Scouting Leandro Lo

And finally we arrive at the reason I started this website in the first place.

Why “Scout”? Well, besides being the name of my favorite character in the book To Kill A Mockingbird, I feel the real value of scouting is really not just about breaking down what someone does well, but also about identifying possible windows to counter them, tiny as they may be.

Lo’s greatest weapon, Active Posting, is also his greatest weakness

To speak of a “weakness” in Lo’s passing game is a bit presumptuous, but more rather, most of the points scored against him arise out of his use of  “active posting“. Active posting is not just a game plan with Lo, but a highly tuned (almost subconscious) habit. He would much rather post/float than crossface and base down/control an opponent. Most of the time it works out, but when he encounters opponents who (1)  take it to him and don’t flee his pass attempts (but rather “turn in”) or (2) are more athletic/explosive (ie Gilbert Burns/Roberto Satoshi/Buchecha),  Lo becomes vulnerable. Compounding the problem, Lo seems to have no sprawl reflex (or at best a weak one), not bailing on his active posting tendencies even when clearly caught in a single/double and being driven back. He actually often even drives further forward  trying to go over his opponent, allowing them to get deeper in on their single/double leg penetration.

Using your hand to post means you give up an important defence

Crossfacing was invented for a reason. It stops a guarder from “turning in” to his side and also stops him from sitting up into you. Lo surrenders this for the mobility of active posting and his agility/athleticism usually saves him, but when a shrewd opponent realizes the “space” Lo leaves can work in the guarder’s favor too, it becomes fatal for Lo. (1) Spinning under him to a single/double during his “floating”, (2) turning into him to get deep half guard when the underhook/head pin or face crank is locked on, or (3) waiting to spin in after he misses a “DLR hole” punch and posts, all become viable options.

Lo shines when guarders are defending/fleeing his aggression but those who capitalize on Lo’s “space” to close the distance on their terms can score a sweep/take down on him.

If you can’t spin in to take the space, at least stop his posting hands

Lo’s forward aggression and reckless forward surges are predicated on him being able to post to safety. When his posting hands are controlled and he feels he cannot reliably choose where his “active posting” hand will land, Lo’s posture/aggression changes dramatically. He goes back to a combat base and tries to free his hands, this moment of defensiveness has been capitalized upon before to get sweeps off him.

Same response when Lo’s DLR knee posting hand is disrupted. He either combat bases down trying to get his grip on the DLR knee back before initiating or sometimes stays standing, bent over, opening him up for omaplatas.

Active posting is great at stopping overhead/sideways sweeps, not so much backward attacks

Lo counts alot on the DLR guarder to get under him and rock him forwards (thus putting their back on the mat) in order to punch through for his knee slide. When the sit up sweep directly drives him back at the onset however, and the opponent just guns for a single leg or to sweep him onto his butt, Lo’s active posting is not much help there.  Sitting “up and out” to recover to combat base rather than to pull Lo in, has led to Lo conceding points (Buchecha used this strategy well in their match). Combined with posting hand disruption, Lo can be vulnerable to sweeps.

Lo is excellent vs DLR, “ordinary” vs deep half guard or 50/50

Lo is “limited” in the sense that while he is world class in some guards/passing strategies, his response when put into situations other than his comfort zone is to disengage/flee/dogfight rather than employ a distinct strategy. This is in contrast to a more “complete” competitor like Andre Galvao for example, who can utilize many positions/guards and switch effortlessly (for example, he won the ADCC Brazil trials emulating Marcelo Garcia’s armdrag strategy almost exclusively). Presumably this is because Lo is still relatively early in his blackbelt career and can only improve with time.

Deep half guard has lost popularity lately but the guard can catch Lo if he is put into it (highly possible due to no crossfacing). Lo doesn’t do the “Deep Half Guard Killer” or a Ryan Hall/Mendes rolling back take when in DHG but rather just tries to fight out of it (vs a polished pass/strategy). This now becomes a more fair contest and skilful DHG players have exploited that to sweep Lo. DHG allows the guarder to threaten to sweep Lo backwards and forwards (vs the more overhead/sideways sweeps of half guard) and Lo’s active posting is not so dangerous in that kind of a dogfight.

Not depicted in the video, but Lo never 50/50-es his opponents back. His first instinct is to try stand up immediately to untangle his legs in order to begin his toreando/knee slide attack again. His goal is to disengage/reset rather than (1) pull off some 50/50 move of his own, (2) stall out/sit on his butt to disentangle, or (3) go for footlocks. While he succeeds roughly in disengaging/passing directly 30% of the time, he is frequently swept out of this position in a variety of ways.

Lo’s modified toreando is not foolproof

Not frequently countered but rather just defended, matches with Roberto Satoshi (2012 Worlds) and some recent ones show “step and push” can be countered by not turning away as Lo is walking you down but going belly down and turning into him. Going for his pants/legs and getting on your knees to rise into a double/single is possible. With his lack of a good sprawl, again Lo can be taken down surprisingly off his toreando. The “straight arms” vs the tucked in hands of the conventional toreando (where the “pull” has been completed) makes it comparatively easier to get under Lo.

Congratulations, you swept Lo, now you get to deal with the real problem

All that being said, even if you did manage to sweep Lo, now you have to overcome his guard which isn’t much comfort frankly. Almost all of Lo’s points conceded/losses have come against him as the passer. Despite the long odds, playing guard probably still holds the highest chance of beating Lo.  No one his weight has passed Lo’s guard in a major comp yet (gi) and he almost always gets the sweep. That’s the subject of a future piece.

Every player can be broken down, no one is perfect

In conclusion, the point of this article was to illustrate that no matter what people/DVDs/clever marketing tells you, there can be no “ultimate move/strategy”. Habits and tendencies can both be a strength and a weakness. BJJ is all about trade-offs and if you look hard enough, what someone does “right” probably means that there’s something that has opened up elsewhere. Hopefully this exposition on Lo’s top game was informative as to how to go about “scouting” a BJJ player’s game.

BJJ’s intricacies were meant for everyone, not just a select percentage of the elite. Knowledge is power, and now that you know how to see, it’s time to take some of that power back.

This was actually the first video I made. But it probably only makes sense after watching the first four. Check it out.


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