The sport of mixed martial arts is currently experiencing an incredible boom in popularity; one can even argue that it has surpassed boxing as the number one combat sport. During MMA’s brief history, a number of distinct evolutions can be noted: from the domination of Royce Gracie using Gracie jiu-jitsu, to the Olympic caliber wrestlers like Randy Couture and Mark Coleman utilizing the takedown and ground and pound, to the devastating strikers like Chuck Liddell with excellent takedown defense, and finally to the current crop of well rounded athletes trained in all aspects of mixed martial arts with the current UFC welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre as a prime example.
Rubber Guard-a Jiu-jitsu Revolution
Frustrated with the current state of jiu-jitsu in MMA, Jean Jacque Machado blackbelt Eddie Bravo spearheaded the innovation of a no-gi style of jiu-jitsu tailored towards MMA competition. Eddie Bravo was able to put his innovations into a complete system by around 2004 with the McGraw Hill Publishing’s release of his book, Jiu-jitsu Unleashed.
The principle behind the rubber guard is a simple one. Traditional Brazilian jiu-jitsu focuses on using the gi(training uniform) as handles and points of control. However, the gi is not allowed in MMA competition thus rendering a lot of the gi techniques ineffective during a MMA fight. The rubber guard’s emphasis is on the clinch; using over hooks, under hooks, and head control while breaking down the posture of the opponent using an advanced form of the high guard.
The key to rubber guard success is clinch strength as breaking down the opponent and holding him tightly in order to eliminate space lessens the likelihood of the opponent landing powerful punches from the top. A plethora of submissions can be performed from the rubber guard position; even though a lot of the submissions are common place in traditional jiu-jitsu, performing them using the rubber guard greatly increases their success rate.
More and more MMA fighters have started learning the rubber guard system and a few MMA standouts can already be seen using the system on some of the world’s biggest stages.
Notable Fighters Using the Rubber Guard
Shinya Aoki -Ranked as the number one lightweight in the world according to quite a few popular MMA websites and magazines. Aoki most recently utilized the mission control and New York position from the rubber guard against world class jiu-jitsu fighter Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro during their bout at Dream 10 in which Aoki won via unanimous decision.
BJ Penn -The current UFC lightweight title holder. He has openly stated in interviews praising the effectiveness of the rubber guard. Penn used rubber guard in his loss against Georges St. Pierre at UFC 94.
Dustin Hazelett -Up and comer in the UFC lightweight division. Used the rubber guard against Tamdan Mcrory at UFC 91. During the fight, Hazelett used the rubber guard to transition into the omoplata position and submitted Mcrory with an inverted armbar.
Learn the Rubber Guard
The best fighters have always been the ones who continually strive to evolve and better their overall fighting ability. The rubber guard has emerged as a legitimate fighting style in MMA competition and the best way to not fall victim to somebody well versed in the system is to take an in-depth look into the rubber guard system. Even if a fighter chooses not to use the rubber guard, at least learn how to defend against it.