Bellator 253 only had one submission and it was one highlight that had grappling enthusiasts go nuts on Thursday night. A.J. McKee submitted Darrion Caldwell in the first round of their Featherweight Grand Prix main event on CBS Sports Network with a neck crank, but fight fans could not help wonder “what was that?”
Well, it is not a completely new submission but it certainly is new to the current landscape of MMA. Much like Jason Von Flue’s counter to the guillotine became known as the “Von Flue choke”, what McKee pulled off might become known as the “McKee-otine” thanks to Luke Thomas who is a combat sports analyst for CBS Sports. Thomas may do his own breakdown of the technique but this might help in understanding the mechanics of it.
Firstly, a neck crank is a very painful and dangerous submission for obvious reasons. The crank can turn into serious damage if the person getting cranked does not tap, which Caldwell did wisely when he was in McKee’s guard. So, let’s look at what happened leading up to the submission.
Caldwell got the takedown which McKee was expecting. McKee told the media that “front headlocks are bread and butter for me,” and that he had been doing them since he was a kid. While McKee worked to pull guard while landing elbows and locking his legs which would secure Caldwell in front of him. Then, he would drive his right hand under the left arm for Caldwell while still holding him in guard, he adjusted his legs to a body triangle which made it that much tighter.
Once he had control over the arm and had Caldwell stuck in his guard, pulling the shoulder towards his center would not only twist the upper body of Caldwell but pin the back of his head to McKee’s chest, just on the right side against his rib cage. Then, McKee pulled the shoulder he was controlling to the point Caldwell was stuck. He made it tighter by changing his grip to what looks similar to the position one would finish the rear-naked choke, which seemed to make it tighter. The pressure on the neck at the point left Caldwell with no choice but to tap. If you missed it, see it here:
— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) November 20, 2020
There are sure to be a lot of instructional videos and breakdowns coming but the Bellator 253 move is not as new as fans might think. It’s a combination of moves, with adjustments made by McKee but like anything, if you look for it, chances are there are similar moves in the history of combat sports.
Some call the shoulder control the “100 percent” or a “half-nelson”, and it can be used to secure a better position like a sweep, or to take the back. But if the legs are kept locked, then it’s just a neck/spinal submission that is just painful. Bas Rutten’s “Big Books of Combat” Volume 2” has a variation of it with both arms in from closed guard that can produce the same result.
Had to dig into the archives but similar to what we saw tonight at #Bellator253 from @BasRuttenMMA "Big Books of Combat: Vol 2" @lthomasnews @Magnum_TA76 @BellatorMMA @mma_kings pic.twitter.com/kEJwzsiyuK
— Carbazel MMA (@Carbazel) November 20, 2020
Either way, it hurts. McKee advances in the tournament that he can walk away as the winner but maybe, for now, a submission of the year could satisfy the 25-year-old, second-generation mixed martial artist.
Edward holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Bachelor’s degree in Communications. Along with over 20 years martial arts experience, he co-hosts The Coast-2-Coast Combat Hour, and also writes for Sherdog while maintaining his own site, The Blogboard Jungle. You can follow him on Twitter @Carbazel