Match Breakdown: Marcelo Garcia vs. Robert Drysdale – ADCC 2007

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“”Marcelo doesn’t talk in shades of grey. Everything is black and white.” Josh [Waitzkin] was with him at ADCC in 2007, and when he lost to Drysdale, Josh had talked to him about why. Was it that he needed more training against the darce (the choke Drysdale used, now much in vogue) or was it that he needed a game plan for long-armed opponents? Had Marcelo gotten too predictable with the single-leg takedown? “I need to be faster,” Marcelo said with a smile.” – Source: The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game by Sam Sheridan. Pg. 195.

Robert Drysdale was one of the last people to defeat Marcelo Garcia by submission. In recent years it’s rare for opponents to score points against Marcelo, let alone cause the Alliance competitor to tap. Few victories were of large enough consequence to put a new Jiu Jitsu superstar on the map. But this is what happened in New Jersey in 2007 when Garcia stopped pushing against Drysdale’s hip with his left hand to defend the darce choke, and used it to tap four times. Drysdale had already won the World Championships in 2005 and as part of the famed Brasa team was a well-known rising star in the Jiu Jitsu community. But with this win Drysdale was put in an exclusive category with Roger Gracie, Jacaré Souza, Braulio Estima and Augusto Tereré.

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Marcelo Garcia vs. Robert Drysdale – ADCC 2007

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The absolute division of ADCC 2007 started out with Garcia defeating Mario Miranda, Rolles Gracie and Alexandre “Cacareco” Ferreira to reach the finals. Drysdale for his part overcame Big Mac, David Avellan, and Andre Galvao. When Marcelo and Robert met in the finals the rest of the tournament had winded down and spectators and competitors alike were waiting with bated breath to see who would be crowned the best submission grappler of 2007. Had I been there I think I would have assumed Garcia would take the title. His history of defeating larger opponents would probably have blinded me to the fact that Drysdale presented a unique and difficult challenge for the much smaller Garcia.

The match started off with the typical Garcia shuffle forward, hand-fighting into the clinch. Garcia stands peculiarly tall when he wrestles. He usually doesn’t shoot for a takedown without first engaging the arms, most frequently with an armdrag. His two primary takedowns are the armdrag single leg (i.e., against Leo Vieira in 2011) and the armdrag inside trip, although he also performs the armdrag double leg takedown occasionally. During the arm drag single leg, Marcelo tends to shoot low and circle around his opponent, which allows him to take the back. Marshal Carper, co-author of Marcelo Garcia’s new book, Advanced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Techniques explains Marcelo’s views on the armdrag and single leg takedown in the following excepts from his blog:

2. The arm drag is all about footwork.
Calling an arm drag an “arm drag” is misleading.  If you focus on dragging your opponent, ripping him from position to position, you will likely fail more than you will succeed.  Instead, an arm drag is better described as an “arm shift.”  You shift your opponent’s arm slightly across his body and move forward, connecting your shoulder to his shoulder.  You go to him.  If you are standing, this means stepping into your opponent.
3. The single leg is the most important takedown in jiu-jitsu.
As a slight disclaimer, Marcelo never actually says the above, but it is evident in his game.  Opportunities to execute single legs abound from all positions: from standing, from the butt scoot, from arm drags, from guard, and from guard pass counters.  Marcelo uses the single leg constantly, and it ties in perfectly with his arm drag system, creating a hyper-aggressive path to the back or to the top. – Source: Marshal Carper.

In this match Marcelo was determined to use the single leg to put Drysdale on his back. Drysdale, however, had his defences ready. During Marcelo’s first single leg attempt Drysdale swims his leg outside of Marcelo’s and achieves a front headlock with a deep overhook. While many takedown defences rely on the underhook to create space, the overhook can be used to set up counter takedowns (e.g., Uchi Mata) or counter submissions like the guillotine, anaconda and of course the darce choke.

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Marcelo Garcia – on armdrags

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Marcelo Garcia – on wrestling

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Marcelo shoots for a takedown early without setting it up, which gets stuffed. He achieves the takedown during his second attempt, switching from the single leg to a head-inside double leg. Garcia is unable to get his feet under him to stabilize position, however, which allows Drysdale to push away and perform a technical stand-up from guard to get back to his feet. Although this takedown attempt Marcelo was successful, ADCC rules state that he must maintain position for three seconds to achieve points. Marcelo also hesitated during the attempt, staying still for a period of time, which allowed Drysdale the ability to gain his balance and consolidate his defences. At this point in the match, though, it looked like it would be another amazing Marcelo victory over a much larger opponent. Only by paying attention to the warning signs during the initial takedown attempt would someone have cause for concern.

Two minutes into the match Marcelo uncharacteristically shoots for the single leg takedown without first off-balancing his opponent with an armdrag. The shot did follow a Russian two-on-one where Drysdale stood tall to defend, but there was too much distance between them, and too much hesitation between the setup and shot. Drysdale immediately sprawled and achieved his overhook once more.

In the months following this match the darce become one of the trendiest submissions in Jiu Jitsu (I know it’s also referred to as a brabo and a Shaolin choke, but I call the choke a darce. Deal with it). Everyone was clamouring to learn the technique that caused Marcelo to tap. Drysdale’s darce was comprised of the two main entries for the submission from front headlock, one after the other to counter Marcelo’s defenses.

First  Drysdale attempted the “gator roll” variety, where the overhooking arm is thrown deep under the opponent’s neck from front headlock as the opponent falls to the side, rolling underneath to lock his grip onto the bicep. It’s possible to finish here, but Marcelo defends well, pulling his body back and flattening out to relieve pressure. This puts Drysdale back on top with a fully locked in darce. Using the overhook to pressure forward, Drysdale rolls Garcia out of base, and begins to walk in towards the legs. His choke is deep with his head right on the mat. This way of finishing drives the opponent’s shoulder into their neck, while the blade of the wrist cuts off the carotid arteries on the other side of the neck. This version is not a neck crank, as some assert, but a legitimate choke. There are many examples of competitors being choked unconscious from a deep darce choke.

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Robert Drysdale – Rolling darce choke from guard

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Jeff Glover – Sliding darce choke against turtle

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Sean Spangler – Turning darce from front headlock

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Despite the effectiveness of the darce choke on this occasion, Marcelo asserts that arm-in chokes are not as efficient as submissions that attack the neck directly, and are difficult to use against larger opponents. Marshal Carper, again:

“The D’arce choke or brabo choke has received a lot of attention the last few years, and other arm-in chokes like triangles and arm triangles have long been staples of jiu-jitsu.  Marcelo, unlike many grapplers, does not believe arm-in chokes to be efficient, so he intentionally avoids all forms of them (including the arm-in guillotine).  Marcelo understands that this opinion is somewhat controversial, and explains that this is just the way his style has evolved to cope with large, strong, and technical opponents.  Marcelo wants 100% of his force exerted on his opponent’s neck when attempting a submission.  He does not want to fight the strength of a limb to get to the neck” – Source: Marshal Carper.

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Marcelo Garica – on arm-in chokes.

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As Garcia taps the few remaining spectators in the stadium in Princeton, New Jersey either erupt with joy or stare with shock, and what seems like the entirety of Brasa flooding the mats. Only with an athlete of the calibre of Garcia would a 220 lb (99kg) man defeating a 170 lb (77kg) opponent be worthy of this much celebration. Today, Garcia continues to dominate his weight category in both ADCC and in the Jiu Jitsu World Championships, while Drysdale has left grappling competition for MMA after losing to Jacare Souza in a subdued superfight at ADCC 2009. In his first professional MMA match Drysdale submitted Dynamic MMA’s Bastien Huveneers by arm triangle in a match that saw the lighter Huveneers come up from middleweight to test himself against the now-famous Drysdale.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Match Breakdown: Marcelo Garcia vs. Robert Drysdale – ADCC 2007

  1. Rodrigo Gutierrez

    Great breakdown!

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