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:
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?).
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.
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.