Judo Chop: Charles Oliveira's High Flying Grappling

Photo via UFC.com

Going into his UFC Fight Night 22 bout with NCAA division 1 wrestler Efrain Escudero, Charles Oliveira made some waves by saying he wasn't training with any wrestlers to prepare for the fight. Many MMA cynics rolled their eyes and immediately had visions of a cocky young Brazilian butt-scooting his way to an ugly decision loss.

Well Oliveira showed in the cage that the hype around the undefeated 20 year old is justified. He stymied Efrain Escudero with a varied striking attack including lots of body kicks and multiple attempted flying knees that all missed but also closed the distance and put Oliveira in range to land with punches.

But the coup de grace came in the third round when Oliveira came back firing on all cylinders after taking a knee to the package. He immediately clinched up with Escudero and then drove him into the fence in a move resembling a T-Bone Suplex from the WWE. 

In fact it looked so much like a WWE move that S.C. Michaelson did "Pork Chop" of the move where he compared it to various pro wrestling slams. Here's S.C.:

Mr. Oliveira used a combination of techniques to get Escudero to the ground. He combined the Oklahoma Stampede, a move perfected by the late great "Dr. Death" Steve Williams, and the T-Bone Suplex, which was a move brought to prominence by Taz of ECW fame.

No, this is not another article linking Pro Wrestling to MMA, so save it.  As you can see, the grip that Oliveira had involved an overhook on the right leg of Escudero, thus invoking the T-Bone Suplex (which is a legitimate technique in amateur wrestling). As Oliveira runs into the cage, the wall serves two functions. It allows him to strengthen his grip on Efrain for the throw and it provides a base for "do Bronx" to steady his feet to get the maximum arc. The fact that the cage has a little bit of give almost provides a springboard effect to allow for the momentum to reverse.

But when Escudero's guard proved formidable, Oliveira quickly stood up while maintaining an underhook, got an overhook and lept onto Escudero's back where he quickly finished with a rear naked choke. 

We'll look at some animated gifs and some WWE videos in the full entry and also discuss how what Oliveira did is different from the WWE T-bone suplex.


First let's talk about the T-Bone or as Wikipedia likes to call it, the exploder suplex: 

Also called a T-Bone suplex, the exploder suplex is a variant of a belly to belly suplex. The wrestler performing the Exploder suplex seizes the opponent in a head-and-shoulder hold as in a side slam, and takes hold of the opponent's near leg's upper thigh with his free arm, and then falls backwards and throws him/her overhead down to the mat on their shoulders and upper back, in the same motion as a belly to belly.

Note that while this move is most famous in a pro wrestling context, it's also a move used in amateur wrestling under the same name. By way of S.C. Michaelson, we'll look at a video of a college wrestler demo'ing the move at the end of the post. 

Bronxlahoma_medium_mediumOn the right we see Oliveira charging Escudero into the cage. He's got Escudero's right leg hooked at the knee with his left arm arm and his right arm is under Escudero's arm pit -- in an underhook. This is where the move makes its first departure from the land of pro- and amateur wrestling: Oliveira does NOT put his head under Escudero's left arm. In MMA that is giving your opponent an engraved invitation that says, "here's my neck, choke me out." 

But where the moves comes back into pro-wrestling territory is when he bounces into the cage for leverage and momentum. I asked Luke Thomas about the move and here's what he said:

Obviously he's using the push into the cage for momentum, lifting with the right hand/underhook while he takes a step back with the right foot after running into the fence and throws Escudero behind him as he turns. Clearly he's been training in a cage big time. You can't lift a resisting opponent like that or at least it's hard but running into the cage changes the entire course of momentum from away to into. Much easier to throw someone behind you if they are running INTO you.

But you'll also note that Oliveira lands in Escudero's guard and it didn't take him long to decide against getting bogged down in a lengthy guard passing battle so he stood up. 

Oliveira-escudero_mediumThe gif on the left shows Oliveira leaping onto Escudero's back. He's already established an underhook with his left arm under Escudero's left arm pit when he leaps. Then he wraps his right arm over Escudero's right shoulder and around his neck and leaps onto his back.

I forgot to mention this initially but it's the coolest part: note that Oliveira actually traps Escudero's right arm by hooking his own right knee into the crook of Efrain's elbow when he leaps onto him. Trapping one of the opponent's arms with a leg is some sweet BJJ and a B.J. Penn trademark, but we don't usually see it done mid-air. The move renders Escudero's right arm useless to defend against the choke. 

Despite having Escudero's chin trapped in the ensuing rear naked choke, Oliveira has enough leverage to force the tap. Note that at the end he's pushing down on Escudero's head with his left forearm and the full weight of his head and shoulders. That forces Efrain's neck to bend almost 90 degrees away from the line of the rest of his spine. 

All in all, it was a brilliant display of MMA grappling from Oliveira, showing that even if he doesn't import wrestlers into his camp, he clearly trains many wrestling techniques and also trains in a cage. Very few fighters other than Randy Couture have made such effective and dynamic use of the cage wall to take down an opponent. 

Here's Brent Dail demoing the move in a freestyle wrestling context. Note that he shoots low first, switches legs, ducks under the opponent's arm with his head and arm rather than just underhooking the arm, then slams his opponent. Quite different from what Oliveira did, but the same basic move. HT Watch Kalib Run.

And just to aggravate Luke Thomas, here's Shelton Benjamin landing the T-Bone suplex off a ladder. Benjamin, like Brock Lesnar, was an NCAA All American before "going pro".

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