Dan Faggella is a BJJ Academy Owner, No Gi Pan Am Champion at 130 pounds, and recognized expert in the area of Sweeps & Transitions in the Lightweight BJJ Game. Dan writes or Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style, MMA Sports Mag, and more - and his FREE Sweeps Training Manual can be found online at: http://microbjj.com/7sweepsbook/
I love watching a sport and knowing you’re going to get a special outing from one of your favorite athletes. Basketball fans watch in awe as LeBron James slices through the air and slams home a thunderous dunk, or football fans anxiously await the late game heroics of Tom Brady.
Everybody has the one athlete they watch and shake their head in disbelief, unable to process what exactly happened. For me, I’m like that when I watch Rafael Mendes when he steps onto the mat and prepares to display his world class grappling skills.
Allow me to analyze a recent match of his from the 2013 Pan Am’s when he took on Renato Vieira (fans of the IBJJF might enjoy this breakdown of the black belt finals at BloodElbow.com)
Relentless Yet Calm - The Calibration of Energy in Rafael's Attack
There is more than just one way to describe the way Rafael Mendes grapples. Two of the ways you can describe it is by calling it relentless and aggressive. There never seems to be a moment where Rafael takes a second off. Well, maybe on occasion there is; in this particular match, Mendes found himself in bottom guard but also found time to scratch his nose in the middle of the match.
The way in which he is aggressive is very simplistic. He isn’t in your face, grind-it-out, type of grappler. He allows his opponent to work and gain the dominant position. When all is well, Rafael strikes and obtains the exact spot he was waiting for.
In the process of allowing his opponents to advance, Mendes does a tremendous job of obtaining a Gi grip. Watching his grips, it’s evident that he does a fantastic job drilling these because he just does not budge what so ever. Once he latches on to your Gi, he's going to use it to leverage a sweep, a pass, or a submission before he let's go. See Rafeal's track record at the Pan Ams and Worlds and you'll understand.
Fluidity and Strategy
It takes a special kind of talent to be able to be relentless and aggressive, yet be able to flow like water while grappling on the mat. Normally, these type of traits seem to be counterproductive and don’t blend well with one another, yet Mendes finds a way to make them seem like peanut butter and jelly.
He uses his skills that I previously discussed, and when it comes time for him to strike and take advantage of his hard work. The way he floats over from position-to-position is so effortless and flawless that his transitions alone are worth watching. Here we see his de-la-riva transition to the back after seemingly allowing his opponent to sweep him. Putting him right on the back - and swiftly onto the arm for the submission.
The moral of the story? Don't just watch his Berimbolo, pay attention to the way Rafa calibrates his energy in competition. Always something new to learn.
All the best, and train hard,