Submissions Series : The Guillotine Choke

During the French Revolution, a ruthless execution method had been invented, The Guillotine. The Guillotine decapitated anything in its way from bone to flesh. As the Reign of Terror grew to an end, the method had slowly began to fade away. Little did they know such a vile execution method would be named after a crushing submission.


Overeem smashing a tight guillotine on James Thompson

Before we cover the basic types of guillotines, I would like to cover the basic grips. There are 3 main grips used to finish a guillotine choke, and those are the traditional monkey grip, McKenzietine grip, and the S Grip.

Traditional Monkey Grip

The monkey grip was made famous by Renzo Gracie as he explained how he preferred to finish the guillotine. Below is Renzo showing us his monkey grip for the choke.

The grip is connected when the hand grasps the wrist, notice how Renzo closes his other hand into a fist so the opponent cannot attempt the peel the fingers to loosen the grip.

The McKenzietine or Cup-and-Saucer Grip

This grip stormed the MMA world and was made famous by Cody McKenzie as he choked his opponent out unconscious in a matter of seconds. The McKenzietine starts be wrapping the neck with one arm then grasping the closed fist and applying pressure upwards with the other palm.

Watch how Erik Paulson of CSW demonstrates the grip.

From another angle, same concept. The palm grasps the closed fist of the other arm and cranks upward.

The S Grip

The S Grip offers a lot of flexibility on the wrists and hands as you can bend and twist, adapting to whatever situation. Below is a slideshow then a gif showing how to execute the S grip.

This choke is not as strong as the McKenzietine or monkey grip but can still get a finish. Try locking your own hands in a S-grip and notice how you can bend and twist in almost all directions!

The Rear Naked Choke Grip

The rear naked choke grip is the same grip as the back-mount rear naked choke grip.The choke consists of wrapping the neck with one arm connecting to the other bicep, then sinking the other arm on top of the head.

Kenny Florian shows us the rear naked choke grip on Joanne, notice a resemblance to the back-mount choke grip?

Now that we covered the basic grips to the guillotine choke, we can actually cover the guillotine choke!

Often times, the guillotine seems to be the death sentence for wrestlers making their way into MMA. Wrestlers are so traditionally used to placing their head on the outside when performing a takedown which can be problematic. This caused many to adapt to the "head in chest" method instead of the outside. The guillotine choke has many setups, grips, and ways to finish, which can be useful when in certain scenarios. Today, we will cover the basic grips and setups to the guillotine choke.

The Arm-In Guillotine Choke

This is my favorite way to finish a guillotine choke is it prevents the opponent from escaping as you entangle their arm with the choke. Some prefer this method hard to finish but it's all about the "crunching" of the back and squeeze rather than sitting and arching back like the traditional finish. One important tip in finishing this choke is to make sure the elbow is deep or the head will pop out.

One of favorite fighters who had a wicked guillotine choke is Joe Stevenson. In combination with a sick guillotine choke and brute strength, not many fighters escaped his guillotine. Watch how he focuses all the squeeze on the elbow side to put a massive amount of pressure on the neck. As he secures a tighter grip and his opponent's head lay vertical to the ground, all that's left to do is to squeeze backwards.


Another fighter who has a devastating guillotine choke is Jake Shields. Being a black belt in "American Jiu-Jitsu", he has always relied on his fundamentals in grappling to outwork and submit his opponents. Here, he jumps to an arm-in guillotine choke on Robbie Lawler.

Jake Shields crunches his back more rather than sitting back. Sitting backwards would only help Robbie Lawler escape the choke by popping his head.

Occasionally, some break the ancient law of finishing the arm-in guillotine by sitting back. You can still get a finish this way if you have a brutal grip and squeeze like Clay Guida and Tito Ortiz. Below are their guillotines as they sucked the very life out of their opponents.

Watch how close Gomi's head is to popping out as Guida squeezed. Again, a better statistical method to finish to do a situp or crunch forwards.

Below is Ortiz's final victory inside the octagon. Should of retired after this fight, smh. Again, look how closely Bader's head is to popping out of the choke.

The "McKenzietine" Guillotine Choke

When we first got a glimpse of Cody on the TUF, we all wondered if the main character of The Three Musketeers could fight. Oh boy were we in for a treat, he introduced the MMA world to his special grip to the guillotine. The McKenzietine is more of a precision choke than a brute crushing choke as it focuses on cutting off the blood flow of the opponent. This method really favors fighters with long arms as it allows them to completely wrap around the neck. The choke starts by wrapping the neck with one arm then grasping the closed fist with the other hand and applying pressure upwards. This choke was also made famous by Jones as he choked The Dragon out cold.

Notice how Cody doesn't even need to obtain guard as the choke is being applied from only his forearms,wrists, and hands. This choke tends to put fighters out faster than the traditional guillotine as it focuses on closing both sides of the carotid arteries than crushing it shut backwards.

Sweet Dreams...

Below is McKenzie turning his own choke into a modified neck crank. Imagine the McKenzietine as a neck crank as it has pain written all over it. Just take a look at his opponent's face as it scores a high on the pain-o-meter.

Recently, Jones has added this technique to his arsenal being that he too, has long limbs which work excellently with chokes. The McKenzietine suits Jones perfectly as he finds himself in top position almost always, even against decorated wrestlers like Ryan Bader.

Here, Jones finds himself in Bader's loose half guard. He wraps Bader's neck and tightens the traditional guillotine by inserting his other foreman over Bader's shoulder just like Marcelo Garcia. He then changes the choke to the McKenzietine style grip.

Here is another angle which you can clearly see the choke being applied. Look how his other hand is pushing his other closed fist upwards which is forcing his forearm against Bader's neck thus choking him. Bader was left with only 2 options, tap or pass out.

Being long like Jones and McKenzie, Nate Diaz also favors this choke. In his fight with Marcus Davis, he locked in the McKenzietine which eventually put Davis to sleep as he refused to tap. Take a look at Diaz's right hand grasping the closed left fist to do the choking.

The Deep Hand-to-Hand Guillotine Choke

The deep hand-to-hand guillotine choke is executed when the arm is completely around the neck out through the other side. When the hand is completely around the neck, the choke becomes a 99% finish rate as it is the point of no return. This method is favored by Nate Diaz as he uses his long limbs to his advantage to completely scarf wrap his opponent's neck as he did against Melvin Guillard and Gray Maynard.

Watch how when Nate completely scarf wraps Gray Maynard's neck and he is already thinking about tapping. The choke becomes so tight at that point, all that is required to finish is to simply lean backwards and anchor with the leg.

Nate Diaz used the same technique against Melvin Guillard in their explosive lightweight bout. Notice how Melvin's neck is hopelessly wrapped and trapped. His chances of popping his head out is slim to nothing and is forced to tap.

Josh Neer also used this method of the guillotine to choke Duane Ludwig out cold. The pro to this choke is the minimal amount of space in the choke that would allow the opponent to buy time or even escape.

Here is Urijah Faber hitting the hand-to-hand guillotine on Jens Pulver in their WEC bout. Most would ask why Jens Pulver couldn't just hop to the left into side control? The basic rule to escaping the guillotine choke is to hop to the side opposite of the choke, hopping to the choking side only tightens the choke which isn't exactly what you want. Urijah realizing this, anchors the "safe" side with his leg so Pulver cannot hop to that side.

Take a look at this crazy scramble as C.B. Dollaway submits his opponent with the hand-to-hand guillotine choke. Notice how Dollaway has a S-Grip to finish the choke instead of the palm to palm grip.

The Standing Guillotine Choke

The standing guillotine choke is exactly what it sounds like. The main key points in finishing a standing guillotine is to hip upwards and inwards putting your entire back muscles into the choke. The standing choke that always come to mind for me is when Scott Jorgensen completely lifted his opponent with the guillotine choke! Take a look for yourself.

Below is a gif of the Reem finishing a standing guillotine. Look how he hips in and uses his back to finish the choke and his opponent is forced to tap.

The reward for "Most Brutal Standing Guillotine Choke" goes to Dan Miller as he almost decapitated his opponent. I think he took the literal meaning of the guillotine into his choke, as it looked like his opponent's head was bent in an unnatural angle and ready to fall off.

The ring aided Miller as he was able to push his opponent into the ropes whilst choking him at the same time. Just like how Jones pinned Machida against the cage to choke him.

Thanks for reading my posts and be sure to rec/comment!

Sam Park

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