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‘Sambo guys are terrified of heel hooks’ – Craig Jones critiques Islam’s BJJ

UFC 284: Open Workout
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Craig Jones foresees a quick submission win for Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284.

Submission grappling star Craig Jones foresees a win for Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284. Jones, who’s been the featherweight champ’s training partner, recently spoke with Submission Radio, and he explained why.

“A lot of Sambo guys are terrified of heel hooks. In Sambo, you can only kneebar, and I believe you can do it like a straight ankle Achilles lock, no heel hooks. Terrified of it,” Jones said.

“So, I could definitely see Volk submitting him very quickly with a heel hook.”

The lightweight champ Islam Makhachev holds 11 career wins via submission, the most recent one being his title win over Charles Oliveira in October. Jones, however, isn’t too threatened by the Dagestani’s submission game.

“I mean, he’s just good at holding people down,” Jones said of Makhachev. “Like, he submits people, but I don’t think he has good submissions. Like, it’s a wrestling culture, and they obviously have some submissions in Sambo and stuff, but Sambo’s pretty bad as a grappling art.

“Like, a lot of the Sambo guys enter tournaments, they want heel hooks banned. So, it’s not a complete grappling art on the ground. But again, what he does well is his ability to hold people down from half-guard and closed guard especially. And then as they make bad decisions, he’s able to pounce on submissions.

“But even still, like, obviously it’s hard for me to say this, but even when I looked at him submit Charles Oliveira if you looked at how he submitted him, he grabbed his neck and he squeezed him as hard as he could. To me, I look at that, I see that as an inefficient choke. If he didn’t get that, he’s burning his arms out.

“Whereas I feel like higher-level technique, he’d be able to hold onto that thing for three, four minutes, if you know what I mean.”

Volkanovski had a close call during his UFC 266 title fight with Brian Ortega in 2021 when he was locked in a guillotine choke in the later rounds. And for Jones, “T-City” presents a much bigger threat than Makhachev.

“I mean, honestly, Ortega’s more dangerous on the ground. Obviously, Ortega’s taken more losses. His submissions are better than Islam’s. I think Ortega could give Islam a good fight, honestly. So, I mean, I think him escaping Ortega’s submissions will be more impressive than him escaping Islam’s submissions.”

“I think it’s just a combination of how he uses judo and wrestling. Very rarely do you find someone with both skills.

“Usually he’s a wrestler, he attacks the legs, but he’s obviously got the upper body attacks too. But I think part of what makes Islam special and Khabib special is they have that Mike Tyson effect.

“Everyone’s so scared. They’re like, ‘oh shit if it hits the ground, it’s over.’ You know what I mean? Obviously, no one’s superhuman and no one’s grappling ability is that good, you know? So, I think a lot of people just panic and make bad decisions on the ground.”

UFC 284 takes place on Saturday, February 11th in Perth, Australia.


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