Marcelo Garcia rolling with Rafael Lovato Jr. is all sorts of fun to watch

Everybody in BJJ who knows anything has heard of both Marcelo Garcia and Rafael Lovato Jr, so to have a clip of them both rolling in Marcelo’s Academy is a fantastic learning opportunity. They’re both legends in the sport, with Marcelo having 4 ADCC titles and 5 word titles to his name. Rafael Lovato Jr is one of the most successful US competitors and currently 2 and 0 in MMA.

Currently on a break from competition (probably retired), Marcelo is often referred to as the greatest grappler of all time. If you’re not familiar with Marcelo then check out this documentary video by Stuart Cooper, in which he talks about his life:

What’s interesting about Marcelo is that he’s pared his game down to just the things that work for him. Rather than expanding out into the new and exciting techniques of the modern game, he has instead worked out what techniques he has greatest success with  and delved down deep into them to reveal new opportunities. It’s like creative growth going in reverse – it’s inspired by restrictions, rather than by total freedom. For example, Marcelo has comparatively short legs when compared to a lot of BJJ players, which means he doesn’t use the triangle choke*, one of BJJ’s signature moves, very much. You can bet he tested it to exhaustion before he abandoned it, though. His philosophy is simple – whatever he does has to work on opponents who significantly outweigh and outsize him just as well as it works on people his own weight or who are lighter.

I really respect Marcelo’s training philosophy. I’m the same build as Marcelo and there are so many cool techniques in BJJ that I love, and that I can apply to people my size, but against the big boys, they fail. It’s tough to give them up because they’re so seductive. Marcelo clearly has the discipline required to abandon these lovely techniques and stick to just the ones he knows will work in every situation, so when he rolls he maximises the number of repetitions of these key techniques.

In contrast, Rafael Lovato Jr is long-limbed, which means he has many more techniques available to him. His game is more expansive and therefore more unpredictable. Watching these two legends rolling is a feast for the eyes of any grappler. I find myself returning to watching this sparring session again and again because there’s so much to learn from both of them. You get to see Marcelo applying all his trademark moves against a taller opponent, and you get to see how Rafael deals with Marcelo’s legendary X Guard and Butterfly game. The roll is in two parts. Here’s my breakdown of part 1 of the roll.

Marcelo vs Lovato roll, Pt.1 Full Breakdown

You can watch the whole thing in the video above. Things to notice: This is a friendly roll in the academy, not a competition match, so they’re not going 100% and they’re giving each other the opportunity to try things. Look out for Marcelo constantly grip-breaking to set up his sweeps and guard passes, and the amazing sliding hook sweep. When playing guard they both go for their strengths – Marcelo the X Guard and Butterfly Guard, and Rafael his De La Riva guard.

Click here for part 2 of this article, where the breakdown continues

* N.B. Marcelo does use one version of the triangle choke, which he shows in his X Guard book, but it’s non-standard.