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By the Numbers: Inside the D'Arce choke


The D’Arce choke.

For almost every UFC fan in the world, it’s pronounced as one syllable with a soft C as “darce”. To the Renzo Gracie BJJ black belt the choke is affectionately named after, Joe D’Arce pronounces it “dee-are-see”. The owner and operator of D’Arce Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on Long Island did not invent the move, but D’Arce did use the arm triangle variation to great effect in his grappling competition days.

While not flashy or as rare as a flying-anything submission, the D’Arce choke is still exotic, having only been used 15 times to secure victory inside the Octagon. Here is a list of the fighters, often with long arms, who have utilized the maneuver to shine in the UFC.

KENDALL GROVE vs. Alan Belcher at UFC 69<

As one would imagine, UFC commentator and submission enthusiast Joe Rogan was very excited to make the call of the first successful D’Arce choke in Octagon history. It was really The Ultimate Fighter 3 winner’s night from start to finish. Grove used his decided reach and size advantage to perfection against Alan Belcher in the stand-up and in the clinch in both rounds. But the Hawaiian fan-favorite really delivered on the ground with heavy elbows while on top, which cut Belcher open, and, eventually, forced “The Talent” to tap with the previously unseen D’Arce choke. Near the end of the second round, a winded and beaten Belcher had his right arm trapped under Grove’s left leg and could put up little to no resistance as “Da Spyder” slid his arms into position to squeeze out his third UFC win and a Submission of the Night bonus.

TERRY ETIM vs. Justin Buchholz at UFC 99

The first UFC event in Germany saw the second incarnation of this choke as Liverpool, England’s Terry Etim submitted Team Alpha Male’s Justin Buchholz. It took 14 years for the first D’Arce choke to appear inside the Octagon, but less than two years later Etim wrapped up his second of eventually four Submission of the Night bonuses with the move. Unlike Grove, Etim barely survived the first round after being dropped by Buchholz. Nevertheless, Etim and his visibly broken nose came out on fire in the second stanza with an array of kicks and knees in the clinch. As Buchholz tried to catch a knee to go for a takedown, Etim pulled his opponent to the mat and then jumped for the D’Arce, which forced the tap moments later.

PAULO THIAGO vs. Mike Swick at UFC 109

69, 99, 109 - what is with this maneuver and the number nine? The third D’Arce choke in UFC history was similar to the others in that it came in the second round and nabbed a Submission of the Night bonus. What was truly dissimilar is that the first five minutes of the bout were truly forgettable as both Paulo Thiago and Mike Swick had a hard time landing much on the other. Business picked up big time in the second period as Thiago landed several low kicks, a hard body kick and then dropped Swick with a wild left hook. Thiago didn’t let a moment slip by before diving on the D’Arce choke, which put Swick out before he had the chance to tap.

DUSTIN POIRIER vs. Pablo Garza at UFC on FOX: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos

Three out of the next four appearances of the D’Arce choke feature Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier. Capping off his 2011 breakout year, Poirier secured the fourth consecutive second-round D’Arce against Pablo Garza, but the first to not receive a SOTN bonus. Much of the first five minutes showed The Diamond bullying around the lanky “Scarecrow” while landing solid punches. The second round began with an overzealous Garza spinning, slipping and ending up on bottom of the then-BJJ purple belt. As Garza tried to get up from bottom by sitting up in his own half-guard, The Diamond easily secures the D’Arce for the quick finish. A note for those rewatching this fight on the chorus of boos prior to the submission win were for long-time lightning rod Michael “The Count” Bisping, who was walking to his seat.

CHRIS WEIDMAN vs. Tom Lawlor at UFC 139

Literally, one week goes by and there’s another D’Arce choke inside the Octagon. Sometimes it takes months and sometimes years, but former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman wrapped up a D’Arce choke mere days after Poirier’s. In what was easily the fastest application of this particular sub at the time, “The All-American” engaged in some fisticuffs with The Ultimate Fighter alum before scoring a quick takedown and transitioning to the D’Arce as Lawlor tried to escape from Weidman’s side control. The finish came 2:07 into the first, but Lawlor had been asleep for a good seven seconds or so before the referee realized what was happening. Actually, Weidman can be seen telling the ref the choke had done its job multiple times.

CHAN SUNG JUNG vs. Dustin Poirier at UFC on Fuel TV: Korean Zombie vs. Poirier

Without a doubt, a must-see fight if there was one. Not too long ago, the most exciting name in the UFC featherweight division was “The Korean Zombie,” who once owned a three-fight win streak inside the Octagon like no other. Chan Sung Jung submitted Leonard Garcia with the first-ever “twister” used in UFC history, scored the second fastest knockout in UFC history against Mark Hominick, then won a war - most believe, the Fight of the Year in 2012 - against Dustin Poirier with a fourth-round D’Arce choke. The back and forth battle between The Diamond and The Korean Zombie came to a close as Poirier became the first and only fighter thus far to have won and lost via D’Arce choke. That main event melee rightfully won the Fight of the Night bonus and Jung took home the Submission of the Night bonus, which made it four bonuses in three fights for The Korean Zombie.

DUSTIN POIRIER vs. Jonathan Brookins at The Ultimate Fighter: Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson Finale

2012 started and ended with the D’Arce choke for The Diamond. Seven months after being forced to tap to that very submission, Poirier found himself using the same technique to force Jonathan Brookins to fold. Early on, The Ultimate Fighter 12 winner landed heavy shots on Poirier against the fence with The Diamond doing all he could to remain upright. After several wild exchanges, Poirier began landing more than he received in the stand-up, which prompted Brookins to shoot for a desperate takedown. The Diamond pushed Brookins’ attempt aside and reached for the D’Arce over Brookins’ back. After a readjustment for added leverage, Brookins quickly tapped, getting Poirier back on the winning track.

REZA MADADI vs. Michael Johnson at UFC on Fuel TV: Mousasi vs. Latifi

For whatever reason, 2013 was filled with D’Arce chokes and the first of five from that year put the seal on Reza Madadi’s come-from-behind victory. They don’t call him the “Mad Dog” for nothing, as Madadi pushed the pace in this bout whether he was winning or losing it. Madadi shot for takedowns and even a heel hook, but the first round closed with Michael Johnson plastering Madadi with a shin to the face. Mad Dog evened the score by getting more takedowns and landing a truck load of ground-and-pound in the second stanza. The third would be the deciding round, which Madadi got to the ground at the start. Mad Dog would try for the D’Arce, then let go of it for more ground-and-pound before cinching it on his second attempt. Following the tap, Madadi hopped the fence and celebrated in the crowd with his fellow Swedes.

JORGE MASVIDAL vs. Michael Chiesa at UFC on FOX: Johnson vs. Moraga

Like Madadi and Etim, Jorge “Gambred” Masvidal secured a D’Arce choke after getting toppled with a shot in the opening five minutes. The action started fast with The Ultimate Fighter 15 winner landing a couple strikes, shooting for a takedown and, ultimately, dropping Masvidal with a clean right hand. The first round continued at a frenetic pace thereafter, with power shots being landed by both men. Things took a huge turn for the worse for Chiesa as Gamebred punished “Maverick” wherever the fight took itself. Masvidal threatened with a guillotine choke, strikes standing, strikes on the ground, big knees to the body and, finally, a D’Arce choke. Masvidal squeezed to finish and Chiesa squirmed to get out, but with one second left in the round - Chiesa tapped.

ZAK CUMMINGS vs. Ben Alloway at UFC Fight Night: Condit vs. Kampmann 2

One month removed from Gamebred’s addition to this list, Zak Cummings would make his welterweight and Octagon debut with a Submission of the Night win over Ben Alloway. The Ultimate Fighter 17 alum owns the majority of his wins via choke, including a D’Arce choke in another organization. After exchanging takedowns and a myriad of fence work in the early going, Cummings scored on a double-leg and fought to get side control. In the ensuing scramble, Alloway turned to his knees to get back up, but Cummings passed over, taking the back, and instead turned the corner for a front headlock that he worked into a D’Arce attempt. A second later, Cummings closed the distance by wrapping his legs around Alloway’s, squeezed the choke and Alloway tapped.

BRENDAN SCHAUB vs. Matt Mitrione at UFC 165

In 2013, even the heavyweights were getting in on this D’Arce craze. On the main card of UFC 165, a new and heated rivalry took place inside the Octagon as former Ultimate Fighter season 10 teammates Matt Mitrione and Brendan Schaub were set to square off. For the opening three minutes of the bout, the pair traded on the feet, probing for a knockout like their pre-fight trash talk suggested fans should expect. Finally, Schaub gave up on the one or two strike attempts at a time and blitzed Mitrione with a barrage of strikes. As Schaub faked for a second, Mitrione covered up from the feint and Schaub scored a big double-leg takedown. From there, Schaub baited Mitrione into sitting up from half-guard, which Mitrione did. Once back to his feet, Mitrione would be quickly yanked back to the ground as Schaub had sunk in the position. Schaub would continue to squeeze as Mitrione tried to fight the move, but would go out before tapping.

TONY FERGUSON vs. Mike Rio at UFC 166

Generally thought of as the wildest - in a positive sense - Pay-Per-View, UFC 166 just had to have a D’Arce choke on it. After shrugging off a few takedowns and even threatening with a D’Arce at one point, Tony Ferguson caught Mike Rio with a hard left in the center of the Octagon, which caused Rio to semi-stumble into another unfortunate takedown attempt. The Ultimate Fighter 13 winner quickly locked-up a D’Arce choke and forced the fastest tap to this particular sub at only 1:52 into the first round. Almost like Babe Ruth calling his shot, “El Cucuy” had said previously that the D’Arce was his favorite submission technique.

MITCH CLARKE vs. Al Iaquinta at UFC 173

Probably, the least likely or biggest upset on this list is Mitch Clarke’s Performance of the Night-grabbing D’Arce over The Ultimate Fighter 15 finalist Al Iaquinta. Heading into this clash, Iaquinta was riding a three-fight win streak and, less than a minute into the bout, “Raging” dropped Clarke with a punch. For the remainder of the opening round, Iaquinta was all over Clarke on the ground, landing strikes, easily working through any sub attempts from bottom by Clarke, and even looking for a D’Arce himself for a split-second. Iaquinta’s confidence may have gotten the best of him as Clarke, who owns the majority of his wins by submission, would quickly turn the tables on Iaquinta in second round. After an almost immediate takedown, Clarke would very slickly wall walk along the fence while locking in a D’Arce choke with Iaquinta on top, and when the ref finally realized what had happened - Iaquinta was out.

CHARLES ROSA vs. Sean Soriano at UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Siver

The latest finish of its kind came in January 2015 as Charles Rosa would lock up his first UFC win in his home state of Massachusetts. The first five minutes saw lots of back and forth action as the featherweights exchanged strikes, takedown attempts and a prolonged triangle choke attempt. The second stanza saw an even more frantic and frenetic pace, as both Rosa and Sean Soriano threw caution to the wind by jumping on submission attempts, including Rosa’s Peruvian necktie attempt, which was stopped by the bell. Tigers don’t change their stripes, and Rosa and Soriano continued their spinning, rolling, up-and-down grappling in the final round with both seeing a variety of submission attempts and positions slip through their fingers. Finally, Rosa jumped for a guillotine choke, which he turned into a D’Arce choke that forced Soriano to tap with just 17 seconds left in the third.

TONY FERGUSON vs. Edson Barboza at The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber Finale

El Cucuy strikes again! The most recent D’Arce choke inside the Octagon came in a crazy Fight of the Night-earning scrap between top-ranked lightweights Tony Ferguson and Edson Barboza. Featuring spinning kicks and power punches galore, Barboza and Ferguson went after each other in the opening period with the veracity of two men angling for a title shot, if they could survive each other first. The second round went from galore to gore as both were immediately opened up with strikes. The final sequence couldn’t have been more ridiculous if Ferguson and Barboza planned it. It starts with Barboza throwing a spinning head kick, which El Cucuy ducks and returns fire with a spinning back elbow. Then Barboza shoots for a takedown that Ferguson blocks into a D’Arce attempt, then uses that position to take Barboza down. El Cucuy clamps down on the choke, forces the tap and earns Ferguson his seventh straight win and a Performance of the Night bonus too.