Breaking Down Lesnar’s and Couture’s Win: Details of the Head and Arm Choke

Breaking Down Lesnar’s and Couture’s Win: Details of the Head and Arm Choke

The last two UFC’s have seen two powerful wrestlers finish with the head and arm choke. Brock Lesnar took out Shane Carwin with it at UFC 117. More recently, Randy Couture employed it at UFC 118 in his win over James Toney.

Let’s take a closer look at this powerful technique…

The Easy Way and the Hard Way

There are two ways to choke a man unconscious.

  1. You can prevent breathing by restricting the airway…or…
  2. You can cut off blood flow to the brain via restricting the two carotid arteries

Both work to subdue an opponent. One works a lot better. Here’s the science behind the two.

A couple of years back, incidents of throat injuries (collapsed or bruised windpipes) soared in people getting arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department. An investigation followed.

They found out that police officers were using batons to choke and restrain people who wouldn’t co-operate. They thought choking them unconscious was a non-violent way to subdue them. A group of scientists were called in to find out the truth behind this technique.

Here are the results…

The scientists compared the “windpipe crush” technique to cutting off blood to the brain and found…

  • It takes roughly SIX pounds of force to cut off blood flow to the brain
  • It takes roughly THIRTY pounds of force to shut off airflow

That’s about FIVE times more force to restrict breathing than to restrict blood flow. Let’s take a closer look at how the head and arm choke employs this concept.

The Head and Arm – Blocking Blood Flow

Take a look at the following picture…

In it, you can see how Brock Lesnar wraps his left arm around Carwin’s neck…trapping his head and arm (hence the choke’s name).

The key to this choke is fishing your arm as deep as possible around your opponents neck. If you look closely, you can see how Lesnar has his arm deep enough so that his left bicep is putting pressure on Carwin’s right carotid.

But this only locks in one Carotid artery. To lock down the other side, Lesnar walks his hips AWAY from Carwin. This causes his head to push against Carwin’s arm, increasing pressure against his neck.

Finally, he squeeze his arms together to finish the choke. This ensures pressure is on both carotids…and not on the windpipe.

Rob Gramer is a mechanical engineer and BJJ brown belt. For more BJJ articles with a scientific bent and a free report revealing the 33 Grips every grappler must know, visit

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