Absolute Gold Medalist Léo Leite Teaches Tips to Winning from the Top

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Léo Leite in action at 2012 South American Championship / Photo by Gustavo Aragão/GRACIEMAG.com

With a good decade of IBJJF gold medal-collecting under his belt, last weekend Leonardo Leite put in a performance that was testament to his still having the vise-like grips that took him to the top in world Jiu-Jitsu and judo.

The Alexandre “Gigi” Paiva black belt won the absolute and ultraheavyweight divisions at the 2012 South American Championship, as you found out here on GRACIEMAG.com, after which he shared his thoughts about the campaign.

GRACIEMAG.com: What’s your take on your performance Saturday?

LÉO LEITE: I hadn’t done an absolute in a while. I landed in a tough bracket: my first match was against Giderson Barros [Carlson Gracie team], who won the middleweight division. I managed to tap him out with a clock choke. The second match was against Renato Cardoso, a really tough and skillful kid who has been winning everything, and I beat him 2-1 on advantage points. In the semifinal I came up with two takedowns against Alex Ceconi and won by 4 to 0, closing out the absolute with Léo Nogueira.

What about on Sunday?

On Sunday, in the ultraheavyweight division, I won my first match by tapout, again with a clock choke, and in the final I fought Felipe Pereira of Gracie Floripa. I was winning by 6-0 when the ref stopped the match saying he’d tapped.

How did you feel entering the absolute and winning? Will we be seeing you in the absolute more often in upcoming tournaments?

I hope so. For the Worlds I didn’t have much time training Jiu-Jitsu, because of the trips I had to take with the Brazilian national judo team. I only had three weeks to practice Jiu-Jitsu and ended up with silver in the ultraheavyweight division after losing the final to Bochecha. After the Worlds, I did more Jiu-Jitsu training than judo, so Gigi decided to put me in the absolute.

You competed in judo early in the week, didn’t you?

I competed at the Jogos Abertos do Interior de São Paulo competition, and I had eight matches on Monday and on Tuesday. That’s why I knew I’d have to make my energy last—I was more worn out than the other competitors. It all worked out in the end. I managed to get two gold medals as well as help Alliance win the team title.

What was your strategy in the open-weight semifinal against Alex Ceconi?

I knew he was going to want to play on top, where he feels best, so I looked to sink good grips and get him down and get on top of him.

What’s the trick to getting top position in Jiu-Jitsu?

One thing I do a lot that I feel is important is to not let the opponent sink grips while standing. I look to break their grips and impose mine to try for throws. When I can’t get one, what I try doing is not let them pull guard on me too easily; I always try making it hard for them to pull guard on me so I can land in a position that’s advantageous to me. Something that really makes things rough on guard-pullers is to tug on their collar a lot.

What about the clock choke, one of your favorite moves? What’s your trick to that?

You apply the clock choke when the opponent is on all fours. What I do is reach under his arm with one hand; when the opportunity arises, I switch hands and surprise him. I always try to keep a hold on one leg so there’s more pressure.

Click here for the complete results from the South American Championship.

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