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Lightweight Techniques With Matheus Gonzaga
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Lightweight Techniques With Matheus Gonzaga

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by Rob Hileman, July 26, 2019

Being a lightweight on the mats can get very frustrating.

If you have resigned to getting crushed on a regular basis by the majority of your grappling partners due to the size differential, I have great news for you! You can take your speed, agility and size and use it against your opponent.

Rather than thinking of body frame as an obstacle you have to overcome, you can learn to use it to your advantage. If you’re a smaller opponent, then attempting to combat someone that is larger than you in strength is most likely going to put you at a disadvantage. However, if you learn correct counter attacks and escapes that are easier for you to do because of your smaller size, you will see your game change dramatically.

Learn From A Lightweight Champion! Click Learn More below!

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Larger grapplers tend to gravitate towards strength moves and less on speed, so becoming familiar with these attacks will allow you to discover proper defense against them. Learning to maintain proper distance and becoming proficient in submissions that are easy to complete without strength, such as knee bars and chokes.

In addition to addressing different styles to your submissions, it is necessary to develop different ways to approach closed guard since your legs are likely not as long as the larger person’s. Matheus Gonzaga is an incredible example of these techniques, and he has many different tips and tricks on how to use your smaller body frame to set yourself up for success. 

Matheus has become skilled in assessing what submissions and techniques are coming when he is rolling with someone larger than him; he is particularly versed in defending against pressure passes that include torreando, double under passes, and a knee cut pass from de la riva. Using these defense tactics he is able to keep himself safe and avoid crushing injuries or getting stuck on the bottom. Once that is achieved he has the ability to set up attacks that are 

leverage and precision based, rather than pressure and strength. One example of a submission that can be used to submit a larger opponent is a cross choke from mount 

He uses his knees to pinch his opponent and keep himself close in order to avoid bridging and big explosions. From there, he reaches across the body and grabs in the gi collar while turning his wrist so the medial bony portion is against his opponents neck and not the lateral forearm.

He encourages the grip to be as deep as possible, passed the ear and almost to the tag on the back of the gi by the nape of the neck. His free hand posts out to the side, out of reach so if the person on the bottom tries to escape they aren’t able to trap that arm and roll. At the same time, that forearm that we didn’t want against the neck comes down across the front of the throat for added pressure; by doing this there is the pressure of the blade of your wrist on one side of the neck as well as this new pressure created by the forearm along the throat.

From there you can either wrap the hand that was posted under the neck and achieve a pressure tap, or you can swim that same hand across the other side of the head and use the elbow to create space between their head and the other side of the gi collar. Grab a thumb-in grip and flare your elbows to cut off blood flow to both sides and create a choke that way. 

A Guard Option For The Small Grappler. Click Learn More below!

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Another way Matheus has been successful is his spider guard defense. This method was apparent in his winning performance during worlds as a purple belt. From spider guard, if the person on the bottom is really stretching you out and you are unable to bring their knees down and collapse their legs to one side, it is best to stand up and back away just a bit.

Once you back up and create space, pinch your elbows to your side (particularly the one that is being stretched up) and then immediately lift up and over their foot. Immediately push their legs in a bicycle-like motion and pass to the side. When moving to the side use your elbow to block behind the same side knee so they are unable to regain a dominant position. Spider guard defense can be very frustrating to get out of, so learning to use distance as a main defense in this fashion is a great tactic for smaller people. Use your small frame to be able to pinch into small spaces and the agility that comes with being lighter to shoot past the legs. 

Whether you are a true lightweight, or just happen to find yourself grappling against someone bigger than you on a regular basis, these techniques are so helpful to have in your back pocket. Take a look at the concepts and drills that Matheus brings to the at and see which ones work best for you. 

Check out more from Matheus Gonzaga with his Lightweight Guard series! Check out Matheus Gonzaga's "Lightweight Guard" available here, from BJJ Fanatics!

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