It pains me to write the following, but UFC 140 may have given us the greatest submission in mixed martial arts history. In terms of the caliber of fighters involved, the comeback nature of the submission and the defiant holding on until the bitter end, can you think of a better one?
Whatever your opinion on the foregoing, this kimura (or ude garami/double wristlock) submission HAS to be analyzed and the set-up explained so that we can fully appreciate the violent beauty of this UFC 140 Submission of the Night. Time to make myself useful and launch into the table-setting.
In one instant, we saw Frank Mir dazed and tilting severely to the left as several stiff punches from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira thudded into his skull. Almost in the next instant, we saw Mir sprawling atop Big Nog with a kimura that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Mir ruthlessly cranked the submission until the visible snap of the humerus occurred, forcing Herb Dean to immediately step in and probably thousands of viewers to visibly recoil.
If we can get over the initial burst of discomfort from the actual snap, we can have a productive discussion about how exactly a kimura works and why it worked so well in this particular case. The basic mechanics to operate this specific submission have been known for quite a while. Catch as catch can wrestlers call this the double wristlock. Judoka call it the reverse ude garami. Brazilian jiu jitsu players mostly call this submission the “kimura”, after Masahiko Kimura famously snapped multiple bones in Helio Gracie’s arm in a challenge match held in 1951. The various grappling arts know of this submission and how it forces a near-Hobson’s choice of “tap or snap” upon the person within the hold by exerting extreme torque on the upper arm.
Join me after the jump for a breakdown of how exactly Mir came back from the near shores of unconsciousness to submitting one of the better heavyweight grapplers in mixed martial arts history.
After wobbling and dropping Mir with several strong blows, Big Nog sprawled atop his nearly motionless opponent. For whatever reasons, Nog’s take upon the gestalt of the fight led him to go for an arm-in guillotine. The combination of the spatial placement of both fighters, the timing and the physical sensations of Mir’s motions led Nogueira to trust his instincts and seize upon the guillotine as his preferred fight ending action over the continued sprawling and flinging of punches to Mir’s noggin. Unfortunately, the submission attempt led to an improbable sweep and a truly surprising finish.
Here, we see Nogueira shift from punching Mir to going for the guillotine (We have removed all gifs due to concerns expressed by the UFC and out of respect for the league.). Mir probably is not in full control of his faculties at this point, yet when Nogueira goes for the guillotine, Mir instinctively rolls over his right shoulder and flops to his right side. Yes, this gives Big Nog the top position and a clear path to mount, but it also alleviates some of the discomfort and pressure upon the carotids and windpipe that the guillotine creates. Immediately, Mir begins to separate himself from Nogueira’s hips and we see how Nog continues to go after the choke.
After a brief flirtation with pulling some kind of crazy half guard, Mir wises up and uses his right hand to push Nog’s right hip away from him. Once Nog is perpendicular to Mir (and thus less able to apply that specific guillotine choke), Mir rocks backwards and lifts Nogueira’s right leg off the ground. Due to Nog’s dogged pursuit of the guillotine, his center of gravity is too far off of Mir to resist the sweep. Nog gets spun like a dreidel, yet in the classic “make lemonade out of lemons” style of his grappling, he refuses to concede side control and shifts himself into a wrestling sit out.
The wrestling-style sit out allows a fighter to use the slightly askew center of gravity of the opponent on top to sprawl sitting up towards one particular side – and potentially offers avenues to rear mount or at least a bodylock on a turned away opponent. This particular sit out is nicely timed and showcases the more recent vintage of grappling the Nogueira brothers now train. However, Big Nog leaves his right arm down low, between Mir’s legs. The left hand is controlling Mir’s right hand nicely and the body is sprawled out in good fashion. The only weak link is that right hand. It should be up around Mir’s waist and tight to the body.
Instead, Big Nog leaves the arm out there and Mir latches on to it from an inferior position. From the brief rearranging of positions here, you can tell that Big Nog wanted to take the back from here or to prevent the shift into side control. Nogueira lifts the left leg – which is a miscalculation, as it allows the right leg to be lifted up and moved over onto the proper side of Nogueira. Mir has backed his way into side control and Big Nog does not expect him to be where he is or to possess the static strength he does.
Once that bump into side control is achieved, Mir has the correct angles to get Big Nog’s arm into the right positions. He has his left hand pinning Nogueira’s right wrist to the ground and his right hand snaking underneath Big Nog’s upper arm and locked onto his own left wrist. This is the classic figure four double wristlock that judokas call the reverse ude garami and BJJ players the “kimura”. The submission is essentially set now. Mir steps over the head – or at least tries to – and smashes his chest downwards as Nog looks like he knows exactly what is coming and wants no part of it. At this point, Frank’s massive static strength is starting to take over. Big Nog’s right arm is being dragged into the classic right angle required for the reverse ude garami. The pressure of Mir’s bodyweight is considerable, yet the location of his body allows Nogueira to upend him in an attempt to alleviate the increasing torque on the arm. Big Nog wants to straighten that arm out and shake loose from the double wristlocks grips, but it does not work.
Mir keeps his grips tightly secured and continues to extend the arm behind Nogueira’s back. Even when Big Nog is briefly on top, the torque of the kimura is sufficient that the only thing Big Nog can do to not tap out right there and then is to continue rolling and hope something shakes loose. No such luck happened. Once atop Big Nog again, Mir drags the right wrist along the ground and pulls the entire arm towards him. Within a second, that arm is bending in a way that the human body cannot tolerate and SNAP!
Big Nog tapped, but it was too late. His humerus had been cleanly fractured and Frank Mir had his third career technical submission victory. This was far nastier than the armbar that snapped Tim Sylvia’s forearm bones and much more difficult than the guillotine that put Cheick Kongo to sleep. This was legendary, as much as I hate to say it. Frank Mir tapped out Minotauro in brutal and memorable fashion.
Perhaps this kimura used quite a bit more of brute strength than most submissions we are used to seeing within mixed martial arts. Perhaps Francisco Santos Mir is not quite the lovable icon that Big Nog is. But you should be respecting his ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat through some of the most singularly successful desperation comebacks through submission that we have ever seen.
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