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UFC on Fox 5 Judo Chop: Dennis Siver wins Half Guard battle with Nam Phan

Dennis Siver made excellent use fundamental half guard top position grappling in his match with Nam Phan and this Judo Chop will look at what he did to so throughly dominate the fight.

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Dennis Siver surprised a lot of MMA pundits and fans when he out grappled Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Nam Phan. A kickboxer, Siver has been working hard on improving his grappling and he used it very effectively as an offensive weapon in this match. Siver's success was primarily due to his domination of the half-guard position and this Judo Chop will look at what exactly Siver was doing.

Randy Couture once called the half guard, the "beatdown position" because of the excellent control it provides the top fighter. But the half guard has also become a favorite position of many in sport grappling because of the opportunity it creates for sweeps and transitions. What determines who has the advantage is a few fundamental details in positioning that make the difference. Here are the details we will be focusing on:

  • The Under-Hook
  • The Cross-Face
  • Putting the Bottom Man Flat on his back

Before we start looking directly at action from the fight, here is a short video of Ryan Hall dealing with the deep half guard. While not all of this video is directly applicable it does lay out a nice basic summary of what the bottom man is looking to achieve. We can move in how the top fighter prevents the bottom man from doing this.

While this is not exactly what Nam Phan was attempting to do in their bout, the basic concept of the half guard remains the same. The bottom man wants to get to his side and get under the top man's hips to give himself the best possible leverage. Dennis Siver's goal then was to prevent Phan from being able to get to his side and keeping him away from his hip.

The first step to establishing a strong half guard top position is gaining an under-hook.


A very basic grappling maneuver, the under-hook consists of Siver putting his arm up into Phan's armpit as pictured above. The under-hook provides excellent leverage and control and is the first step to establishing half guard posture, and when in half guard the under-hook is used on the same side of the body as the leg inside the half guard. For Siver this under hook allows him to press his weight down on Phan and control him, while in Phan's case, an under-hook would allow him to shift Siver's weight off of him.

In the picture above Siver has the under-hook, and while he is keeping Phan from getting deep under Siver's hips but he can put Phan flat on his back.


The cross face is another basic grappling maneuver and can be applied in several different fashions. At its core, the cross face is the application of pressure to the chin forcing the bottom man to turn his head. The cross face causes discomfort, a great deal of discomfort in some cases, and can be applied with the shoulder, forearm, head, shin or the torso. In this case Siver is using his shoulder, pressing down on Phan's jaw. This strong cross face prevents Phan from turning his head towards Siver, and forces him down flat on to his back.

Once Siver has put Phan flat on his back, it is a very difficult situation to fight out of as Siver has the under-hook, is able to press his weight down, and take away almost all the space for Phan to swim in to take that under hook away. It also leaves Siver free to begin striking and working to improve his position.

This is not to say Phan was with out recourse, and Siver looking to either strike or advance will give Phan openings to escape. Finally we can look at an opportunity Phan had to turn the tables on Siver.


Here Phan has fought off his back as Siver has given him some space and Phan has gained a very low under hook. Phan is also burying his head to help prevent Siver from getting a cross face. It appeared that Phan was trying to get to his knees to go into a classic half-guard sweep, refereed to sometimes as the Dogfight. But Siver has a nice wide base and his driving his hips forward.

To get a sweep Phan would have to narrow Siver's base, and to do that he could use a sweep not often seen in MMA. Originally taught by Gracie Barra black belt Roberto "Gordo" Correa, the man largely credited with helping develop the half guard into a legitimate position, this sweep is sometimes refereed to as the foot grab.

Foot Grab Sweep from Half-Guard (via beenleighjiujitsu)