The Lion Killer


Garry Tonon, nicknamed “The Lion Killer,” began training in 2005 at age 14. While he started in an MMA facility, his passion for the BJJ training led him to seek a school that specialized in grappling. He found Ocean City Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which had recently opened its doors, and began his training with the highly respected Tom DeBlass.

Garry Tonon won his first international title at the 2008 World Championships in the Blue Belt Juvenile Division. In 2013, DeBlass and Ricardo Almeida promoted Tonon to black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. Since then, Tonon has continued to win titles and make his mark on the grappling world.

Garry Tonon, as most people do in BJJ, started by competing in Gi tournaments. As he progressed, though, he gravitated to No Gi. He trained with renowned coach, John Danaher, and specialized in No Gi and lower body attacks, especially Heel Hooks.

Garry Tonon prefers No Gi and his favorite positions are the Rear Naked Choke and Inverted Heel Hook. He has consistently submitted opponents with the Inverted Heel Hook and Heel Hook, and the Rear Naked Choke places as his third most-achieved submission.

His highest percentage submissions, in order, have been the Inside Heel Hook, Heel Hook, Rear Naked Choke, and Guillotine. He specializes in leg locks, and his fight record reflects this.

In 2015, Tonon announced plans to make some departures from strictly grappling competitions and enter the world of MMA. The announcement excited his fans with good reason.

Inverted Heel Hook

In this video, Garry Tonon surprised the audience with a dynamic Scissor Leg takedown to an Inverted Heel Hook against Lance Glynn at the Eddie Bravo Invitational in 2014.

To set up an Inverted Heel Hook on your opponent’s left leg, you need to get their left toes under your left armpit and your left forearm under your opponent’s heel. Clasp your hands, palm to palm and keep your thumbs glued to the side of your hand. Then, turn your hips to your right to effect the submission. Heel Hooks, whether standard or inverted, are incredibly dangerous. If taken to injury, they usually tear a ligament in the knee.

The high risk of injury from them stems from the fact that your opponent will feel little or no pain prior to the knee damage. As such, your opponent needs to recognize the danger and tap in spite of the lack of pain. Conversely, if you realize your opponent has achieved the position, you need to tap, even if you feel no pain, before you suffer a serious injury that could prevent you from training or competing for some time.

Heel Hook

EBI 3 – a – Garry Tonon vs Josh Valles fromcorgidog1

In fact, the Heel Hook is difficult to see in this video due to camera angles and the speed of the action. At 2:17, Tonon begins to set up a submission on Valles’ arm. As Valles escapes the arm submission, Tonon catches the Heel Hook on Valles’ left leg. The Heel Hook slips and Tonon begins to transition to an Inverted Heel Hook, but Valles taps. The submission was attributed to the initial Heel Hook in spite of its slip. The Heel Hook is the same as almost identical to the Inverted Heel Hook, but it turns the foot toward the inside of your opponent’s knee instead of the outside. To set it up, clamp your opponent’s left toes in your right armpit and hook your right elbow under your opponent’s heel. Turn your hips to the left to apply.

Rear Naked Choke

One of the first submissions many grapplers learn, the Rear Naked Choke, also known as RNC, is quick and effective once you get to your opponent’s back. Of course, getting your opponent’s back can prove difficult.

Here, we see Tonon convert a Half Guard to a full Guard position, then get to Kitoaka’s back. He begins working to get the RNC set up. Kitoaka struggles for over a minute before tapping. The entire fight lasted seven minutes and was well-matched. Both fighters achieved dominance several times and, until the final minute, each time saw a reversal.

Garry Tonon's Guillotine

In an explosive exchange, Tonon gets Almodovar’s back, and begins setting up a Kimura submission. Tonon uses Almodovar’s efforts to counter the Kimura and sets up a trap. Almodovar, feeling a possible escape, falls into the trap and Tonon locks in the Guillotine.

Unlike the RNC, which is a vascular choke and disrupts the blood flow of your opponent, the Guillotine cuts into your opponent’s windpipe. In the video above, Tonon uses a seemingly complicated setup, but there are many ways to get to the Guillotine position.

The basic Guillotine starts with a standard head lock position.

Start on your knees and place your opponent in a basic head lock but bring your forearm across your opponent’s windpipe. You might achieve the choke in that position but, often, you end up under your opponent as they try to counter the choke.

Keep your opponent’s head in the choke and wrap your legs around your opponent’s torso.

Extend your legs while compressing your choking arm to apply the choke. You can often achieve the setup for Guillotine as your opponent attempts a Single Leg takedown.

As your opponent enters, wrap your arm around your opponent’s head and begin the Guillotine set up. This is why, when you do the Single Leg, you want to keep your head tucked hard against your opponent’s hip to prevent your opponent from setting up the Guillotine on you.


Garry Tonon

Garry Tonon

My instructor, Tom DeBlass, has always told me, and all his students, no matter who’s across the mat from you, you have to go into that match with the idea, the belief, that you’re going to be able to defeat that person, no matter who they are. You have to be ready for the Devil himself, and if you’re not, then you shouldn’t be out on the mats. – Garry Tonon

Tonon took this advice from his instructor and ran with it. When he steps onto the mat, he radiates solid confidence without seeming cocky. He has trained hard, knows what he’s capable of, and enjoys the challenge of meeting others on the mat.

Garry Tonon’s aggressive style makes for exciting matches for spectators. His skill and ability make him a dangerous opponent, even for larger, stronger fighters. At Polaris 3, Tonon fought Rousimar Palhares to a draw in an action-packed fifteen-minute match.

Tonon’s star is rising, and the grappling community expects him to continue the trend. While Tonon is known for his Leg Locks, he is far from a one-trick fighter. He has proven, time and again, that he has a wide repertoire of tools and is skilled at their application.

Leg Locks still represent a strong majority in his submission record. But, his ability to use other submissions allows him to threaten those and cause his opponents to react. Often, their reaction provides the opening Tonon needs to achieve a Leg Lock as the final submission.

Tonon has expressed an interest in entering the world of MMA, and the prospect excites a lot of people. Some wonder if his standing game rivals his ground game. If not, can he develop his defenses to a level where he can get to the ground against good strikers?

We don’t yet have the answer to this question, but Tonon’s record promises some exciting matches along the way to finding out.

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