Technically sound jiu-jitsu isn’t easy to come by. It sometimes takes years to master, and mixing in the strikes of mixed martial arts only complicates things that much further.
For fighters, the UFC has become the destination for the most skilled fighters on the planet, jiu-jitsu and otherwise. Getting there is a goal deserving of praise, but staying with worldwide leader is a whole other fight.
In making his return to the UFC after a four-year run that mostly saw him compete in Bellator, Ben Saunders came back to the Octagon against a debuting Chris Heatherly. That ended soon after it started because Saunders applied what would become the first omoplata finish in UFC history.
We’ve seen omoplata positions dozens of times in MMA. The thing about the hold in cage-fighting, however, is it very rarely gets used as a finishing maneuver, instead being used for transitioning. Saunders defied MMA logic that night in August 2014.
Fighting from his back, Saunders secured a leg triangle and had both of Heatherly’s arms trapped. When Heatherly was able to begin the release of one of his arms from the triangle, Saunders took advantage and began focusing on the other arm.
From there, Saunders did the all-important grab of the hip (also known by Joe Rogan as the “seat belt”) and that was the beginning of the end. With Heatherly’s left arm in place, the pressure on the shoulder began to become too great. It became even greater when Saunders slightly modified the technique and used his free hand to hold down Heatherly’s trapped limb.
A few taps later and the UFC saw its first omoplata finish, giving Saunders a memorable way to note his Octagon return and earning him the 2014 MMAWeekly Submission of the Year.
Footage showing the finish is hard to come by, but The Fight Network’s Robin Black got his hands on the fight and gave a good breakdown of how the hold came to fruition.
Saunders’ submission was given a run for its money in 2014 though. Other notable finishes included Luke Rockhold‘s one-arm guillotine of Michael Bisping at a UFC Fight Night in November, as well as Anthony Pettis becoming the first fighter ever to submit Gilbert Melendez, also with a guillotine.
But while the guillotines were impressive, they weren’t history-making. MMA is still a growing sport, which means that there is still potential for things to happen that fans haven’t seen. And when first-time occurrences happen, they should be admired and applauded. And what Ben Saunders did was admirable at the very minimum.