UPDATED - UFC Fight Night 25 Judo Chop: T.J. Waldburger Chains Submissions Together

This is a post by the Bloody Elbow Grappling Coverage team. Introduction by KJ Gould, main analysis by Patrick Tenney.

UPDATE: As a bonus, we've added a gif of Waldburger's nifty kick-trip take down to taking the back with analysis from Ben Thapa of the BE grappling team. 

If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again. This is especially true when it comes to the ground fighting element of Mixed Martial Arts where hanging out in a compromised position for too long can be seriously bad for your health. Just ask Jason Macdonald, Jim Miller and Fedor Emelianenko about their most recent fights where being on bottom or underneath their opponents was definitely to their detriment.

Another saying oft heard in the sports landscape is the best defense being a good offense. At the most recent Ultimate Fight Night in New Orleans this past weekend T.J. Waldburger had a strong top position which he gave up to go for an armbar attempt and opponent Mike Stumpf did his best to scramble to get out and take a stronger position. Instead of retreating to guard when the initial submission attempt failed, Waldburger did not give up on his offense and showed the value of being able to chain submission attempts together - more commonly known as lock-flows in the grappling arts - to eventually catch Stumpf in a fight ending triangle choke.

Using the lock-flow strategy of 'Attack, Attack, Attack' makes it very difficult for an opponent to cope as defending in one area can sometimes leave them vulnerable in another and as long as humans continue to only have two arms and two legs, defending everything at once is an impossibility.

After the jump Patrick Tenney looks at the classic submission chain from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu of going from an armbar to a triangle while on bottom with some form of open guard still in play.

SBN coverage of UFC Fight Night 25: Shields vs. Ellenberger

Gifs by BE reader Grappo.  

Here's Ben Thapa breaking down the initial sequence:

I23300_wald1_medium

When Waldburger connects with the leg kick, it has the fortunate timing to land exactly at the back of the knee when Stumpf starts to raise his lead foot. In an attempt to maintain his balance while simultaneously tracking his opponent, Stumpf spins - and exposes his back. Waldburger immediately sees the opportunity for the back take and jumps right into Stumpf. He wants to take that back as soon as possible and set up any number of fight finishing submissions.

Note very carefully how Waldburger reaches with his left hand behind Stumpf and slides his right hand under Stumpf's head. Stumpf is too disoriented from the spin to ward off the accurate placement of Waldburger's grips. Once he has the right hand under Stumpf's chin and the left hand climbing upwards from the waist, TJ connects both hands as fast as he can to create a grip on Stumpf that most grapplers call a harness or seatbelt grip. Much like the safety belt in a car, a tight seatbelt grip restrains the opponent's upper body from creating any sort of separation during the time the back take is threatened.

The harness/seatbelt grip has been a staple of control in submission grappling for a long time now, but it is usually combined with another form of control - getting one or more hook in. A hook from the back control is when the back taking fighter places a foot in front of the hip and upper thigh of the other fighter. It helps to further control the hips and thus limits the ability of the other fighter to defend, create space or escape. In recent years, Marcelo Garcia has been at the cutting edge of elite grappling by using the seatbelt without hooks to confuse and submit opponents. Several of his favorite submissions and positions are created by an opponent who senses the seatbelt coming and starts to defend the hook placement, as shown in this short excerpt from Marcelo's technique library. As soon as Waldburger gets the seatbelt, he is simultaneously falling to his right and whipping his lower body around to hunt for a hook with his left foot, which the surprised Stumpf gives away, or to pull Stumpf back into him in a "chair" position. With the seatbelt secure and the left hook already in, Stumpf is in a bad position with a shrinking pool of options left to him.

At the end of the gif, Waldburger has the hook in and shifts to base himself more securely. He is somewhat high on Stumpf's back, but he has a tight seatbelt, one hook in and quite a few options available to him. Stumpf's right arm can be trapped with his right foot, a right hook can be pushed in, the neck can be attacked for a rear naked choke and the isolation of the left arm for armlocks can begin. As Waldburger shows so brilliantly in a couple of seconds, the harness/seatbelt grip offers a ton of options for control from the back. Furthermore, it allows the cutting down of the opponent's possible responses dramatically.

And here's Patrick Tenney with the final analysis of the chain of submissions.

After exchanging a few strikes on the feet, T.J. is able to take Stumpf down and land in a dominant position. T.J. sets up a nearside arm-bar from side control by controlling Stumpf’s arm and isolating it as he begins to posture himself up, so that he can loop his legs over Stumpf to control the body/head and finish the lock.

If you notice T.J.’s right leg when he goes back for the arm-bar is below Stumpf’s head with his knee flared out to the right - this is usually a slight mistake. However, this leg position could also be caused by Stumpf realizing the submission attempt was coming and already beginning the roll/posture out (forcing T.J.’s leg down so that the foot and shin are not locked tight to the head and pinching the trapped arm with the other leg). This leg positioning allows Stumpf to rotate into T.J. because his head is not being controlled.

As Stumpf starts to come up, T.J. is able to loop his right leg back over the arm and in front of the neck of Stumpf. By doing so, he is locking in the arm-bar at a different orientation and forcing Stumpf into a "belly down" arm-bar. Stumpf reacts well in the situation at first, and attempts to roll through the arm-bar and then come up on top. He is able to force T.J.’s left leg over his head after he rolls through, which eliminates the possibility for the arm-bar or triangle.

Unfortunately for Stumpf, T.J. is able to push off of Stumpf’s body with his left hand to create space and get his left leg back over the shoulder of Stumpf. This allows T.J. to re-isolate the left arm of Stumpf. This could have been avoided by Stumpf by circling around to the head of Waldburger, instead of basing out with his feet back behind him and coming up into the guard of Waldburger. The unfortunate choice of base for Stumpf allows for T.J.'s left leg to come over the back of the head and lock the triangle submission in.

Once that triangle gets set in, it looks to be just about as perfectly locked in as you can get. The only additional detail missing would be Waldburger angling off further (he does angle slightly) towards his left side to cinch the choke in tighter.

This entire flow is an example of what I’ve always heard referred to as the "triple attack". It is done at the gym I train at as part of a warm up if we’re working guard techniques that day and involves the transition between the arm-bar/triangle/omoplata and how to transition between them from within the guard; each of these submissions rely on the isolation of a single arm of your opponent and can be linked together and chained repeatedly when/if one of them fails (barring certain situations where your opponent is able to de-isolate that arm or fundamentally alter the position/pass guard).

Here's Marcelo Garcia explaining Seat Belt control:

The Seatbelt Control is the most important technique in maintaining Back Control. If the opponent is able to roll before you can cover to get Back Control, continue to hold the Seat Belt Control and run around parallel to the opponent. Sit the opponent up and if possible, step over to trap his closest arm


Being one of the first "chains" and a fundamental part of BJJ guard work there are quite a lot of detailed instructionals out there for this sequence, below are a few:

Andre Quiles & "Robynho" AKA Robin Williams teach 3 attacks from the closed guard. Armbar to triangle to omoplata back to armbar. Andre Quiles is a brown belt in BJJ and certified personal trainer. Robynho is a black belt and part of the Checkmat - Fight Zone USA team.


This situational drill involves learning how to chain attacks together when your opponent defends your initial attack. In this case your opponent stacks you during an armbar from the guard, you transition to an omoplata and he postures up, you can finish with a triangle.

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