I watched the February 4, 2023 Friday night MMA Bellator 290 Johnny Eblen vs. Anatoly Tokov fight off and on. Eblen appeared superbly trained and conditioned, as did Tokov. They were both so fast that I had difficulty at times seeing the technical details of the strikes, holds and breaks. At any rate, I was surprised to see Tokov, appearing a bit worn with punishment, suddenly catch Eblen coming up from the floor with his back to Tokov in the final round (5) and lock in a guillotine choke on Eblen, who was facing him at about waist level. Within a few seconds Tokov appeared to simply release Eblen, who went on to win the fight in a decision. What did I miss? From my own experience (in fights and witnessing fights in and out of the ring) it is extremely difficult to escape a choke hold, particularly in that configuration (but I am not a grappler really).

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    I've only been able to watch some clips that end shortly before he lets go, but it's worth noting that there were maybe 20 seconds left in the round, so he may have been hoping to release and then land either a knockout blow or something that would secure more points. Also, obligatory mention that by the fifth round, fighters are exhausted, and just maintaining a hold takes energy. Feb 6, 2023 at 17:12
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    Are we talking about the guillotine at the end of this clip? twitter.com/BellatorMMA/status/… Final seconds of the fifth round? Feb 7, 2023 at 9:14
  • @DaveLiepmann That clip shows the entertaining suplex Elben pulled off on Tokov in the fifth round (which however, did not seem to effect Tokov much), but not the end of the round where the choke by Tokov on Eblen occurred. Feb 7, 2023 at 14:43
  • @MacacoBranco Part of the reason I posted this question is because I also was unable to find any clips that included the apparent release of the choke in the final seconds of the fifth round. If you are losing on points (which Tokov clearly was) and only seconds remain, it would be a poor decision to release a choke hold (which could lead to a stop) and hope for something better. I hear you re fatigue, but a choke hold is certainly a minimum energy maneuver and Tokov pounced to obtain it showing little sign of fatigue (which was surprising considering he appeared tired before that). Feb 7, 2023 at 14:48
  • @DaltonBentley The link I posted is of the fifth round, between 28 and 13 seconds left. It shows a guillotine-like position. Are you sure this isn't the right clip? Feb 7, 2023 at 17:12

1 Answer 1


Having seen footage of that particular choke, the reason is simple:

He did not have him in a proper choke in the first place.

If you look at the positions, Eblen's neck was on waist height when Topov closed his grip. Accordingly, there was no counter-pressure on the back of the neck and thus no effective choke at all. Tokov would have had to drop (and control the hip with his feet) in order to get Eblen's neck into his axle region, gain control, and exert pressure from two sides. That is pretty hard to pull off when pressed into the cage wall, and that was the position Topov found himself in before he could establish his grip. Instead, he tried to pull his neck up, which he failed at as well.

Therefore, Eblen escaped by keeping his neck low and tight and Tokov's hip pressed against the cage. That way, he made it hard for Topov to exert pressure or even improve his positioning.

Obviously, Topov did lack the skill and/or wind to make the choke happen, realised that himself, and thus let go of it, maybe to have a final k.o. chance.

  • Nice analysis, Phillip. If you would post image(s) or video clip so I could see this I would accept this answer (I can't find any, oddly, though there are many clips of the other parts of the fight). I would be surprised if Tokov did not bring up the opposite forearm to lock the choking arm (I was trained to do that, but as I said, I am not much of a grappler). Tokov has won matches using the choke (Bellator 218 for example) and is acknowledged to be expert in its use. Feb 7, 2023 at 14:57
  • Pulling the opposite forearm up was not working, he tried that. Eblen had his shoulder planted firmly into his hips, you need to be bent forward to execute the choke when pushed into the cage since you can't get your hip forwards, go figure. Also, the choke is at the very end of the clip Dave provided in comments. Feb 7, 2023 at 15:05
  • Phillip, I just viewed that clip from Dave above several times and it does not appear to include the last seconds of round 5. Unless my memory is wrong (not impossible), the choke I am talking about looked similar to the one in the clip (with Tokov against fence), but was in the ring, not against the fence (so would be harder for Eblen to plant shoulder against Tokov hips). The time counter in the clip is screwy so cannot place the length of the round or where the clip is since it resets and shows no absolute length. Feb 7, 2023 at 16:16
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    @DaltonBentley The clip shows "5 of 5 [Rounds]" and has a timer going down that ends at 0:13, ie. 13 seconds left. I am pretty sure there has been no reset and another choke after that. I guess your memory plays tricks on you. Feb 7, 2023 at 17:12
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    I viewed the same clip at cagesidepress.com/2023/02/04/…: 0:22 s 5 of 5 counter at bottom says 0.07/0.20 on the clip, Eblen and Tokov have moved to the center of the ring following the suplex. Tokov throws left lunging punch, Eblen hands up to block. There is a milliscecond stutter of the video and instead of the choke on Eblen at that point I recall, Eblen is instead with head to left of Tokov waist and grabbing Tokov's left leg in a takedown attempt. Oh well. Feb 8, 2023 at 15:01

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