Leandro Lo Guard Study Part 2: Primary Sweeps and Counters

In this article we look at the second sweep which makes Lo’s sweep game so dangerous and we list out his responses to opponents who “scout” him and deny him his A game.

Lo’s Modified X-Guard Sit Up Sweep is the second half of his A game

As mentioned in part 1, Lo’s spider control is a defensive insurance that lets him pursue sweeps aggressively. The most common defences to avoid the lumberjack/Lo Sweep once Lo shoots the leg through is to base down/collar grab/lean forward to avoid being driven back. With no grip switch needed, Lo then does a modified X guard sweep initiating a situp with the spider foot still driving forward on the bicep. This is mechanically a very strong position (the opponent’s body is now a big lever with his elbow as a pivot) and Lo can just roll the opponent over to finish the sweep if standing up doesn’t work.

test(click picture to see the sweep in action)

Dogfighting with Lo from this based down position often ends up going his way as long as Lo has the spider control to keep unbalancing the passer. What makes this sweep dangerous really is that Lo doesn’t switch out from the spider and thus he keeps his defensive structure all the way till the moment the sweep takes place. He can even go back to the Lo sweep if the opponent tries to “run forward” to defend this sweep, giving Lo an opportunity to grab the leg.

This ability to kick to safety as he aggressively goes for either of these 2 sweeps (Lo Sweep + Sit up sweep) makes Lo’s guard extremely hard to pass as there is no opening to get close.

Note: for a very good exposition on what X guard and one legged X guard is, check out Jiujitsu Laboratory’s entries here and here.

Lo does not want to play “X/Spider Hybrid” Guard

One downfall of this guard structure/gameplan however is that while good offense can be generated, if neither of the 2 sweeps materialize Lo risks getting stuck in an unstable X/spider position. When he is stuck in this situation two things could happen (1) opponent bases/smashes down pinning the X-guard leg or (2) opponent ends up standing over him double teaming the spider leg.

In either of these scenarios, Lo is now vulnerable to the leg drag. In (1) Lo can still go for the sweep above but if in the scramble the bicep control is lost Lo can’t easily get the control back as he faces two free hands now. Either way, Lo needs to recover back to full X to hide the exposed leg which no longer provides (1) distance management or (2) the ability to “chop down” for the Lo Sweep. Lo is acutely aware of this and will immediately look for the full X if he misses his sweeps so that his defense is not compromised. With full X, Lo has the standard array of X guard sweeps at his disposal and he frequently utilizes those as well, always looking to return to DLR/Spider if given the chance. Here is Lo showing the normal X guard sit up sweep.

Lo’s guard play is innovative but the strongest weapon (spider sleeve) is also the greatest weakness

If you think about it, X/Spider is really just one small step away from 50/50 where the opponent has the superior “outside” foot position and is already on top, making it ideal to go for the leg drag. This is why Lo prefers to hold the DLR/Spider position where he can manage distance better with the DLR side .

As such, it’s not really appropriate to say Lo’s DLR/X/Spider hybrid positions are a superior form of one legged X. While he does gain more sweeping opportunities, he compromises on defence going for his signature sweeps and it takes a lot of skill (which he has in abundance) to manage the situation once the 2 sweeps fail to avoid leg draggers and 50/50 players. Marcelo Garcia, the pioneer of one legged X (OLX), has already found out the hard way against Terere the danger of leaving the leg exposed (see this match 10 years ago). And while I’m sure he could have developed this riskier style, Marcelo has developed a more defensive X/OLX game with the leg hidden. This obviously has a direct translation to no-gi, as Marcelo is not reliant on the spider sleeve grab.

Lo’s Counters to Your Counters

The DLR/Spider guard is such a frustrating guard that opponents simply refuse to let Lo get it on. Unlike Spider which is less offensively orientated, waiting/stalling when caught in DLR/Spider is not an option because the sweeps comes almost immediately and (1) “retreat” means getting chopped down backwards (2) “running forward” means getting swept forward/sideways by the X guard sit up sweep.

There are a few responses to Lo’s guard and they illicit the following counters:

(a) Don’t let Lo get the DLR side

This is the most common response and hiding the foot from Lo means the opponent can keep fleeing till his own grips can be established. This typically means the passer now leads with the opposite foot. Lo in this situation typically gets the reverse de la riva hook on that foot and spins under for a sweep/backtake while maintaining the spider control.

(b) Don’t let Lo get the spider sleeve

With only the DLR side, Lo spins under to get an X-guard sit up sweep on the other side. Sometimes he will have to play deep half guard a bit in order to get up if the opponent bases down quick.

(c) Become a knee passer

Versus peers closer in size, Lo will pull them into butterfly guard to sweep though his range of moves there is not as diverse as Marcelo’s. See some mini tutorials by Lo on butterfly sweeps here and here. Note Lo can get still his 2 sweeps on a knee passer if he can shoot the leg through and lever the guy up with that leg while driving up with his spider (watch the video in part 1 at 4:59 here). It just isn’t as effective against much bigger opponents.

Lo’s “A game” really works well on aggressive passers who stand up but against knee passers Lo is reduced to dogfights to lock his DLR/Spider on while defending stacks/smashes. As a result, this is frequently how Lo loses (typically in the open class though) – someone gets a sweep/puts Lo on his back and knee passes the rest of the match. Unlike Marcelo who will aggressively butt scoot to pull someone into butterfly to transition into X, Lo is very unwilling to risk this and typically looks to capitalize on a stand up. If that never happens, he can be frustrated.

(d) 50/50 Lo

This actually is one of the most viable ways to counter Lo, especially for same sized opponents (mainly because he dogfights here rather than using defined techs). Michael Langhi and Felipe Preguica (two times) have done this to Lo and despite losing, put Lo in trouble at some points. The only problem is that the only way Lo has ever been locked into this is from him as passer (most of the time right after he finishes a Lo Sweep). Jumping into the 50/50 when Lo is in guard is not easy (Langhi does this from his spider a lot) because he has the spider control on.

(e) Give up, go back to toreando/leg drag

As Lo’s guard is basically unpassable, especially versus smashes and stacks, many knee passers do stand up in frustration to try toreando/drag. Here Lo pulls off ankle picks to surprise opponents.

Final Thoughts

Lo was chosen as the first subject to be studied as he is one of the few players with has such unusual top and bottom games. While his accomplishments have been recognized, many of his innovations, especially the subtle ones (active posting, step and push toreando, DLR/Spider etc) have gone under the radar, as he doesn’t do the currently popular berimbolo/drag/inversion game. I believe Lo has till now appeared as a random scrambler to many but underlying all that chaos are some well defined, innovative techniques which will influence coming generations of BJJ players, much like Marcelo Garcia/Leo Vieira/Terere etc did. Likewise, there are many players out there who continue to evolve BJJ in a variety of directions, some whom the world probably hasn’t even seen yet. Lack of sponsorship kept amazing athletes like Lo/Roldolfo out of the public eye initially and there are loads more just waiting to be discovered.

And with that, at long last the study on Lo is concluded. Hopefully it has been informative and you enjoyed the journey as much as I did. Check out the final video.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzDHkoZeO8A&w=560&h=315]

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