Tanquinho vs. Rafael Mendes 2013 Worlds Breakdown (Exclusive Tanquinho Interview)

June 13, 2013
9 minutes read
Tanquinho vs. Rafael Mendes 2013 Worlds Breakdown (Exclusive Tanquinho Interview)

This post is broken up into three parts:

Tanquinho vs. Rafael, Podium 2013

Tanquinho vs. Rafael, Podium 2013

  1. The match between Rafael and Tanquinho in the 2013 World Championships
  2. My personal breakdown of the match and the interesting situations / techniques
  3. An exclusive interview with Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes about his match with Rafael

The 2013 World Championships were full of upsets, and although Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes had beaten Rafael Mendes at the Abu Dhabi Pro in 2011 Abu Dhabi Pro, he had lost to Rafa in the 2011 World’s Finals, and arguably – most of the BJJ community was betting on Rafael to pull through for the win.

In a tremendous clash of skill that started with a quick 2 points being scored by Tanquinho 15 seconds in the match, the match ended with Tanquinho on top – and 2013’s Black Belt World Champion at Featherweight.

Below is footage from the match itself. Afterwards we’ll dive into the breakdown and the exclusive video interview with Augusto himself.

1) Augusto “Tanquinho” vs. Rafael Mendes – 2013 IBJJF World Championship Featherweight Black Belt Finals

Tanquinho gets a SUPER fast 2 points initially, and in the eyes of many who watched the match, this was a turning point in the match. I forget the exact stats, but in college wrestling I know it’s something like 80% of the wrestlers who score the first 2 points end up winning the match. In BJJ I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same. Mendes is clearly comfortable being on bottom, but being down 2 points that early is undoubtedly unusual for him.

Mendes’ near Berimbolo almost put the odds firmly in his favor, but Tanquinho’s defense of holding Rafa’s leg up, and also of trapping Rafa’s inside leg allowed him to turn in to the 50-50 guard and ensure that his back was not taken. 

What made the final scramble of this match MORE impressive is that Augusto’s knee was apparently in a knee brace through all of his world’s matches. One can only imagine how painful that last few seconds of the scramble to pull that braced leg free for the win. In Tanquinho’s words:

“I couldn’t do.. NOTHING, man.. it was go see a doctor or.. lose the fight.” – Tanquinho

What can we learn from this match?

The Quick Takedown:

This is not cool collegiate wrestling. It is, however, GREAT lightweight BJJ. A distance shot to get grips before the opponent can pull guard.

This is not good collegiate wrestling. It is, however, GREAT lightweight BJJ. A distance shot to get grips before the opponent can pull guard.

First and foremost, lets take a lesson in lightweight BJJ takedowns. At feather (and super-feather, and rooster), it’s NOT about gripping and setups, it’s all about setting up a stealthy shot from a long distance that allows you to grab the opponent’s knee before he grabs yours collar. At this weight class, it’s all about bottom, everyone wants bottom position. With that being said, everyone’s on the verge of the guard pull – so only a stealthy distance shot has the chance of getting the 2 points.


Because statistically, the likelihood of sweeping is something like four to eight times more likely than the likelihood of passing. That’s how the light weights are. Side control and mount are unicorns at these lighter weight classes, but sweeps happen all the time. So… why do takedowns? Few lightweights break that mold, Tanquinho is one of them, and he played the takedown game RIGHT.

The Near Berimbolo and Berimbolo Defense:

Tanquinho catches Rafa' top leg, preventing the back mount and the leg drag, and enabling the transition to the 50-50.

Tanquinho catches Rafa’ top leg, preventing the back mount and the leg drag. This enables Tanquinho to make the transition to the 50-50.

The crowd went WILD as Rafael almost landed square on the back of Tanquinho. Being too low to transition all the way to the back, Rafa dropped his top leg to end up in the leg drag position. Tanquinho captures this top leg and pulls it between his own legs, allowing him to remain entangled.

There is a VERY big difference between being on bottom in the guard, and being on bottom in the 50-50 guard. In the 50-50, “top” and “bottom” is more ambiguous, and makes an immediate guard pass much more difficult. This “entanglement” game is known as Rafa’s game, but here Augusto ends up using it to save himself from an otherwise rough transition.

The 50-50 Battle of Doom:

Ouch! Tanquinho pulls his leg out of the 50-50 with raw effort. Cutting the angle and getting his knee behind Rafa's thigh got him out of this tight spot.

Ouch! Tanquinho pulls his leg out of the 50-50 with raw effort. Cutting the angle and getting his knee behind Rafa’s thigh got him out of this tight spot.

In the last seconds, Rafael is aiming to keep Tanquinho held down in the 50-50, doing anything to prevent the sweep. As Tanquinho got up, Rafa based out to pin Tanquinho’s hip and maintain top, but Tanquinho painfully, ardently ripped his leg through the gap at Rafael’s hip. After cutting the angle to get his knee behind Rafael’s thigh (watch the breakdown below) his leg was free, he was behind Rafael.

We’ve seen similar “spinning, standing 50-50 scrambles” in classis Rafael vs. Cobrinha matches, but this is the first time we’ve seen the tables turn on Rafael in a position that’s so often seen as his “thing.”

2) The Science of Skill Breakdown of Tanquinho vs. Rafael

In the above breakdown, I don’t pretend to cover all the critical details of the match, but there are 3 that I deemed most interesting and worthy of analysis:

  • The early double leg
  • The near Berimbolo by Rafa / counter by Augusto
  • The 50-50 scramble for the win at the last minute

Below, I interview Tanquinho about the match itself, his strategy, and his experience of becoming 2013 World Champion.

3) Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes Exclusive Interview

It’s interesting to hear Tanquinho’s perspective on strategy, and being cognizant of how he changed his takedown approach from the last world championships (where Rafa was able to grab his collar and pull guard). Its a very rare breed of grappler who can play a top-heavy BJJ game at the lighter weights, and the only guys at Featherweight doing it right now are (arguably) Tanquinho and Justin Rader.

Tanquinho’s insistence on top position probably gives a lot of hope to the “old school” BJJ-ers out there who are rooting for the guard pass and armbar rather than the Berimbolo and back take. He’s a kind of omen that this stuff might NOT be the total paradigm shift of BJJ, and that the predominant top-game fighter might still be a viable game to play at the lighter weights.

Only time will tell, but this time, Tanquinho was our victor.

I want to give a thanks to Toquinho for taking the time for the interview here at Science of Skill. Find him on Twitter (@tanquinhobjj) and let him know what you thought of the breakdown – and wish him luck in his future in MMA!

All the best and thanks for reading,

-Daniel Faggella

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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