(Video courtesy YouTube/GracieAcademy)
If you’ve never seen any of Rorian Gracie’s sons Rener and Ryron’s post-fight submission finish breakdowns, they are very informative whether you’re an armchair expert or a seasoned Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
You’d assume that they would be biased towards the BJJ practitioners, but both of them are refreshingly honest in their analysis, giving props where props are due. Of course they’re going to give some props and shameless plugs to their academy, but if your great grandfather helped perfect a system of martial arts and your father helped co-found the UFC, you should get a pass.
Anyway, in their most recent edition of the Gracie Breakdown, the brothers discuss the Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen bout from Saturday’s UFC 117 card and give some insight on the jiu-jitsu of both men.
A lot of people are saying that Chael’s jiu-jitsu and sub defense are the weak link in his game, but according to these Gracies, he did almost everything right in attempting to get out of the fight-ending triangle and made one small, yet fatal error, which they say likely can be attributed to Sonnen’s lack of BJJ black belt training partners.
"The understanding of jiu-jitsu that Anderson Silva has is so much higher than anybody Chael trains with, so the idea of him defending that and one of his training partners getting him in an armlock is never gonna happen. Nobody gets him in a triangle [in training] except for a weak triangle he just slips out [of]."
They also point out that not only low-level BJJ guys get caught in the hold that Silva cinched Sonnen in to steal back the fight and retain his UFC middleweight crown.
"This is the same thing that Fabricio Werdum used to beat Fedor. Fedor fell for the same triangle-armlock combination. You can’t escape both. If the triangle is locked and they’re about to escape that, the arm is usually within range. It’s horrible. As soon as their head is out of reach or they’re trying to slip out, the arm is right there to follow up so you put pressure on the hips and he tapped. He had to respect it."
Here are some of the highlights from Ryron and Rener’s breakdown of what went wrong for Sonnen and what went right for Silva Saturday night:
On how long Anderson had been planning the triangle:
"Anderson’s guard defense was OK. He kept the head control, but Chael was so efficient at posturing up and coming down with the punches. But Anderson weathered the storm and he took it for four rounds and some of the fifth round getting smashed on and then finally the triangle that he had been planning the whole fight — attempting and planning the whole fight — landed in the fifth round. It’s fascinating that this simple blue belt technique — learned as a white belt and perfected in the blue belt phase is so easily applied when you’re so exhausted. That’s the best part, because Anderson was done…no juice."
On Chael’s defensive BJJ techniques:
"Early in the fight you saw one time Anderson jumped this leg over, but Chael kind of framed the leg and slipped his head out and Anderson would come right back to the guard. So Chael was in tune with to the triangle. Chael had been doing his research in jiu-jitsu himself of course. You can’t survive jiu-jitsu unless you know what to look for. So his jiu-jitsu is nice."
On Chael’s attempted escape from the ill-fated triangle-armbar combo:
"Chael did a very legitimate escape attempt…He stood up. He threw his body back and the leg came over — all the way over under the opposite armpit. What Chael wanted to do is get both legs up like this, stretch his body way, way back and hopefully bust open his legs and slip his head out. But Anderson kept it real. He certainly did. As [Chael] stood up and threw the leg over, the leg ended up in the armpit here but he ended up with Chael’s arm and he went straight for the triangle-armbar finish. [Anderson] applied the pressure right here. Chael thought about fighting out. He tapped once. As soon as the tap happened the ref jumped in to stop the fight. Chael…the tap was what we call ‘the Brazilian tap,’ where you tap once, you hope the referee intervenes and once the guy lets go, you keep fighting and try to keep going. That’s what Chael tried to do. Is Chael Brazilian? No, but he learned from the Brazilians the way. That’s the bottom line. He used the Brazilian tap and it didn’t work. The truth is he did tap maybe one and a half times."
"So Chael got up, he threw the leg over. Now, what’s the rule? Every time you do this throw over right here, this arm is in the party right here, the thumb or the elbow must be facing down. When he threw it he was so intent on keeping distance that he threw his leg over and his thumb and his elbow remained facing up on [Anderson's] hip…Once [your thumb and elbow] are out facing down, there’s no way [your opponent can get you in an armbar]."
Editor’s note: According to the official judges’ scorecards that had him winning every round 10-9 or 10-8, if Sonnen would have escaped the triangle attempt and coasted out the rest of the final frame, he likely would have taken the fight and the belt with scores of 50-43, 50-45 and 50-44 which would have eclipsed Silva’s 49-46, 48-47 and 50-46 whomping of Thales Leites at UFC 97.