Giga Chikadze headlined his first UFC event this past weekend, and that’s where the Georgian kickboxer notched the biggest win of his MMA career. He scored an impressive third round finish against Edson Barboza, which not only improved his record to 7-0 in the UFC, it also moved him higher in the featherweight top 10 rankings.
Most viewers will naturally remember the TKO and the technical stand up affair between two of MMA’s most dangerous kickers, but I’d like to highlight a different sequence from the fight: Chikadze’s surprising submission chain.
Chikadze declared himself as the “best striker in this sport” after the win, but he also showed a glimpse of his rarely seen submission game right before the finish.
Here’s a breakdown of Chikadze’s head-and-arm chokes, which were his first ever submission attempts in the UFC. We go over what he did, what went right, and what ultimately prevented the finish:
A minute into the third round, Chikadze hurts Barboza with a right hand. As Barboza wobbles and struggles with his footing, Chikadze pounces with a short flurry that eventually drops him.
Giga follows him to the mat to try and finish, but Barboza grabs a leg. He temporarily stops some of that ground-and-pound, but the still badly hurt Brazilian couldn’t do much and threaten with any legit sweep or submission. Chikadze just turns his leg out and kicks it free. [GIF here]
As Chikadze fires off more ground strikes, Barboza turns as he tries to get back to his feet. The moment he ends up on his knees though, Chikadze attacks the front headlock, passes his left arm through and locks up a bicep grip that sets up an anaconda choke. [GIF here]
There are various options from here in order to go to the typical anaconda choke finishing position. One common move is to tuck the head to the side and roll all the way through to the right. Another, is what Chikadze does here. He instead just beats Barboza’s (right) posting arm and drops to his left side, and they end up in the same position. [GIF here]
Chikadze crunches his head and walks towards him as he squeezes. As head-and-arm chokes go, one carotid artery is blocked by Chikadze’s arm, while the other is blocked by Barboza’s own shoulder. Chikadze’s chest crunching Barboza’s head inwards also adds a significant amount of pressure on both. Barboza does a good job of battling that arm and thigh to lift his elbow and relieve some of that pressure from his shoulder, but the choke still looks pretty tight here as Chikadze walks forward and curls Barboza’s body.
Barboza is in real danger at this point. [GIF here]
One option to finish, is to hook Barboza’s leg and prevent him from moving away. Chikadze instead just continues to walk and crunch forward to follow him. That’s still effective in most circumstances, but this is MMA and the fence played a factor. Barboza posts a bit on Chikadze’s leg to relieve some pressure and slow some of his forward motion, and then smartly uses the fence to get away from the choke completely. Savvy veteran skills right there! [GIF here]
Although known for pure kickboxing, it’s interesting that Chikadze immediately transitioned to a Darce the very moment he lost the anaconda. He switches his grip, gets on his knees, passes the arm through, and locks his bicep grip. The Darce threat is already there. [GIF here]
For those who get confused, the difference between the two head-and-arm chokes are illustrated here. Body positions can vary depending on how the person likes to finish, but as the name obviously suggests, you’ll need the head and one arm trapped for both chokes. A darce is where your grip is by the neck, while an anaconda is when the grip is by the arm.
Going back to the action, and the fence once again is hurting Chikadze’s chances to finish! As Barboza is on his side, I think the best option is for Chikadze to go perpendicular to his body. That would not only put him in a better position to complete the darce — you can finish there, or move to mount for an even nastier choke — more importantly, it also makes it easier to drive that shoulder and keep Barboza in place. But again, the fence is in the way of all of that. [GIF here]
As a result of not having that particularly important angle, Chikadze struggles to control position. He doesn’t have enough pressure from his shoulder, and Barboza is able to turn, get back to his knees and ultimately defend the Darce. Chikadze, of course, still had several other options and transitions from here, but because of that one detail — and the fence — he’s basically right back to that front headlock position from the very start of this breakdown. [GIF here]
Chikadze then basically said “f—k this!” and just let him up so he can punch him. Keep in mind, this was all just seconds since he dropped and badly hurt Barboza. While he had nice transitions chaining sub attempts, it was smart to go back to his bread and butter, and not make Barboza completely recover.
As soon as Barboza gets up: right hand, left hook, right hand. Barboza drops to the canvas again, and Chikadze got his TKO victory. [GIF here]
Chikadze put on an impressive striking performance for over 11 minutes, but I actually thoroughly enjoyed those final 43 seconds as it gave us another glimpse into his grappling and go-to submissions. Credit to Barboza as well, as he was able to still defend properly despite likely being concussed and running on autopilot.
We already know what Chikadze brings on the feet, but prior to this, he was credited with exactly zero submission attempts in six UFC fights and one Contender Series bout. Even in that short exchange, and despite not getting the finish, it was further evidence of him working on rounding out his game and being confident enough in try them in such a high stakes fight.