Metamoris Judo Chop: Josh Barnett’s catch wrestling tactics against Dean Lister

This is a guest post by BJJ brown belt Kostas Fantaousakis.Metamoris 4 took place on Saturday, August 9th, 2014. In the headlining bout, Andre Galvao…

By: Bloody Elbow | 9 years ago
Metamoris Judo Chop: Josh Barnett’s catch wrestling tactics against Dean Lister
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This is a guest post by BJJ brown belt Kostas Fantaousakis.

Metamoris 4 took place on Saturday, August 9th, 2014. In the headlining bout, Andre Galvao finished Chael Sonnen with a rear naked choke as expected. What amazed most of us BJJ practitioners though, is how Josh Barnett managed to submit Dean Lister with less than 10 seconds remaining in the contest.

Josh Barnett exhibited an amazing catch wrestling game, which controlled most of the fight. Josh Barnett has trained extensively in no gi. He received his BJJ black belt from Erik Paulson who is a black belt under Rigan Machado. What Barnett uses, in my opinion, are catch wrestling concepts in BJJ-type rolling sessions, and he did a brilliant job of applying these concepts in his match against Dean Lister.

Here’s the break down of how he was able to tap Dean Lister, a BJJ legend and ADCC champion, who hadn’t been submitted in 16 years:

Wrestling shoes/ Exhausting top pressure/ Weight Difference

It was reported that Josh Barnett was 35lbs heavier than Dean Lister. Barnett, having the clear size and weight advantage, controlled the entire match by placing heavy hips on Lister’s attempts from the bottom. He used the pressure generated by his wrestling shoes, which are designed to grip the mat for maximum friction to generate exhausting top pressure. Wrestling type top pressure is different from BJJ top control as wrestlers make you carry their weight all the time. You could see that by the end of the match Lister was exhausted.


The cradle is a basic technique in amateur wrestling. Its name refers to the move’s similarity to the way a person holds an infant in their arms. The wrestler performs the cradle by grabbing the neck of his opponent with one arm, and wrapping the elbow of the other arm behind the knee of the opponent. (Wikipedia).

Cradles are and are underutilized in BJJ. Cradles are a great tool for controlling and exhausting an opponent. Barnett used cradles to control Lister whenever he got the chance. Getting caught in a cradle by a heavyweight wrester gets you tired out just by trying to escape. The way BJJ athletes invert all the time brings their heads near their knees, making them a target for cradles.

Here are some basic cradle techniques for amateur wrestling:


Barnett used kimuras to threaten Lister constantly. Kimuras (or double wrist locks as they are called in catch wrestling) favor the bigger, stronger man. Barnett could have switched to an armbar at some point during the match, but that would have resulted in him falling to his back, which is a problem for most catch wrestlers because they are not that good on their backs. And, of course, if Lister escapes an armbar, you do not want to have him on top or catching your leg.

The “Schalles” choke/neck crank from scarf hold position

As I mentioned, you can tell that by the end of the match Lister was exhausted. Barnett easily passed his guard and caught him in a head and arm lock from the scarf hold position. I call this the “Schalles” choke because this where I first saw it – in a Wade Schalles instructional. As you can see in the following video, at around the 6:00 mark this hold can be used as a choke or to cause enormous discomfort.

Wade Schalles’ Legal Discomfort Concept

I am a big fan of the great American wrestler Wade Schalles. While representing Clarion University of Pennsylvania, he became a NCAA Division I champion in 1972 and 1973, winning the outstanding wrestler award in 1972. Schalles created unique wrestling manoeuvres and was known for pinning a large percentage of his opponents. He is an inductee of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame (Wikipedia).

The aforementioned video describes how to use proper body positioning, disrupt breathing patterns, maximize the correct placement of body weight and move your opponent’s joints to their limits, thus causing pain/discomfort to demoralize opponents and drive them to the point of exhaustion. This is the only way you can beat experienced and stronger opponents.

Does this prove that catch wrestling is superior to BJJ? Of course not. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the best form of submission grappling and as far as I know, Josh Barnett trains with BJJ practitioners all the time. Catch wrestlers are known to be dangerous from top control, but not as effective when fighting from their backs. However, I feel that wrestling techniques are underutilized in modern submission grappling and as we continue to expand our arsenal of attacks from the bottom, we have to explore techniques that have been there from the beginning like cradles, hammerlocks, etc.

BJJ is an evolving sport and letting each competitor apply his or her skill-set and tactics is never a bad thing. After all, who can forget when the great Marcelo Garcia started using wrestling-style arm drags and taking everybody’s backs? Wrestling was never an opposing force to BJJ, it was a complimentary one, and wrestling techniques can only make BJJ better.

Author’s note: I am a BJJ brown belt/MMA instructor under 4th deegre black belt Wander Braga. I would like to thank Kid Nate, Kris Shaw and Deb Blyth for their help and my instructor Wander Braga for patiently answering so many questions during our training sessions. Follow me on twitter to get my latest articles:@kostasfant.

Preview YouTube video Cradle Series

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