It's no secret that B.J. Penn is one of the foremost jiu jitsu practitoners competing in MMA. A Mundial world champion in 2000, his BJJ credentials are considerable.
However, his MMA wins have come just as often from his formidable striking as his BJJ. Even more impressive than either his striking or his grappling in isolation is his ability to transition between different phases of the game -- using strikes to set up submissions, using positional grappling to set up devastating strikes.
But for this post I want to focus on his pure jiu jitsu as applied in MMA. We'll focus on a pivotal moment in his second fight with Matt Hughes.
In the second round, Hughes was in B.J.'s guard, driving him back into the fence and working to unload some of his patented ground and pound. B.J. countered with an unusual position: the Octopus guard.
Here's a definition of the Octopus from Grapple Arts:
The Octopus Guard was named by BJJ and submission grappling competitor Eduardo Telles. In this position you duck under your opponent’s armpit and lock his body down by placing your arm across his back. This position opens up various sweeps and submissions, as well as a clear route to your opponent’s back. With slight variations the Octopus Guard can be applied from the Closed Guard, the Open Guard or even the Half Guard.
Once again, Telles is not the only person to have developed and used this position. BJ Penn, for example, used it to take Matt Hughes’s back in their second battle at UFC 63.
We'll break down what B.J. did in the full entry, with animated gifs.
In the gif on the right we see things get started. Hughes is in B.J.'s closed guard. He rears back to fire off an elbow at B.J.'s head. B.J. takes advantage of the space Hughes creates to get his left arm under Hughes' left arm. He pops his head under Hughes' armpits immediately after and wraps his left arm over Hughes' back. Finally, he opens his legs, establishing the Octopus Guard. He doesn't linger, immediately shifting his weight and wrapping his right arm around Hughes' waist. He moves his left elbow to the ground and shifts his weight onto his left hip, pulling Hughes over.
On the left,B.J. and Hughes are fighting for hip control. B.J. has also wrapped his left arm under Hughes' chin, giving him head control of Hughes. Hughes is trying to get his right leg to the outside of B.J.'s, but B.J. wins the battle and wraps his right leg around Hughes' hips. Hughes is also fighting to push B.J.'s left leg back across his waist.
On the right, has also lost the fight to push B.J.'s left leg away and B.J. is positioned to get a body triangle. He gives up his head control to post his left arm on the mat. As soon as he's posted up he hooks his right arm under Hughes' right, establishing an underhook. Meanwhile his right leg is verging on hooking his left foot to lock on the body triangle.
At this point he has Hughes' back and from here will threaten with a series of submission holds.
Ironically, not only did this move nearly win Penn the fight, it also lost him the fight as he separated his ribs getting out from under Hughes. His adrenaline kept him going through the second round, but he was a dead man walking entering the third.
In B.J.'s new book, The Closed Guard, he details an interesting variation of this move that goes from the Octopus guard to using the left arm to establish a whizzer under the opponent's left arm. From there he locks in an arm bar.
Eduardo Telles Octopus Guard Instructional 1, Telles is the guy who named the position.