In what many consider a strong contender for Card of the Year (an honor that UFC 144 may have firmly locked up), Bellator 62 gave us some of the most fun lightweight action in recent memory. The Season 6 LW tournament turned out to be so good that three Judo Chops will be spawned from the high-paced and enjoyable action we experienced last Friday night.
This first Judo Chop will focus on the very rare "Von Flue" submission Brent Weedman (19-7-1) used to finish J.J. Ambrose (17-4) in the second round of their tournament quarterfinal bout. This shoulder choke submission was around long before Von Flue, yet he was perhaps the first person to get a technical submission (delivering his opponent, Alex Karalexis, into unconsciousness at The Ultimate Fighter 3 in early 2006) on a large stage.
The rarity of this Von Flue choke derives from the unusual combination of an opponent holding onto a guillotine too long and the application of tremendous shoulder pressure from side control in a way that is difficult to employ at the highest levels of mixed martial arts. To obtain the Von Flue, Weedman attacked Ambrose in such a way on the ground that Ambrose had difficult choices to make and pressured Ambrose into making a pair of small mistakes that set the choke up and forced the tap.
Hit the jump for the Judo Chop GIFs and analysis you know and love.
The Von Flue choke operates in the same manner an arm triangle or a triangle choke does - by squeezing and compressing the carotids in such a way that blood and/or oxygen stops getting to the brain. Tremendous pressure is exerted on one side of the neck - catching one of the carotids - and the opponent's own shoulder is used to apply pressure on the other side to trap the second carotid. In almost every situation the Von Flue works when an opponent hangs onto a guillotine for far too long.
A guillotine choke is usually defended by the chokee working the head free from the arms of the choker - by stripping the grips manually or by pulling the head backwards and out of the squeeze. Another method of defense uses a pass into side control - a dominant grappling position where the fighter on top is perpendicular to the fighter on the bottom, with the guard cleared and the upper body of the bottom fighter controlled - on the opposite side of the arm encircling the neck to alleviate the choke. The angles of the fighters when in side control on the opposite side are not conducive to most guillotines and small spaces can be exploited to break the grips before going on the offense from the advantageous position that is side control. Do not pass guard into the same side like Cheick Kongo did against Frank Mir, as that makes the guillotine choke even more powerful.
Most times, a fighter will let go of the guillotine long before the pass into side control actually occurs and focus on creating a frame to regain guard, withdraw dangling limbs or to stand back up again. Sometimes, a stubborn fighter will hang onto the head in a situation that does not threaten a submission, but does keep the posture of the top fighter down and close to the bottom fighter. This is the right environment for the Von Flue to be employed.
Because this submission is a "blood choke" rather than an attack on the trachea, it can act very quickly. Karalexis had no idea what was going on and only began to upa when it was already too late. Von Flue was already on his toes and dropping as much weight as he possibly could to get that squeeze ratcheted up. Within seconds, Karalexis is out and Von Flue is famous enough to get his name permanently attached to the shoulder choke.
At Bellator 62, J.J. Ambrose displayed much more technical awareness than Karalexis did, but Brent Weedman did a terrific job of forcing a set of bad options on Ambrose and maintaining side control with excellent pressure.
As you can see in the GIF to the left, Weedman has passed the guard into side control after dealing with the surprisingly good neck-based submission attacks of Ambrose. Brent has pushed his left hand under J.J.'s head and gable grips it (palm to palm, perpendicular grip named after Dan Gable, one of the finest folkstyle and freestyle wrestlers to ever come from America). Weedman uses his grip and position to simultaneously deliver knees to the chest and to flatten Ambrose fully onto his back. At this time, Weedman is shifting back and forth between two positions - the gable-grip side control and the crucifix position famously used by Matt Hughes on B.J. Penn (or Roy Nelson on Kimbo Slice and Jon Jones on Vladimir Matyushenko). One position allows for thunderous knees to be delivered to the ribs and a slow diminishing of the gas tank. The other allows for elbows and hammerfists that could lead to a stoppage. In Bellator's tournament bouts, elbows are prohibited until the final bout, but hammerfists from the crucifix position are unpleasant to an extreme.
Ambrose knows he is facing a very bad set of options and escape is his best bet, rather than accepting either the crucifix or gable-grip side control. He wants to bridge (also called an upa) out, but first he needs to get his arm out from in between Weedman's legs. Watch as J.J. withdraws the arm, places it onto his own chest and explodes upwards with his hips and over his own farside shoulder. Ambrose is not bench pressing Weedman off - the elbow is levering Weedman over and to the side. The left arm is still encircling Brent's head, which is not necessarily the worst technical flaw, but an important one. J.J. should have made it a secondary goal to free that arm during the upa. Weedman counters the nearly-successful bridge with some nifty acrobatics that allow him to replace his weight on the right side of Ambrose. Note that Weedman has his right arm firmly squeezed next to his head. He has tried multiple times to set up the Von Flue already, but this is the best opportunity yet, as J.J.'s arm is trapped over the head and that squeeze is keeping it there.
The squeezing of the right arm as closely as possible to the head allows Brent to trap J.J.'s arm - perhaps assisted by the glove itself - in such a manner that leaves J.J.'s left shoulder alongside J.J.'s left carotid. At this point, Brent starts driving as hard as he can in a direction that is diagonal to Ambrose's position. Weedman wants his left shoulder jammed, as hard as he can possibly do so, against the right carotid of Ambrose and the squeezing of the gable grip and right arm will let him keep the left shoulder of Ambrose in perfect position to cut off the left carotid. The "triangle" is complete and begins to work within seconds. Ambrose struggles mightily to free his left arm - which would allow him to drop the left shoulder and thus escape the pressure - but the squeeze from Weedman is too strong. He taps out before he goes to sleep - unlike Karalexis.
The best way not to get choked by the Von Flue is to let go of the guillotine long before the choke even comes close to being a danger. However, several people have managed to refine their guillotine technique to the point where even a passing of the guard into the "safety" of side control is still not enough to relieve the pressure. The current Bellator welterweight champion, Ben Askren, knows this all too well, as evidenced by his training session with Marcelo Garcia, Brazilian jiu jitsu wizard, from almost two years ago.
For hundreds of more absurdly good videos like this one, check out Marcelo's website.
(To learn the specifics of the elbow lift guillotine Marcelo uses to get those pretty side control sweeps, look at this old Judo Chop on C.B. Dollaway and Joe Doerksen.)
Perhaps in a different world, J.J. Ambrose would have let go of the head control or fully committed to it as Marcelo does over and over in the video above. That world might not be as fun as this one with another successful application of the Von Flue choke - and a Brent Weedman victory is usually as entertaining a match as you'll ever see in this cosmos.
GIFs courtesy of our favorite British catch wrestler, K.J. Gould.