Technique Showcase

Forgotten Cross Choke Details, As Shown By Lovato Jr. | Technique Showcase

Forgotten Cross Choke Details, As Shown By Lovato Jr. | Technique Showcase

An analysis of the details that set Rafael Lovato Jr. and Romulo Barral apart in the application of the fundamental cross choke technique.

Dec 24, 2020 by Corey Stockton
Forgotten Cross Choke Details, As Shown By Lovato Jr. | Technique Showcase
The cross choke is one of the most fundamental submissions in jiu-jitsu. But it’s rarely applied successfully at the highest levels of competition. 

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

The cross choke is one of the most fundamental submissions in jiu-jitsu. But it’s rarely applied successfully at the highest levels of competition. 

A few outliers have displayed an exceptional ability to execute the choke against even tough opponents.

Rafael Lovato Jr. is one of these standouts, as evidenced by his recent gold-medal run at Masters Worlds. Lovato achieved two cross choke submissions in his weight class on his way to gold, and earned another cross choke tap in the open class, taking silver in that category.

Presumably, every gi competitor has learned a cross choke in their training, but in recent years few have been as successful with the technique as Lovato, and Romulo Barral. In this edition of Technique Showcase, we’ll look at the details that set these competitors apart in the application of this fundamental technique.

Check out the highlight of Rafael Lovato’s day at Masters Worlds, including an interview, here.


Notes From Lovato’s Masters Worlds Run

Clip: Lovato Finishes A Textbook Cross Choke At Masters Worlds 2020

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In


In this first clip, Lovato focused on keeping his opponent’s head in a box. He used both hands to frame his opponent’s head, but he put particular attention on using his right hand to hold his opponent’s right shoulder. Lovato made a point of keeping the defender’s right arm on the outside of his own knees, and maintained heavy chest pressure to ensure there was no space for the defender to sneak his arms into the center.

As Lovato dug his left hand into the back of his opponent’s collar, he paused with his bicep at the very top of the defender’s head, ensuring maximum leverage before he looped his arm around into the choking position.

When Lovato parried his left arm around, he punched his right elbow toward the side of his opponent’s jaw, keeping his head in a frame. He maintained the frame, both elbows on his opponent's chin, as he found a grip with his right hand. Both of the defender's arms were above Lovato’s arms, meaning that as Lovato drove forward, the defender's arms dropped open, allowing Lovato to finish the choke without pushing resistance.


Clip: Lovato Hits His Second Of Three Cross Chokes At Masters Worlds 2020

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In


Watch Lovato’s high elbow position again in this clip. The high elbow framed against his opponent’s head, so that as the defender turns toward Lovato, he was forced back to his shoulders, where he was vulnerable to the choke.

Lovato used an untraditional grip in this instance. His initial grip puts the defenders collar clear across his throat, as if Lovato was executing a sliding collar choke from the back. Lovato’s elbow position secured this grip in place, so that when he grabbed a low collar grip with his second hand, it pulled out all the slack, tightening the choke for the finish.


Clip: LovatoJr. Uses The Brabo Grip To Secure A Cross Choke At Masters Worlds 2020

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In


Lovato sets up this third choke with a brabo grip, taking his opponent’s far lapel beneath his shoulder. Lovato used his left shoulder as an anchor in this instance, again, pinning it against the highest point of his opponent’s head for maximum leverage. 

Once he passed the grip to his right hand, Lovato focused on drawing his opponent’s left hand away from his neck. He did this by attacking with a pass threat and arm movement at the same time. As Lovato threw his right hand across his opponent’s shoulders, he moved his hips into a passing position, baiting the defender to try and defend the pass. When the defender took the bait, Lovato had a moment of room to sink the finishing grip in. When he established the grip, he relinquished top position, using the defender’s momentum to pull himself up toward the finishing movement of the choke.


Elbow Position Is Key

Clip: Lovato Cross Chokes Tanner Rice At Fight To Win 11

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In


In this match against Tanner Rice, Lovato demonstrated the value of high elbow position in the cross collar choke. He didn’t get his hands significantly deep in Rice’s collar, but he framed against Rice’s head with his elbows, putting Rice in a box in which he could not turn away.

Once Lovato set the initial grip, he opened his elbow against Rice’s head, and reinforced it with his free hand.

When setting his second hand, Lovato led with his elbow again, pinning another frame against Rice’s jaw and sliding his hand in behind the frame. From there, he buried his head to the mat and pulled his chest toward the mat, finishing the choke.


Passing Pressure Allows For A Strong Initial Grip

Clip: Lovato Cross Chokes Arnaldo Maidana At Fight To Win 141

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In


Against Arnaldo Maidana, Lovato didn’t focus on framing Maidana’s head. He instead put his attention toward drawing Maidana’s hands away from the choke. Lovato used his left hand to pull up on Maidana’s collar, keeping him compressed. He fed his right hand into position, and put his right elbow on Maidana’s shoulder to threaten the pass.

As Lovato slid to mount, he reestablished his grip. Maidana was preoccupied with defending the mount, leaving his hands away from his body. His hand positioning allowed Lovato the opportunity to sneak his second arm across, finishing the choke with both of Maidana’s hands in a suboptimal position.


Romulo Barral: The Master Of The Kneecut Cross Choke

Clip: Romulo Barral Cross Chokes Patrick Gaudio From The Knee Cut Position At Worlds 2016

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In


Romulo Barral has one of the best knee cut passes among all jiu-jitsu competitors in history. And he stands out even among his cohorts in his ability to apply a cross choke in the passing position. Against Patrick Gaudio, for example, Barral established his initial grip, giving Gaudio an opportunity to try and scramble free.

Barral withstood the bucking motion of Gaudio, and took advantage of Gaudio’s defensive position. Gaudio framed across Barral’s shoulder, giving him an angle to lean into Gaudio’s outstretched arm. As Barral set the second grip, Gaudio had a weak shoulder position, preventing him from defending the finishing action of the choke. He leaned into Gaudio’s arm, keeping it in a poor defensive position, and earned the tap.


Clip: Romulo Barral Cross Chokes Josh Hinger At Euros

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In


Barral finished a similar choke in this match against Josh Hinger. When Barral couldn’t clear Hinger’s legs with an underhook, he switched his focus toward the cross collar grip. The threat of the choke forced Hinger to open his guard, allowing Barral to pass. Hinger tried to frame on Barral’s torso, but that put his arms in a weakened position with his elbows open.

As Barral slid to a knee on belly position, he capitalized on Hinger’s arm placement, driving his chest into Hinger’s shoulders and knocking them out of defensive position. There, Barral secured a clean choke.


Roger Gracie, The Most Effective Cross Choker In History

Without a doubt, Roger Gracie had the most reputed and fearsome cross choke in the history of jiu-jitsu competition. In this clip against Romulo Barral, notice how Gracie focused on keeping Barral’s head in a box, first with his biceps, then with his elbows, to prevent any escape. When he settled his choke in, Barral was out of options. 


Further Resources


Several competitors have demonstrated their collar choke variations over the years. Augusto "Tanquinho" Mendes gave us his details on using the knee cut and collar choke in tandem, and Gregor Gracie showed us a sneaky collar choke from butterfly guard. 

Check them out here: