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UFC 144 Judo Chop: Yoshihiro Akiyama Hits Some Sexy Judo Throws On Jake Shields

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UFC 144 might have been one of the finest fight cards I've seen in my short lifetime. From the thunderous right hand that nobody in their right mind predicted by Issei Tamura to the heck-on-wheels main event that saw Benson Henderson rip the belt from Frankie Edgar's unwilling hands, this card had it going on. The card had great knockouts, great fights, a stunning comeback submission win and Yoshihiro Akiyama hitting some sweet throws on Jake Shields.

Akiyama would lose a unanimous decision with the judges giving every round to Shields, but the most exciting moments of the fight occurred when Akiyama finally decided to use his excellent judo to attack. Previously, he'd been one of the most difficult fighters to take down at middleweight and at welterweight, Yoshihiro finally looked the same size as his opponents. The time was ripe for him to go on the offense and toss his opponent around. Jake obliged him in each of the first two rounds with some very linear movement and odd shuffles, yet managed to escape any serious trouble with his excellent scrambling. Jake would go on to take Yoshihiro down two times in the third round.

In this Judo Chop, we focus first on the throw that Akiyama landed in the first round, which appears to be an Osoto Gari or a Harai Goshi, and then follow up with the second throw, landed in the second round, which JudoNerd calls an Osoto Gari, but Ronda Rousey and Vinny Magalhaes call Harai Makikomi.

After the jump, some great analysis by JudoNerd, the counter-balancing tweets between Vinny Magalhaes, Ronda Rousey and Rodrigo Artilheiro and some video of spectacular judo-based throws.

In Judo classes, the throws have specific names and are often treated as strict doctrine. In the actual matches, throws can get fuzzy and when the matches are within MMA rulesets and without the lack of the usual kimono grips, the divisions between throws get even blurrier. At their bedrock level, all throws rest up on the attacking of the opponent's balance in such a way that creates momentary imbalances and openings to apply force in skillful manner.

As a lead in to the throws, the nature of Osoto Gari, Harai Goshi, Harai Makikomi, Osoto Guruma and Uchi Mata are explained below:

Osoto Gari: Translated as "Large Outer Reaping". Note the grip of the thrower (tori) on the collar and the elbow of the nearly squared up opponent (uke). These allow the off-balancing of the opponent and the opening for the tori to swiftly step to the uke's right and put that right leg in to reap the leg of the uke, while using the upper thigh/hip as a pivot point. The ending point ideally leaves the uke in position for an armbar.



Harai Goshi: Translates as "Sweeping Hip Throw". Again, the collar and elbow grip show up, but the back of the tori is at an angle to the front of the uke. The right foot is used to sweep the foot of the uke and the grips allow the tossing of the uke over the hip pivot. Look again at the beautiful armbar opportunity at the end of the throw.



Harai Makikomi: Translates as "Sweeping wraparound". The sleeve grip is retained while the collar grip is eschewed by the tori. The tori has his or her back fully to the uke and is wrapping the uke around the hip, assisted by the bending forwards of the upper torso and the sweeping backwards of the right leg. The landing position leaves the back of the tori to the uke, which is fine in judo because once this throw is landed, the match is over. In submission grappling or MMA, this is a riskier throw - especially if an opponent is good at scrambling.



Osoto Guruma: Translates as "Large outer wheel". The collar and elbow grips are present and are used to pull the uke into the tori. As the uke steps in, the tori takes a step and really gets that right leg behind the leg/hip and sometimes even the far-side leg to create the off-balancing and pivot upon the hip. This throw is tough to pull off in competition since it relies upon a rather major screw-up by the opponent.



Uchi Mata: Translates as "Inner thigh throw". The tori has an elbow grip and a high collar grip. Both tori and uke are squared off and the tori takes advantage of the uke stepping to the left to slam that right leg inside and sweep the left leg upwards and outwards. The upper body grips are simultaneously turning, pulling and pushing the uke into the nearly horizontal position seen in the GIF below. This is a more commonly seen throw in judo or submission grappling/MMA matches than the others.



Now let's take a look at Akiyma's implementation of the throws in the environs of the octagon, sans kimono and with the tanned elan only Yoshihior can bring. Fight GIFs by Zombie Prophet over at


In the first round, Akiyama went on the attack during a still moment. He rushed in and gets Jake to throw a jab, while lifting his lead leg for whatever reasons. Unfortunately this plays perfectly into Akiyama's plan. The left hand sneaks past the chest to the far-side armpit, while the left leg chops out the lifted lead foot of Shields. The chop and the pull of the arm that's on the far-side armpit allow Akiyama to pivot Shields over his upper thigh and slam him down to the mat. During the resulting scramble, Akiyama gets another foot sweep, but Shields remains too strong and quick to hold down for long.

An alternate angle:


Here you really see the surprise of Shields. The timing of this throw is exquisite.


The first throw is an Osoto Gari, but I'm not sure I've ever seen someone do the traditional shuffle step in the entry. He actually leads with his rear foot, turning almost backwards, to get the maximum distance on the entry with his attacking leg. He gets under Shields very nicely in order to displace his center of gravity, rolling him off of his thigh. This hip-to-hip contact is a great example of why a lot of people consider Osoto Gari to be a hip sweep, not a foot sweep.

You wouldn't hurt too many feelings by calling the second throw an Osoto Guruma, but not too many people actually specifically train or go for that throw. Usually clipping the second leg is a bit incidental, but who knows what Akiyama intended? I would personally argue that because the main point of contact was side-hip-to-side-hip, it's a very deep Osoto Gari.

Neither of these throws go anywhere near a Makikomi. If he pulled off a Makikomi somewhere else, I'd like to see the gif, because that's a throw that will get your a** killed:

JudoNerd (cont'd):
Makikomis (Harai, Uchimata, Soto) in general are scoring throws in Judo, but are completely not applicable to real combat because of the "winding" or wrapping (makikomi) aspect itself—you take your arm away from the back of their neck or collar and wrap over their shoulder to throw your weight into the throw. But when you land, you have completely given the other person your back.
On to the next throw:

In the second round, Akiyama did another cartwheelin' toss that may have looked similar, but was actually much different from the first throw.


When Jake comes rushing in with a left/right combo, Yoshihiro slips the right, turns side-on, shuffles into Jake, whips his left arm into Jake's right armpit, grips the crook of Jake's left elbow and sweeps his left leg into the left upper thigh of Jake. He did that essentially all at once and the spectacular cartwheeling of his opponent is a testament to how powerful a properly timed throw can be.


An alternate angle for those curious as to the foot placement and the gripping of Akiyama's right hand on the crook of Jake's arm. Unfortunately, Akiyama would not capitalize much from these throws, as Shields is a phenomenal grappler in his own right. The throws would have won Akiyama a judo match, but in MMA, more than pretty throws or takedowns are needed to win fights.


So pretty. This second throw is in that gray area between Osoto Gari and Harai Goshi, but the fact that he did it while slipping Shield's jab makes it even more impressive. I'm not sure what Shield's was expecting, but that's what you get when you run at a judoka straight-up-and-down like that.

I essentially agree with JudoNerd, but there are some high-profile dissenters in Ronda Rousey, Vinny Magalhaes and Rodrigo Artilheiro. All have more grappling experience than I or JudoNerd, but even the greats can be wrong on occasion, I suppose. I'll give you readers the Tweets and leave you to figure out who is in the wrong here (probably me, but I can dream).

MxdMrtlAwesome MixedMartialAwesome
in reply to @VinnyMMA

@VinnyMMA yeah that's a harai makikomi, but it's in the same category of hip throws as uchimata, so he was close, judo terms are tricky.
Feb 26 via HootSuite Favorite Retweet Reply

in reply to @VinnyMMA

@VinnyMMA toooooooooooooooooooooosssa !! que harai lindo feraco !!!
Feb 27 via web Favorite Retweet Reply

VinnyMMA Vinny Magalhaes
in reply to @VinnyMMA

@VinnyMMA po ! harai-goshi rsrss
Feb 27 via web Favorite Retweet Reply