The Choke Heard Round the World

Fightland Blog

By Sam Sheridan

Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images

“He’s out!” the fighter argues with the Ref, who argues back, “No he’s not!” and then the fighter stands up to prove his point, walking away…

You know the video. Chad George’s recent fight in Bellator against Mark Vorgeas went viral, you’ve seen it… 1.3 million views hits on Streamable, Ebaum’s, Chive, Worldstar Hip Hop, Reddit, Yahoo did a piece, and so on. The fighter had to argue with the Referee that the opponent was unconscious, can you believe that? This fucking Ref…

Chad, formerly “The Savage” now perhaps “The Savage Gentleman” or maybe “Classy” George is a friend, full disclosure. The Referee, Milan Ayers, has gotten a lot of heat, and maybe he should—but not for the reasons he’s getting it.  But don’t worry, there is something here to get annoyed about, keyboard warriors.

Let’s discuss the fight: Round One, not much happened, pretty quickly Chad took Mark down, and Mark went hard for the guillotine. Chad knew Mark liked the guillotine, “I studied tape, he’s a guillotine guy, he loves front chokes, I knew if he went for it, I could pass one leg over trap his arm, and I use this choke all the time in the gym. I do it all the time as guillotine defense…” Chad’s been guillotined in the past, one thing I know is true—you get caught in something in a big fight, you obsess over it going forward. Chad’s been guillotined three times, you better believe he has about a million guillotine defenses he works on the mats (and also in the dark nights of his soul).

“We knew exactly what was going to happen in takedown. When I trapped the arm, all my friends knew I was going to get it.”

The Von Flue choke is a shoulder choke that works as a guillotine defense, almost like an extension of extremely tight side control on top. Chad trapped the arm that Mark had snaked around his neck, and then stacked his shoulder into Mark’s neck, pyramiding his body weight down through the shoulder. Von Flue doesn’t look that tight, but the overall compression of Mark’s own shoulder girdle into his neck, combined with Chad’s shoulder pressing down, cuts off the carotids. In 2006 Jason Von Flue applied the guillotine counter to Alex Karalexis, in the UFC, giving the move a name. It looks like the guy on the bottom is holding the guillotine too long—but actually his arm is trapped.

The Bellator commentators knew what it was, they knew that Mark’s arm was trapped. They talked about another Von Flue Choke finish.

I don’t blame the Ref, actually, for not realizing that Mark was out. Mark’s eyes were open, his face didn’t look that out. I’d rather the Ref err on the side of danger then stop a fight early, like what happened at the recent UFC Fight Night in Rio, where now-infamous referee Eduardo Herdy seemed eager to call Drew Dober “out” wildly prematurely.  

And of course, the Referee can’t listen to a fighter SAY the other fighter is out. That’s not gonna work. He can’t really listen to Chad, too much.

Furthermore, Chad, being in close, intimate contact, would know IMMEDIATELY when the person he’s fighting is out, when the tension in Mark’s body evaporated—you’d feel it in a microsecond. Chad would know, with a far greater level of certainty than someone just watching, when the guy he’s choking is “out.”

So yes, Chad is a sportsman, and a good guy; but also, he knew, without the shadow of a doubt, that Mark was done for the day.

The real problem, what he should be roasted for, is that the Referee didn’t know what Chad was working on. The Referee didn’t understand what was happening, and kept talking about how he was going to stand Chad up. If he had, Chad would never have gotten the finish. We’d have a different fight.

Early on in the struggle, the Ref started harping in about “work,” to get busy and improve. Chad recalls “He started saying ‘Fighters you gotta work,’ when I was in side control, so I threw knees…I had to tell him I was working on choke, so he wouldn’t stand us up. “

Chad was working that choke right from the beginning of the takedown and guillotine attempt. For minutes, maybe, he’d been working that… and he kept having to talk to the Ref to prevent being reset and “stood-up” when he had Mark ready to go! He had to throw some bullshit knees just to look busy. “I was sure we were going to get stood up, I could feel the Referee getting ready to do it,” said Chad.

In the end, the Ref didn’t stand them up, and Chad didn’t drop six elbows in Mark’s unconscious face, so it all worked out.

The whole thing reminded me of an old fight of Tony Desouza’s in Brazil, against Luis Azeredo, Tony had the “twister” on, Luis could feel it and started freaking out and managed to lurch a little bit through the ropes and the Ref, not recognizing the finish was imminent, restarted the fight standing—giving Azeredo (a Muay Thai guy) an incredibly welcome stand-up. Tony still won the UD.

Now, what’s the answer? Maybe Referees should be at the brown belt level or higher in submission wrestling/BJJ, like the have to be Ref a BJJ tournament. Maybe they should, whenever possible, be ex-professional fighters. Regardless, they need to be aware of the evolving ground game and they need to give the fighters time to work on the ground. It’s a hard job, but that’s why they get the best seats in the house.

Sam Sheridan is an author, martial artist, firefighter, sailor, and suvivalist. His two books, Fighter's Heart and Fighter's Mind, are two of the most popular works on martial arts to date. Find out more on his website.


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