UFC lightweight contender George Sotiropoulos has quietly put together a seven fight win streak in the UFC. And the last three wins have come over contenders like Joe Lauzon, Kurt Pellegrino, and Joe Stevenson. This Saturday he'll face Dennis Siver at UFC 127. Sotiropoulos is a heavy favorite and if he wins he'll join the long-line for a title shot.
Kevin Iole talked to Sotiropoulos about his patient approach to MMA:
"The year I had in 2010 was kind of a coming out party to some people who didn't know who I was or what I'd been doing for years in this sport,' Sotiropoulos said. "I had done a lot in this sport and had fought a lot of top guys all over, but the big stage that the UFC provides kind of showed people who hadn't been paying attention what I could do.
"I had committed myself to this sport for the long-term long ago and everything I have done is an investment in getting better and being the best I can be. And that's what I'll continue to do until the day I leave. Nothing is ever going to change."
Oddly enough in this age of MMA fighters getting attention for their flashy adoption of traditional martial arts moves to MMA or improved boxing or elite-level wrestling, Sotiropoulos is getting attention for his mastery of old school Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the original dominant style of modern MMA.
In the full entry, Bloody Elbow reader CaptainArmbar aka Joel Snape, the features editor for Men's Fitness UK, will take a look at the guard passing of Sotiropoulos against George Roop and Joe Stevenson, with animated gifs.
It's a truism in BJJ that the moves work - you just have to have faith in them. The way a guard pass is demonstrated in the gym can sometimes seem showily exaggerated, but in fact you're being shown the Platonic ideal of it - the way it works the best. The trouble is, often these movements can be counter-intuitive, which is one reason that plenty of fighters are (apparently) killers in the gym, but then turn up to the UFC and, under the hot lights and big-show pressure, seem to have dropped a belt-grade or two, trying to pass the guard in a way that feels 'safe' instead of a way that's technically correct. George Sotiropoulos, on the other hand, not only passes the guard with moves that you could transplant straight into a textbook - he does it with the confidence of an experienced BJJ black belt. That's why Joe Rogan says he's got 'some of the best passes in the UFC.'
First is the pass that prompted that Rogan soundbite, from G-Sot's match with George Roop. Most BJJ teachers will start your education with two guard passes: one that goes over the legs, and one that goes under them. Not only does this teach you fundamental BJJ principles, but it lets you transition between the two to pass more efficiently - which is exactly what George does here. At first glance it looks like he's going for the under-the-leg stack pass, which is probably prompting Roop to defend by making his left leg heavy to prevent Sotiropoulos from going counter-clockwise under it. The problem is, G-Sot's also sneaking his left knee over Roop's *right* leg - and once it's pinned to the ground, he reverses direction and goes over the top, clockwise. Note that he kicks his right leg over, landing him in a bridge position: not only does this let him keep Roop pinned to the ground with his left shoulder, but it allows him to keep his hips low as he clears Roop's legs. This is exactly how you'll see this pass demonstrated in beginners' BJJ classes worldwide, but to beginners it can feel counter-intuitive, almost like you're sweeping yourself. To do it with this level of commitment shows that Sotiropoulos has drilled it countless times. You could have actually seen it earlier in the fight, when George passed Roop's butterfly guard, but the rest of the pass isn't so texbook.
George can also pull off the same pass against higher-level guys. In his fight with Joe Stevenson he takes a vicious upkick, but immediately changes levels and underhooks Stevenson's legs. Stevenson makes his left leg heavy, so George ditches it and pops his right leg over, straight into half guard. Crucially though, he's still underhooking with his left arm, making it easier to control Stevenson's hips as he swings his leg over to finish the pass.
Sotiropolous's rubber guard gets a lot of attention because he's trained with Eddie Bravo, but some of his most impressive jiu-jitsu is his top game, which is very traditional, textbook jiu-jitsu. He's perhaps the best example of blending solid, old-school moves with the best of what's new to build a complete game.
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