When Matt Hughes submitted Richardo Almeida on Saturday night at UFC 117, commentator Joe Rogan, who is very knowledgeable about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), didn’t know what how to label the submission. But Hughes was quite proud of it. He relished the fact that it was a simple wrestling move that he’d learned back in the 1980s, and that he’d used it to submit a high-profile Gracie-BJJ specialist.
The choke Hughes deployed was very similar to BJJ’s anaconda choke, but Hughes didn’t go that far — he didn’t use it merely as a set-up, followed by a “gator roll,”
and only then choking out his opponent. He simply pressed Almeida’s chin and chest to the mat with his own shoulder.
His move also looked a lot like a snap-down, head-in-the-hole which, in American folkstyle wrestling, is used to put your opponent on his back, hopefully for a pin. But again, Hughes just held the move.
Hughes told one interviewer it was a front headlock. And he kidded with another when he called it a “farmaconda” — a play on words because Hughes is known as a very, very strong boy who grew up on a farm, and the move resembled BJJ’s anaconda choke.
On a message board, Sunday morning, I learned that wrestling and former-mixed martial arts champion, Josh Barnett, said it was a Schultz front headlock. And I started doing some research. This appears to be the best description of the move. Yahoo Sports did a very good piece about it this morning.
Hughes almost certainly was well aware of the Schultz brothers as he came up in the sport. Dave was a legend, who had arguably the greatest (high school) senior season in American history. He won Olympic Gold in 1984. Hughes was on the junior high team just a couple years later.
During those games, Schultz’s headlock was so infamous, referees were watching for it — and stopping him when he used it. Still, in the gold medal match, you can see Schultz sink it in at around 2:48 in the video below.
Another gold medal wrestler liked this move as well. Arsen Fadzayev won gold in 1988 and 1992 (when Hughes was graduating from high school). You can see Fadzayev using the move in a 1990 World Championships match, where Fadzayev amusingly chokes out his opponent, and then attempts to wake him (a couple of slaps to the cheek), starting at 31 seconds into the video below.
Now, I’m sure Josh Barnett, a.k.a., the Baby-Faced Assassin, is a good historian of the sport, similarly influenced by Schultz. But he also witnessed the choke used in the UFC Octagon, when he “cornered” for a Renato Babalu Sobral in the most infamous moment of Sobral’s career.
At UFC 74, Sobral used the Schultz front headlock, just like Hughes did. He held it, until his opponent, David Heath gave up all resistance. Sobral held on, then rolled into an anaconda choke, to which Heath could barely muster the conscious strength to tap. Referee Steve Mazzagatti stepped into end the fight, but Sobral held the anaconda tight for four more seconds, ensuring that Heath was unconscious. You can see the fight, which I must warn you, was also quite bloody, on an Asian website. The choke happens right after the 10:00 minute mark, and is analyzed from there.
After the fight, Sobral told Rogan that he realized Heath tapped, but “he has to learn respect. He deserved that.” Seeing that Sobral’s actions were both, unduly dangerous and done with malicious intent, the UFC released Sobral from the organization, and he was fined $25,000 by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Sobral still fights, but is banned from coming back to the UFC. No astute observers of the sport anticipate Sobral’s return to The Octagon.
By UFC 74, Hughes had already held the welterweight champion belt, twice. Hughes witnessed the event, because he was scouting his next opponent, Georges St-Pierre, who fought later on that UFC 74 card.