In the fourth fight of the UFC on Fox 2 card during the Fuel TV preliminaries, Charles Oliveira made UFC history by submitting Eric Wisley with a calf slicer. The pain and discomfort Wisley experienced was apparent on his face and the bout was called to a halt as he tapped out at the 1:43 mark of Round 1. Oliveira earned the $65,000 Submission of the Night bonus and widespread acclaim for his exciting style. Our Grappling Team leader, Patrick Tenney, breaks down this rare submission and we discuss the details of the compression lock.
As a preamble, the background of the calf slicer needs to be explained. This compression lock is an attack upon the leg that causes the calf muscle of the opponent to be painfully forced against and potentially split over the tibia of the person applying the submission. This pressure upon the calf muscle is the cause of the name "compression lock" and hurts like few other submissions. Despite being primarily a pain compliance move, the calf slicer can operate upon the knee and wrench certain tendons and ligaments out of alignment. The leglock is banned in certain grappling tournaments and is often utilized as a no-gi or sambo move.
Besides being the sole calf slicer finish in UFC history, Oliveira managed to impress a very large audience. Vinny Magalhaes, ADCC gold medalist and M-1 light heavyweight champion, tweeted the following:
To further show how much this affected the MMA-viewing public, look at how some joker edited the Wikipedia page for the UFC on Fox 2 page:
Below the jump, cogent analysis by Patrick Tenney, fantastic GIFs by Grappo and a video of the other memorable calf slicer finish in MMA history - Ivan Menjivar's victory over Joe Lauzon at APEX: Undisputed in 2005.
The rarity of calf slicers may lie in how the technique is often a stopping place for most grapplers between a more orthodox leglock and a back take. The three moves are frequently linked together into a flowing chain that can vary with the first step being a straight ankle lock - which works by hyperextending the foot - or a heel hook, which twists the foot and indirectly attacks the knee. Both bookends in that sequence are generally thought of as higher percentage moves and are usually easier to finish an opponent from than the calf slicer. In an earlier Judo Chop, Kid Nate took a look at Ultimate Fight Night 18, where Tyson Griffin was stuck in a different version of the calf slicer. Rafael dos Anjos's skillful maneuvering ultimately failed, but Griffin had to work his way out of a very tricky situation with some good technique and tons of grit.
Oliveira takes advantage of Wisely's habit of leaving his feet out a bit by punching and then trapping the left foot as it dangles behind Oliveira's back. He falls backwards in a position for a straight ankle lock and then transitions to a heel hook as Wisely rolls.
Oliveira has made very clear his audacity in going for submissions within his UFC fights. It is refreshing to watch, but a more experienced and skilled grappler can recognize the patterns, counter and break Oliveira open as Jim Miller did at UFC 124. Wisely is not on Miller's level and Oliveira has improved since then, so we get to watch a brilliant submission.
Patrick takes over from here:
Do Bronx wisely switches to this submission from the two heel hook attempts, as Wisely correctly rotated and worked his way out of immediate danger. However, Wisely left his leg in the weave and Oliveira behind him, The right shin of Do Bronx creates a trap by pulling downwards against the back of Wisely's left calf/knee pit and Oliveira locks the leg into place by draping his left leg over the top to create a triangle.
Despite the placement of the triangle, Wisely keeps trying to move forward in order to straighten his leg and escape. Do Bronx pulls him back by locking his hands around Wisley's waist and controls the hips, bending him backwards over his own knee and forcing pressure into the limb and causing the submission.
Ben Thapa: What makes this different from the Tyson/Dos Anjos attempt besides shin placement?
Do Bronx, after locking his legs, reaches up and controls the waist in order to pull his opponent back and fold the leg further. This also keeps the opponent from escaping forwards and away from him. Rafael went for some sort of spine lock/opportunity to punch Griffin in the face and never really controlled Tyson's hips or bent him backwards all that much.
Ben: Why does Oliveira pull Wisely back into him?
This is to keep Wisely from rushing forward and straightening his leg to slide out or at least create space to avoid tapping to the submission. The further back Wisely goes, the more pressure is placed on his calf muscle and knee.
Ben: What are the options available if the opponent doesn't tap?
Your only real option if the opponent doesn't tap is to let go and go up to take the back.
Ben: What happens if the submission is fully applied - as in what breaks if this is taken to the full extent?
This sort of compression lock (bicep/calf slicer) will first separate the muscle tendons around the bone and second, apply massive amounts of straight pressure onto the bone beneath the muscle. Think of it as standing a twig straight up and then slowly pressing your boot down on the top of the twig as it bends, bends and then snaps after too much pressure is applied. The knee of the leg trapped in the calf slicer can also be affected, as the tendons going over the front of the kneecap can get hyperextended or broken.
Ben: Why is it rare to see the calf slicer in high level MMA or submission grappling?
It tends to be highly difficult to secure position wise. You really need to get the lock placed correctly on the first try and then prevent your opponent from moving away. Especially in nog,i you have the problem of slippage due to sweat. Slicers also tend to be associated with luta livre and not BJJ formally.
Securing an arm for a bicep slicer or leg for a calf slicer can introduce a lot of other problems as well; a lot of times, it can require giving up dominant position. The bicep slicer from a top position in side control may find its way into MMA in the future though as an addition to the crucifix position.
Another calf slicer some of you may have seen live came way back in 2005, as Ivan Menjivar finished Joe Lauzon with one at Apex: Undisputed. Both fighters are now employed by Zuffa and have put on barnburners of fights in the years since. Menjivar himself uploaded the fight clip on YouTube a while back for us to enjoy. The set up and eventual finishing position are different, but the principles that cause Lauzon to tap are the same ones that caused Wisely to tap.
The Human Weapon did a goofy simulation of a similar compression lock - although done much more like Menjivar's submission. Ovince St. Preux loves usng this particular calf slicer set-up in his matches and achieved a finish with it back in 2009 before he made it onto nationally televised shows.