The Submission of the Night bonus for UFC 153 went to Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera, who was making his comeback from a badly broken upper arm suffered in his last fight. My choice would have been the soul-stealing Demian Maia "rear naked torque" earlier on the card (upcoming Judo Chop!), but after some examination, I can be happy with Big Nog getting the nod because the technique was very nice - and Judo Choppable.
As a reminder, Dallas Winston had a great Fan Post about the "hover to view" that could help with image links or GIF links. Check that out at http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2012/10/11/3489058/personal-suggestion-for-viewing-the-new-be-re-gifs
Most storylines coming into this match made mention of Dave Herman's purposefully obtuse joke of "Jiu jitsu doesn't work" and seeing Big Nog submit Herman added that extra bit of frisson for many fans. If you look closer at the fight, it is readily apparent that Herman not only knows, but respects, the Brazilian martial art.
Big Nog attempted his near-patented half guard sweep (see the video breakdown the MMA Girls did to see what I'm talking about) several times in the first round and Herman shut that down. In the second round, Nogueira even worked to mount, worked a keylock and an armbar and Herman defended well. It was only when Big Nog really tightened up his technique later in the round and anticipated what Herman would do that the submission came about. When it did, it was a beauty.
First, let us take a look at the earlier armbar attempt by Big Nog and see what went right and what went wrong.
In the beginning part of the second round, Nog clipped Herman nicely on the feet and knocked him down. He jumped in for a finish with strikes, only to realize that Herman was still very much in the fight, and subsequently moved to side control. From there, he grabbed a submission attempt that can be called an americana, figure-four keylock or an ude garami depending on personal preference or context. It turns out that Pee Wee is really strong, so the keylock did not work. Nog realized that and shifted right into mount. Once there, he started punching away because that is the best thing to do there, as it damages the opponent and opens up submission opportunities like crazy. (The hover-zoom thing mentioned above would really come in handy for this G)
Note above how Nog's feet are turned inwards and his weight is centered vertically. This allows him to sense what Herman is going to do that tiny and crucial bit faster and the balance allows him to keep his options open. After a few punches, Herman decided to shift position and roll to his elbows and knees.
Nog's balance and experience allow him to stay on top of Herman and slide right into a rear mount. However, Nog chooses to immediately go for a submission attack, instead of maintaining the rear mount and figuring out where to go from there.
Look at where Nog's left arm is - underhooking Herman's right arm - and see how far up on Herman's back Nog is at this time. He is not settling for the rear mount, as many grapplers and fighters do. He is launching an attack straight away. (G)
Herman feels this and decides to roll forwards to prevent Nog from fully controlling the transition to the armbar that Nog wants. As the roll happens, note how Nog keeps both hands on Herman's arm and also that Herman still gets his right elbow to Nog's cup or below it. A successful armbar needs that elbow to be on that cup or above it - unless you are Frank Mir. At this stage, the armbar is not looking good for Nog and Herman has a much greater chance of escaping.
The best way to escape from here is to get that elbow further down and away from the fulcrum of Nog's hips and/or cup (an armbar works by the immobilization of both ends of the arm - the hand and the shoulder/upper body - and the forcing of the elbow's hinge the wrong way). Thus, Herman uses his free hand to help out. He brings it over, clasps his forearm and turns into Nog. The Brazilian's crossed feet seen above is exactly what he should be doing, so don't freak out about that.
As you can see above, Herman got his arm out. He does open himself up to an omoplata or a possible toehold, but Nogueira either chose to pass both up or failed to put himself in position to really capitalize on the opportunities. An omoplata would have required Nog to stop the foot above from coming over and to sit up. The toehold would need both hands to be shoving that foot up near Herman's butt (so he cannot extend it and better his chances of escaping). Nog lets Herman get up at this point and they return to the feet. (G)
After a short time, Nog gets a trip takedown after stunning Herman again with standing strikes. Herman covers up to defend Nog's strikes and allows the mount to be taken. Nogueira works immediately for the submission. He decides to get a two on one grip, which could possibly lead to the americana like before or to an armbar. Nog's feet are pointing inwards and his balance is shifting forwards to allow greater strength and body weight to be employed in getting the two on one grip on Herman's right arm. (G)
Once the two on one grip is achieved, Nog shifts to a figure four, slides his right foot up to the other shoulder, pivots his hips by using the grounded left knee, keeps his body close to the trapped arm and prepares to sit down for the armbar. It is very smoothly done, so smoothly that Herman basically cannot resist any of this or start building a defense.
It is only when Nog sits down that Herman is able to bring his left arm into the battle. He chooses to buy time with an interlocking grip that prevents Nog from extending the arm right away. This is somewhat similar to the first time around, however, there are some differences. The elbow is right up on Nog's chest/stomach and Nog starts working to maneuver the trapped arm out of the clutches of the free arm much, much earlier.
Nog switches the arms hooking the trapped arm and falls to his left, which brings the trapped arm with him and weakens the grip Herman has on it. Herman now has to do a hand clasp of some sort to defend. Pee Wee is trying to simultaneously turn into Nog, but the left leg of Nog is pushing down and preventing the head from going anywhere - which prevents the body from really moving in turn. The body follows the head, so mash the head whenever possible.
This is beautiful. Nog has both of his arms crossed over Herman's trapped arm, both feet crossed over the far shoulder and his hips right up against the back of Herman's arm. The crossed arms allow him to use the full power of his posterior chain (back, butt, legs) against Herman's lonely arm. If Nog starts to arch backwards, Herman is going to lose the strength vs. strength battle. Sometimes people stuck in this armbar precursor position won't lose that battle - as they are either good enough to work an escape or so ridiculously strong that they can yank free anyways. (G)
Here is Dean Lister (guy in red) escaping from Xande Ribeiro's armbar this past weekend at the Metamoris Pro event in San Diego. Dean is unable to avoid Xande getting full extension, but watch as he shoves the left leg off his head and walks around to relieve the tension. Dean's ability to do this with Xande (bleep-ing) Ribeiro armbarring him is amazing.
Herman is not quite that technical or that strong, as we will see. Herman tries to do a combination of the leg shoving and walking around, but he doesn't quite have the technique ingrained in him such that he can perform it at this intense moment of need. In desperation, he rolls backwards - which is a low percentage, but still viable way to shake loose the trapped elbow from an opponent who either does not anticipate the roll or fails to keep things tight enough during the roll. Big Nog does both things correctly and starts to go into a belly-down armbar.
This type of armbar is possibly even worse than a regular armbar, because nearly the full weight of the fighter can be forced violently downwards - along with the increased extension of the arm due to the positions - on the trapped arm. In practice or in the gym, people do this technique very carefully and slowly, as it can wreck arms pretty good. In a fight, well... that arm gonna get broke if there's no tap.
Herman realizes this and rolls back the other way. It's an even lower percentage move, but he'll take any shot he can get at escaping. He does manage to work his elbow a bit upwards, which alleviates the tension. However, Nogueira makes the proper adjustment and forces Herman's arm outwards against the fulcrum of the left leg. Herman finally taps and wisely so. (G)
Nogueira's first run at that armbar failed because he flubbed a couple steps. The second run was about as perfect as you are ever going to see in MMA. The Rio crowd made their approval very loudly heard and the Zuffa brass showed their appreciation with a $70k bonus.
I still prefer Maia's rear naked torque for the SOTN though.