Sunday, September 28, 2008

The competition comeback - Analysis

So yesterday, I was competing for the first time in over two years and I will write a little about it while it is still all clear in my memory.

The short version is, that I won four out of five fights and ended up with a third place. Our team came in first on the team competition. My personal goal for the day was to reach the finale and for the team to win the Best Team title, so I am very satisfied with how it all went anyway. Here goes the long version - it is ok to just skim through it ;-)

No-gi submission wrestling with special rules. No points the first three minutes. After that, first fighter that scores three points win. One point for takedown, guard pass, mount, sweep and backmount. Submission always win of course.

As you can see, both the hair and the belly was like Chuck Lidell's. This was to trick my opponent so they would never guess that my gameplan more resembled Marcelo Garcia's ;-)

My preparation for this tournament has not been optimal since I have had three injuries which has prevented me from sparring with full intensity and focus. Besides some minor problems with my knee and neck, I have had a very very sprained thumb that has made any gripping with my right hand almost impossible in the last two months. I have tried to spar anyways, but it has been difficult not to think about the thumb all the time, so keeping focus on the sparring has not been easy. A week and a half ago, I hit it really hard and basically cramped out my entire body in pain. I decided to go through with the tournament anyway and just see how it would go. I actually expected to hit the thumb again during a match and then have to leave the competition.

I had put more focus on getting the right food and sleep up to the tournament, and I think it made a big difference for my energy level on the day.

The primary thing for me with this competition was to just get on the mat again, get the feeling back, see how I would react and how well my game would work under pressure. During the matches, I had a lot of focus on relaxing, thinking and just play technical and smart instead of just powering through. I was also a little worried for my conditioning because of the lack of hard sparring in the recent months, so therefore I would put extra emphasis on being as economical with my energy as possible.

Strategically, I had made a gameplan that was the result of going through my a-game gameplan in training over the last three months. I have taken some things out and simplified it a bit for this tournament, so it was really a minimum of techniques I would be looking for.

In the clinch I had two scenarios. If I could control the pace, I would set up the Marcelo Garcia style armdrag to single leg setup, which is basically my number one takedown at the moment. If I felt like it would take too much energy to clinch with my opponent, I would simply pull guard and go for a sweep, where X-guard and simple sweep are my two favorites.

While on the ground and on top, I would do anything to get to sidecontrol, where I can set up the kimura or armbar from baiting the opponent to underhook. In case I needed to take some energy out of my opponent, I would go to mount and make him work a bit from there.

Basically I think it went really well in all my matches. Naturally, my mind was playing tricks on me up to the competition, and I was a little worried about how I would perform after being away from the scene for so long. I can only conclude, that competing daily in the gym has definitely been enough to prepare for a tournament mentally, as I felt really good and confident in my technique while on the mat.

Amazingly, I didn't feel any pain at all in my thumb the entire day. It was probably adrenaline or maybe the laser treatment I got the day before really helped.

While preserving energy and feeling confident worked great, it was also this lack of intensity that cost me the spot in the finale, since I got caught with a kimura while in halfguard top during a short moment with lack of focus and a little overconfidence. Besides that, I pretty much executed the gameplan perfectly in all matches, so I am satisfied with my performance.


My first match was against an opponent I know a little about, since I have been watching a lot of his pro MMA fights over the last few years. Nice guy who I have known for a while. From watching him grapple before, I expected him to come out with a low base and handfight, so that was perfect for setting up my armdrag single. It went as expected and it didn't take long before I got the grip I was looking for, and while having executed this move a thousand times in the gym, I pulled it off without thinking about it. Unfortunately, I did not get enough of my weight pulled into him to move his leg and break his base enough, so I had to swith to a double attempt and then a single. I went right into a scramblepass and ended up in sidecontrol where luckily he had the underhook ready and my armbar/kimura setup was right there.


This was an unknown opponent, but I saw him fight my first opponent, so I kind of knew what to expect. Muay Thai background so he was playing really hard clinch and going for the double necktie to power me down. Big strong guy, so I wanted to make him use a bit energy before I tried to finish him off. Due to his aggressive clinch, I did not expect to armdrag him, so I let him try and catch me for a bit and was just waiting for us to clinch up so I could pull guard and sweep. Worked fine first time where I butterfly sweep to mount but he manages to escape. Same recipe again, and this time I got an X-guard sweep, pass and was setting up the kimura. I felt he still had a lot of energy to power out of it so I decided last second to bail on the kimura and go for the mount instead to win on points.


The quarter final against another MMA fighter. Again a physically strong opponent, but I was confident that technique would overcome strength :D I had no idea what he would try, but his clinch seemed aggressive so I pulled guard and went for a footlock. He has very strong legs so I decided it would take too much energy to try and finish it. Sat up instead and passed the guard while setting up a bicep slicer on the way. he was not tapping to that, so I baited the underhook and finished by kimura.



Semi final against one of the experienced grapplers from another gym in our city. Due to his clinch style, I was very confident that I could pull off the armdrag. I set up the grip and went for it, but he reacted quickly and sprawled. I followed up with a simple counter that a wrestler currently visiting Denmark for four months showed me just days before, and I easily finished the takedown and ended up in a low mount. He had some very good escapes and good movement from bottom so I went in and out of guard, halfguard and sidecontrol a few times. I felt in total control of the situation and was just waiting for the opportunity to escape the halfguard, grab the kimura and step over the head to finish. It was almost there at a point, but right when I tried to step over, he managed to pull halfguard back. At this point, I was a bit too relaxed and confident, and for a split second I look up to say something to my cornerman. Immediately, my opponents grabs a kimura and initially I was not worried about it since I have never really been tapped on that particular move from bottom halfguard before, but he had a very strong grip and before I knew of it, I had to roll and he got the tap out. Very nice move by him and I will definately work more on my halfguard top in the next period :)


This was against one of my own team mates, who is extremely explosive and technical. Luckily, I had almost 8 kilos on him, so size was definitely to my advantage. I have rolled with him a thousand times before so it was difficult for me to figure out how to beat him, since he knows my game in and out. Luckily, I could just follow my original gameplan and win by kimura from sidecontrol, but it took a few attempts, where I really had to work for it. Definately my toughest fight of the day. I like to joke around during training, so fighting my own team mate was a great opportunity to make a little fun out of it all :)


This weekends compeition has really made me think a lot about what actually motivates me to keep doing this sport, and my thoughts about this, will be written in another post soon. I think this post has been long enough already :)


Quentin said...

Very nicely done Christian! I especially like the way how you made a good gameplan and held to it. It really shows in your matches. Do you spar (during training) with some kind of gameplan aswell? Like, when you enter the gym, do you already have a particular way of getting this and that in mind?

Recently, I have become more and more interested in using gameplans. I really think using a gameplan or not can make the difference between not only winning or losing, but can also give lots more effect to the whole process of progressing.

Thanks to your tip on the OmniGraffle program I have now made one awesome diagram that I'll be using as gameplan in sparring for now. My goal is to get this plan down solid against differently sized opponents so I can really operate this "Gameplan A" smoothly. When I feel like moving on, I'll make a "Gameplan B".

Thanks for always sharing your thoughts on BJJ with us, Christian. It really feels like you are a digital BJJ instructor. I am still working on my own personal foundation in BJJ and Grappling and I learn a lot from you and your techniques. Keep on blogging!


Anonymous said...

great stuff, Christian.
inspirational too, as i'm looking to eliminate my own personal "Chuck Liddell" (minus the hair of course :) and make my way back into competition in a couple of weeks :)

awesome use of the gameplan and strategy. your game still looks smooth even though you're not 100% looking forward to your visit.

Christian Graugart said...

Hey Quentin

Thanks for your post, I am glad to hear that someone out there are reading and appreciating my blog :)

Training with a gameplan is not something I do always, but I have really put a lot of focus on it up to this tournament. Check out one of the newer posts about this subject. I think that I have worked on this particular competition gameplan during gym sparring for about two months, so it felt really solid when I competed.


Christian Graugart said...

Montes, sounds cool you are competing again. I am arriving in New York oct. 17th and was thinking about competing with you guys saturday, but I think that my energy level will be low due to jetlag and such, so I pass this time. Would have been cool to represent Ronin at competition again though!

See you in a few weeks.