Controversial Tactics: The Dirtiest Competitors in Jiu-Jitsu & Grappling

Controversial Tactics: The Dirtiest Competitors in Jiu-Jitsu & Grappling

Dirty tactics in Jiu-Jitsu competitions involve actions that are within the rules but considered unsportsmanlike or unethical by many practitioners. Here are some examples:

1. Face Cranking

Applying pressure to the face instead of the neck during chokes, which can cause significant discomfort and pain without being a true submission attempt. This can include using the forearm across the face during a guillotine or rear-naked choke.

2. Neck Cranking

While some neck cranks are legal, they are often seen as dirty because they can cause serious injury. A neck crank involves forcing the neck beyond its normal range of motion, which can lead to severe pain and potential spinal injuries.

3. Wrist Locks During Takedowns

Applying wrist locks while attempting a takedown is a tactic that can be painful and is often unexpected by the opponent. This can cause injury to the wrist and is generally seen as a cheap way to gain an advantage.

4. Heel Hooks in Gi

Heel hooks are typically prohibited in gi competitions because they can cause serious knee injuries. Using them in gi competitions is not only against the rules but also highly dangerous.

5. Overly Aggressive Hand-Fighting

Using excessive force during hand-fighting, such as pushing the opponent’s face or eye-gouging, can be seen as dirty. This can distract or injure the opponent without advancing the position meaningfully.

6. Grinding Forearm

Using the forearm to grind against the opponent’s face, neck, or ribs, often during positions like side control or north-south. This tactic is intended to cause discomfort and pain rather than advancing a position or securing a submission.

7. Use of Stalling Techniques

Deliberately avoiding engagement or preventing the opponent from advancing by using stalling tactics can be seen as unsportsmanlike. This includes holding the opponent in a position without attempting to improve or submit.

8. Intentional Slamming

While slamming is generally prohibited, some competitors may intentionally slam their opponent to escape a submission or to cause harm. This can lead to serious injury and is against the spirit of the sport.

9. Dirty Tricks in Stand-Up

Techniques such as pulling on the opponent’s clothing, hair, or using finger locks can be subtle but effective ways to gain an unfair advantage. These actions are usually against the rules and can lead to penalties if caught.

10. Playing with the Rules

Some competitors exploit loopholes in the rules, such as manipulating the scoring system by repeatedly going out of bounds to reset the match when they are in a bad position.

Here are some of the dirtiest competitors in BJJ/Grappling:

Vagner Rocha

Reputation: Aggressive and abrasive style.


  • Aggressive Tactics: Known for using aggressive grips, face pushing, and physicality that borders on unsportsmanlike conduct. His matches often involve tactics that can be seen as intimidating and disrespectful​ (BJJ Heroes)​​ (BJJ Heroes)​.
  • Controversial Matches: Notably in the 2017 ADCC, Rocha’s hand-fighting techniques were criticized for being overly aggressive.

AJ Agazarm

Reputation: Trash-talking and mind games.


  • Trash Talk: Frequently engages in verbal antics before and during matches to unsettle opponents.
  • Rule-Bending: Accused of bending the rules and using aggressive tactics that sometimes lead to physical confrontations post-match​ (BJJ Heroes)​​ (BJJ Heroes)​.

Erberth Santos

Reputation: Unpredictable and aggressive behavior.


  • Physical Confrontations: Known for attacking opponents and spectators. In 2019, Santos was involved in a brawl at the BJJ Stars event after reacting violently to a comment from an opponent’s coach​ (BJJ Heroes)​​ (BJJ Heroes)​.
  • Behavioral Issues: His career has been marked by multiple incidents of unsportsmanlike conduct.

Rousimar Palhares

Reputation: Holding submission holds too long.


  • Submission Holds: Palhares has a history of holding submissions, particularly heel hooks, even after opponents have tapped, causing injuries. This behavior has led to suspensions and bans from various organizations​ (BJJ Heroes)​.
  • Incidents in MMA: Suspended by the UFC and WSOF for holding submissions too long​ (BJJ Heroes)​.

Orlando Sanchez

Reputation: Physical and aggressive grappling style.


  • Physical Dominance: Uses his significant size and strength to dominate opponents, often using excessive force.
  • Controversial Moves: Known for tactics such as smothering and heavy pressure, which are seen as unsportsmanlike​ (BJJ Heroes)​.

Pat Shahgholi

Reputation: Unsportsmanlike conduct.


  • Injuring Opponents: Accused of intentionally trying to injure opponents with aggressive and dangerous maneuvers.
  • Controversial Behavior: Known for prioritizing winning over fair play, often using tactics that lead to injuries​ (BJJ Heroes)​​ (BJJ Heroes)​.

Andy Varela

Reputation: Aggressive and controversial style.


  • Aggressive Tactics: Varela is known for his aggressive approach in matches, often pushing the boundaries of acceptable conduct.
  • Controversial Incidents: Involved in several matches where his tactics were criticized for being overly aggressive and unsportsmanlike​ (BJJ Heroes)​​ (BJJ Heroes)​.

These competitors have gained their reputations through a combination of aggressive tactics, unsportsmanlike conduct, and in some cases, physical altercations. Their actions have sparked controversy and debate within the Jiu-Jitsu community, leading to discussions about the limits of acceptable behavior in competition.

Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu

Reputation: High-level competitor with some controversial moments.


  • Aggressive Attitude & Moves: His intense physical style has sometimes been criticized for being too aggressive, especially when applying pressure in certain positions​, Knee on neck. He repeatidly slapped Gordon Ryan in a IBJJF No Gi match.

Shinya Aoki

Reputation: Known for his submissions and sometimes controversial conduct.


  • Aggressive Submissions: Aoki has a reputation for using brutal submission techniques, often causing severe pain or injury to his opponents. He has been known to apply these techniques with extra force.
  • Post-Fight Behavior: In MMA, Aoki has shown unsportsmanlike behavior after fights, such as taunting opponents after securing a victory, which has drawn criticism from the martial arts community​.

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