“I have a theory that no position’s a bad position, and I wanna be able to submit somebody from anywhere, even if my opponent has me mounted, y’know?” Lucas Clay told reporter James Lynch in an interview after defeating Brant Moore (8-1) by buggy choke. At least, that’s what Lynch called it. Clay claims this was a submission of his own invention.
The buggy choke is an uncommon submission on its own. Teenage BJJ rising star Kade Ruotolo recently set the BJJ world on fire by completing one against 10th Planet black belt PJ Barch to win the 2020 Combat Jiu Jitsu World Championships.
Buggy choke for the #CJJW2020 Lightweight title! 🤯
Congrats Kade Ruotolo 🏆 pic.twitter.com/4Qm0q5bCKC
— UFC FIGHT PASS (@UFCFightPass) November 30, 2020
Finishing a professional MMA fight with one would be impressive enough — Clay would be only the second fighter to do it. However, in his interview with Lynch, Clay explains “Nobody’s ever taught me that move. I saw it on Youtube one time, but I’ve been doing it since my second week doing jiu-jitsu. I just go for stuff anywhere.”
Clay calls his variation the Claymore choke, and claims that his is a little different, though acknowledges that Austin Hardt discovered it first, and therefore, gets to name it.
The video above is from Clay’s HFC 41 fight with former United Combat League welterweight champion Craig Fruth (7-5) — the second fight Clay won with that submission.
Clay is either the only person to ever win two pro MMA fights via buggy choke, or the only person to ever win any fight with a claymore choke — whichever way to you want to count it, it’s a record, and a demonstration of the creativity and versatility that makes Clay so dangerous.
In an interview with the podcast Outside Perspective, Clay walked through the process of inventing it:
“The thought was, ‘I just gotta try something.’ I’m just laying on my back, this guy has me in side control, and it always would happen against someone I couldn’t get off of me, and I’m like ‘I’m just gonna do something,’ you know? I had nothing to lose at that point. And one day, I locked my legs in a triangle. and I couldn’t get my own arm back, and I didn’t mean to choke him, but then he tapped, and I was like ‘S—, was that choking or was that a neck crank?’ and he was like ‘It’s a choke.’ And then I tried forever to like, duplicate that, and then one day I did, and I started building on it, and now I actually made it a move, but then, here’s how the world works: as soon as I perfected it, and I’m getting it in practice, I see a video of another guy doing it. He called it the buggy choke because, before that, I was calling it the Claymore choke.”
Clay claims he discovered one of his variations of the move while rolling with UFC fighter and viral knockout star Joaquin Buckley (12-3). Clay’s already displayed similar creativity in his MMA career.
In that same interview, Clay walked through the finishing sequence of the Fruth fight. Clay rocked his opponent on the feet, dropped down for and nearly completed an anaconda choke, fell off (he claims his opponent was too slippery), attempted a Peruvian necktie, fell off (again, too slippery), then “played the fish game” as he put it, let his opponent pass to side-control, then grabbed his signature move.
Clay’s talent isn’t just limited to grappling, either. Clay’s comfortable striking in either stance and seems to hit hard enough to encourage his opponents to take him down as soon as possible. He throws a wide variety of strikes and mixes up his target with leg and body kicks. He does show some common signs of an undeveloped striker – throwing one shot at a time, throwing every strike with power, a little too much love for the spinning backfist — but a lot of this may be due to his ground game.
Once the fight goes to the ground, his opponent is put through a non-stop barrage of submission attempts, until something eventually works. Excluding a K1-rules striking match, his experience striking in the cage is pretty limited. It will be demonstrative of his priorities if his striking looks significantly improved at his upcoming fight this weekend compared to his last fight, nearly fourteen months ago.
In addition to everything else Clay has demonstrated, his toughness cannot go unmentioned. This clip of him refusing to tap to a shoulder lock from the scarf hold position during a BJJ tournament says everything one needs to know on the subject.
Clay trains out of St. Charles MMA in Saint Charles, MO, the same gym that UFC fighter Luis Pena (8-3) started at before moving to American Kickboxing Academy; Pena most recently cornered Clay in his win over Fruth.
Clay is also a BJJ purple belt under the revered Rodrigo Vaghi.
However, neither Rodrigo Vaghi, nor Luis Pena, nor Joaquin Buckley can claim to be the most famous or accomplished of those to be associated with Clay. His nickname, “Cassius” is not just a play on his last name – it’s a reference to his relative, Cassius Clay, better known as Muhammad Ali. However, Clay seems not to be one to ride coattails, as it never comes up in interviews.
Clay is, unfortunately, in the same boat as many fighters — he struggles to make lightweight but is smaller than the average welterweight. Clay claims to have weighed 175 the night of his most recent welterweight fight, and would likely benefit from a better-managed weight cut.
He’s giving lightweight another shot in his upcoming fight with former Bellator and Contender Series fighter JJ Okanovich (6-1) at LFA 98. With LFA’s lightweight and welterweight titles both currently vacant, a win this weekend could mean a short path to the title regardless of which weight class he chooses.