Judo Chop: Ed Herman Heel Hooks Kyle Noke via 50/50 Guard at UFC on Versus 5

This is a collaborative Judo Chop between Ben Thapa and Kid Nate.

The 50/50 guard is a controversial position within Brazilian jiu-jitsu and there is perhaps no greater exponent of it than Rafael Mendes, the reigning world and ADCC champion. . Many are unsure of its utility within MMA and dismiss it as a sport jiu jitsu position only, but Ed Herman made it work to dramatic effect at UFC on Versus 5 - thanks to several mistakes by Kyle Noke.

Here's how Wikipedia defines the 50/50 guard:

The 50-50 (Fifty-fifty) guard is a position popularized by Roberto "Gordo" Correa and extensively used by the Mendes Brothers, Rafael and Guilherme Mendes, Bruno Frazzato, and Ramon Lemos from the Atos Jiu Jitsu Team. In other grappling systems such as catch wrestling and Russian Sambo, it is a form of the "outside leg triangle" type of leg control. In this position, the fighter on the bottom crosses a triangle on the opponent's leg, which allows for the leg to be dominated while leaving the arms free to work on sweeps and submissions. This position has been heavily criticized for use in competitions with restricted use of leglocks due to the potential of stalling a match when the fighter on top cannot pass the guard and the fighter on the bottom cannot successfully perform a sweep.

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Gifs by BE reader Grappo

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In a back and forth battle, Kyle Noke has secured top position in the half guard of Ed Herman. He puts together a very decent pass utilizing his free leg to pin and immobilize Herman's left leg and hip and starts to move into mount. However, Herman has anticipated this and simultaneously brought Noke a little higher up on Herman than he would have wanted to be and placed his left arm inside Noke's right leg. When Noke starts to move into mount and spreads out his legs, Herman is already moving his hips and spinning out from underneath Noke.

This is akin to the Homer Simpson sweep that we saw Patrick Tenny break down in the Wilson Reis half guard Judo Chop, but Herman does not have control of Noke's left leg as he is spinning out. Also, he is not whoop-whooping as someone with full commitment to the sweep normally would.

Once Herman is free from under the mount and upside down relative to Noke, he realizes that Noke is about to punch him in his unprotected head. He places his legs in between his head and Noke's upper body and starts to control Noke's left leg at the same time. Noke reacts to this by standing up and concedes the 50/50 guard position to Herman. Notice that Herman has slid his left leg up past the knee and hip of Noke and created a triangle by placing his right leg over the ankle of his left leg. This is crucial for control of his opponent.

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Seeing an opening, Noke drops down to punch Herman with a minute left in the round. Theoretically, he should be able to ride this out, keep top control and smack Herman around a few times to sway the judges his way. Unfortunately, nothing went Noke's way after this. By dropping down, he has given up a couple of 50/50 guard defenses that would have freed him from control and maybe gotten a stand-up from referee Mario Yamasaki.

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After Herman tried to stifle Noke's punches by pulling him in, Noke postures up a little bit to start punching Ed. Herman uses that space to create an elbow frame and starts to isolate the trapped leg. Herman wants to implement a submission that is called an inverted heel hook. It is inverted because the trapped leg is across Herman's body and the foot is in the opposite armpit; the heel hook part comes from the heel being the body part that is torqued or "hooked" by Herman. The heel torque is transferred to the knee and can be very dangerous to the ligaments in the knee. Many grappling competitions and gyms ban or strictly regulate the usage of heel hooks. At this point, Noke should have been grip fighting with Herman to prevent control of the trapped foot or triangling his own foot to stall until time ran out.

Instead, he balances on his hands and looks unsure of what to do. That indecision allows Herman to grab the exposed foot, bring the crook of his elbow around the foot and start to turn the heel upwards. Noke is in serious trouble here, but he could still get out of the impending heel hook if he stays calm and works the right escapes.

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Instead, Noke flops backwards and appears to panic. He feels Herman rolling to the side and perhaps thought to use a defense that involves going with the momentum of the roll and stopping the twist or yanking out like this video shows. However, he has allowed Herman to triangle his legs and seize an excellent grip on the trapped foot. Noke rolls, but has nowhere to go due to the control Herman has on his leg and on his foot. He also taps late. Herman completes the methodical finish and Yamasaki steps in as soon as Noke taps - which is unfortunately after the "crunch and pop".

Slow-motion finish from alternate angles
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Kyle Noke's leg may not be healthy, but the discussion over whether the 50/50 guard has a place in MMA has been enlivened by Ed Herman's swift thirty second submission from the position. What do you readers think?

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Photo of Rafael Mendes 50/50-ing Rubens Charles "Cobrinha" Maciel photo by Ronald Devila.


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