Positional Studies: Sit Up Sweeps (Cobrinha, Otavio Sousa, Rodolfo Vieira)

Cobrinha Sitting Guard

If it works well and often, I’m Interested

Consistency is the name of the game at high level sport BJJ and despite the endless generation of moves in BJJ, most champions just use a small set of well rehearsed moves/strategies/sequences. The number of “go to” moves employed by an elite BJJ player is typically no more than 10 in most cases. Therefore the trick to “scouting” is to firstly look through all the noise and find the “go to” move and at a second stage, focus on the set up (what preceded the move) and the “plan b” (when the move is countered). Lo’s DLR counters or Rodolfo’s weaving counters to turning in/turtling are examples of this approach, which can be applied to any BJJ player you fancy.

Taking a step back though, you will sometimes find moves which transcend weight classes (or gi/no gi) and are universally applied. They may go though subtle modifications but are essentially the same move (for example the kneeslide).  This “list” of universal moves is not set in stone though and once in a while we see some player in a different weight class adapt a move not thought possible (for example we see bigger players use the berimbolo these days). These universal moves, if you can find them, are worthwhile additions to any BJJ player’s game.

Sit up Sweeps are Used Across Weight Classes

One move that as been adapted across divisions is the sit up sweep. This is basically a sweep where you come up into a single/double from your guard and drive the passer back to sweep him over his heels. This can happen out of sitting guard, DLR, halfguard or even RDLR.

For the options off sitting guard in general check this out:

(ps this channel has very good instructionals and videos, check it out!)

It’s useful as a counter to a Smasher

Getting smashed is a constant threat to a guarder. When your back is pinned to the floor and mobility is killed, getting out from the grind can be energy sapping and at best is just playing catch up. There are a variety of ways to stop this though, distance management (ie spider, DLR/RDLR) or at the very least, turning to your side. This “turning in” response is an important habit to cultivate when a smash is on/about to happen, as that creates the space that consequently allows the shrimp/turtle/inversion.  Between these two extremes (staying far with spider or turning in at the last moment) is the “sitting guard” when you sit close to an opponent’s leg almost hugging it. You are near, but your back is far from the ground. When someone tries to smash in, there is room for your back to “turn in” and avoid ending up flattened.

The situp sweep is an immediate offensive counter you can do against someone trying to smash into your sitting/half/DLR/RDLR. Quickly turning in as the smash comes in and setting up this sweep is something often done by Rodolfo Vieira. Note, his guarding is primarily designed to stop the smasher. If he is not using his DLR, he is always trying to sit up into the would be smashers in his division (that’s basically everyone). The video below illustrates this “turning in to sit up sweep” sequence that he uses very well against aggressive smash passers. Key to his success is always making sure the smash is interrupted so that he can swing his legs out to quickly get up and drive back with the double/single.

It’s useful against Scramblers

What if the passer isn’t smashing in? This is a common situation in the lighter weights. They typically want to pass from a distance, setting up drags and toreandos, trying to get around rather than smashing through. If anything the moment they sense a sweep is coming or the guarder trying to “load” the passer, the primary response is to flee/disengage/retreat (as opposed to aggressively punching for underhook/kneeslide ala Lo for example).

It has been mentioned previously (DLR Counters entry) that berimbolo enhanced DLR massively because the primary defence, untangling the DLR leg and fleeing is now a much more dangerous proposition. Before berimbolo though, Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles was dominating many lightweights who tried to retreat out of DLR with the sit up sweep. Here, playing off the “retreat” response – many lightweights fleeing his DLR are simply “timed” into conceding the sweep.

For those that don’t retreat immediately though, Cobrinha has an armdrag/situp sweep combo. This is a well rehearsed tactic to emerge out of the scramble in an advantageous position. Grabbing the near sleeve from his DLR,  Cobrinha often initiates a strong drag to trigger the retreat. Upon retreating, the passer often finds that same sleeve hand fed to Cobrinha’s other hand and Cobrinha immediately trying to stand/take the back. The passer standing/retreating in this situation leads to a single leg battle which occurs on unfair terms. Don’t retreat strong enough, his back is taken like a normal arm drag. The video pretty much says it all.

Sometimes at the elite lightweight level it’s all about who can win the scramble and Cobrinha is excellent at creating a 50-50 scramble with this armdrag/situp combo. This “loose” version of the sit up sweep works well because many light weights aren’t looking to smash but “retreat” therefore Cobrinha can stand up with  one leg to “follow” the passer retreating from his initial drag (ok he is also athletic to begin with). It seems like he is scrambling randomly but Cobrinha has done this so often it really isn’t a random scramble to him and he will take this risk knowing he enters with stacked odds.

You can Chain Many Sweeps with It

What if the passer is both a distance passer and smasher? Between the heavyweight smashers and the lightweight scramblers, the middle weight is a mix of both. Otavio Sousa is a big user of the sitting guard and he chains the primary sit up sweep with a variety of “plan b” sweeps in other directions. In a nutshell – when it’s “retreat” it’s the normal sit up sweep but if there is no retreat and the smash follows, that’s when his “plan b” overhead and sideways sweeps come in.

To begin with, Otavio is good at shutting down the passer’s mobility with the sitting guard position. This kills off the toreando/drag and the passer is now confronted with a “smash through” or “retreat” option. While stuck in sitting guard, Otavio constantly looks to grab/control the far hand of the passer. This variant of the sitting guard/sweep is useful because the far hand is typically the posting hand that will stop an overhead/sideways sweep. Once he can thread this hand through he has shut down posting and is free to react and sweep sideways/overhead depending on how you react to the primary sweep (backwards).

The video shows most of his typical “plan b” sweeps so do study it. I suppose it’s natural his multi-directional variant has come about given that he encounters both smashers and retreaters/scramblers his division. Because the two extremes are not here typically (heavy smasher/super scrambler), his “medium” speed variant is workable in that he has time/space to achieve that far side sleeve grab without having to deal with a heavy committed smash/immediate scramble. (ps Otavio is one of the few to have swept Leandro Lo by shutting down his active posting hand and driving him back, even when Lo had the underhook on)

Not much else say, sit up guard has many permutations/options but in the video I try show some variants that are tried and tested at the highest levels. Let me know if you scout other sit up guard strategies that are money!

Not sure when I can post again this month so Happy Halloween early everyone!

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