Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Is Magic!
When Royce Gracie submitted Dan Severn with the triangle choke (choking an opponent with your legs), that's what everyone said. That it was magic. Weird mystical chi attacks do exist and only the Gracies knew how!
It was the first time American audiences along with most of the world had ever seen a triangle choke. Not only that, but we saw a fighter seemingly turn around a losing fight with something we couldn't figure out. One second "The Beast" is winning, next second he's tapping out to the guy on bottom. Knockouts we understood, but this? This was just strange. If this weak skinny guy could do this to this giant man, we all stood a chance in a fight.
There's a business book I read (and highly recommend) called Crucial Conversations. The premise is, in every talk and conversation there is a crucial moment that will dictate how it will turn out. If stakes are high, those moments matter. Malcolm Gladwell called it "The Tipping Point," where maybe an idea or a business tips from something good to great. In the documentary Choke, Rickson talked about how he believed in every fight, your opponent will eventually make a mistake, and it is your job to capitalize on it.
That was the magic of Jiu Jitsu. Up until Dan Severn, Royce Gracie had steamrolled through every opponent. He had difficulty with Kimo Leopoldo and it looked scary initially, but in reality he was never in big danger. It lasted a little over 4 minutes and Leopoldo was really just trying to keep Gracie off of him and not get submitted.
With Severn, it was over 15 minutes of Gracie getting his ass kicked. Then a crucial moment presented itself in the fight, and all the years of Jiu Jitsu training culminated to Royce seizing this one opportunity. Jiu Jitsu wasn't necessarily to dominate every opponent, Jiu Jitsu was to keep you safe and in the fight long enough to seize any mistakes your opponent might give you. That was and still is the beauty of Jiu Jitsu, and is the reason we all train. You wait and survive and take what your opponent gives you. The guard is literally "a guard," a shield. It's the most unique thing about Brazilian (Gracie) Jiu Jitsu.
Enter Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey...
Miesha Tate's Crucial Moment Against Ronda Rousey
Their second fight was at UFC 168. The first time was in Strikeforce for the Women's Bantam Weight Title, Ronda annihilated Miesha then armbarred her in the first round.
The second time around, the outing lasted 3 rounds and also ended with a Rousey armbar. This was the longest any fighter had ever lasted with Rousey, but it was not competitive. Rousey won every round convincingly and it was easy to see Rousey was bigger and stronger than Tate. And with each round only being 5 minutes, those crucial moments are harder to come by. But still in the first round, there was one crucial moment that happened so quickly, it could have been easy to miss. But this moment could have turned the whole fight, and is worth reviewing.
Rousey Moves Into Open Guard
Tate is baiting her to punch, she's controlling Rousey's left foot and right wrist.
With no kimono to hold onto, sweat factor, and the overall Jiu Jitsu knowledge of most MMA fighters, the risk for submissions has diminished since Royce Gracie's days.
Rousey Throws A Bad Punch
In this instance, Rousey throws a punch from a vulnerable position, while Tate had control of her right wrist and left foot. Not only that, she led in with her head to throw the punch. All her weight shifting in front of her, making her back leg (right leg) very light.
It's equivalent to throwing a jab (Rousey is standing orthodox and throwing the left hand) while standing and leading with your face behind your fist, and also throwing the punch so hard it knocks you off balance and makes you lift your back foot off the ground. Something you shouldn't do in boxing and definitely don't want to do on the ground, especially when it's not your power punch. This is Rousey's key mistake.
It would have been wiser for Rousey to be all the way inside of Tate's guard or all the way out. Not somewhere in the middle, peaking her head in.
*Rousey's right leg becomes the make or break factor in this crucial moment.
The Triangle Choke, A Popular Game Changer
(The triangle choke, the same move Royce Gracie used to defeat Dan Severn.)
This knocks all of Rousey's weight onto her *right foot. The one that was already off balance from her throwing the punch.
Everything up to this point was flawless on Tate's part. Everything was to get Rousey into a triangle and shift all her weight onto her right foot.
Almost Home. Almost...
This one very short frame in the fight needs lots of explanation. Everything culminated to this moment, all of Tate's training, Rousey's confidence, Tate's set up, Rousey's Judo, watching all the tape on Rousey, and Tate studying and studying for her rematch victory, it was all to get Rousey to lose her balance and step with that right foot.
It's what separates this submission attempt from just a failed attempt, to a crucial moment.
And it took Tate two fights with Rousey to get her here. A normal triangle from this angle being thrown straight up would be too easy for Rousey to shrug off. Only way to get someone this strong into a triangle choke (Dan Severn was strong), but also good at Jiu Jitsu was not to rely on her ignorance of what a triangle choke was (like Dan Severn), but force her into one whether she knows it's coming or not.
Tate did this by capitalizing on a poor punch attempt, controlling her left foot so she only had her right foot to balance with, controlling Rousey's right wrist to prevent power punches, but leaving Rousey only her weak side to throw punches with (knowing Rousey will try to throw everything hard and possibly knock herself off balance), and throwing the triangle in an angle, taking advantage of Rousey's temporary poor base.
Rousey took a step forward right next to Tate's head and left arm to regain her balance, that was Tate's only moment to suck Rousey in with her legs and completely break her posture down, hook Rousey's right leg to prevent being picked up, then grab head control or grab her own shin with her right hand to seal the deal.
I don't know if Tate was admiring her own work, things were happening too fast, or she was unaware of what moves to do next (which can be natural as a lot of times Jiu Jitsu combinations happen by feel, not so much by premeditation).
Or maybe simpler yet; something a lot of Jiu Jitsu people are guilty of, we get married to grips. Meaning she has good grips and she doesn't want to let them go. Just grab and squeeze and hold on, which a lot of times can be initial reactions during times of excitement and stress. Like holding someone's hand during a scary movie. But ultimately Tate missed this crucial moment.
What actually ended up happening was Rousey stepped forward, Tate didn't suck her in, didn't let go of Rousey's right wrist (which she no longer needed) to grab Rousey's right leg, and Tate's right hand held onto the Rousey's ankle too long, then just rested on her own right knee as Rousey picked her up. After holding onto Rousey's left ankle, Tate's right hand didn't really come into play and in Jiu Jitsu, it's a game of using all your limbs to attack a small part of your opponent's body. In this case all four limbs to attack Rousey's head and arm. At the final stanza of the triangle, it was all of Rousey's limbs fighting off only Tate's legs, Tate's arms were no longer in play.
Rousey would only pick Tate up instead of a traditional escape if she felt she was too deep in the triangle, and she had no other options. Rousey picking her up was a sign of how much trouble she felt like she was in for a moment.
Matt Hughes Vs Carlos Newton
Many fighters have lost due to being slammed from a triangle choke (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson Vs Ricardo Arona). In general, getting picked up in a triangle choke is a bad idea.
Tate Slipping Out Of Victory
With gravity, sweat, and Rousey's brute horsepower working against her, Tate fell while trying to transition to an omaplata (arm entanglement) and ended up getting punched for her efforts.
The rest of the fight was all Rousey, though Tate won many with her heart and gameness. Rousey secured the armbar early in round 3.
Life is full of crucial moments. The more prepared you are for them, the more you'll seize. The more crucial moments you seize, the fuller your life. This is one of the many lessons I've learned from BJJ, and is part of my inner game.
There was probably one more crucial moment in the fight, the handshake. Only time will tell if Ronda Rousey ends up like Muhammad Ali or Pete Rose. Either way, this will be the iconic moment people remember. And this act of sportsmanship, Tate seized the moment as Rousey walked away from it.
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Sam Yang from an early age has been obsessed with connecting the dots between martial arts and efficiency, health, mindset, business, science, and habits to improve optimal well-being. For more info, join his newsletter. You can also connect to Inner BJJ on Facebook and Twitter.