UFC Fight Night Judo Chop: Baiting the Trap with Gunnar Nelson

UFC welterweight Gunnar Nelson show off his tactical mind as he led Omari AKhmedov right into a guillotine choke. T.P. Grant breaks down the sequence that led the submission.

UFC Fight Night London featured on of MMA's finest grapplers in Gunnar Nelson. He had a meteoric rise to black belt, receiving his from Renzo Gracie in just four years, a pace only exceeded by the likes of BJ Penn and Ciao Terra. Nelson has had some success on the sport grappling circuit, but his focus has always been on MMA.

And against Omari Akhmedov, this young fighter got a chance to show off his excellent Jiu Jitsu skills. Nelson got Akhmedov with a punch, and quickly passed the guard to mount. From there, he landed some nice elbows and Akhmedov struggled mightily to escape. Eventually, Akhmedov was able to squirm out and get his legs in and they ended up in this position.


This position is an open guard, but it is not an open guard of any worth for Akhmedov. The idea of the guard is that it allows the bottom fighter some measure of control of their opponent. In closed guard, the legs being locked around the opponent provides that control. In the open guard, Akhmedov must look to establish points of control and get on his side to maintain mobility. Ideally, an open guard has four points of control; both of Akhmedov's hands would have grips and his legs would be doing something useful.

Above, you can see that Akhmedov's left foot is down on the mat, his right is being controlled by Nelson. Both of Akhmedov's hands are unoccupied and his hips are flat on the ground. From this position, Akhmedov has no control of Nelson, and it is a simple no gi toreando pass, and basically walk around Akmedov's open guard.

Nelson passes to side control pictured below.


Akhmedov is trying to work his knee back in between, but Nelson is using his left hand, circled in red, to block Akhmedov's hip to prevent him from hip escaping out and reestablishing guard. Here, Akhmedov has a few choices. His path back to guard is blocked, so he could accept side control, but Nelson is leaving him a great deal of space. Akhmedov has a chance to scramble, and he has two basic choices: turn away from Nelson, which would give up his back and leave him no other option than to disengage, or turn towards Nelson and attempt to get a takedown or to roll back to guard.

It really isn't much of a choice at all, and Nelson knows that. The space he is leaving is intentional to create this reaction from Akhmedov, and Nelson has a plan.


Akhmedov makes his move and so does Nelson, diving his right arm around Akhmedov's head. As Akhmedov spins up to his knees, he actually moves Nelson's arm into the proper choking position, and all Nelson has to do is keep his arm steady.


The guillotine choke works on a pretty simple principle. Encircling the arm around the neck gives the fighter applying the choke the ability to squeeze with his entire upper body, but often this alone isn't enough to finish the choke. What really adds the finishing touch is when the choker is able to arch his back and cause the person caught in the choke to bend their head forward, increasing the pressure on the neck. This pressure reduces the passage of both air and blood through the neck, thus creating a choke.

Nelson slides his right knee under Akhmedov and throws his left leg up in a variation of the open guard guillotine finish. The knee under the body pushes the victim's body away, causing their neck to bend in the choke while the posted knee creates a wall to prevent the Akhmedov from jumping over to side control.

A quick detail on the finer points of the choke.


Notice that Akhmedov 's neck and lower head is visible here. It appears that he is slipping out of the choke, but this is actually the ideal finishing position for the choke. The crown of the head provides maximum leverage, and is trapped under Nelson's armpit. Nelson's back arch forces the head down in the most efficient manner possible into the choke.

Here is a gif of the full sequence from Zombie Prophet.

All in all, this was a slick piece of grappling by Nelson. Yes, Akhemdov was well out of his league on the mat here, but very often we seen even experienced grapplers shy away from giving up control of their opponents the way Nelson did in order to create the opening.

Gunnar Nelson looked like an elite grappler as he led his opponent right into a trap by dictating his opponent's reactions and having a plan in place on how to exploit that reaction.

For more MMA and Grappling analysis, history, technique, and discussion be sure to follow T.P. Grant on Twitter or Facebook.

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