Cageside Clutch: Damarques Johnson Body Triangle

Photo by Josh Hedges, Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

One of only 2 submissions at last night's UFC Fight for the Troops event, the finish to the Damarques Johnson / Michael Guymon fight appeared to be accidental and unintentional leaving Johnson feeling frustrated he couldn't end the bout in a more typical manner.

We've always heard during commentary from Joe Rogan that a body triangle from the back has the potential to finish a fight due to pressure on the spine but we rarely ever see it. In fact as Rogan alluded to the last time we saw it finishing an MMA fight was Ivan Salaverry against Tony Fryklund, which was at UFC 50 in 2004. On re-watching that fight you can hear Frank Mir on commentary call it a Figure 4 Body Lock and also mention that it's been banned from collegiate wrestling exactly because of the pressure it puts on the spine. I believe you can also just make out Tony Fryklund saying he hurt his back earlier which might also explain why he tapped.

Before being banned from collegiate wrestling and it's more prevalent use in MMA or submission grappling (mostly for control) it was a finishing hold favoured by some of the Catch-As-Catch-Can carnival wrestlers several decades ago. These Catch Wrestlers had dubbed it the Hook Scissors and had worked out how to use one to maximum effect coaxing their victim to cry unkle when they couldn't take anymore. In fact one wrestler of the 1930's and 1940's by the name of Paul Jones used it as his trademark and he went by the nickname "The Hook Scissors King". During an interview in 1949 in New Zealand - by which point Jones had retired as a performer and become a promoter of pro wrestling - he claimed there was only one way to escape:- stand up! Easier said then done, Paul.

Damarques Johnson's version had some subtle differences to Ivan Salaverry's which I'll break down after the jump as well as a brief look at his superlative guard passing that spelled the beginning of the end for Guymon.

More gif goodness after the jump.

Johnson's ground game had been heralded by some insiders the moment he had been announced for Season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter so it came as quite a shock when he was so easily handled by the eventual winner James Wilks at the live finale.

Here we see Johnson putting it on display with some textbook passing of the Half-Guard. Johnson is hand fighting and pummeling with Guymon throughout while he works his trapped leg free by pushing down with the top of his instep / bottom of his shin. Once free Johnson can sense Guymon is wanting to trap his near leg and moves it out of the way showing the great awareness of an experienced grappler. Even if Guymon had caught the leg he wouldn't be able to do much with it outside of setting up a leglock the likes of Gokor Chivichyan could only pull off.

Johnson quickly slides his knee across Guymon's belly keeping his foot tucked in to stop Guymon regaining half-guard. Johnson secures mount and looks to remove his left underhook and pummel Guymon's arm to the inside. The reason for this is two fold 1) it allows Johnson to posture up more easily to deliver some Ground'n'Pound and 2) it allows Guymon to turn, something Damarques was probably banking on once he let loose his fists.

Guymon bucks and turns away from the punches and Johnson shows the importance of not having too tight a mount. If it's too tight it becomes easier to be bucked off or even swept. Johnson instead feels Guymon's energy and rides switching his base to remain stable. This base is known in some grappling circles as Side Mount, not to be confused with cross body side control. It's called Side Mount because of when the bottom opponent (aka Uke in Judo / Jiu Jitsu circles) is literally on his side and is mounted. Also notice Johnson pushes down on Guymon's head to both support himself as well as ground Guymon and prevent a possible scramble. Damarques once stabilised has the back and slides his hooks in. Again this whole sequence shows Johnson's grappling experience at play.

Here we see Johnson about to set up the body triangle, but first he tries to use his left leg to trap Guymon's left arm. This clearly indicates Johnson is looking for a choke to finish the fight and would mean Guymon would only have one arm free to defend with. It's not impossible to defend with one arm but the odds don't favour it. Realising what Johnson is up to, Guymon pushes the invading leg back down. Johnson then pushes his legs out to get a tight squeeze momentarily while he attempts to get his head on the other side - possibly so he can see his own legs as he sets up the body triangle. Also notice how Johnson hooks Guymon's leg. This can both help tighten the triangle once Guymon is belly down but it also hides Johns's foot from being grabbed and possibly break the triangle. We see Johnson do this again in the next gif.

Oddly Johnson decides to switch sides with the body triangle. It may be because he prefers that side and can get a better squeeze, or he might have been trying to bait Guymon into grabbing a leg leaving his neck less protected. He also hooks the leg again and starts to roll towards that side. Now usually this is a bad idea because a possible counter to this is for Guymon to roll on that side and thrust his hips forward causing the triangle to tighten but it also puts pressure on Johnson's ankle that's hooked under the pit of the knee where the triangle joins.

Cannily though Johnson keeps his foot outside to prevent just this but keeps this broken triangle tight enough while rolling Guymon over. Once belly down Johnson re-closes the triangle and now Guymon is in real trouble. Johnson again hooks Guymon's leg which helps tighten the triangle although Johnson might not realise it. Johnson drives his hips down to flatten Guymon out as per the norm and he pushes up (keeping Guymon's arms folded in) while still driving his hips down in order to deliver some G'n'P.  But the pressure has already increased enough to force Guymon to verbally submit in clear pain from a damaged back and possibly broken lower ribs.

It was the combination of Johnson hooking his right leg over Guymon's, driving his hips down and pushing himself up that just causes the pressure on the lower back to mount and mount. If Johnson knew he could get a submission this way he could have pushed off the back of Guymon's shoulder blades and added even more pressure, potentially doing even more damage. Even if Guymon was able to get back to his knees, if Johnson kept that leg hooked over and pushed off of the shoulder blades he's still likely get a tap before Guymon had a chance to roll back over - or 'stand up' if you're Mr Jones.

Either way, fighters and grapplers may never look at the humble body triangle the same way again.

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