(This is a collaboration between KJ Gould and T.P. Grant. KJ edited the article and wrote the introduction , T.P. Grant wrote the analysis)
The world of Jiu Jitsu has seen many changes in its sport's format and techniques applied within it just in the last decade. Players have incorporated more leglocks into their game and further developed positions to use such as 50/50 guard, Deep Half Guard, X-Guard, De la Riva guard, Inverted 'Tornado' guard and so on. However a lot of this development has been for the purpose of seeking an advantage to go on and win a match in Gi or No Gi Sport Jiu Jitsu with less consideration for its application in a different environment such as MMA or even a self defense situation. Sometimes coupled with a dependence on the handles a Gi affords or the expectation of an opponent to engage in their guard to score points for passing, many find the transition to MMA to be rocky and difficult to traverse when their opponents are allowed to stand up and force a reset on the feet let alone the striking element and footwork used to keep things upright.
When it comes to the crunch, the basics and fundamentals from the combative elements of Gracie Jiu Jitsu tend to be the ones that work best in the context of MMA, a concept Roger Gracie has stuck to in his competitive career.
After the jump T.P. Grant has a quick look at the strategies and basics Gracie has used to find success in MMA thus far.
Roger Gracie has said that 80% of his competition BJJ would not work in MMA. And he is right, the majority of techniques employed at the highest levels of BJJ are aimed at defeating equally skilled opponents in a grappling context. While highly effective, in a situation where an opponent is armed with a basic understanding of BJJ and has the ability to throw strikes, the fundamentals are far more effective. And Roger has fundamentals.
The Gracie-Barra black belt's approach to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu channels the influence of his last name. While most MMA fans' first exposure to BJJ was Royce Gracie submitting larger fighters from his back, top position is also a cornerstone of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. From Rolls Gracie, to Relson Gracie, to Rickson, the Gracie approach to Vale Tudo and Challenge matches was a quick level change takedown, relentlessly seizing dominant position and then quickly locking on a submission. Roger embraces this lineage, developing his mount and back control as tirelessly as many other BJJ players do with their guards.
Roger's quick victory in his second MMA match at Sengoku 2 against Yuki Kondo best represents his approach to Jiu Jitsu and fighting.
At 2:13 in the video Roger scores a basic clinch takedown and lands in a loose half-gaurd by Kondo. Once Roger feels how loose Kondo's legs are he passes by slipping his foot out first, and then his knee, making it impossible for Kondo to relock the halfguard. Roger then quickly clears Kondo's near arm with his knee, establishing a high side control and begins to drive his shoulder into Kondo's jaw in a classic cross-face. Kondo swims for an underhook, locks his hands and attempts to throw Roger off of him, but Gracie's base is already too wide and as Kondo bridges Roger mounts him. Roger establishes another strong cross-face and Kondo eventually gives up his back and is finished with a rear naked choke.
Another example of Roger's brilliance through basic Brazilian Jiu Jitsu concepts can be found in his match against Trevor Prangley, a South African wrestler.
Roger has passed Prangley's guard and has mounted him. Prangley is attempting a simple buck and roll, in which he plants his feet on the ground and thrust his hips up and then turn them over in an attempt to roll Roger over into guard. Roger counters this by putting both hands on the mat for 'base', meaning both to balance and to stop Prangley's attempt to create momentum.
Once Roger has found his balance he begins to raise his hips up to let Prangley roll under him. Prangley knows that Roger is now threatening to take the back, gets into position to roll forward over his shoulder in an attempt to keep the Brazilian off his back. Roger feels Prangley preparing to roll and dives his left arm under Prangley's arm pit and his right arm over his shoulder, locking his hands to form 'over-under grips'.
Gracie hugs his chest to Prangley's back and rolls with him, staying on his back. Roger quickly locks on a body triangle to prevent the South African from escaping and begins to transition the over-under grip into a choke.
For a closer look at the Gracie's mastery of the rear naked choke, let us look at his finish of Kevin Randleman.
The rear naked choke is one of the most basic chokes in submission grappling. Roger starts with his elbow under Randleman's chin, and places his hand on his own bicep. Roger's left arm goes behind Randleman's head, creating the figure four grip. Roger squeezes with the grip, slightly moving his elbows apart and his left hand forces Randleman's head down on to the choking arm. The forearm and bicep of the choking arm stop Randleman's arteries on either side of his neck.
The result is a simple but powerful choke, that is applied here so perfectly that after just four seconds Randleman is left unconscious. While many would expect flashy techniques and developing complex new positions from the best sport jiu jitsu practitioner living, the methodically unstoppable progress of Roger Gracie is mute testament to roots of the art.