Judo Chop: Nogueira vs Brilz Part 1: The Deep Half Guard Sweep

Immediately after UFC 114 I did two Judo Chops on the event: one on Rashad Evans' brilliant transitions from striking to wrestling against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, and a second on Waylon Lowe's high leg sweep in a losing effort against Melvin Guillard. But the really devoted Judo Chop junkies remember that I promised an incredible five chops based on the event.

Well here we go sports fans. I was so enamored of Antonio Rogerio "Little Nog" Nogueira vs Jason Brilz that only a special three-part, round-by-round Judo Chop could do it justice. 

The fight was mostly hated on by fans who expected Nogueira to crush the little known Brilz and then were angry that Little Nog escaped with a decision win. Bloody Elbow scored the fight 29-28 for Brilz. Personally, I scored it 29-28 for Nogueira, but could see it going the other way as the first round was extremely close. 

For many fans, that disappointing performance by Little Nog has them expecting the up and coming Ryan Bader to really put it to him this Saturday at UFC 119. Having watched Nog's fight with Brilz many times, I'm expecting another great fight from Nogueira vs Bader. 

But the important thing is Brilz vs Little Nog was just a great fight. Incredibly even with back-and-forth action both on the feet and standing and both men threatening to finish at multiple points during the fight.

The thing that particularly fascinated me about this fight was the number of times the same scenario was repeated with different outcomes. Each round saw Nogueira attempt a sweep from half guard at least once. Each time there was a different outcome. 

On several occasions Brilz was able to either avoid the sweep or counter with a choke or headlock. But Nogueira was able to use the sweep to get top control even more times.

Talk about a chess match! Each man had to adjust to his opponent's moves and then adjust to his opponent's adjustments.

I've pulled out all the stops for this series and have lined up an all-star cast of guest commenters including Seph Smith of 50/50 BJJ, BE reader Patrick Tenney (aka AboveThisFire) and Cage Side Seats' K.J. Gould. 

Here's Seph Smith talking about the deep half guard:

The deep half is a great position in MMA, it's just not a place you want to hang out in and wait. You want to get underneath of them as soon as possible, start rocking their base around so that they have to commit their hands to things like staying up or trying to hold on to you as opposed to just sitting in base and dealing out hammerfist for lunch. As BJJ evolves as it constantly does, I think you will see better and better use of this position in MMA. Nog uses it well, Bibiano Fernandes does too. There are a ton of BJJ practitioners that use it including Celso Vinicius, Jeff Glover, and Ryan Hall. You can youtube any of these guys and see them use it. Check out Ryan's match against Hermes Franca where he hits an awesome back take out of it.

We'll look at tons of gifs from the first round and the experts will break down the action but first I wanted to talk a little about the deep half guard. Little Nog's twin brother Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira literally wrote the book on the array of options available from that position. I've done a Judo Chop on Big Nog using a sweep from deep half guard to reverse and then finish Tim Sylvia to claim the UFC interim heavyweight title at UFC 81. I've also looked at Wilson Reis' use of them in Bellator against Shad Lierley

Here's Big Nog talking about being on your back in the half guard from his Mastering Mixed Martial Arts: The Guard (reprinted with permission from the publisher):

The one golden rule is simple -- NEVER LET YOUR OPPONENT PIN YOUR BACK TO THE MAT! If it seemed like I just screamed that in your face, I'm sorry. I was just trying to get a point across. If you allow your opponent to pin your shoulders by dropping his weight on your chest, he has all sorts of options and you have very few. To prevent this from happening, I demonstrate how to create space and get onto your side using the cross-face and hip block position, or you can use the space between you and your opponent to secure an underhook, which leads to a slew of attacks. ...
As with all types of guards, it is very important not to stall when you have an opponent in your half guard. Whether you secure an underhook or are stuck flat on your back, you must constantly move to create a reaction out of your opponent. As you will see, it is your opponent's reaction to your initial movement that allows you to set up the majority of techniques in this section (of the book).

In the next installment, we'll look at Big Nog demonstrating one way to secure that key underhook from the half guard too.

Now let's look at the first round of Nogueria vs Brilz.

Note: Sadly the fight is not available for purchase as a stand alone fight on the UFC video vault but is available on DVD from Amazon.


Before we get to the action let's make sure everyone understands what "deep half guard" means. Here's Stephan Kesting and Elliott Baye of Grapplearts explaining the position, note that this description was written before the Nogueiras and others began to use the move successfully in MMA:


Photo via www.grapplearts.com

In the Deep Half Guard you are - as the name implies - deep underneath your opponent's hips. Typically you are trying to keep your body turned onto its side, and can control either your opponent's hip (1st picture) or your opponent's thigh (2nd picture) with your top arm. The legs can do a variety of things, including triangling around the opponent's leg, butterfly hooking underneath it and more.

The Deep Half Guard is primarily used for sweeping your opponent and has very few submission attacks available from it. This position and some of the techniques associated with it was the subject of a Grappling Tip post on our Blog. To date it has not found a lot of application in mixed martial arts competition, probably for fear of getting punched in the face. Perhaps a future competitor will yet come along and offer some new insight into using this position in an MMA context...

Let's look at round one of this controversial classic.

Here's Brent Brookhouse's live blog of the fight to catch us up on what precedes the sequence we're about to watch:

Low kick from Nogueira lands. Nice knee now from Rogerio. Brilz with a takedown attempt that doesn't go anywhere. Single leg from Brilz now and he's in Nogueira's guard. Nogueira looks for a triangle but Brilz avoids and passes to half guard.

Now we're about to see the first of Nog's attempts to sweep Brilz from deep half guard. This one fails.Advantage Brilz.

Nog-r1-sweep_medium Patrick Tenney: Rogerio dives in his right arm under the space created by Brilz being on his knees in half guard. Rogerio rolls his hips (right hip rolling up) making his back turn into Brilz and entering into a deep half position.

Brilz keeps Rogerio's left arm trapped (could have been going for an armbar but doubtful); Rogerio keeps the right leg of Brilz inside the half guard and rolls back into it reversing the hip motion he used originally and using more of his upper body and legs to turn Brilz towards his back (making the leg start bending to the side and unbalancing Brilz.


Seph Smith: Nog trying to come up on a single leg and Brilz catching a classic front headlock on Nog and stuffing the shot. He could have tried to drop back into a guillotine with it but knowing the BJJ pedigree of Nogueira he opted for the more conservative and smarter move, to spin behind him and soften him up with punches. You see Nogueira reach up with his right hand to prevent him from getting the position but Brilz makes him bring his right arm back to his face to protect from the punches. Good move Brilz.

K.J. Gould: Really an arm-in front headlock in this case. If we assume the purpose of an arm-in guillotine is to choke, and an arm-in front headlock is to control, then it's the latter. Brilz isn't trying to add some Dave Schultz flavour to it though :)

Tenney: Brilz maintains his balance barely (honestly if you look at the way his left leg stands... it's a little wonky and he's very lucky Rogerio didn't pressure into that leg with his shoulder). Brilz starts going for a front headlock when Rogerio tries to stand and go for a leg for a possible takedown off the failed sweep. Brilz snatches Nog's head down and lets go of the front headlock to spin for the back (you can see Rogerio fleetingly try to use his right arm to stop Brilz's motion and possibly turn back into Brilz before his back gets taken).

Once Brilz has moved around to the back, Rogerio immediately gets wrist control on the outside (left arm) of Brilz once it passes in front of Rogerio's body so he can start his defense before Brilz gets set in position.

We return to action only about 15 seconds later as Nogueira tries again, this time with more luck:

Nog2_mediumPatrick Tenney: Same general idea here, Rogerio has half guard and dives an arm in and rolls his back/hips into Brilz. Rogerio pushes his hips up further and uses his arm to try and dump Brilz forward but Brilz maintains control of the outside arm of Rogerio because Rogerio doesn't have a chance to hide it (or won't hide it because it's a possible defense to strikes).

Seph Smith: Nogeira is fighting to get underneath of Brilz but he can't yet because Brilz is trapping his head and arm. Nogueira is using his lower half to rock Brilz' base and make him post his hands to keep himself up. The idea is to use his legs to rock Brilz around and pry himself further underneath. Alot of times the top guy will let go of what he has to post on the ground in order to stay on top. Brilz knows that this is what he wants so he is willing to fall on his face to keep Nog's head and arm collected and as far in front of him as possible.

Nog3_mediumTenney: Somehow Rogerio has managed to get wrist control with his inside arm on Brilz's left arm, he's using his hips and legs to unbalance Brilz (Brilz has to come to a knee and continually post on his right arm or he'll get swept). When Brilz does go for a strike Rogerio uses his right arm to cover up and protect his open face (herein lies the problem with deep half in MMA, your head can get in danger from those hammer fist type strikes). As soon as the strikes stop and Brilz has to post again Rogerio reaches out for that post to see if he can control the arm and remove the post.

Smith: Nog has succesfully gotten all the way underneath of Brilz and Brilz allows his left leg to be extended to keep his base. Brilz is using his left arm for base and punching with his right hand with hammer fists as Nog is protecting himself with his right hand and hiding underneath of Brilz. He reaches for Brilz' hand to take that post away and sweep him as well as stop him from punching him. Without that hand to post on the ground the sweep is much harder to defend. As you can see the deeper Nog is underneath of Brilz the harder it is for Brilz to hit him and keep his base.

Nog4_mediumTenney: Using his upper body and hips to keep creating space while he tries to control the arms in deep half, Rogerio is pushing his body out through the back door. Sliding his side/legs along the mat and starting to come up under Brilz (note that Rogerio's right leg has to slide along the mat and into Brilz's extended leg when Rogerio starts the escape, this can remove that leg as a balancing tool for Brilz and dump him forward as Rogerio moves out and behind Brilz).

Smith: Nog has Brilz' wrist controlled and now puts his feet on the floor to escape his hips to his left, behind Brilz. He wants all of Brilz' weight to be going to his front so Nog can come out the back. He creates a hole to come out, but once he does he will only have a window to come up on a single or a double leg. Without wrestling skills to complete the sweep, he won't be successful. Luckily Nog does possess decent wrestling finishes once he's in on a shot.

Nog5_mediumTenney: Rogerio dumps Brilz's weight forward as he shoots out the back, keeping control of Brilz's left leg for a second so Brilz can't run away. Rogerio drops his deep half arm hook on the leg and starts pushing into Brilz with a body lock, eventually using a trip to make Brilz collapse forward as Rogerio moves onto his back in a referee position. 

Smith: Nog is successful and shifts Brilz' weight forward and bases out with his right side to come out behind him. He immediately transitions from controlling Brilz' left knee to a body lock around the waste from behind and follows him up to his feet. From here you see the turk, which is just the outside trip that Nog uses to put Brilz down on his face and land in the turtle position. Like I said, the deep half guard is a great way to rock an opponent off of their base and sometimes you'll be successful in sweeping them all the way over, but against a seasoned wrestling or BJJ practitioner you will need wrestling skills to finish the takedown. The tilting that the deep half guard allows the bottom man to do to the top allows him a window of opportunity to build a base and come up with single legs, leg rides and body locks. This is why wrestling skills are so important.

K.J. Gould: Nog getting his arm in between Brilz legs is everything. Brilz can't ride as effectively and is doing his best just to maintain his base, Nog is able to turn and because of his arm placement is able to escape out the 'back door'.

Brilz' success in Round 2 was dependant on not letting Nog get that arm in to truly work the deep half-guard.

On that ominous note for Nog fans, we'll let Brent Brookhouse fill us in on the rest of round one:

Jason is able to get out and land a right hand. Brilz ducks a punch and grabs a single leg. Left hand lands for Nogueira before the round ends. 10-9 round for Brilz but very close.

Personally I scored that round 10-9 for Nogueira based on what I felt was the more effective striking in light of a (beautiful) grappling stalemate. 

In round two, we'll see Jason Brilz' high water mark and more deep half guard action. Plus some gifs of guys punching each other just for fun.

Seph suggested we take a look at the following to see some deep half guard sweeps in a submission grappling context.

Ryan Hall vs Hermes Franca SuperFight featuring Ryan Hall (50/50) vs Hermes Franca (UFC Veteran) at Grapplers Quest at UFC Fan Expo Boston 2010.

Deep Half Guard Sweep demo:

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