Last weekend, Leonardo Nogueira experienced that strange sensation that only Jiu-Jitsu can provide and that makes the sport all the more endearing. After securing gold in the absolute by closing out with his buddy Bernardo Faria, the beast from Alliance was overcome by another fortress, in the ultraheavyweight semifinals.
Alexander Trans of team CheckMat achieved the result in surprising fashion, despite the fact that the Dane has been seen as a rising star ever since he was a brown belt.
Léo Nogueira addressed the good and bad results from Lisbon, his choice of playing an attacking game, his half-guard and, of course, what he got right and wrong at the European Open. Learn from him!
GRACIEMAG: What’s your assessment of your campaign to win the absolute at the 2013 European Open?
LÉO NOGUEIRA: I feel my performance couldn’t have been better, especially in kicking off the international season. After all, I got the finish in all three of my matches, and it was a championship where I really went all out in attacking. I’m going to train to improve, of course. As for the final, I understand that everyone wants to see two guys fighting for gold, but there’s not a chance in the world that I’d fight him. Bernardo’s like a brother to me, and we train together every day. I just couldn’t do it.
In the ultraheavyweight division, you took bronze after losing the semifinal to Trans, who you’d already beaten in the absolute. Do you feel there was anything in particular you did wrong?
I think I wasted a lot of time trying to tap him out from closed guard. When I finally got the sweep, the match was nearing the end and I was hungry for the finish. For trying so hard, Alex managed to sweep me and land almost passing my guard in the final seconds. I lost because I tried attacking up until the last second. If I’d held back some I think I’d have won the fight. I’d changed my style of fighting; now I fight for the finish, even if I sometimes pay a steep price for it. I know the crowd wants to see finishes, not points wins.
What would you do differently?
It was a really tough match, but it truly was a mistake that cost me; after all, I’d dominated the entire match, and he only fought for 30 seconds. I could have been calmer in trying to pass. I tried passing really quick and ended up exposing myself a lot. A single mistake against Trans can be fatal, since he’s so strong and heavy, not to mention being so tight with his positions.
What’s the greatest lesson you derived from the loss?
I learned that you need to keep focused up until the last second. That’s what Alexander Trans did in the final with Rodrigo Cavaca. He passed guard with just three seconds left.
Did you have any other tough matches?
Man, I had four matches in all. I’ll say the match with Mathias Ribeiro [CheckMat], who’s a heavy guy who moves like a lightweight.
You’ve got a really strong half-guard. What detail should our readers focus on to get up to speed on the position?
Look, I try to always get control before my opponent does. The first one to get control will be successful in the position. My secret to the half-guard is real simple: always stay on your side. You can’t, by any means, let your opponent pin your back to the mat.