Sunday, December 14, 2014

MMA Submission Hero of the Week: Rousimar Palhares

Rousimar Palhares (leglock v. Jon Fitch) - World Series of Fighting 16

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Guy squares off against Rousimar Palhares. Fight goes to ground. Palhares grabs opponent's leg. Squeeze. Pain. Tap.

While scientists and fight fans have uncovered one individual able to withstand the relentless and often punishing leg lock attack of Rousimar Palhares, the rest of humanity would be well-advised to keep combat contests with the limb-snapper affectionately known as "Paul Harris" on the feet.

Jordan Breen once made a great point that for all the talk of "well-roundedness" in mixed martial arts, there is and may always be something special if not vital about successful fighters with only a sole path to victory. And while there will always be killshot artists like Chuck Liddell, you've really got to hand it to a fighter whose single path to victory is a submission.

Palhares is just that kind of guy. And even if his submission-uber-alles approach proves not be enough to make him more than the champion of a second-tier mixed martial arts organization, it's hardly a bad way to spend a career kicking ass.

Rousimar can be a hard guy to love - even for those of us in the "take few prisoners" school of jiu-jitsu in MMA. He has been criticized for holding submission holds - particularly heel hooks - "too long" and subjecting his opponents to greater than necessary injury. And as someone who has seen Rousimar grapple in training, I would love to see more of his submission arsenal (why not add a few arms to his growing collection of legs?).

One interesting MMA Submission Hero of the Week trivia note. Last week, two our of our top three submission heroes were heroines. This week, two of the top three submission heroes got it done with leglocks. In fact, compared to last week, the diversity among submissions was impressive with chokes, armbars, and leglocks each earning equally effective fight-ending applications.


Runner's Up
Ian Entwistle (leglock v. Anthony Birchak) - UFC on Fox 13
John Moraga (choke v. Willie Gates) - UFC on Fox 13

Honorable Mention
Yancy Medieros (choke v. Joe Proctor) - TUF 20 Finale
Felice Herrig (armbar v. Lisa Ellis) - TUF 20 Finale
Aisling Daly (armbar v. Alex Chambers) - TUF 20 Finale
Drew Dober (choke v. Jamie Varner) - UFC of Fox 13


What is an MMA Submission Hero?
Death to the death of jiu-jitsu in mixed martial arts! There are guys and gals getting it done with chokes, armbars, leglocks and more every weekend in the cage! 

MMA Submission Hero of the Week recognizes the men and women who finish fights "the gentle way." Each week we'll highlight MMA's best stranglers, arm collectors, and leg snappers, be they well-known jiu-jitsu superstars or a small-show strikers with a knack for pulling off the occasional submission surprise.

Check the sidecontrol blog every Sunday after a weekend of MMA action and see just who is this week's MMA Submission Hero of the Week!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Metrics: December 7 - December13

Training Days: 0
Four Week training average: 1.5

Techniques of the Week

Box Step/Upright Rows/Overhead Press circuit: Saturday
"Shoulder Shocker": Saturday

Begin: N.A.
End: N.A.

Live Training


  • Keep: Track of the metrics - woeful as they may be sometimes
  • Start: Training at least twice a week when I'm in town
  • Stop: Not training at least twice a week when I'm in town

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

As Jiu-Jitsu Evolves, When is Difference Different?

Brazilian jiu jitsu is evolving but evolving into what? Anyone who has trained in multiple jiu jitsu schools will notice the differences in philosophy and technical emphasis that exist between academies. Certainly, there is a common body of techniques and transitions that they all share; but what they emphasize is so different, so as to call into question whether the term “Brazilian jiu jitsu” will continue to be adequate in describing them all.
Either Brazilian jiu jitsu will reproduce new styles of martial art or it will continue to exist as a single combat sport, with disparate competition rule sets, the way Wrestling does. With the current state of jiu jitsu variety, simply saying one has a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu isn’t as descriptive as it was in the early 90’s.

I'll admit to being somewhere between the first and second schools, myself. I've never been especially preoccupied by having the best jiu-jitsu in a room full of guys and gals who know jiu-jitsu. For me, jiu-jitsu is a shield against the world outside the academy, a self-defense resource first and foremost, a response to the great philosophical question: "What if he tries to punch you in the face?"

Everything else, as enjoyable as it is, (and it is) is secondary.

That said, I'm especially curious about what drives people to want to learn to train jiu-jitsu now. What is motivating the folks signing up to learn jiu-jitsu today - or, even better, the ones who will sign up in 2015?  Self-defense? A dream of being an IBJJF champion or MMA star? My suspicion is that it will be the same thing that's always drawn a certain percentage of the population toward martial arts, something that's a little superhero, a little warrior, and more than a little spiritual, as well.

More on that last later. 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

MMA Submission Hero of the Week: Herica Tiburcio

Herica Tiburcio (choke v. Michelle Waterson) - Invicta FC10

There will be some who wonder how submitting one of the top lightweights in the world - which is what UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis did last night in his victory by choke over Gilbert Melendez - does not earn you the title of MMA Submission Hero of the Week.

It's a fair point. For all the talk of guys like Eddie Alvarez, Gilbert Melendez was the great white whale of the UFC's lightweight division. For years, if there was one lightweight competing outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship who could claim to be better than the dudes in his division inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship, that lightweight was Gilbert Melendez.

So for Anthony Pettis to return to the cage and make the first defense of his title a victory by submission over such an opponent, it is not hard at all to see Mr. Showtime as a Submission Hero of the Highest Order.

And he is.

But if there is one thing more dramatic than defending the belt by submission, it is taking the belt from the champ by submission (ask Benson Henderson, who lost his title to an Anthony Pettis armbar a little over a year ago). And I think we can also agree that it is even more impressive if that submission victory and belt-changing comes at the hand of a substantial underdog.

That's the spirit that has me giving the nod to Invicta's new Atomweight Champion, Herica Tiburcio. Tiburcio dominated former champ Michelle Waterson en route to a finish by choke in round three.

The fighter from Minas Gerais was a +600 underdog coming into the fight against a champion on a six fight win streak with five finishes. Tiburcio controlled much of the contest, putting Waterson on the defensive with strikes, including one that left a large, vision-impeding mouse under the champion's left eye.

The submission victory is Tiburcio's seventh out of eleven pro fights, and her third victory by guillotine.

To say that this shakes up the Atomweight division is an understatement. And while there will likely be many clamoring for a rematch between Tiburcio and the "Karate Hottie", there are other Atomweights, such as Jinh Yu Frey, who should be in the conversation, as well. Frey won her contest at Invicta FC 10, defeating winless Cassie Robb by choke.


Runner's Up
Anthony Pettis (choke v. Gilbert Melendez) - UFC 181
Racquel Pennington (choke v. Ashlee Evans-Smith) - UFC 181

Honorable Mentions
Bibiano Fernandes (choke v, Dae Hwan Kim) - One FC 23
Tony Ferguson (choke v. Abel Trujillo) - UFC 181
Borys Mankowski (choke v. David Zawada) - KSW 29
Jinh Yu Frey (choke v. Cassie Robb) - Invicta FC 10
Tonya Evinger (armbar v. Cindy Dandois) - Invicta FC 10
Urijah Faber (choke v. Francisco Rivera) - UFC 181


What is an MMA Submission Hero?
Death to the death of jiu-jitsu in mixed martial arts! There are guys and gals getting it done with chokes, armbars, leglocks and more every weekend in the cage! 

MMA Submission Hero of the Week recognizes the men and women who finish fights "the gentle way." Each week we'll highlight MMA's best stranglers, arm collectors, and leg snappers, be they well-known jiu-jitsu superstars or a small-show strikers with a knack for pulling off the occasional submission surprise.

Check the sidecontrol blog every Sunday after a weekend of MMA action and see just who is this week's MMA Submission Hero of the Week!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Metrics: November 30 - December 6

Training Days: Four
Four week training average: 2.0

Techniques of the week: Double leg takedowns and sprawls / Kimura from knee on belly / Asymmetrical choke variation from kimura from knee on belly

Cardiac Output: Monday
Tempo Method: Tuesday, Saturday

Weight (gi, post-training)
Start (Mon pm): 170
End (Sat noon): 163.4

Live Training: 16 minutes

  • Keep: Murilo Santana pass, Tozi pass, Ezekiel choke, conditioning, regular stretching, Cucumber water, 4x training/week, passion for warmups :)
  • Start: Tracking training on blog weekly, training in the evenings at least once a week
  • Stop: Pre-training distractions

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Welcome to a Working Week

Out of nowhere, a four-day training week. 

I'm trying to remember the last time I managed to get to the Academy so often (quick check of the training calendar says the last week of August: 25, 27. 29. and 30). My four-week training average had plunged below 1.0, courtesy of a pair coast-to-coast business trips that kept me off the mat for much of the second half of September and early October.

This four-day week has me back above 1.0 fortunately, though not by much. And while a few technical breakthroughs are keeping me from feeling totally inept on the mat, there is very little that is sharp about my game, right now.

One of the things I'm (re)thinking is my focus on submissions. I've been trying to focus on chokes, thinking for a variety of reasons that this would be the best way for me to pursue finishing contests. I've switched up to focusing on the Rickson Finish, giving myself a chance at moving from my position-dominant jiu-jitsu toward a pressure-submission top game. But trying to make sure I train this approach consistently is a struggle.

That said, I'm managing to keep me weight under control, finishing the week under 162 in the gi. That's mostly coffee and calorie restriction, which is fine with me. As I bring the conditioning online, I'm hoping to drop that gi number to 158, halfway between the lightweight no-gi limit and the featherweight gi limit, and then down to 154.5 (featherweight gi limit).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Back on the Mat

Double Leg takedowns / Double Leg to Back / Double Leg to Back to Straight Choke to Osoto Gari
Beach Boys Closed Guard Break to Split Pass with Backstep
3 five-minute rounds Live Training
162.4 lbs post-train

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Homework: Bottom to Top

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Monday, October 06, 2014

Top Game

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"You've Got Persuasion, I ..."

Can't Help Myself ..."



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Murilo Santana: Who is This Man

And how is he helping turn me into the most confident guard passer I've ever been?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Black Belt Adult Women's Feather Final at Dallas Open

Mackenzie Dern v. Karen Souza

Formula for Great Training

After being off the mat for over a week, it was more than fantastic to finally get back to where I once belonged.

A couple of things contributed to today's great session, all of which are worth keeping in mind:

1. Hunger
The combination of being off the mat for a week and watching Jacare win his rematch against Gegard Mousasi provided tremendous fuel for training today. It's a reminder also that Saturdays and evenings have something that lunchtime training never has, and that I need to adjust my training schedule accordingly.

It also begs the question of training frequency, something I haven't entirely figured out. Now that I'll be joining the Tuesday/Thursday morning crew at GBS, I'm optimistic that I'll be able to come up with something that works consistently without "overexposing" my body to too much abuse at this point in the timeline (time torus?).

2. Pena
One of the biggest reasons for my energy today was weight. Tipping the scales at 161.4 in the gi means that even when I'm in the gi,  I'm below the no-gi limit of 162. That has been a benchline goal for some time, and finding myself hit that mark after a week of little activity is a testament to the relatively minor diet changes I've made in the past few days.

The goal is to get down to 150 no gi, which works out to about 155 or so in the gi. So I've got some more to go. But this is a great place to be.

3. The Plan
I finally got a chance to work on the guard passing strategy I've wanted to implement for weeks if not months. Today, I got to train against easily one of the toughest training partners in the school (if not in the state, certainly when Masters are considered). And while I never actually "got" the pass, I was able to apply major pressure consistently, remain a persistent threat, avoid the submission, and always know exactly what the mission was, strategically and tactically. I cannot describe what it is like to try and pass a high-level guard with this reality on your side compared to when everything is a fog of half-measures and hope.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Ronaldo Souza: MMA Submission Hero of the Week

If you learned to love jiu-jitsu because you saw what this art could do in true physical confrontations - be they in the earliest years of the Ultimate Fighting Championship or in the "Gracie in Action" challenge matches - then there is no more vital jiu-jitsu competitor in mixed martial arts than Ronaldo Souza.

The fighter also known as Jacare was brilliant in his rematch against the talented Gegard Mousasi. Truth told, this second fight was in some essential ways like the first: Jacare was able to takedown Mousasi virtually at will and impose ground control against which Mousasi was very challenged to escape.

This reality was reflected in the wagering line, which had Jacare as a sizable favorite. To be sure, Mousasi was able to catch Jacare with an upkick in the first match, earning a knockout victory. But the "Black Swan" nature of that victory was made pretty clear tonight in the rematch, as Jacare again took Mousasi down at will and secured dominant positions consistently.

Like most, I was rooting for the kimura finish. But like any old jiu-jitsu folk, I'll take what I can get. The point of the matter about this fight for me, though, is this: Rickson Was Right.

I don't know why so many people resist this idea. Sure, mixed martial arts is biased in favor of striking (i.e., padded gloves). But Jacare's performance is a reminder that a strategy of closing the distance, insisting on the takedown, and executing sound guard passing and high probability submissions is just as valid an approach to winning a mixed martial arts contest as "Punch-Punch-Kick."

Yes, you're going to need to have some cardio to fight like this. Mixed martial arts is a professional sport for professional athletes, after all. But if you are a jiu-jitsu fighter in MMA, the only thing better than a striking-based opponent who has to grapple for five minutes is a striking-based opponent who has to grapple for ten minutes. Or fifteen.

Or twenty-five.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

BJ Penn Hilo Hip Check Pass

People who talk about BJ Penn talk about his flexibility. People who watch BJ Penn study his guard passing and top game.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Mat Metrics: Me and the New Thing

First Year of New Job

Dec (8) Jan (16) Feb (9) Mar (15) Apr (12) May (9) Jun (10) Jul (13)
= 92

Aug (12) Sep (5) Oct (6) Nov (9)
= 32

Total: 124

Second Year of New Job

Dec (6) Jan (9) Feb (6) Mar (13) Apr (10) May (9) Jun (9) Jul (10)
= 72

With four months to go, I'm  twenty training sessions behind pace.

I've thought for awhile that I've been having a hard time balancing training and my new job. The statistics suggest I'm not getting any better at it.

The good news is that in order to match the previous pace, I'll have to train 52 times over the next four months. That's a very doable (or, at least, historically doable) 13 sessions a month.

I'm going to be traveling a lot in late September through mid-October. So running up the score in August and November may have to become part of the plan.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

When The Man Comes Around

With apologies to Mr. Cash ...

To say that this is a great opportunity for grapplers here in the northwest is an understatement. That is especially so for those competitors who are looking to climb up the IBJJF ranks, particularly black belts looking for qualifying events ahead of the World Championships.

It is even a greater testament to the growth of jiu-jitsu and grappling in the area. Opportunities to compete were few and far between when I started training almost ten years ago. And if weren't for the explosive growth of jiu-jitsu and grappling, these big name tournaments like the IBJJF and Grapplers Quest wouldn't be putting Seattle in their rotation.

All that said, when it comes to grappling competition in the northwest, the Revolution is still my Alpha and Omega. The biggest, the best-run, the best competitors - including black belts - compete on the mats run by Jeff Bourgeois and the Revolution Team three times a year.  100% local and regular as rain since 2006.

So while the autumn competition schedule just got a little more crowded, remember that there's still nothing like rolling with your own.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dope Mount from Side Control

This is one of the best demonstrations of this "legendary" attack popularized by B.J. Penn that I've come across.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Professor Rodrigo Lopes in Action

It is hard to describe how inspiring it is to see my professor since 2005 back on the competitive tatame again.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Joe Rogan Interviews Rickson Gracie

Some great insights into jiu-jitsu past, present, and future from one of the art's greatest ever. Also featuring Eddie Bravo. Especially love Rickson's separating MMA from vale tudo, and his comparison of no time limit vale tudo fights and five-hour long professional tennis matches.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Omoplata from Spider Guard

Love the omoplata, but lacking a high percentage set-up? You're in luck!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Training By the Numbers

Even if I trained every day for the rest of the month, it still looks like the 2014 training year* will be my weakest since I began keeping track back in the late summer of 2008 (beginning of the 2009 training year). I could probably do the leg work all the way back to August 2005. But I think this gives me a good sample of my training since getting a few stripes on my blue belt.

2014: 98 - 108
2013: 162
2012:  161
2011: 135
2010: 162
2009: 139

Another reminder of how brutal this training year has been in terms of mat time.

That said, what I like is that even though 2014 is shaping up to be a pretty lousy year in terms of training frequency, I still managed to make my 2x/week minimum. I also have to take a step back and pat myself on the back for what is a pretty impressive history going into 2014. 

It goes without saying that I want the 2015 training year that begins in August to be one of the best years ever. My dream is to make personal records for every month of the year or, failing that, to top 196 training sessions in a year, which would represent essentially the same thing. The travel in my new job makes this kind of goal-reaching more than a challenge. But what I wouldn't give to hang a "200" on the board before I'm through ...

*Since I began training jiu-jitsu in August 2005, my training year begins in August and ends in July.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Matter over Mind

I've never been impressed by exhortations to "will." One of my favorite poems, "Ruby Bates," makes the point this way:

"The Reds are virgins. They wear business suits
And talk a shrapnel-proof logic. They will all die
Of biology ..."

It makes us feel good to tell others that "it's all in your head" or to suggest, implicitly or explicitly, that wishing can make things so. As a materialist, I can't help but feel that this is yet another way that we are dishonest with ourselves and each other, inevitably keeping us from truly becoming what we can be by focusing on that over which we have far less control of than we think.

All that said to say that I think this article sums up the point very well, and does so in a martial arts context that I think most of us can appreciate. The intro alone is worth your time.

Resolutions based on “Will Power” FAIL 80% of the time; Resolutions based on changing the Systems you work in SUCCEED 80% of the time. 
Remember, it’s well-intentioned SYSTEMS that make us fat and lazy. You never walk anywhere because it’s too easy to drive your car. Your car, and all the roads you drive on, are a system.
 STOP saying to yourself “I’m going to try harder” and instead, this weekend just spend one solid hour seeing the systems that reinforce your bad behaviors. And then change them. ”

Monday, July 14, 2014

Jiu-Jitsu for Chael

What a Q2! With any luck, things will pick up now that the summer has begun in earnest.

I'll admit that there are times when the life of a middle-aged black belt who doesn't run his own school or compete actively has its discontents. The balance of 2014 will involve me trying to figure out what exactly to do with myself when even the white belts are starting to look dangerous.

In the meantime, have some Chael Sonnen, courtesy of Gracie Barra Portland, Gracie Barra Seattle, and Metamoris 4.

"Nothing beats wrestling. Except jiu-jitsu." Mark Schultz, wrestling coach for Chael Sonnen