How to Pass the Guard Like Mayssa Bastos

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Your head is an essential tool when you pass your opponent’s guard.​

I’m not being metaphorical here.​

You can literally use your head in various ways to control your opponent’s movement.​

You can place your head next to your opponent’s head or below your opponent’s chin. You could even use your head as an underhook.​

You can simply start experimenting with this idea, but I figure an example would be helpful.​

So I will use that as an excuse to do a quick breakdown of Mayssa Bastos’ guard passing sequence against Lavínia Barbosa at this year’s Pan American.​

Watch their match here from around the 3-minute mark until around 5:24. Here’s my breakdown of this sequence:

​1. The sequence in question starts after Barbosa goes to the turtle position to avoid Bastos’ guard passing attempt.​

​2. Barbosa hugs Bastos’ right leg and gets into the quarter-guard-like position, but Bastos smashes Barbosa right away and gets a shallow underhook.​

​3. Bastos places her head next to the right side of Barbosa’s head, making Barbosa face her left side. There should be pretty strong pressure against Barbosa’s jawline from Bastos’ shoulder. For Bastos, this is a step to stabilize her position.​

​4. Bastos releases her head & shoulder pressure. Barbosa reacts to it and tries to come up, opening up some space for Bastos’ to get a deeper underhook. During this exchange, Bastos keeps her right shallow underhook, probably using her elbow as an anchor. After getting the left deeper underhook, she removes the shallow underhook and initially switches to a bicep tie and then to an elbow grip.​

​5. Bastos places her head right below Barbosa’s chin, pinning Barbosa’s head. This may sound like a terrible thing to do to your opponent/training partner… but you are indeed here to do terrible things to them. It’s forgiven, provided you do these terrible things in a well-controlled, technical manner. So, be more technical, and get over it.​

​6. Bastos spends nearly two minutes to complete her pass once she gets the deeper underhook. Here are a few key details:​

​a. Bastos has a strong head & shoulder pressure, pinning Barbosa’s upper body.

​b. Bastos is sprawling low and straddling Barbosa’s legs.​

c. Since Barbosa is forced to face her left side in a fetal position, she cannot easily use her feet to make a meaningful connection to the mat, which would allow her to escape from Bastos’ control.​

d. Bastos wants to use her legs to staple Barbosa’s legs while adjusting her position and completing the pass. The great thing about this way of passing the guard is that the passer can choose to go left, right, or forward (i.e., straight to the mount), depending on how their opponent reacts. When you watch this sequence, pay attention to Bastos’ leg pummeling work.​

e. Generally, Bastos wants Barbosa’s legs to be folded so that Barbosa’s knee caps will be facing Barbosa’s left side rather than towards the ceiling, for example. So, Bastos adjusts her position and drags Barbosa’s legs to that side (i.e., Barbosa’s left & Bastos’ right).​

7. Once Bastos finds herself in an optimal position to finish the pass, she moves to her left side and brings her right leg behind Barbosa’s legs. Bastos stabilizes her position and completes the pass.​

​Bastos’ sequence is an excellent example of pressure passing, which reminds me of Marco Barbosa’s style. This is not surprising because Bastos’ current coach/mentor Murilo Santana trained under Marco Barbosa and Santana himself is a pressure passing legend.

​Remember, using your head, especially in this style of guard passing, will make a huge difference in whether you complete your pass or not. Watch Bastos’ sequence and try using the insights you got from this email the next time you roll.