Why Nate Diaz’s Leg Locks Didn’t Work Against Benson Henderson

Disclaimer: The following post is based on some observations I made while watching the fight. I understand that it’s easy to play arm chair fighter and critique MMA fights. I understand that once punches and elbows are added into the mix that many Jiu Jitsu techniques need to be modified. I am writing this having come from a strick Jiu Jitsu mindset. 


In last nights UFC On Fox 5 main event Nate Diaz had several possible leg locks attempts. Each time that Nate attacked the legs Benson Henderson was able to escape. Nate’s entries were all very solid but there was one big thing that he could have done to possibly finish the submissions.

Anyone who has read my blog before knows how much I believe in the concept of position before submission. When Nate was attacking Benson’s legs he was looking for the kill. Each time he went for the Heel Hook he allowed Benson to get his knee into what I call the safety zone. You opponent’s knee enters the safety zone once it passes your crotch. Once your opponent’s knee reaches the safety zone your options are very limited in attacking the legs. If you time it right there is a calf crank but Benson got his leg too far out for Nate to successfully attack and use the calf crank. So what could Nate have done differently in his leg attacks?

Nate needed to control Benson’s knee. His lower body set up the leg attack positioning perfectly but his hands were lost. They were constantly looking to lock in the finish. What Nate could have done is hug Benson’s knee to control the leg. By doing this Benson would not have been able to just slide his knee into the safety zone. The best leg lock teacher in the 10th Planet System Coach Chris Herzog talks a lot hugging the knee. In a recent episode of Mastering the System Eddie Bravo asked Coach Herzog about hugging the knee. Zog said it was everything. Without controlling the knee you do not have good positioning and most of the leg subs you will get are flash subs.

Now of course I understand that punches were involved. By hugging the knee Nate would have put himself in danger. The closer Benson is the easier it would be for him to hit Nate. I guess this is where it becomes a personal preference. Do you want a controlled or flash submission? I guess this is the great debate when it comes to using leg locks in MMA.

If you live in the San Fernando Valley and want to learn more about hugging and controlling the knee stop by 10th Planet Van Nuys!

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