Yes, this really happened. Maybe he didn't know what he was grabbing onto.
I love watching old school Vale Tudo fights--the skill level at the beginning of mixed martial arts was very primal and basic. The sport hadn't yet become regulated and gloves weren't always required for competition and training. This was all happening while I was in college, so I had lots of fights like this in martial arts schools and privately with training buddies or random opponents.
There's something awesome about the way the blonde dude in this match, Tom Glanville, suffers--you can watch this fight HERE at about 18:45 in.
Vale Tudo, which means "anything goes", is a form of submission fighting which originated in the 1920s. In this form of fighting, virtually nothing was off limits---head butts, groin shots, brutal choking or neck punches, and bare knuckle shots to the face and groin were all par for the course.
Initially fights like these took place in carnivals in Brazil between fighters with different martial arts and wrestling backgrounds until the 1960s when these fights were deemed too brutal--which led to them being banned at public events. At that point Vale Tudo competitions went underground.
In the 1990s, the UFC events inspired a resurgence of interest in a wider variety of combat sports, which brought Vale Tudo back into the mainstream, albeit with more regulations and boundaries.
This video is a good example of the raw, primal quality of Vale Tudo fighting.
The official blog of Krush the Wrestler. Watch and download his submission wrestling videos at KRUSHCO.COM