In the first installment of this series, we looked at round 1o f Antonio Rogerio "Little Nog" Nogueira's UFC 114 fight with Jason Brilz. We focused on the two instances where Nog attempted a sweep from deep half guard. One time, Brilz stuffed the attempt and transitioned into a front headlock. The second time Nog escaped out the back and quickly took Brilz down from back control.
In this chapter, we'll look at round 2, the high water mark for Jason Brilz.
Once again the fight centered on the half-guard position with Brilz on top. Half guard is what BJJ practicioners call the position, but many wrestlers call it the Turk.
K.J. Gould elaborates:
A Turk / Turkish ride is a cross-body (side mount) & leg ride where you trap their nearest leg with your leg, sometimes in a figure-four but not necessarily. It's known as Turk'ing the leg.
When a BJJ guy pulls half-guard they're putting themselves in this position.
As the name suggests, it was a technique invented / popularised by Turkish wrestlers.
There's a similar ride from the back known as a Navy Ride which also traps the leg and was popularised by the US Navy Wrestling team in I think the 1940's.
He also recommends Josh Barnett's Punishing Rides instructional DVD as a way to learn more about the Turkish RIde.
I think my observation is generally that the Effectiveness Score model doesn't particularly like the way the Nogueira brothers fight. A lot of it has to do with their willingness to sacrifice position and get hit in the face to achieve other aims. It pays off when you get the KO or submission, but puts you in a much worse spot if things go to decision.
I imagine the half guard thing as equivalent to an intentional walk in baseball; you're allowing a guy to advance because you want to setup a play more advantageous to you. But because MMA fighters can't raise their arm indicating that they are willingly sacrificing position, we have to go by what we see. It reminds me of this apocryphal story about Greg Maddux:
"Others may be as much myth as fact. In one, Maddux is facing Jeff Bagwell and the Houston Astros late in an early-season game, and Maddux is tossing a shutout. Bagwell, recall broke up Maddux's early career bid for a no-hitter with a solo homer in the bottom of the eight.
In this, one of many rematches, Maddux "repeatedly shook off catcher Eddie Perez's signs and threw Bagwell an inside fastball which they both knew was his favorite pitch. Bagwell clocked it for a home run and angry Perez confronted Maddux in the clubhouse asking him why he would throw that pitch.
Maddux explained that sometime later that season he would face Bagwell in a more important situation and he would be expecting that pitch. Perez was still annoyed that he had "blown" a shutout. Towards the end of that season, the Braves did indeed play an important game against the Astros and Maddux struck Bagwell out late in the game with the bases loaded."
In that case (although it didn't really happen), Bagwell gets credit for a HR and Maddux gets his ERA dinged, even if it was "intentional." The stats don't show it, but the great ones always have a way of turning negatives into positives.
In the full entry K.J. will break down the action with a little help from Luke Thomas and we'll also look at a Frank Mir training video where he talks about how Brock Lesnar's use of the Turk beat him at UFC 100 and an excerpt from Nogueira's twin brother Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's book Mastering Mixed Martial Arts: The Guard (reprinted with permission from the publisher) on how to get underhook control from half guard. We'll also look at a gif of the final punching exchange in the round. It's not technically accomplished like the grappling, but it's fun.
Gifs by Chris Nelson.
Here's K.J. Gould of Cage Side Seats breaking down the action:
Here we see Brilz try a high single-leg takedown with his head on the outside of Nog's right leg. Brilz tries to sweep Nog's left leg with his right shin but it looks like the momentum is already in place and Nog is content to pull half guard and maintain an arm-in guillotine. Nog could absolutely have gone for that neck crank but his half guard would have to have been tighter, he would have had to take his right arm off Brilz head and get a deep underhook and then give up his overhook on the other side and quickly gable grip his other arm and keep everything tight. Pretty difficult to do once you're already on the ground and the opponent is already trying to posture up.
Nogueira was actually far more secure going for an arm-in guillotine as opposed to a regular one, as it's essentially the same as an arm-in headlock (which as the Matt Hughes Judo Chop explains is a great control point). This actually leaves Brilz with far less options. The safest option would be to abandon the single-leg on the left leg and try to single-leg on the right leg potentially getting a takedown into side control where Nog no longer has leverage to choke. Failing side control, even if Nog pulls half-guard, because it's now the leg that's the same side as Brilz head there's still little leverage and Brilz would have been in less danger.
Brilz postures up with his hand and legs to alleviate the choke giving him enough time to pop his head out. No real technique there, just forcing his head out before he goes out! Nog could have been more successful had he switched the position of his legs so his outside leg was across Brilz leg, and trying to bring his inside leg to at least a butterfly / inside-hook position before transitioning to either full butterfly where he could possibly get an elevator sweep (also found in wrestling) or a form of full guard to try and choke out Brilz.
I just wanted to interject that this was the critical mistake of the fight on Little Nog's part. On rewatching the fight, I was astonished to see a fighter as experienced and cage savvy as Nogueira put so much energy into a choke attempt from a poor position.
That ill-advised energy expenditure haunted him throughout the rest of the second round. In the third it came back to haunt him even worse when he had an opportunity to sink a Brabo choke but lacked the arm strength to go for the kill.
After Nog abandoned the guillotine attempt, it took him another 15 seconds or so to escape from bottom position and get top control. Back to K.J.:
I asked Luke Thomas to look at this gif and he commented:
Very impressive sweep. That is years of mat time right there. First Nog gets perpendicular to Brilz and uses his legs to get Brilz' right leg moving forward -- breaking his base. But to really get Brilz' leg moving he's going counter clockwise. Then he hooks his right arm underneath Brilz' right thigh and pulls it forward some more, even bridging up for more leverage. Then he switches his hip from his left hip on the ground to the right. That creates the space he needs to roll over and get up to his knees. Brilz posts his right hand back on the mat to stay up but Nog shoots forward and drives Brilz to his back, using his right hand to block Brilz' left leg. It's similar to a knee tap.
Unfortunately for Nog, he also left his neck exposed when he took Brilz down and once again, Brilz counters a sweep with a choke attempt. He used that choke to roll Nogueira back over . Advantage Brilz.
Now back to K.J. Gould who picks up the action with Brilz once again on top in half guard, still holding the choke with one arm:
This is a pretty common control position from wrestling even if you're in their half guard. For some wrestlers this can be beneficial as it allows them to do what's known as a Turk / Turkish Ride. A good wrestler in this position can make a half-guard work against a BJJ guy if the wrestler on top can get more perpendicular with the guy on bottom.
It's why you often see Randy Couture Ground'n'Pound from here and why we saw Brock Lesnar content to work from Frank Mir's half guard, but stand up when he nearly ended up in Mir's full guard in their second fight. Brilz could have tried to work a Stockade like Lesnar if for nothing else then to make it even more difficult for Nog to roll and try the sweep. As it is Brilz is content to lower his hips (like in a sprawl) and ride it out. Also notice he's using a headlock to stop Nog getting deeper. He's essentially separating his head from his arm and putting his head and body out of natural alignment. It's also helping him to remain perpendicular and coupled with the Turk ride makes for an effective deep half-guard neutraliser.
This is kind of interesting as Nog slips an arm inside which could have given Brilz an opportunity for a Billy Robinson style neck crank had he known how to do it. The headlock control with the Turk ride was enough to control though.
There's a point in the third round where Brilz had poor head position on a single leg and Nog had an opportunity for a neck crank that he missed. We'll talk about that next time. Back to the fight.
But Brilz could only keep Nog down for so long, only a few seconds later he's gotten out of position and Nog strikes. Take it away K.J.:
Here Brilz' base is too high which is why Nog got the sweep. You see Brilz try to sprawl back at the last second but it's too late, and he's become more parallel with Nog (rather than perpendicular as I mentioned earlier). Brilz is also trying to jump out of Nog's half guard but he's already turning and gives up side control as a result.
But once Nogueira succeeded in getting the fight to the feet, where his vaunted amateur boxing experience should have given him the edge, Brilz managed to outscore Nogueira with punches. Landing the most damaging blows of the entire fight and putting the icing on the cake to win the second round.
Tomorrow we'll look at Round 3, Nogueira strikes back.
Here's a video of Frank Mir talking about the drawbacks of holding a closed half guard in MMA, and how he found out Brock used a Turk Ride against him.
Here's a good wrestling video talking about the Turkish Ride and how it can be used to roll your opponent:
Here's an excerpt from Nog's twin brother's book talking about one way to get the underhook when you're on the bottom in half guard. As we've seen, that underhook is the key to executing the sweeps that bedeviled Brilz.
If you're interested in understanding how the bottom half-guard can become an offensive position, Nogueira's book is literally THE book on that topic for MMA.
Securing Underhook Control (option 1)
As I have mentioned, creating space and turning on your side gives you a couple of options from the bottom half-guard position. You can execute an attack from the cross-face and hip block position, which I will cover later in the book or you can work to secure an underhook. The latter is often harder than it sounds. Your opponent's goal from the top half-guard position is to keep your shoulders pinned to the mat and either pepper you with strikes or pass your guard into a more dominant position such as side control or mount, and the easiest way for him to achieve both is to maintain a far-side underhook. If you steal it away from him, expect him to fight tooth and nail to get it back. For this reason, you must transition through the steps quickly. The instant you get up to your side, immediately secure an underhook and either transition to your opponent's back or reverse your positioning by executing a sweep. I demonstrate how to apply both types of attacks later in this section, but first it is important that you become a master at securing the underhook. It's the gateway to your offense from the half guard.