Sage Northcutt’s tap to Bryan Barberena might not have been as quick as many believe.
Despite the fact that Anthony Johnson scored a brutal knockout over a fellow top 5 ranked light-heavyweight and Ben Rothwell became the first man to submit former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett, the biggest talking point to emerge from last Saturday’s UFC on Fox 18 card was the nature of Sage Northcutt’s loss to Bryan Barberena.
That illustrates perfectly just how much hype surrounded the 19-year-old Texan going into just the third fight of his UFC career.
With hype, however, comes ill-will, pressure and scrutiny. So when Northcutt tapped to a seemingly innocuous attempt at a choke, he wasn’t going to be allowed to move on before the haters took their opportunity to analyse and gloat.
Everyone from fans to media members, and the fighters themselves piled-on the young karateka. His courage, toughness and mental fortitude were all called in to question.
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) January 31, 2016
Last night, Sage told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour that part of the reason for the tap was that he was struggling to breath due to congestion brought on by a bout of step throat.
“Two days before my fight, I had a real bad relapse of strep throat and I had to go to the emergency clinic,” said the fighter. “I was so congested, to tell you the truth, that I couldn’t even breathe, much less stand up really”.
This in itself would be enough to excuse the manner of his defeat, but he also made another interesting comment regarding the nature of the hold that Barberena had applied at the crucial, conclusive moment.
“When he was on top of me, having his shoulder in my throat, I know it wasn’t like a traditional head and arm choke from side control where you get to apply the same kind of pressure”.
In this context it was very interesting to watch Monday’s edition of the Gracie Breakdown YouTube series, in which Rener Gracie argues that Northcutt’s tap may not have been as quick as it may have seemed.
The highly-analytical and technically astute Brazilian jiu-jitsu black-belt argued that a misunderstanding of what technique was actually being utilized may have led to this confusion.
Rener claimed that because of the positioning of the fighters and the manner in which Barberena drove his upper-arm so forcefully into the side of Northcutt’s neck that the choke more closely resembled a Von Flue than an arm-triangle. Thus, he said, there was more pressure on Sage than it may have appeared, and for a longer period of time. He also added that the camera angle used may have further misled observers.
“There was a lot of controversy,” said Rener. “People thought he tapped too quickly, this was an arm-triangle, it was improperly applied. Many things are being said here. Number 1: this is more of a modified Von Flue choke than a modified arm-triangle”.
“If you look at the fight again, what you will notice is that at 2 minutes and 5 seconds remaining in the 2nd round, Bryan locks his hands and the pressure begins. At 1 minute and 57 seconds, so 8 seconds had passed, the camera angle changes from that angle where you can’t see the choke to this angle where you can see the choke. Then two seconds later he taps. So the natural belief is that he tapped too quickly, because the time that the public audience could see the choke was only 2 seconds. But it was actually 8+2”.
“Anyone who teaches jiu-jitsu knows that it takes 6-10 seconds to render someone unconscious. So, interestingly, not only does Sage not tap fast, he tapped at the tail end of a healthy limit where any longer he would have went unconscious, possibly. It’s a very real choke”.
Funnily enough, while most people were indentfying the choke as an arm-triangle, also known as a head and arm choke, one of Sage’s most vociferous critics, UFC lightweight Tony Ferguson, actually referred to the manoeuvre as a Von Flue in an abusive Twitter post.
— Tony Ferguson (@TonyFergusonXT) January 31, 2016
You can watch the video of Rener’s breakdown below….