Grappling With a Purpose-The Rafael Mendes Approach

Dan Faggella is a BJJ Academy Owner, No Gi Pan Am Champion at 130 pounds, and recognized expert in the area of Sweeps & Transitions in the Lightweight BJJ Game. Dan writes or Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style, MMA Sports Mag, and more – and his FREE Sweeps Training Manual can be found online at:

Go ahead and ask anyone that knows me what my favorite approach to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is.  Almost every single one of them will say that I have a fixation on leg locks and attacking the feet.  By looking at my YouTube account and my work with my students at Black Diamond Mixed Martial Arts, I think that it’s a safe assumption that I’m a leg lock guy.

From a fan perspective, I find watching competition videos of some of today’s grappling stars are very helpful in my growth as a BJJ player.  A personal favorite of mine—and many of you, I’d assume—is Rafael Mendes.  A truth grappling genius, Rafa Mendes is truly fantastic to watch.



Think With Your Head First…

Like every good grappler, Rafael Mendes doesn’t just jump right into things all willy-nilly.  Grappling takes a tactical approach and being able to analyze the situation you are placed in.  Mendes does just this; in some of his match you will see him basically allow his opponent to have their way with him at first.

Silently, Mendes sits back and awaits for his opportunity to present itself.  When it does, all it takes is a blink of an eye for him to strike.  Like a snake attack is pray, Rafa wraps and contorts his opponents is such a manner that they even have to ask themselves how they ended up there!

Once he has you in the palm of his hand, he ends it.  The tricky thing about Mendes is, he will fool you with one submission, all while setting up another move that you didn’t see coming!  One second he’s targeting your arm, and then he’s wrapped around your head looking for a guillotine.

You can never rest.

…And Your Feet Second

One thing I LOVE about Rafa’s game—given my leg lock obsession—is that he utilizes his legs in such a manner that he makes them a tool.  Rather than just sitting there in the 50/50 waiting for his opportunity, Mendes uses his legs to separate himself from his opponents, all while maintaining a reasonable distance allowing him to strike when he wants.

In this particular match, Mendes would eventually obtain back mount, all the while using his feet to keep his opponent honest and not forget Rafa can end the match in multiple ways.

Not only did his feet tactics open up the door for potential leg locks, he was also able to utilize the body triangle.  For any of you that have had this applied to you, you know just how effective this can be.  It will drain the life right out of you!

Simply put, Rafael Mendes is a wizard on the mats.  His talent is so well defined that even proper game planning doesn’t directly correlate to a win.  You have to be super human to stop Rafa.

Dan Faggella

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.