Health & Fitness A Doctor Explains How Khabib Nurmagomedov Put Justin Gaethje to Sleep at UFC 254
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successfully defended his title in a fight against Justin Gaethje at last night's UFC 254 event, putting his opponent to sleep by wrapping his leg around his neck in a chokehold move.
Gaethje didn't take it personally, and told reporters after his defeat that he's confident he can bounce back. "I fight for a living," he said. "The best thing about getting choked out is there's nothing really consequential to your health, especially your long-term health."
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In a new YouTube video, Brian Sutterer MD, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, talks through what was happening in Gaethje's body during the chokehold, and what the ramifications might be for his health.
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With Nurmagomedov's leg compressing against Gaethje's neck, Gaethje passed out. "Even when Gaethje rolls onto his back and we can see his eyes open, he's not alert, he's not responding, he's probably still unconscious at this point," says Sutterer.
Gaethje's loss of consciousness, or syncope, was caused by a restriction of blood flow to the brain due to the pressure being placed on the blood vessels in his neck by Nurmagomedov's chokehold.
"If you occlude or pinch the common carotid artery, that's going to limit the blood supply up into the brain," he explains. "Like anything else in the body, the brain needs blood flow to survive. Whenever Gaethje is being choked in this position, what's happening is Khabib is causing compression to be applied to these carotid blood vessels as well as the jugular veins. When those arteries are compressed for long enough, that decreases the blood flow into the tissue in the brain and causes you to pass out. If the blood flow is cut off for long enough, you can actually get permanent death of those tissues in the brain."
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This wasn't helped that prior to losing consciousness, Gaethje lifted Nurmagomedov into the air while his leg was still hooked around his neck, generating a lot of intra-thoracic pressure. "It's only going to impair more of the blood flow back to your heart, which puts you in a bad position when you're in the sequence of getting choked out like this, limiting the blood flow already to your brain," says Sutterer. "You can see as soon as he dropped Khabib back to the ground, he knew it was over."
He acknowledges that Gaethje is most likely correct that there will be no long-term impact on the brain from being choked out for as short a period as 5 to 10 seconds, but there may be some trauma to the neck from the pressure of the chokehold.
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Following his victory, Nurmagomedov retired from the UFC, claiming that this was his final fight. "Today, I want to say, this was my last fight," he said, explaining that he no longer wishes to fight without his father, who passed away from COVID-related complications earlier this year. He also paid his respects to Gaethje, saying: "Thank you brother. I know you are a great man."
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