Ben Askren has always been controversial and his UFC debut was no different.

Early in the fight it looked like Robbie Lawler was going to stop Askren, however the former Olympic wrestler persevered and caught his opponent in a bulldog choke.

Lawler’s arm went limp and the referee stopped the fight. Lawler immediately popped his head free to demonstrate he was not unconscious.

What is the Bulldog Choke? Was he out? Was this a bad call?

The bulldog choke is an old school catch wrestling strangulation. Long time MMA fans will remember this was the same submission Carlos Newton used to defeated Pat Miletich for the welterweight belt (Miletich was Lawler’s first MMA coach ironically).

The bulldog choke works the same as a rear naked choke, except you are to the side of your opponent, not behind. The attacker’s biceps will block one side of the neck and their forearm will block the other.

The vascular structures targeted by the technique are the internal carotid artery (ICA) and the carotid sinus. The carotid sinus has pressure receptors that maintain blood pressure and when there is an external compression the response of the body is to reduce blood flow. For loss of consciousness to occur the structure need to be compressed enough to decrease cerebral blood flow. 

But it was on his chin? Often people will tap earlier from the pressure on the jaw. However I can assure you physiologically and technically you can still strangle an opponent if their chin is down.

From a competitor’s perspective I have no idea why Lawler would have his arm limp if he was not unconscious. Even if he was not being choked or jaw cranked he still would need his hands ready to escape the position. The referee went to see if his arm was limp and decided that he was in fact non responsive.

Lawler has been fighting professionally for >15 years, I feel he could have indicated to the referee he was safe if he was in fact not being choked.

Was this a bad call? Hard to say. His arm appeared limp and the referee checked. I’m okay with the stoppage but would still like to see a rematch so there won’t be any controversy.

Dr. Mike Piekarski, DPT
BJJ Black Belt
Former MMA Fighter