UD Guest Spot: The Embarrassment of Josh Thomson

This is a UD guest column by my man Dev from .

I don’t know if the title of this article is fair, quite honestly. I like Josh Thomson. I like watching him fight, and I think he’s pretty frigging awesome, particularly on the BJJ side (9 of his 18 wins are by submission). He was just awarded his black belt in June by Dave Camarillo, so there’s no denying he’s got some slick moves on the mat.

On the other hand, Tatsuya Kawajiri is no slouch on the ground. While he got his foot damn near ripped off by Shinya Aoki in July at DREAM 15, he’s effectively outwrestled (more than out-jiu jitsu’d) some pretty significant dudes. "Crusher" is a pretty appropriate nickname, because he’s not a submission machine, but he’s got excellent wrestling-to-beat-jits. I’d call it "defensive" jiu jitsu, except he was "offensively" bitch-slapping Thomson through positional improvement on the ground for pretty much the whole fight.

So I want to mention two jits-related aspects of this fight.

The first one is mount control. Kawajiri started out by knee-sliding like Rickey Henderson right out of Thomson’s half guard (3:15-3:25 on the Youtube vid). And he went right to mount, which is commendable against a guy like Thomson. Once Kawajiri got to mount, he used a pretty sexy trick to keep Thomson’s legs contained – he leg triangled them.

This isn’t a new concept, by any means. It’s the same leg position you use in a triangle choke, and you see it used a lot around the mid-section (a body triangle) when guys have back control (because it sucks). But to control the legs? You just don’t see it a whole lot.

Thomson did the only thing he could do – he kicked his legs like a 4-year-old throwing a tantrum, and attacked Kawajiri’s fist with his face. In fairness, he tried using his underhook to get out, but Kawajiri’s wrestling is WAY better than that. Thomson finally got his knees out by squirming into butterfly guard.

The second thing Kawajiri did is make Thomson look virtually incompetent by passing his guard over and over and over. I don’t know Thomson’s jiu jitsu game, but it looked to me like he was trying to get out to the side a lot, and from half guard (especially with an underhook, which he worked for a lot) this can be a good thing.

The problem with it is that anytime you’re on your side, your bottom leg is vulnerable to pass because you’ve limited its range of motion. Kawajiri exploited this multiple times, including the example above (the first pass at 3:15), but also in the second round with a variation on a technique called the Tozi Pass (also called a São Paulo pass or a Godoi pass), made famous by Roberto Tozi.

Here’s a great link to some Youtube vids that show the technique:

Basically, Kawajiri gets his hips up and shoves his chest into Thomson’s face. Then he drops quickly to the side, which turns Thomson’s hips and blocks that bottom leg against the mat. The key here, though, is pressure on the upper body – for it to work, he needs to twist Thomson’s body with his shoulders one way and his hips the other way.

(and a screen shot of 10:17 could be straight out of a video on how a Tozi pass should look)

If he comes that far off to the side with no upper body control, Thomson can easily come out the side, take his back, and strangle his ass.

Kawajiri keeps his underhook in this case, which is good, because that’s precisely what Thomson is thinking – and nearly accomplishes, almost taking Kawajiri’s back. But Kawajiri’s gorilla strength and pressure with his arm and shoulder (and kind of an upside-down whizzer) barely keep Thompson underneath.

(Youtube vid 10:06 – 10:29 shows the whole sequence.)

Intriguingly, Thomson didn’t transition at all to attack the arm that Kawajiri left out – during a Tozi pass if you don’t tuck that arm, you can succumb to a lot of attacks from the exact position that Thomson was trying to work from earlier – you could call it "side guard" (Cobrinha has a whole series of sequences from this position if you’re interested).

I say all this as a shoulda-coulda-woulda, but I’ve never been punched in the face while trying to pull it off. I have to imagine that changes your perspective slightly.

Don’t let this half-assed analysis indicate that I think Josh Thomson isn’t awesome – he is, and he showed some really strong moves on the ground and a lot of situational awareness. But the simple fact is that yesterday, Tatsuya Kawajiri out jiu jitsu’d the jiu jitsu guy. Repeatedly.


Originally posted at Unintelligent Defense. We have cannnnnndyyyyyyyyyyy!

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.