João Gabriel and the final with Lo: ‘He surprised me by fighting on the defense’

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João Gabriel in the guard of Leandro Lo. Photo: Gustavo Aragão / GRACIEMAG

On Sunday, Leandro Lo and João Gabriel Rocha wrote another chapter in the remarkable history of the Rio Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship, an IBJJF event held in the gymnasium at Tijuca Tennis Club.

João Gabriel, super-heavyweight champion, was defeated by Lo, middleweight champion, by just one advantage in an exciting, instructive absolute final.

On top, the representative of Soul Fighters got a lot of pressure going, but was not able to pass Leandro’s guard. The Cicero Costha student tried to sweep and won the decisive advantage. GRACIEMAG talked to João, who analyzed his mistakes and successes in the competition.

GRACIEMAG: What have you learned from the defeat in the final of the open?

JOÃO GABRIEL ROCHA: I knew the fight would be decided in the details and that is what happened. But he surprised me really, because I had never seen Leandro Lo fighting defensively– he always attacks like a madman [laughs]. This time, Lo was more on the defense and that broke my game. I think I lacked a plan-B, because I thought he was going to attack me all the time and it was not what I saw. Anyway, he is to be congratulated, he found the right strategy and is a deserving champion. I learned that we must be prepared for everything. Having plans for any circumstance during the fight is really essential.

How do you view Leandro Lo as a Jiu-Jitsu competitor?

To me he is the number-one lightweight – the guy is truly fantastic. I love watching him fight because it is always synonymous with a spectacle. A future match between us would probably go along these same lines. But I’ll try to have even more stamina, so as to get in his guard and do better.

At the final of the super-heavy you faced Grimaldo Filho of GFTeam, and finished him with a choke. What have you learned?

I did not know the opponent, and that hindered me a bit. The guard Grimaldo has is very flexible, but I was able to go at my pace until the end. I ended it with a nice choke; I guess the secret is to do a lot of repetition to get the submissions just right. To use this move of mine, I always try to get the back with my hips aligned. And my shoulders must always be parallel with my opponent’s.

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