How to Roll During BJJ Sparring: Five Principles

Mat time is the best time. You should — and almost always will — feel better about everything after a solid night of training. In order to get the most out of mat time, it helps to think about your approach.

One of the rarest but smartest questions I get from newer people is, phrased one way or another, “How do I roll?” Sometimes people are looking for a technique to start a sparring session with, just to get the game going. Sometimes people don’t want to be jerk people complain about having to roll with. Often, people want to know how to maximize the value they get from rolling sessions.

All of these are great reasons, and they hint at an important meta-principle about jiujitsu: don’t be afraid to ask questions! People want to help you progress. Besides, we’ve all seen problems created when someone erroneously assumes they know the rolling culture of their gym without having to ask.

Here are five principles that should help, especially for newer people.

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Toro Cup 7: the Finishes

A Few More First Round Matches to Watch Today at IBJJF Worlds

I’ve already listed the local North Carolina and surrounding areas competitors to follow, and FloGrappling has their own list of 10 first-round matches to watch. But looking through the brackets, I found a few more first-round clashes that I think are worth seeking out.

Ana Carolina Vieira vs. Ida Floisvik, Mat 12, 8:40 p.m. Eastern Time.: Ana Carolina has a crushing top game and great movement; Ida is the absolute champion at the New York Open for this year (and a former podcast guest). This is a tough first-round match, but that’s to be expected in the stacked women’s black belt middleweight division. And speaking of which …

Monique Elias vs. Leanna Dittrich, Mat 12, 7:52 Eastern Time. Leanna Dittrich is an accomplished Fight Sports black belt under Roberto Cyborg Abreu. Monique Elias is the defending world champion and the favorite to win this division, a division with no soft spots. This won’t be an easy first-round match, and the winner gets the victor of Caitlin Huggins vs. Amanda Loewen.

Tayane Porfirio vs. Venla Luukkonen is also a first-round match worth matching, and not just because it’s the final of the super-heavyweight division. That’s on Mat 2 at 7:08 Eastern Time. If Luiza Monteiro and Tammi Musumeci win their first-round matches, they meet in the second round of the lightweight division, and that should be a fun one, too.

PODCAST: Pedro Sauer and Murilo Bustamante

Some photos from the Pedro Sauer headquarters that are referenced in this show. This is Grandmaster Helio Gracie’s choking log:

Here is one of Grandmaster Helio’s gis, made with sail cloth: 

Here is the wall that every black belt who visits the academy is invited to sign:

Match Times & Mat Assignments for Local Worlds Competitors

PLEASE NOTE: 1. All times are Pacific, and 2. These times are approximate and will almost certainly be updated. Follow the match time updates in real-time on the IBJJF big board, or with our live threads on Facebook each day of the event.

You can see all the brackets at this link if you click on the weight classes. If we missed anyone we should follow, please let us know in the comments! Thank you!



Gavin Corbe v. Enzo Rensoli, Thursday, Mat 9, Fight 3 starts at 09:16 a.m. Pacific Time.

Eric Hable vs. Emiilio Andrade, Thursday, Mat 10, Fight 6, starts at 09:40 a.m. Pacific Time.

Bryce Lighthall vs. Michael Villavicencio, Thursday Mat 3, Fight 17 starts at 11:08 a.m. Pacific Time.

Je’Quan Williamson​ vs. Ehsan Rajabi, Mat 11, Fight 39 starts at 2:04 p.m. Pacific Time.

Justin Michael vs. Belal Mojadidi, Thursday Mat 6, Fight 39 starts at 02:04 p.m.Pacific Time.

Chela Tu, vs. Buyandelger Battsogt, Thursday, Mat 4, Fight 46 starts at: 03:01 p.m. Pacific Time.

Sabrina Wright vs. Mariana Villavalvo, Thursday Mat 3, Fight 48, starts at 03:18 p.m. Pacific Time.

Mariah Bragg gets the bye in round one, fights first on Thursday, Mat 10, Fight 76, starts at 06:51 p.m. Pacific Time.

Rontrice Thomas vs. Dielle Pike, Thursday Mat 6, Fight 79, starts at 07:13 p.m. Pacific Time.




Kim Rice vs. Brea Ellwanger da Silva, Friday, Mat 11, Fight 66, start at: 06:24 p.m. Pacific Time, bracket.

Amber Hable gets the bye in round one, fights first on Friday, Mat 2, Fight 51, starts at 04:25 p.m. Pacific Time.

Maggie McDowell gets the bye in round one, fights first on Friday Mat 4, Fight 52, starts at 04:34p.m. Pacific Time.

Jinho Kim vs. Ariel Tabak, Friday, Mat 8, Fight 30, starts at 01:21 p.m. Pacific Time.

Junny Ocasio vs. Joao Campo Farias Junior, Friday Mat 5, Fight 36 starts ats 02:15 p.m. Pacific Time.

Andrew Bitner vs. Steve Cruz, Friday Mat 9, Fight 28 starts at 01:03 p.m. Pacific Time.

Miguel Elizondo vs. Justin Ledesma, Friday Mat 4, Fight 2 starts at 09:09 p.m. Pacific Time.

Zane Henricksen vs. Jean Henrique Pereira, Friday Mat 3, Fight 15 starts at 11:06 p.m. Pacific Time.



Caitlin Huggins vs. Amanda Loewen, Saturday, Mat 12, Fight 50, starts at: 05:04 p.m. Pacific Time, bracket.

Deandre Corbe vs. Wilson Cortes, Saturday, Mat 9, Fight 16 starts at 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time.

Anthony Elbert vs. Hyungjung Kim, Saturday, Mat 8, Fight 4 starts at 09:30 a.m. Pacific Time.

Caleb Frasher vs. Edson da Silva, Saturday Mat 2, Fight 7 starts at 10:00 a.m.

Diego Bispo vs. Masahiro Iwasaki, Saturday, Mat 3, Fight 36 starts at 04:33 p.m. Pacific Time.

6 Must-Watch Rafael Mendes Matches

In just a few short days, the 2017 Mundial championship will give us a metric ton of high-level jiujitsu to watch. Until then, we’re going to have to rely on previous matches.

A blue belt friend of mine is disappointed he won’t get to see Rafa Mendes compete this year, and asked me for some must-watch Rafa match recommendations. I chose 6 matches that cover the span of his black belt career, trying for some diversity — hence the span from 2009 to 2016, with three gi matches and two nogi matches.

Yes, there are three matches with Cobrinha here, but that’s because this was an epic rivalry between two of the best ever (and who would have bet on Rafa retiring before a man who is a decade his senior? If you think I’m rooting for Cobrinha this year, you’d better believe it).

MATCH ONE: Let’s start with the match that earned Rafa his first, ADCC title, the 2009 finals versus Cobrinha. Both Rafa (who was just 19 years old here) and Cobrinha submitted all of their opponents before this match. This match, one of the greatest nogi matches ever, went to double overtime. This one set the tone for years to come.


MATCH TWO: Cobrinha is one of the absolute best ever. At black belt, he’s only been submitted twice. One of those was by Rodolfo Vieira, a man who has 60 pounds of solid muscle on him. The other was here, in 2012.

If you watched that 2009 match, you saw Cobrinha’s defensive prowess on full display. Rafa threatened a number of submissions, but Cobrinha always had an answer. In the gi Pan Ams, though, Mendes executed an armbar perfectly and fought through Rubens Charles’ valiant and courageous defenses. No other person close to his weight has ever done so, before or since.

MATCH THREE: Before we complete our trilogy with Cobrinha, let’s go back to the 2009 ADCC, where Rafa fought the legendary Leozinho, Leo Vieira (another man worth studying hours of film on). Mendes’ relentless attacks keep coming, and his rise is on full display here.

MATCH FOUR: I had the pleasure of watching this one live, at the 2015 worlds. It really showed the growth of Rafa’s game. Cobrinha had beaten him at ADCC in 2013, and you could tell that the rivalry meant a lot to each man. I was on pins and needles for this one — but Rafa took charge from the beginning. pulling guard and implementing his game with seemingly little effort.

Well up on points, it looked like Rafa had Cobrinha caught again toward the end of the match. But after Cobrinha escaped, he kind of wagged his finger and looked at the crowd to say something like “not today.” There was a terse exchange of words between the two men. At a seminar years later, I asked Rafa about what they said to each other. I’m going to leave that right there for now. Maybe I’ll talk about it on the show sometime.

MATCH FIVE: Okay, you hate the double guard pull. I hate it too, honestly. But we can’t ignore the prominence of the dueling berimbolo game in the mid-2010s, and two masters of it put their skills on display at the 2014 European championship finals. I’m including this match with Paulo Miyao for that reason (it’s reflective of the time), because of the interesting Mendes-Miyao dynamic, and because it’s a rare example of this genre that features very little stalling. (Higher quality link here, but one that won’t let me embed).

MATCH SIX: Let’s close out with a match from 2016. Rafa is at the height of his powers, in the prime of his life at 26, and is just clearly a level above both his opponent in his weight class final at the Rickson Cup and his absolute final opponent, Ichitaro Tsukada. This isn’t anything against either of these men. It’s just a statement of where Rafa’s game is relative to even regular competitive black belts. You see his movement on full display here, against Yuto Hirao. He flows to the best option so effortlessly, it looks almost like he’s drilling. This isn’t a man with anything left to prove.

This isn’t a man with anything left to prove.