The triangle choke has been one of the most recognizable techniques in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ever since the Gracies first used it to strangle people while laying on their backs. The submission has evolved significantly since then, with plenty of setups now available.
This particular setup, brought to us by former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, is one of the best out there! Keep reading to see how to add this incredibly tight triangle to your arsenal.
Triangle Choke Mechanics
The triangle choke is a mechanical masterpiece, as it pits the strongest part of our body, our legs, against our opponent’s neck and posture, which are relatively weak. The strangle itself functions by shoving your opponent’s own shoulder into their carotid artery on one side and your thigh against the other side.
There are several ways to finish the triangle choke. In fact, there are also several different types of triangles, depending on body position and angle. The most common triangle is the front triangle, which is where our focus lies today.
Fundamentally, you are attacking a triangle choke any time your legs form a figure-4, or triangle, around your opponents head and arm. The choke is almost identical in principle to the head and arm choke/arm-triangle choke, except that is being done with your legs.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to finish a triangle without one of your opponent’s arms trapped within your legs. It can be done – but more often than not it is simply a way to irritate your training partner and get your guard passed.
The Werdum Triangle Choke
The Werdum triangle choke is particularly effective in an MMA or self-defense context because of the distance from which Fabricio likes to set it up. While most triangle setups involve your opponent completely or slightly posturing up, this one works when the opponent on top of you is lying chest to chest.
You can rest assured that this is a viable setup as Werdum has used it successfully on multiple occasions inside the cage, including to finish Fedor Emelianenko!
When entering the Werdum triangle choke you will want to start in a position of safety. In terms of MMA, the opponent won’t be able to strike you, while in the context of BJJ they’ll be far from a guard passing position.
It all starts with a posture break, by bringing your knee to your chest when in the closed guard. Your goal is to have the opponent lying on top of you so that you can establish grips. The first grip you’ll want to establish is an arm going over their shoulder on one side, and gripping the lat muscle on the other.
The other grip is what provides you with total security and a triangle choke entry option. To get it, you first need to hip escape, getting the first grip deeper and acquiring a better angle. Now, with your free arm, control their wrist on the same side. This will allow you to bring your knee and shin inside of their bicep, trapping their arm and protecting you from strikes.
This position allows you to easily sneak the leg that has bicep control over their shoulder into the perfect position for a triangle. What is even better is that the arm gripping the lat muscle is there to help guide it towards the submission position.
Werdum likes to use an old-school finish for his triangle choke, with an small but important detail weaved in. For starters, the moment he locks the triangle, he immediately looks to get the arm across. For the finish he is about to use, having the arm crossed is optimal. Getting the arm across is simple, just raise your hips and drag it across. Return your hips to the mat to lock the arm in place.
A key detail to keep the triangle choke position and get the tap is to hug the knee of your choking leg. Hugging your knee does three things:
First, it makes the choke tighter. Second, it prevents your opponent from posturing up and transitioning into triangle choke escapes. Finally, hugging the knee allows you to tilt your body.
Not only does this help tighten the choke, it opens up a backup plan as well. If the triangle doesn’t work, all it to transition to a sweep is putting your knees to the ground. In BJJ that means sweep and mount points, plus a fully locked mounted triangle choke!
Whether you’re looking to tighten up your triangle choke for BJJ or for MMA, Fabricio Werdum’s triangle choke provides a wealth of valuable details. Remember to start from a position of safety, advance your grips, pass your leg over, and then finish with the arm across while hugging your own knee!
In no time you’ll be using this battle-tested technique to tap anyone who lingers too long in your guard!