A closer look: Iuri Alcantara’s rolling kneebar submission of Luke Sanders at UFC 209

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If you saw Luke Sanders vs. Iuri Alcantara’s fight at UFC 209, like many, you probably thought “Cool Hand” was on the verge of stopping the 36-year-old BJJ black belt and 48-fight veteran. It was a dominant first round from Sanders aside from an illegal knee that resulted in a point-deduction for the Nashville native. It was arguable the fight could have been stopped when Alcantara was turtled up and taking numerous unanswered blows to the side of the head.

In round 2 Sanders battered Alcantara with his stand up and once again found himself in advantageous position on the ground with Alcantara turtled up and taking unanswered shots. This time, however, Alcantara was able to roll into a kneebar and secure the tapout in a remarkable comeback win for the Brazilian.

How did this happen?

How was Alcantara able to snatch the win from the jaws of defeat like that? At first it may seem like it came out of nowhere, but upon closer inspection, we can see how Alcantara set it up and discover a few intricacies that maybe Sanders could have done to defend against it.

First, let’s watch as veteran MMA trainer and catch wrestling specialist Dan “The Wolfman” Theodore demonstrates how when the bottom man from turtle position is able to hook his opponent’s leg with his foot he’s able to roll into the kneebar.

Wolfman elaborated specifically on the kneebar finish from Alcantara and how Sanders could have possibly avoided it:

“When you are top turtle, it is usually best to avoid bottom man Russian leg-hooking your leg lacing it with theirs to set up the rolling kneebar unless you Ride/Turk that leg at a perpendicular angle. If caught, Sanders should have sprawled his leg out of there, before the monkey roll could happen (Old Frank Shamrock/Lion’s Den term-Frank used to go for this a lot). Nick Diaz also hit it on a black belt when he was a purple belt in grappling competition. Watch GSP avoiding it multiple times in their fight as well.”

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See how Alcantara was able to lock onto that leg with his left foot. Sanders avoided this in round 1 when he was pounding on Alcantara. However, in round 2 Alcantara had his foot hooked on Sanders’s leg a good 10-15 seconds before he actually rolled for the kneebar. Sanders tried to defend, but Alcantara went belly down and it was too late at that point.

Here’s a couple other examples of the rolling kneebar from turtle position that Wolfman shared to take a closer look. You can see the leg-hooking in this one from the UFC video game:

And then in this one Nick Diaz secures a rolling kneebar on Macaco in ADCC. This one is very quick and not the best angle but you can get the idea.

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