John Danaher recently gave his thoughts on the Smother tap, something that the team at New Wave Jiu-Jitsu have started to be come known for in recent competition performances. Throughout 2022 and 2023, several of his top competitors have managed to mount their opponents and eventually smother them using their chest, forcing the tap that way. Gordon Ryan was the first of them to do this at the highest level, Dan Manasoiu has managed to do it to a huge number of competitors, and Nicholas Meregali even did it on the way to winning the IBJJF Absolute Grand Prix 2023.
An interviewer at FloGrappling recently asked John Danaher what he thought about the Smother tap, and he was pretty clearly about whether or not it was a submission everyone would be able to use:
“Let’s get a few things straight. First, smothering someone is asphyxiating someone. It’s not for everybody. Like there’s certain moves which are universal; anyone entering the sport, with any degree of physicality, any kind of size or frame, could use. There are others which are more tailored to people who are physically a little more powerful and I could not, for example, imagine a 130lb man mounting and asphyxiating a 230lb man. His own size and strength, I think that would be highly unlikely. So is it a universal move that would apply across absolute divisions or open weight? No, I don’t think so.”
Although smothering an opponent from mount is obviously easier for biggest athletes who are able to use a wider surface area to apply the technique, it can still be useful for everyone in a different way. As John Danaher explains, even if you can’t tap an opponent with a smother, you can use it to set up another submission instead:
“At the highest levels of the sport it’s very, very difficult to get the basic moves to work. Everyone knows what the basic moves are, everyone knows how to defend them. So almost always there has to be some sense of distraction prior to the attack, and one of the best ways to cause distraction is to interrupt your opponent’s breathing. Breathing is probably one of the top five most fundamental operations of the human body. You get your breathing interrupted; I don’t care who you are, within a matter of seconds you’re gonna start making mistakes. You’re gonna get frantic, you’re gonna panic, and someone who might otherwise be very calm and composed and defensively sound will suddenly become quite easy to attack. So the real value of asphyxiation is more of a kind of setup, but when there’s a sufficient skill disparity then it can be used all the way through to submission.”
Danaher believes that the skill disparity is what leads to his students being able to win their matches by smothering opponents from mount. But he elaborates on that to explain that it isn’t the skill behind the smother itself, but rather the skill of actually controlling an opponent from mount compared to the opponent’s skill in escaping the position:
“It is used more as a setup, a method of creating panic reactions which make the real submissions of the sport much easier to apply. But if you are sufficiently skilled in pinning, and most of my students are, and your opponent perhaps doesn’t have the same degree of pin escape skill then it will become an actual submission hold. What you’re often seeing is the tremendous amount of work my students do in pinning skills gets rewarded with asphyxiation finishes.”
John Danaher gave his thoughts on the Smother tap in a recent interview with FloGrappling that the organization uploaded to their official YouTube channel: