UFC FS1 Judo Chop: Gentleman Joe Lauzon and the Flying Scissors Inverted Heel Hook

Joe Lauzon does the gentlemanly thing at UFC 155 and tries to take Jim Miller's knee off with a beautiful flying scissors inverted heel hook chain. Ben Thapa takes a long look at the takedown in the context of judo, sambo and MMA history with GIFs, pictures and videos aplenty before Joe's next fight at UFC FS1: Shogun vs. Sonnen.

Can you break someone's knee politely?

If so, Joe Lauzon tried to do exactly that at UFC 155 on December 29th, 2012. In an awe-inspiring moment of derring-do, Gentleman Joe nearly snatched victory in the last seconds from Jim Miller with a beautiful flying scissors takedown that transitioned to a heel hook attempt - which did not succeed, but more importantly, was done with such precision and respect for his opponent that it became a thing of beauty.

Although the submission attempt did not actually clinch the win, the daring and dangerous attempt at the close of the third round was a fitting end sequence to a gutsy thriller of a match. The bout was so much of a gutsy thriller that it was easily awarded Fight of the Night - and contentiously the Fight of the Year by many.

Thus it gets the Judo Chop treatment! Screenshots, GIFs, video, links and technique explanations all for you, dear reader.

| Related Judo Chops: Jorge Santiago's Inverted Heel Hook | Ed Herman, 50/50 Guard and Heel Hooks | Masakazu "Leg Destroyer" Imanari and the Inverted Heel Hook | Toquinho Palhares and Leglocks #1 | Toquinho Palhares and Leglocks #2 |

A few words of caution first - the flying scissors takedown is a dangerous technique to execute even in the best of conditions. It becomes an order of magnitude more difficult and dangerous for the athletes involved once exhaustion, slipperiness and battle damage comes into play. Another step up in degree occurs when the heel hook submission is added in (as most people doing the takedown technique will do). Be intelligent and careful with training this takedown to submission chain.

Joe Lauzon performed the flying scissors takedown about as well as anyone has done it in MMA history and he did it in the third round of a high paced match against one of the better grapplers in the lightweight division - while covered in his own blood. The timing, body control and execution were stellar. The remarkableness of the submission attempt is even greater once you realize that Lauzon did everything he could to perform the potential breaking of Miller's knee in a polite and sporting fashion.

There would be no audience members cringing due to the insta-break of an ankle due to awful technique or negligent timing. There was instead a furious mini-arms race of technique, counter, counter to the counter and so on - which is exactly what MMA should be about and why this Judo Chop is being written.

A while back, KJ Gould asked Reilly Bodycomb to put together a very sweet video on how exactly the scissors sweep should be done. The resulting step by step video using in-competition footage as well as Reilly explaining each key point is very much worth watching and I will embed it at the end to provide the best possible coda.

First, we turn to the most famous flying scissors takedown to inverted heel hook in MMA history: Ryo Chonan's sublime submission of Anderson Silva at PRIDE Shockwave 2004. Some unknown person years ago (before Bloody Elbow even existed) made this GIF to preserve Chonan's finest moment.


The basic principles of the scissors sweep operate from being side on to the opponent. Look at how Anderson's feet almost point towards the ropes all the way on the other side of the ring, while Chonan is positioned on the near side. Ryo smartly sees this and feints with his hands to get Anderson thinking of swatting away punches, while Ryo launches his left leg up into the abdomen of Anderson.

With that left leg up in the air, Chonan ensures his right leg moves backwards and clears Anderson's right leg. The scissors are closing upon Anderson's leg. The careful posting of the right arm does three jobs - preserving the momentum of the scissors takedown, preventing the unsporting collapse of Chonan's body directly upon Anderson's knee and easing the transition to the inverted heel hook by having the crook of the elbow ready to latch onto the newly exposed heel.

Silva had a leg injury coming into the fight and his tap may have been faster than most MMA fighters today, but given how sweetly Chonan timed this and how readily Ryo begins to buck up his hips to torque the knee, Silva really had only a small chance of escaping the inverted heel hook without the injury slowing him down.

The timing and positioning on this takedown is rather crucial - but in a very strange way. For most takedowns, if the timing and positioning is off, the takedown fails and everybody resets. For the flying scissors takedown, if the timing and positioning is off, there is a huge likelihood that you're going to be either flat on your back with no guard or you're going to break the leg of your opponent in a way that you never ever want to do in sports.

The latter happens all too often, even on the professional or world class level. In a famous match in late April of 1980, two of the elite heavyweights in Japanese judo (and thereby the world) faced off in the finals of the All Japan Open. The thirty year old Sumio Endo was a two time world champion and Olympic bronze medalist. The twenty three year old Yasuhiro Yamashita was a three time All Japan champion, who had beaten Endo multiple times there, and a one time world champion. This was a big match and the 1980 Olympics were coming up in a few months, so whoever won was very certain to be the Japanese representative and an Olympic gold medal favorite.

The following GIF below essentially shows the entire match, which Zombie Prophet was kind enough to work his magic on for us.


Endo tries to set up a trap for the tobi kani basami by baiting Yamashita into stepping that left leg over into Endo. However, he screws up the timing and Yamashita's instincts lead him to not fully commit to the step, while going for his own grip readjustment. All of Yamashita's weight is forced downwards on a badly placed ankle. Yamashita's fibula was badly broken and the match was declared a draw (with Yamashita getting top billing for the title, somehow).

Japan ended up boycotting the 1980 Olympics due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, so this match didn't actually affect the Olympic standings. Yamashita healed up and basically became the best judoka in the modern era for Japan at the time with three more world titles, an Olympic gold and a legendary undefeated streak. Throw in five more All-Japan titles for Yamashita, too.

However, this particular match and the cumulative weight of the numerous other injuries resulting from bad applications of the technique got the scissors takedown banned from the competitive judo scene.


For sheer "make you cringe" factor, check out this other bad flying scissors attempt from a video that calls it a match from the 1987 Texas state championships.

That's got a posting-out, but it looks like the scissoring leg caught the opponent's leg fully planted, while the grip up top yanked the opponent diagonally backwards over that same knee.

Kaboom goes the knee and if you can imagine stuff like this times hundreds, it becomes apparent why timing, positioning and respect of the opponent really matter for this takedown in a sporting environment.

Lauzon's scissors takedown was impeccable in terms of positioning and timing (GIF) - in fact, Joe threw a useless punch specifically to get Jim in a better position for the takedown.

Joepunch_medium Joe's punch is useless as far as a punch goes. Even if it had landed fully, it wouldn't have done damage beyond a slap. However, it does exactly what it is meant to do.

It makes Jim have to cover up by ducking his head and bringing his hands up to defend - which is exactly what Joe wants.

In order to do that, Jim basically has to plant his right leg on the ground somewhere in front of him - which is exactly what Joe wants.


The slapping punch turns into a collar tie and provides an extremely handy pivot point for Lauzon to move his body around Miller's planted right leg.

At this point, Jim is aware that Joe is doing a scissors takedown, as the left leg is now coming up into his own belly and he's feeling his planted leg coming under threat.

This is an improved version of what Ryo did to Anderson many years ago and Miller has to move from recognition of the rare technique to defending ferociously and intelligently in the space of about a half second in order to avoid the impending heelhook submission. Otherwise, he probably taps in about a second.

Joejimstepup_mediumSomehow, Jim builds a defense in a flash and the miniature adjustments in his surprisingly athletic defense are very fun to watch.

As Joe swings around and down the leg, propelling Jim backwards while moves the crook of his planted right arm arm next to Jim's foot for the inverted heel hook (across the body of the hooker, hah), Jim steps up his left leg from its prior position outside the purple metroPCS box to right at the top of the 4G.

At this point, Miller is likely to go crashing backwards onto the mat and give up his heel for the hooking and potentially lose a match he has nearly wrapped up. What happens next is the implementation of the plan he's figuring out in his mind now and it's a minor, yet athletic detail that is key.


As Joe's momentum starts to tug Jim down on his back, Jim uses every ounce of balance and quickness he has to step his left foot backwards slightly. The left foot moves behind the middle line of the purple box and closer to the "m".

The difference between Miller's left foot positioning is perhaps a couple of inches between the above image and the one here. However, that shift allows Jim to push, hop forwards and pivot with Lauzon's momentum.

The hop and pivot gives Miller just enough space to pull his foot free from the clamping elbow of Lauzon. Admittedly, it is difficult to fully clamp the elbow on the foot of an opponent for a regular heelhook, much less to do it during a flying scissors/heelhook technique chain, but Joe had it in pretty good until then.

Compare the following two images to see what I mean with the foot/elbow positioning:




As the pivot continues, the heelhook becomes harder for Lauzon to achieve and Miller moves out of immediate danger of a torqued knee. Miller has created a moment more to work his footlock defenses. Lauzon has several instant choices at hand - to re-position himself for a heelhook, to switch to an anklelock or to let go and try to get on top.

Making the decision on the fly, Lauzon goes for the adjustment to the heelhook and nearly gets it - but the body positioning of the two opponents is working against him here.

With the original heelhook attempt, it was Miller's goal to pull the heel out - but with the new body positioning created by Lauzon finishing his swing and Miller falling to his left, Miller wants to just push the foot down to the mat. It is a simple movement and the end result is to make it a battle for an anklelock attempt that Miller can likely tough through.


Joe ends up on his right side, with the foot underneath him, which makes scooping the heel back out and torquing the other way difficult. An anklelock is not only similarly unlikely to achieve, it's not usually an insta-tap move, especially against a grappler as good as Jim Miller. Despite Lauzon's perfect set-up for the takedown and very good follow-through, he cannot get the heelhook or anklelock. So in classic Lauzon fashion, he immediately goes for a guillotine as time expires. Miller was lucky, skilled and prepared enough to escape the furious chain of techniques Lauzon threw at him during all this (GIF).

Alan Belcher demonstrated something kind of along the lines of what Lauzon was going for - although he shows this in the context of a BJJ gi class on how to do heel hooks. In addition, he shows this as a counter to a defense of a throw (it's like complexity sprinkles on top of an intricacy ice cream cone)


A potential defense to the flying scissors comes from instant recognition and many, many reps of this technique. As these two sambo players demonstrate in their technique, it is fully possible to roll out of the scissors and cause a reset to the feet or scramble for top position - provided the hand positioning is good (as they point out in the video).


However you do the flying scissors takedown, do it with respect as most of these people did and as Gentleman Joe Lauzon did. Don't forget to watch your subsequent leg positioning as you could possibly give up a leglock yourself if you go into this all willy-nilly like this guy in the red did:


I leave you with Reilly Bodycomb explaining the flying scissors takedown in great detail and I hope we all enjoy the fights tomorrow.

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