Comebacks are what make sports fantastic, watching an athlete snatch victory from the jaws of defeat creates an excitement unmatched in other forms of entertainment. Going into the featherweight match at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale, Team Bisping's Diego Brandao was a healthy favorite over Team Mayhem's Dennis Bermudez.
Brandao's violent, take-no-prisoners style made him a fan favorite during the show and early in the first round that style made a serious impact on Bermudez. Then Bermudez landed a short right hand that changed the entire fight, suddenly Brandao was dazed, on his back, and trying to survive. Suddenly, when it seemed Bermudez had stolen the round and possibly the fight, the Brazilian locked on a tremendous armbar from guard.
The armbar from guard is one of those techniques that is taught in beginners courses in MMA and BJJ and is a skill that every fighter has practiced at some point. The basics of the armbar is to isolate an arm using the legs and then use the entire body to hyperextend the elbow. But for such a fundamental technique it is very difficult to execute against high level competition. Most armbars in MMA are often seen from top position and part of that is in no gi the armbar is very difficult to lock in while in guard.
Lets start with what commonly goes wrong with the armbar.
Video and gifs after the jump
Armbar from Guard: the Three Most Common Errors (via StephanKesting)
Here is possibly the most famous and one of the sloppiest armbar from guards in UFC history, Frank Mir's breaking the arm of then UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia, claiming both the UFC belt and a black belt in BJJ.
But looking at the armbar you can see he in fact makes all three of the mistakes listed in the video above. His legs are wide apart, and neither leg is really putting serious weight on Sylvia, who is able to posture and slip his elbow out. What saves the fight for Mir is that he is so strong he actually able to break Syliva's forearm, causing Herb Dean to stop the match.
As stated above, the armbar from guard is a very difficult technique to use against experienced competition, a fighter must be out of position to be at risk for an armbar and most fighters are able to recover if they have exposed an arm quickly. This means an armbar from the guard must be fast.
Wilson Gouveia's armbar of Ryan Jensen is an excellent example of how to finish an armbar in the upper-levels of MMA. He explodes into the armbar with impressive speed and while he doesn't finished the armbar instantly, he accomplishes something very important, he breaks down Jensen's posture.
At the start of the gif, when the fight clock reads 3:15, Gouveia shoots his legs up to isolate the arm and sinks a leg deep into Jensen's armpit and hooks it over the shoulder blades. This is the most important detail to getting an armbar from the bottom, because without this leg the opponent will simply stand up, slide his arm out and pass the guard. Even as Jensen stands up he remains bent over because of that hook on his back is making him carry all of Gouveia's weight.
This hook also allows Gouviea to keep his hips in tight to Jensen's body, keeping the arm trapped and the elbow in peril. When Gouveia is ready he hooks the other leg heavy over the back of Jensen's head and arches his hips forcing the tap.
Now that we've covered the basics we can appreciate Diego Brandao's masterful armlock in the TUF 14 Finale.
At first when Brandao is playing open guard his left foot is in Bermudez's hip and he had a grip on Bermudez's right arm, and was looking for an armbar on this side at first. Bermudez recognized this, put his left arm across Brandao's chest to push away, slipped out his right arm and looked to throw a punch. But Brandao switched to an armbar on the left arm so fast Bermudez had not time to react.
Bermudez had just throw a punch and was off balance when the Brazilian's legs hooked on his back and head. Another detail is that Brandao is creating an angle for the push, what causes Bermudez to roll over is the dramatic turn to 90 degrees the Brazilian makes under him. This gives Brandao full control of the arm and allows him to extend his entire body, and this use of his of his whole body is what sends Bermudez flying and locks out the elbow before his back even touches the mat.
This is one of the best finishes I've seen in TUF event and is a wonderful application of a simple yet underused technique by a young and hungry fighter.
First two gifs via MMA-Core.com
Third via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com