The Bulldog Choke – the unexpected catch wrestling submission

The Bulldog choke is a simple but powerful choke. To the uninitiated it looks like a schoolyard headlock. Often it is used to simply hold an opponent in position. However depending on the angle of your opponents head and body there may be an opportunity to secure a bulldog choke.

The choke is itself is a type of neck crank. It puts extreme pressure on the neck of your opponent and restricts the bloodflow to the carotid arteries. The choke is unusual as it does not require any hooks and does not require the attacker to lock their legs around their opponent.

It is a rare submission to see in MMA and BJJ due to the number of counters available but is a good option if you find yourself in that position. Like all submissions there are may variations of the Bulldog Choke that are used in different sports and grappling styles.

Use in MMA

The Bulldog choke is rarely seen in MMA as it is considered to be a high risk technique. This is because it requires the attacker to expose their back to their opponent. In MMA it is much safer to attempt a rear naked choke or land strikes when you are above the back of your opponent. However there are many scenarios where one fighter may find themselves in this position and the bulldog choke can be a good option to have.

Many people were introduced to the choke for the first time when Ben Askren used it in his UFC debut against Robbie Lawlor. At the time Askren was under intense pressure and was losing the match. However he managed to catch a front headlock during a wrestling exchange and used it to execute a bulldog choke against the cage. The ref felt Lawlor was unconscious and stopped the match. After the fight many fans were confused as to what had happened as they could not see any recognizable submission.

Uriah Faber also successfully executed a bulldog choke in the UFC when he submitted Francisco Rivera in 2014. Other UFC athletes who have used the choke include Raquel Pennington, and Carlos Newton.

Bulldog choke in Catch Wrestling & WWE

The Bulldog choke was made popular by Catch wrestling which is an old fashion type of submission wrestling. Catch wrestling was first developed by J. G. Chambers around 1870 and became a popular attraction at funfairs and carnivals. Catch wrestling is often referred to as “Catch as catch can” which generally means catch a submission hold wherever possible.

Catch wrestling has heavily influenced the style of wrestling that is seen in professional wrestling organisations such as the WWE. As a result many of catch wrestling’s most popular techniques such as the bulldog choke are still seen in professional wrestling today. Everyone from Stone Cold, to The Rock and Randy Orton have some version of the headlock in their locker. In professional wrestling it is rarely used to submit opponents but instead used as a way of controlling an opponent and putting them in an uncomfortable position.

Bulldog Choke in WWE

Use in Jiu Jitsu

The position is rarely seen in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for a number of reasons. The main reason is that you have to expose your back in order to get to the headlock position. This is something that is always discouraged in BJJ.  Exposing your back can result in giving your opponent a very dominant position and can lead to your opponent submitting you.

Also, the Bulldog choke is not a particularly high percentage choke. This means that more times than not an attempted bulldog submission will fail. This is usually because the opponent has managed to turn their head towards their attacker making the choke hard to finish. In BJJ most submissions are executed from a well defined position such as closed guard, mount, or back control. Usually you need to be controlling your opponents posture or have their body trapped in a way that limits their movement. This is often referred to as “position before submission”. The Bulldog Choke is unusual as it does not quite follow this rule as all you need to do is grab a headlock. When we see it in MMA it is often executed after a wrestling scramble when one fighter ends up with a headlock.

In traditional Jiu Jitsu in the Kimono (Gi) the Bulldog choke is even more rare. This is because the material of the Gi hinders the attackers ability to finish the choke. However there is a variation of the Bulldog choke for the Gi called the Clock Choke. It is also achieved from the Turtle position but uses the opponents lapel to choke rather than the headlock. The clock choke can be quite powerful and is also popular in competitive Judo.

How to Do the Bulldog Choke