effective use of a flashy karate combination like a left body kick-left high kick-right high kick-spinning backfist.
If Nate didn't have the wrestling skills to keep the fight standing or get back to his feet he wouldn't risk throwing the high kicks. If Nate didn't have the jiu jitsu skills to handle himself on the ground, he wouldn't wouldn't risk throwing the high kicks. If Nate didn't have the muy thai skills to land effective combinations he wouldn't be able to work in the high kicks.
The key to the sequence is the straight right jab that stunned Wilson and allowed Nate to land the flying knee. It reminded me very much of the jab/flying knee combination that B.J. Penn used to finish Sean Sherk in their title fight way back when.
Unlike Sherk, Wilson wasn't quite finished by the knee and had enough wherewithal to backpedal across the octagon. This is where Nate saw his chance to unleash the TMA (traditional martial arts) attack. The series of kicks allowed him to keep landing shots on Gouveia even as he backpedaled across the cage. The head kick/spinning back fist/left right hook was an excellent way to capitalize once Wilson was back against the cage and unable to retreat anymore. And of course, the final knee to the face was the coup de grace.
This combination is a perfect example of modern mma fulfilling its potential to be a truly beautiful "ballet of violence".
The gif of that sequence is in the full entry.
As for his opponent Rousimar Palhares, he's a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist training under MMA legend Murilo Bustamante best known for his dangerous leg attacks. But ironically, it was Palhares' wrestling that got him the Judo Chop treatment: Rousimar Palhares' Slamming Takedown Clinic on Jeremy Horn at UFC 93. Here's a taste:
What did catch my eye (at UFC 93) was Rousimar Palhares' big slamming takedowns on Jeremy Horn. Sure Horn did a really good job of neutralizing Palhares' vaunted jiu jitsu, but he found himself flying through the air on two occasions thanks to Rousimar's use of excellent wrestling technique.
This first shot comes from the beginning of the second round. Toquinho had stunned Horn with a left hook/right hand combination which created the opportunity to shoot in for a high crotch single leg takedown. He wrapped his right arm around Horn's left thigh, put his head on the right side of Horn's gut (but keeping it close to the body to avoid a guillotine), and hooked his left arm up under Horn's crotch. Next step, elevation.
The force of the slam busted Horn's guillotine attempt. Palhares landed in Horn's guard and quickly passed to 1/2 guard.
When people say takedowns shouldn't score points in MMA. I just don't know what kind of MMA they want to see. Landing a takedown like this is the definition of controlling where the fight takes place and imposing your will on the opponent. Plus big slams are eye candy and just the kind of action I want to see in the cage.
This second one is even prettier. At the beginning to the third round, Palhares misses with a looping right but when Horn ducks under it and fires back with a left hook, Rousimar ducks under and gets a bodylock on Horn, then slips to his back, voila, German Suplex.
In the full entry we'll peek at a gif or two and have a bunch of links to the Judo Chops I've done on the Heel Hook since that's the move Marquardt has to be dreading from Palhares.
First up, here's the gif of Nate getting all freaky on Wilson Gouveia with Nate's commentary at the time (via MMA Weekly):
Of course, it was more than just his hands that sealed Gouveia's fate. After landing the knee flush, Marquardt knocked the American Top Team product across the cage with a trio of high kicks, the last followed by a 45-degree spinning backfist. Gouveia sat in concession when another knee met his head.
The sequence was not unlike something the champ would cook up.
"The funny thing is I started in Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu - full contact Karate - so I have a lot of stuff in my background where I'm able to pull from, like the spinning back fist," said Marquardt at UFC 95's post-fight presser. "And I've been working a lot of Muay Thai with a British guy, James McSweeney, and it's helping me out a lot. I felt very good on my feet."
Here's a little bit about Palhares' use of the German Suplex on Jeremy Horn:
First an explanation of the move via Wikipedia:
Technically known as a belly to back waist lock suplex, the wrestler stands behind the opponent, grabs them around their waist, lifts them up, and falls backwards while bridging his back and legs, slamming the opponent down to the mat shoulder and upper back first. The wrestler keeps the waistlock and continues bridging with their back and legs, pinning the opponent's shoulders down against the mat. The move was innovated by Lou Thesz but named by Karl Gotch, a German wrestler.
Toquinho varied the classic suplex by releasing his body lock in mid-air, freeing his right arm and landing in side mount but the concussion and bouncing allowed Horn to quickly get to half-guard. Nevertheless, it was a showcase move that imposed his will, damaged his opponent, and put him in dominant position on the ground. This is what modern MMA is all about. Palhares is a world-class BJJ player but what we're seeing from him is pretty pretty wrestling technique explosively applied.
A heel hook is a leg lock affecting multiple joints, and is applied by transversely twisting the foot either medially or laterally. The torsional force puts severe torque on the ankle, which in turn transfers torque to the knee. The heel hook is generally considered to be a very dangerous leg lock, with a high rate of injury, especially to ligaments in the knee. It was subsequently banned in many combat sports featuring other leg locks such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Sambo. The heel hook is however an allowed technique in some submission wrestling and mixed martial arts competitions.
There are several variations of heel hooks, with the most typical being performed by placing the legs around a leg of an opponent, and holding the opponent's foot in the armpit on the same side. The legs are used to control the movement of the opponent's body while the opponent's foot is twisted by holding the heel with the forearm, and using the whole body to generate a twisting motion, hence creating severe medial torque on the ankle. A similar heel hook can be performed by holding the opponent's foot in the opposite armpit, and twisting it laterally; a move which is referred to as an inverted, reverse or inside heel hook.
To learn more about the heel hook as applied in MMA and some sexy variations also see these old Judo Chops:
- Two Approaches to the Heel Hook by Jorge Santiago and Satoru Kitaoka
- Shinya Aoki's Next Level Grappling Taps Eddie Alvarez
- Patricio "Pitbull" Freire Puts on a Leg Lock Clinic at Bellator
For Nate's sake let's hope that Rousimar has learned his lesson and if he does get the tap, he lets go when the ref signals him to stop.