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Judo Chop: Jorge Santiago's Inverted Heel Hook From Open Guard

Titan Fighting Championships 23 - Fight for the Troops was held this past weekend at Fort Riley, Kansas. The card was headlined by former UFC fighter and Sengoku champion Jorge Santiago. After being cut from the UFC in October of last year following a decision loss to Demian Maia, Santiago signed with Titian FC and won a match in the main event of a card in March. Formerly affiliated with American Top Team, Jorge is now now a member of the Blackzians. At Titan FC 23, Santiago was faced with veteran brawler Justin Guthrie.

Santiago is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and something of a submission ace, with thirteen of his twenty-five wins coming by submission. During his time at American Top Team, Santiago trained under the BJJ great Ricardo Liborio, who is a Carlson Gracie black belt, one of the founder members of Brazilian Top Team, as well as the owner of American Top Team. Liborio is widely considered one of the best grappling coaches in MMA.

In the past, Santiago has shown good leg locking ability and it was on display again at Titan FC 23. Leg locks are a bit of a wild card in MMA. Most fighters have basic knowledge of leg attacks, but few make it a major part of their offensive game plan. Leg locks carry an inherently higher risk-reward ratio than some other submissions, as a failed leg lock attempt doesn't just surrender top position - but often a dominant position such as side control, mount or back control. Thus fighters often shun leg locks, but for those few who have the skills to take that risk, leg locks can be a dynamic weapon.

More after the jump...

The heel hook is a dangerous leg lock. The central concept of the submission is applying torque to the knee, straining the various ligaments to - and sometimes past - the point of tearing. What makes the heel hook so dangerous is that the target often doesn't feel pain until damage is being done to the ligament. Because of this many grappling schools have rules concerning in what classes and on what level of students heel hooks can be employed.

The basics of a heel hook consist of isolating a leg and immobilizing the top part of the leg. Then the aggressor uses his arms and upper body to twist the heel up and over the leg, as if trying to turn the foot backwards, putting heavy pressure on the knee. The traditional and inverted heel hook both work on this basic principal and differ only in set up.

To explain the inverted heel hook in an understandable and time efficient manner here is Rener Gracie explaining the technique.

(Inverted Heel Hook via GracieAcademy)

So now let us look at how Jorge Santiago entered into position to get the inverted heel hook. It started with Guthrie standing in the open guard. In a gi, the open guard is an excellent offensive position for the bottom fighter as he has his entire body at his disposal and can use gi grips to control the top man. But in a MMA context, the open guard is extremely dangerous place for the bottom man because the top man can stand and throw heavy strikes.

This means to be successful in MMA the open guard player must be technical and very aggressive. The gif picks up right after Santiago had been working hard from guard and Guthrie has been trying to posture up to deliver punches. Santiago wastes no time, he scoops up Guthrie's left leg, slides his right leg under the same leg and begins to rotate under Guthrie. Moving Guthrie from that position would be very difficult, so instead Santiago moves himself under and around Guthrie. The more Santiago changes his position, the more off balanced Guthrie becomes and he is unable to throw punches at any point during Santiago's attack.

Santiago_mediumAs Santiago spins, he reaches his left arm up and around Guthrie's leg, bringing his armpit to the leg rather than trying to move Guthrie's leg, as Rener pointed out in his video. Santiago continues to rotate under Guthrie and then swings his left leg between them, and then squeezing his knees together to immobilize the top of Guthrie's leg.

Santiago then walks his butt away from Guthrie to properly position the foot in his armpit. Once the position is correct, Santiago hooks the heel with his left arm, clasps his hands together and squeezes the foot tight to his body. He then rotates his entire up body, using the muscular power of his entire torso to torque the knee resulting in a painful looking submission.

Guthrie taps and Santiago walks away victorious in his last fight at middleweight.

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