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Worlds 2017: Crunching Numbers 3.1 – The Guard

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Gordon Ryan Guard Passing Instructional

Our sport/martial art has in the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) World Championship its biggest event. The importance of this tournament has drawn us to gather as much data as possible from it with each passing year, in an attempt to study trends, keep historic records and analyse individual games.

Two weeks ago we ran an overall assessment of the tournament (3.0), today we have gone further into the data at our disposal and studied the guard’s influence in the 2017 World Jiu Jitsu Championship.


As seen on the Crunching Numbers 3.0 article, the guard was crucial to the point scoring game with the majority of point awarding maneuvers executed at a black belt level during the 2017 event coming from sweeps. Overwhelmingly so:

Graph 1.

We also saw how the 50/50 Guard dominated those sweeping exchanges, with the majority of sweeps coming from this position. In reality the ‘Fifty’ almost trebled the amount of sweeps when compared to the second most successful sweeping position – the half guard.

NOTE: the pie-chart does not account for the open-weight division.

Graph 2.


The data above might have given you the idea that the 50/50 Guard is the most accurate approach to that all important tournament winning sequence, but that might not be necessarily true.

When putting down the consequences of all those 66 sweeps from 50/50 Guard one finds that many, or in fact most, were inconsequential and led to perpetual sweeps (backwards and forwards), the majority of which cancelled the initial 2 points added to the scoreboard by the initiator of the sweep.

The table below illustrates how many sweeps were accounted for from 50/50 and how many of those were returned in the same manner by the opposition. The chart displays the sweeps and consequential returns per division (male category).

Rooster 8 8
Light-Feather 6 5
Feather 13 11
Light 1 0
Middle 15 6
Medium-Heavy 16 12
Heavy 3 2
Super-Heavy 2 0
Ultra-Heavy 2 2
TOTAL 66 46


This disparity in continuous sweeping exchanges is not seen in these high numbers by any of the other guard exchanges accounted for on Graph 2, exception made to the ‘Reverse Closed Guard Sweeps’ – in that instance, 6 of the 7 sweeps were generated from the same match and in the same sequence, the match being the one between Mikey Musumeci and Isaac Doederlein.


Points decide the biggest chunk of matches at the highest level in this sport, where games, physical attributes and skill are similar across the board (as seen on our Crunching Numbers 3.0), but submissions still hold plenty of muscle and the traps set by the world’s best guard players hold strong in influencing a tournament’s outcome.

From our submission count chart choking from the back control shows the highest numbers of submissions successfully applied. With such high numbers of chokes from one single position, could this mean the guard as a direct path to the submission is reaching it’s end?

Graph 3.

The answer to the question above is: Not at all. When analysing each submission and where they originated from, the guard comes in as a close second to the back control:

NOTE: Guard is a generic term which encompasses any submissions conquered from any type of guard. The word “Top” on the graphic is used to describe any submission conquered by the player competing from an established top position, including: Mount, Side Control, North-South, Top Half Guard, etc.

Graph 4
(Numbers exclude open weight class).

Considering the high number of point awarding moves in our ‘Point Distribution’ pie-chart (Graph 1.), and adding to that information the submissions share (displayed above) and you will have a compelling argument for the crucial benefits of having an aggressive guard in jiu jitsu.

The surprising element to this guard study might come from this submission study presented next. In assessing which guards were more accurate when hunting for the submission, the 50/50 Guard once again rose up to the challenge.

Graph 5.

This represents without much argument that 2017 was indeed the year of the 50/50 Guard, being the most used position in terms of points, and one of the strongest to reach the tap. The ability to slow down the pace of a fast and relentless guard passer is another reason why this is such a pivotal position in the sporting element of this martial art today. Will this hegemony continue next year? We will find out.

Craig Jones Brand New Instructional

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