At UFC 153, it took just two and a half minutes for Demian Maia to apparently steal the soul of Rick Story with a modified neck crank variant of the rear naked choke. Blood was spurting out of Story’s nose and mouth as he struggled before the tap. It was grisly, amazing and exactly the type of stuff a Submission of the Night should be made of.
Luke Thomas over at MMA Fighting called the submission a “rear naked torque” and the name is catchy enough that I’m declaring it the official name here at Bloody Elbow. It probably already has a catch wrestling name and we have seen similar cranks before in MMA, when Shinya Aoki finished Lyle Beerbohm and when Gunnar Nelson caught Eugene Fadiora with one.
The set-ups Maia used to get to the choke are of some interest. Since moving to welterweight, he has shown an increased and useful ability to get in very close to his opponents, grab a clinch or a single and work for a takedown from there. Story was resisting this, yet at every step Maia was prompting Story to defend something – and give Maia the space he wanted to take things to the next step.
In the above still photo, we see that Maia has a quasi-mount situation going on. He has cleared Story’s legs, but cannot quite get to mount or to the back because Story is sitting up and pushing off. Faced with this situation, Maia decides he wants the back and begins to get there. The first step is to punch Story in the face a few times. It might be counter-intuitive, but the punches lay groundwork for eventual rewards later. As you can see, Story covers up. It may be difficult to see this in the photo, but Maia’s right leg is behind Story’s legs and not up near the back/butt as Maia eventually wants.
After some time of face punches and defensive work from Story, Maia ends up in a position where he can slide upwards a bit and move his own right leg to the hip/butt of Story. At the same time, he grips the left arm of Story and holds it out – so that his head can clear the arm and he can take rear mount.
It may be difficult to see, but Maia is inching that right leg up behind Story, while still bopping him in the face to keep the pattern going. Take a look at Maia’s right hand, which has slipped underneath Story to pin Story’s right hand down. At this point, Maia does a stand-up, while staying hunched over, and slips his right leg into a hook position over the hip of Story. (The full sequence – G)
At this point, Maia has the back securely and chooses to continue punching Story in the head now and then, while setting up a rear naked choke. Story knows he is in trouble, so he is looking to prevent any figure four-ing of Maia’s arms and to come upright as he builds a proper escape.
After a little while spent trying to swim a hand under the neck of the vigorously resisting Story, Maia decides he is tired of hand fighting. He wants to finish now and to do it in a way that is much easier than brute-forcing his way through the hands of Story. Maia forces a position change in Story by changing his own weight and balance distribution.
Maia leans to the right and goes from the slightly unorthodox feet-crossed method of back control to a more conventional “double hooks” style. Look at how Maia controls Story’s left arm, while Story’s right arm is occupied by keeping some semblance of base. Both arms of Story are doing something other than defending the neck. (G)
This open space around the neck is exactly what Maia needs to whip that right arm over and across Story’s chin and face. The whipover does not need to slide perfectly under the jaw (although it is nice if that happens) as the choke can be adjusted – or turned into a neck crank.
The ideal position for a rear naked choke involves the choking hand sliding across the biceps of the free hand and the free hand sliding behind the head with the palm facing the choker. In MMA, gloves kind of ruin that dynamic and many fighters switch to something called the “short choke”. Anderson Silva has perhaps my favorite short choke ever seen, when he choked out Dan Henderson a few years ago.
Look at how Anderson has gable gripped his hands and where his head is. The head is on the same side as the grip. This makes the choke tighter and protects the choker from most retaliatory strikes. Anderson would later modify the choke and slide further up Henderson’s body, but that’s for a different Judo Chop. This Maia/Story breakdown is the one at hand.
Maia decided that Story was defending the conventional rear naked choke too well and perhaps even jumped ahead to thinking that Story would defend the short choke well in turn. So he went for the rear naked torque.
Look at Maia’s head. It is on the opposite side of the gable grip. Maia’s chest is also pushing down on Story and Story himself is accidentally helping out with the face crank. (G)
As KJ Gould explains:
Turning the head, and collapsing the head towards the chest is neck crank 101.
But basically, the more Story slumped, the more his bodyweight did the cranking for Maia. That’s the ideal way to neck crank, so you’re not trying to force the head with your arms and burning them out.
Turning the head also effects one muscle group in the neck instead of two, so it’s harder to resist than if someone was trying to push your head down straightforward.
All good cranks like this end up chokes as well, since you’re collapsing the windpipe at that angle.
The rear naked torque is one brutal, yet beautiful technique. Shinya Aoki at one point had three straight wins by face cranks that were similar to this. What is coolest about this particular one is that Maia did not come up with on the spur of the moment. This is a technique that he has drilled and performed over and over and over again. As proof, I give you a video a BE community member linked me to in the Big Nog Judo Chop earlier ths week.
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