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Giant Killer: Tips On How To Beat Bigger Grapplers


There is always someone out there that is bigger and stronger than you. When we were white belts we would get easily beaten by smaller blue and purple belts.What were they doing that we were not? The answer is that they had skill and strategy and they knew exactly what you were going to do next. They knew how they were going to beat you. These simple tips may come in helpful next time you face a big bully on the mats:

1. Be quicker and more active. 
This is a obvious first point. Bigger guys should normally be slower. Try to use your speed and explosivness to your advantage and take initiatives by attacking and being more aggressive.

2. Tire your opponent 
Don’t let him rest at any point. Big guys carry around more weights and generally will roll by exploding in short spurts, where as smaller guys will be in constant movement. If you attack without stopping, you will deprive them of this rest and they will usually start gassing out, you will then be able to take advantage of the situation.

3. Take the back
This is a technical advice that I remember receiving from my coach. He said that the best way to beat the big guys was to take their backs as usually they can’t muscle out of that position. Holding a mount or side control against a stronger guy is riskier as they can always explode. the back is the safest. Usually the bow and arrow choke is the highest percentage submission from the back. So work on your back transitions and submissions from there.

4. Go for footlocks
BJJ guys usually don’t defend footlocks as well as other technique that’s why smaller guys that are specialized in footlocks are always dangerous. The ankle is not a part of the body that a big guy can really muscle so you should always look to attack his weakest links: ankle and writs.

5. Superior technique is the key
Off course the most important is to be technically superior. Think of the smaller blue belts that were kicking your butt when you were a white belt. This is why refining your technique through hours of drilling and live rolling is paramount.

6. If you find yourself underneath, be compact and don’t let your back be flat to the mat
Don’t let them spread you out and smash you. When you are underneath in half guard always think of being compact (like a ball) and never never have your back flat on the mat. Always look for a underhook and be on your side ready to bump out.

The guys at Grapplersplanet also did a good article last year about key concept too use when your opponent is stronger, bigger and equally squilled as you!

“1) Options are Your Advantage

When fighting someone larger than yourself, many people will tell you that “speed” and “technique” are going to be the winning factors if you hope to end up victorious. This is only partially true… Speed and technique are tools for opening up options, options that the opponent cannot predict and cannot adequately counter. If he is a skilled opponent and he knows EXACTLY what you’re going for, then he can use superior muscle and weight to squash your predictable moves.

I call this the “arm wrestling dynamic.”Its basically when both players know exactly what each other are going to do, and fight directly against each other, IE:

One player on bottom closed guard is trying to pull the opponent’s arm across for an armbar… and the top player is directly fighting to keep his arm in.

If you’re smaller and weaker in these situations, you loose. You need options for setups and techniques that keep your opponent on his heels, you need room to move and plenty of “moves” to make in that space.

2) Its Harder to Recover Against Bigger Grapplers

Terere was a giant killer in his prime

If a 140 lb person pins your butterfly hooks in, or even gets to side control – its probable that you’ll return to guard (at the lighter weights, the guard is the most common position even more-so than other weight classes).

If a 220 lb person pins your butterfly hooks – you’re in trouble (they’ve limited your options). If a 220 lb person gets to side control on you – you’re in big trouble. “Back-tracking” from these positions with such a large opponent can be twice as hard, so NOT getting squashed and keeping open space / options for techniques is crucial.

At my BJJ academy in, I’ve tried to instill this an attitude of “no more arm wrestling” into all my lightweights so that they don’t get caught in a battle of muscle that they’re sure to loose.

How do I know this is important? Well, just watch Marcelo Garcia roll.

Robson Moura isn’t the kind of guy to change up his game much per opponent (he told me this himself), but with big guys he makes a real point to stay ahead, technically. I’ve learned the same lesson from talking with Joe Capizzi, Daniel Beleza, and other high-level little guys who know how to beat someone larger.

To be frank, this “keeping initiative” bit of advice might be the most common thread amongst all the advice I’ve gotten from expert little guy BJJ players. Its wisdom that the best guys seem to share about beating bigger opponents. Hence, its probably worth paying attention to (hint).”

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