Lucky me, I recently got a chance to interview Rafael Lovato Junior, America’s most decorated BJJ competitor of all time (Black Belt Gi and No Gi World Champion, among other things).
Approximately Thirty-six minutes in, after Rafael letting us know his opinion on the current scoring system in BJJ, I asked him who truly influenced his guard game.
As a teenager, Rafael was smaller than everyone and felt more comfortable holding everybody in his closed guard. That was the first thing he worked on in his Jiu Jitsu journey. He had a good triangle and it was the one thing he could catch adults in. This grew him confidence, and he went through the ranks…blue….purple….brown, primary as a guard puller. He would try to submit straight from his guard, or sweep, then pass, but it always started off (or he was most comfortable) in his own guard.
Once he got to brown though, he felt he had to pull guard FIRST because the skill level got a lot better. This stuck out to Lovato that he had a distinct weakness in his game. It wasn’t that he could not pass, but he knew it needed work at this level.
When he got to black belt (and he had a great guard) these higher level ju-jitsu artists would just smash his guard and pass. It became very frustrating and he knew something had to change.
Lovato first watched and learned how they were beating him and then he implemented what he learned from them in his top passing game. He still loves the cross knee, but he developed a lot more pressure passing game. He states that it is a whole different animal when you work to pass to MOUNT than to just side control. The pressure, the weight, it feels completely different on the bottom. He learned this at a higher level. He says he can still pull, but now he is so much more complete with his game.
According to a “stat” video made about Lovato, they showed that statistically, he has the most versatile guard in the game. He also has the MOST straight to mount passes in BJJ statistically.
Rafael is a big advocate of using and experiencing “pressure” passes. It sums it u by saying it s different than any other type of pressure. It feels like you are “drowning” when under someone….like a pillow over your face and they are suffocating you. It is used to break someone’s will and suck the energy right out of them. This is an overall aggressive “style” of passing he learned from the Ribeiro brothers, who took him under their wing at age 19.
By the time you mount them or go for a submission, they are already done and don’t have it in them to escape. He has seen people TAP just from the pressure. This type of passing will make people stop using their hands as grips and just use them to push you off. Pure panic mode – which is easier to handle than technical Jiu Jitsu once you get used to forcing people to get frantic.
If you get the chance to see Rafael’s new video series on No Gi Pressure Passing, certainly do so! You can learn more and dig into Rafael’s free video series now at www.MicroBJJ.com/Rafael
Keep training hard, and until next time,