Small Man BJJ

December 21, 2012
5 minutes read

Dan Faggella vs. The Giant

An evolution in lightweight BJJ Competition is upon us, and nobody has yet to articulate it.

Until Now.

Being a “small man” I had to develop my game in a way that would allow me to compete with bigger guys.  It’s no fun having a man twice your size “lay” on top of you. As I got more advanced in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I noticed that the Top Level Lightweight BJJ Champions were playing distinctly different games than Marcelo Garcia and the 170+ guys were.

I wanted to make sure that there was an “actual” trend in the smaller man game which had enormous differences from the game that bigger BJJer’s play.

I spent what I view now as an “Insane” amount of time analyzing every match at the higher levels. I formulated statistics from each match of positions, type of submissions, the type of sweeps etc.

I was able to find very distinct, very “REAL” trends in the small man game.

What is the “Small Man BJJ Game”

Here’s some of the stats that I concluded from my research.

  • Sweeps are much more likely than passes (in one of my statistical analyses, 8 times as likely)
  • In the rare occasions that passes do occur, statistically the passes are to top turtle or back mount
  • Side control, mount, and even knee-on-belly are relatively rare occurrences, and occur much less often than
    in heavier weight classes
                      This is a PARADIGM shift from the way most people think we “Should” be training BJJ

                                 The “Future of Small-Man BJJ” at Work

Bruno Frazato x Ricardo Vieira

Rafa Mendes v. Ed Ramos

Bruno Frazatto v. Bruno Malficine

Guillerme Mendes v. Augusto Tanquinho Mendes

^ These matches aren’t even some kind of strange exception to what seems to be
happening at the lighter weights… these matches are indicative of an entire trend, an entire point
strategy, and entire evolution of the lightweight BJJ competition game that nobody had
articulated and put their finger on.

A Breakthrough: Small Man Physics

I got to catch up with Joe Capizzi, one of the original little guys on the Jiu Jitsu circuit under Renzo Gracie. He brought up one of the most amazing points I’ve ever heard when it comes to small-man Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Joe explained to me that “Physics” play out differently in the “small world” than in the “big world.”

For example, a fly is able to zip around and change directions rapidly. But, if the fly was 100 times bigger, it would be incapable of moving in the same manner and maybe not “fly” at all.

In relation to BJJ, a rooster weight grappler may be half the size of the heavyweight, making his world of movement potential significantly different.



There is a definitive and “absolute” trend happening in the “Small Man” BJJ Game.  The dynamics of lightweight grappling will never be the same as the dynamics of heavyweight grappling. Because of the factors listed above (and the empirical evidence from real grappling matches), it would be illogical for a 130-pound competitor to decide upon playing Roger Gracie’s game.

It doesn’t “click” with the smaller reality.

Failing to recognize this is turning your back to a ton of facts (and great statistical / empirical evidence) of their being a “smaller man game” (implying a different pace, different frequencies of specific positions and techniques, etc…).

— Coach Daniel Faggella

 PS. Classic small-man grappling: 4 second tapout in Expert Division! You generally don’t see that happen much at heavyweight.

Daniel Faggella
Daniel Faggella

Coach Daniel is the founder and head publisher at Science of Skill, LLC. A martial arts black belt and self defense instructor, Dan has spent years training with and interviewing some of the world's best self protection experts. His passion lies in encouraging others to train smart and to improve the skills that make them safer and stronger.

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