Josh Thomson Believes Inverted Heel Hook Should Be Banned?

Should inverted heel hooks be banned in the sport of Jiu Jitsu? Former UFC fighter and Bellator commentator, Josh Thomson, apparently believes so. He said this after the amazing heel hook finish by Taylor Johnson over Ed Ruth.

Johnson is 6-1 in MMA and trains at Victory MMA in San Diego alongside Dean Lister and Jeff Glover. Ed Ruth is a 3x NCAA champ out of Penn State. He has a winning record of 8-3 since making his transition to MMA. 

The fight lasted less than a minute, but was full of technical exchanges. Ruth shot for a takedown right out of the gate. Johnson looked ready for this because as the two were falling to the ground, he reached under Ruth’s thigh to set up a leg entanglement. Johnson quickly established a single leg x and immediately began to work for a leg lock.

Ruth fought to remain standing and keep his feet on the mat and not expose his heel. Eventually, Johnson hooked the heel. As he did, Ruth turned away and cleared his knee line. It looked like he was going to escape. However, instead of freeing his ankle, he meddled inside Johnson’s leg entanglement. He tried to punch Johnson with little success. This allowed Johnson to invert and regain the kneeline. With full control of the knee and ankle, Johnson forced Ruth to his hip and applied the finishing touches to a beautiful heel hook. Ruth tapped out at 59 seconds into the match. If you haven’t seen it, check out my breakdown of the heel hook here.

It was an exciting fight that displayed movements by two high-level grapplers and ended in dramatic fashion. The match showed quality Jiu Jitsu against a wrestler at the highest caliber. After such a display of technique, I was shocked to hear Thomson’s remark. Commenting alongside “Big” John McCarthy and Mike Goldberg, he had this to say about the exchange: “That reverse heel hook is the most dangerous submission in the sport. In the sport of Jiu Jitsu, they need to take it off.” 

I am assuming that by “take it off” Thomson means it should be illegal. I think this would be a huge loss for Jiu Jitsu. Yes, the inside heel hook puts tremendous torque on the knee and can cause great damage. That is, IF the person doesn’t tap. But any submission can cause great damage if the person doesn’t tap. A knee bar, arm bar, kimura or any submission imaginable, likely will require surgery if the person does not respond properly. But fortunately, there is the option to tap out.

While a heel hook does come on quick, a skilled grappler knows how to defend it and also knows when to tap. I can entertain the idea of not allowing it in a Gi where the fabric makes the escape more difficult. But MMA is No-Gi. And in No-Gi Jiu Jitsu, this should absolutely be allowed.

Thomson is an excellent commentator and fighter. But I disagree with him here. We don’t need more illegal moves in Jiu Jitsu. Not at the high levels. Besides, that beautiful heel hook we saw from Johnson came from training Jiu Jitsu. If this is “taken off” from the sport of Jiu Jitsu, then we wouldn’t see it in MMA and would be robbed of exciting fights like we saw over the weekend.

Josh Clopton

Josh Clopton is a UFC veteran and Jiu Jitsu black belt. In 2005 he left his job in Tulsa, Okla. and moved to San Francisco to pursue fighting. While trying to break into the UFC, he worked on a commercial crab fishing boat to make ends meet. Josh earned his black belt under Jake Shields in 2016 and now helps train other fighters and has been the chief cornerman in over 20 UFC fights. He teaches at El Nino Training Center and also for companies such as Google, YouTube and LinkedIn. He is an avid reader, writer and outdoorsman.

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