Sometimes, overlooked techniques, like the bulldog choke,  can be some of the most effective. Although this technique forgoes some positional security, it has proven to be a dangerous finisher in the UFC several times over. The most recent example was Ben Askren’s use of the bulldog choke to finish Robbie Lawler at UFC 235. 

It might be tempting to brush off the bulldog choke as some playground headlock, but you can’t deny its results. Carlos Newton, Raquel Pennington, and Uriah Faber have also used the submission to achieve victory.

How to do Bulldog choke?

It is an oversimplification to say that the bulldog choke is “just a headlock.” However, if your opponent doesn’t respect the technique, you may have the element of surprise on your side.  Typically, the bulldog choke setup will take place with your opponent in the turtle position.

Your opponent will most likely be wary of a back take attempt. They have the option to close the path to their legs against your hooks, or the path to their neck with their arms. Rarely can they defend both in equal measure. 

If they feel you may be able to get your hook in on one side, they will likely bring the same side arm down to help defend the gap. As the arm lowers away from the neck, slide your far (in relation to your opponent’s body) arm under the neck and secure it by grabbing their opposite shoulder. 

Bulldog choke | Jiu Jitsu Legacy

Will Tseng and Ivan Li

Now, you’ll need to make your way to your opponent’s opposite side. For added control, you can lace your close arm under and through your opponent’s far arm, latching onto their forearm. 

Use this hold to pry their elbow which both prevents them grabbing your arm and opens up their far side as you make your way there. Feel free to abandon this arm control later in favor of a two on one approach attacking the neck. 

While keeping pressure on the neck is important, be sure to use your weight to pressure down the rest of your opponent’s body. Otherwise, this choke can feel like more bark than bite. Sprawl your weight onto your opponent as you circle to the other side. Keep your weight planted on your opponent as you begin to sit your close hip through, sprawling your hips upward. 

This motion adds the pressure of your entire body rather than just squeezing with your arms and hoping for the best. Additionally, like reins on a horse, the choke and sprawl motion can have a directional impact on your opponent’s body. Ideally, the right pressure can flatten your opponent out, perhaps adding a crank element to the already strong choke. 

Practicing Bulldog position | Jiu Jitsu Legacy

Will Tseng and Ivan Li

How to defend the Bulldog choke?

There is no secret formula to defending the bulldog choke. However, a key component in defense is being attentive to your opponent’s movements. 

Since the bulldog choke sidesteps elements like attaining hooks for security, it is important to find the gaps in control like a lack of body pressure as your opponent moves around. Here are a few things you can do to increase your defense against the Bulldog choke. 

Practice it

One of the benefits of the bulldog choke is that many do not see it coming and therefore, lack the understanding to defend against it. The best way to gain understanding is to practice until you can recognize the entries and respond appropriately. 

Defend the neck/Control the arms

While defending the neck may leave your legs open to being hooked, you are likely more adept at defending back attacks than the bulldog choke. A good defense is crossing your arms making an “x” over your neck.

Be sure to latch onto any arm your opponent sneaks under your arms to frustrate their game. Be aware that the first arm they attack with may be a setup for a second arm to strike when you defend the first. 

These defenses are preemptive. The scenario changes drastically when you need to escape the fast acting, brutal bulldog choke. Check out the video below for a few escape options. 

Summary

Whether you saw Ben Askren do it, or your older brother used it to give you noogies, the Bulldog choke is readily available for any level of a grappler. The choke can be violent and a quick finisher, which is why it found its home in high-level MMA. If you get it from a scramble or from attacking the turtle position, it can be a devastating finish that is difficult to defend. Since the Bulldog choke is rarely used, it can be a valuable surprise attack in your arsenal.