MMA Technique of the Week is a series of articles delving into a technique or strategy used in fighting or combat sports. It’s important to note that this series is not intended to teach how these techniques are performed (if you’d like to learn combative techniques, find a qualified instructor or gym!).
Instead, TotW is intended to explain what the technique is and how the techniques fit into a fighter’s game plan, strategy and how it is used in a fight. It’s my hope that this series will help fight fans and enthusiasts understand the intricacies of Mixed Martial Arts and gain an appreciation for the artistry brought to bear in MMA.
MMA Technique of the Week
The Triangle Choke
The triangle choke belongs to a broad category of techniques referred to as submissions, intended to bring about the end of a fight by causing the opposing fighter to “tap out” or give up and/or go unconscious.
The triangle should more properly be called a strangulation, in that when properly applied the technique cuts off the blood supply to the brain rather than obstructing the flow of air into the lungs.
The most common place to see the triangle applied is when one fighter is in the opposing fighter’s guard, or on the ground sitting between his legs. The fighter with his legs wrapped around his opponent is said to have the guard while the fighter who is within his opponent’s legs is in the guard.
To set up the triangle the fighter who has the guard needs to place one of his legs on top of his opponent’s shoulder tight against his opponent’s neck. The other leg reaches up and the attacking fighter locks his ankles behind his opponent’s back. It’s critical that he has one of his opponent’s arms still in-between his legs as the choke is applied by pressure of his leg, and his opponent’s shoulder pressing on the carotid arteries of the neck.
A great example of this set-up can be seen below in this image from the fight between Nick Diaz and Kurt Pellegrino (UFC Fight Night Florian vs Lauzon). Nick Diaz is on is back, with Kurt Pellegrino in his guard and sets up the triangle:
The final step to finish the triangle choke is to pull the leg on the neck down behind the knee of the opposite leg. This locks the hold in place, preventing his opponent from escaping. Pulling down on his opponent’s head will deepen the choke and is a common way to finish.
The full triangle, from setup to finish can be seen here, when Jake Matthews submits Dashon Johnson (UFC Fight Night 43):
The triangle choke is a technique capable of completely changing the course of a fight. A competitor who finds himself on his back with his opponent on top of him can either end the fight or put himself in a very advantageous position.
Beyond simply using the choke to submit your opponent, a fighter can:
Reverse the Position: This is when the fighter on the bottom secures the triangle and uses that leverage to roll his opponent underneath him/her transitioning into what is called the mounted triangle.
A good example of this was in UFC Fight Night 51 when Godofredo Pepey submitted Dashon Johnson:
Godofredo also uses this position to attack the exposed arm in a joint lock known as an Arm Bar (soon to be covered in another TotW!) and secures the win.
Striking: The secure, tight positioning of the triangle also allows the fighter holding his opponent to strike, using fists or elbows.
A great example of this strategy can be seen in this classic fight between Anderson Silva and Travis Lutter on UFC 67: