Less than halfway through the first round, Saunders locked up an omoplata on opponent Chris Heatherly, who was forced to tap moments later. The victory marks the first win by omoplata in UFC history.
Here's the setup and the finish (via UFC Fight Pass):
We knew going in that Heatherly was a dangerous wrestler, and he managed to avoid Saunders' quick knees in pulling a double-leg early in Round 1. Saunders, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, immediately caught Heatherly in his guard and went to work on a triangle choke. Heatherly escaped the loose choke, but made a mistake in trying to pass guard with his head low, giving Saunders the perfect opportunity to set up rubber guard, and transition seamlessly into the omoplata.
“I’m feeling on top of the world,” Saunders said after his win. ”Basically the plan is to make people hopefully not want to stand with me. But if you take me down, I’m going to make you dread it there too. I’m going to try to be dangerous all around, but above all, I’m trying to be exciting for the fans.”
The omoplata is seldom seen as a finishing submission because of how difficult it becomes once both fighters work up a sweat in the course of a fight. Most often, it is used to force an opponent to roll forward in order to defend against being submitted, creating an opportunity for a skilled grappler to move into a better position.
Saunders, who walked away with a $50,000 bonus for submission of the night for his efforts, has been working with Eddie Bravo on upping his submission game, and the BJJ legend was visibly elated after Heatherly tapped. You can also bet that wherever Joe Rogan was watching the fight, he was going bananas.
I won't go as far as to say this was predicted by last week's fight preview ("Don’t drink and omoplata, kids!"), but it is an eery coincidence.
Photo: Zuffa LLC via Getty Images