Roger Gracie and Strikeforce win: “I used the push kick I perfected with Lyoto”

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Roger Gracie se embola com Keith Jardine e solta joelhada

Roger Gracie throws a high knee on Keith Jardine at Strikeforce. Photos by Esther Lin/Zuffa publicity.

The Saturday Strikeforce event will be rebroadcast in the United States this Tuesday on Showtime, so if you’re planning to watch it and don’t want the outcome to get spoilt, best skip reading this post.

If you’ve ignored the warning and decided to proceed, it’s likely you already know what happened in the main card fight between Roger Gracie and Keith Jardine last weekend in Portland, Oregon. The three-time absolute world champion earned a convincing unanimous decision win after three rounds—which doesn’t mean Roger didn’t go through any tense moments, or learning experiences, as good Jiu-Jitsu masters tend to prefer.

In a conversation with direct from Lyoto Machida’s Los Angeles residence, where little Tristan Gracie met Machida’s brood, Roger recalled how the turbulence he encountered began even before stepping into the gray cage to toe the line facing his goateed opponent. “They almost had to carry me to the scale to make 84kg. After that I drank six liters of water straight and didn’t feel like going to the bathroom one bit,” said the Gracie with amusement, now that everything has worked out. But we’ll let him do the explaining:

The value of going a full three rounds:

“Though ideally I’d have finished it, the outcome of the fight was actually valuable to me. It was a fight where I learned a great deal, from making weight to my behavior as a fighter, both when in control and when at risk.

“I had the feeling that there were some areas where I was truly comfortable, and others that I couldn’t put to practice in the fight because I lacked confidence. When you’re in there, if you’re not totally confident in a move, you lock up and don’t use it. I did use my jabs and push kicks, for instance, but I didn’t throw my right nor do any combinations, something I’d practiced a lot in training. But I’ll let loose in the next ones.

Cutting weight:

“I left losing a lot of weight till the last minute, and I feel I wore out a lot in the third round because of it. What got me was that I had to shed nine kilos on Thursday before making weight on Friday. That killed me. I spent Thursday and Friday in the sauna; they almost had to carry me to weigh-ins.

“Your body gets too dehydrated by doing that. After making weight I drank six liters of water straight and didn’t even go to the bathroom. I’ll never let that happen again, because it really takes a toll on your body.”

Roger lamentou não ter usado mais combinações de socos, mas os punhos e a envergadura do Gracie foram úteis para afastar Jardine.

Roger regrets not having strung together more punch combinations, but his fists and reach were helpful in keeping Jardine at bay.

Learning experience on the ground:

“One thing I learned in particular is that, despite my technical superiority where Jiu-Jitsu was concerned, it’s not that easy go finish everyone. And the most important thing was to have found myself in that situation, so that I can learn to ration my energy. I can’t go balls to the wall trying everything I can, nor can I go off halfcocked because my opponent doesn’t offer an opening. There was one point where I landed on his side and in going for the mount I locked down his arm for a long time. Now looking back, I feel I could have tried hitting him more, going for the knockout or submission.

“But on the other hand, we’ve been seeing it crop up a lot: the Jiu-Jitsu fighter mounts, chooses to strike for the knockout, the ref nearly steps in but time runs out or the guy goes out but recovers. After that, you’re worn out and the guy comes back in one piece. That happened to [cousin] Gregor at One FC; he was in a superior position several times, almost came up with the knockout and then wore out. That popped into my head when I was fighting; there was no way for it not to. So I feel it was useful; I didn’t get the finish or throw strikes for the knockout, but I did manage to reason, assess, and ration my energy.”

Best Jiu-Jitsu moments:

“I had a few chances to catch him. In the second round I spent a good while on his back, locked him down with a figure-four around his belly. But that position, while being difficult for him to get out of, also held me back some. What happened when I was on his back was that I kind of got trapped against the fencing and ended up too high on his back. I tried squeezing his neck, but the sweat and blood made him slippery. In a nutshell, I was on his back but wasn’t comfortable enough to attack.

“I ended up slipping out of mount and went for an arm-and-neck choke, but the hold didn’t go in not because I gave up on it; he slipped out and escaped—besides him being slippery, the cage floor too was drenched at that point. When he slipped out and escaped I gave up on the arm-and-neck choke and returned to mount.”

Fighting exhausted:

“And fatigue finally struck in the third round. I wasn’t tired; I was exhausted. I was lucky that he was just as tired as I was, and he had to make up for lost time. I figured I’d won two rounds, so I started fighting to not waste any energy and to not expose myself. ‘I’ll play off his mistakes,’ I thought to myself. And when he came at me, I jabbed and used a push kick I’d perfected with Lyoto. I’d already used that kick with my lead leg in other fights, but this time I practiced doing it with my rear leg with Lyoto. It worked well.

“When I landed two or so push kicks, I could tell that he felt them connect and stopped. That gave me peace of mind to keep him at bay. But there was one moment there in the third round where I felt in danger. It was when he threw a combination that ended with him connecting a hook to my forehead. I got kind of wobbly there. I thought to myself, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to lose…’ But I recovered. Perhaps he didn’t realize how much damage I took. I quickly got my wits about me and started fending him off and bobbing again.”

Future at Strikeforce:

“The event was great because there were a lot of fights in my division, so I could see the other guys at my weight in action. I think I’ll have to be more on my toes in the next ones because I’ll likely face younger guys with quicker hands and more explosiveness on the ground. This time I worked a lot on slipping that powerful right hand of his. One of them I slipped and got out; on another of them I shot in and took him down.

“I know now that I have to keep training more to build confidence in some aspects of my standup game without neglecting Jiu-Jitsu and groundwork. Each adversary will present different challenges, and I’d best be ready for that. On the ground, for instance, Jardine seemed not to have a neck and to keep his chin low; it was a lot harder to finish him. But I’m going to keep training; I’ll help out at training at Black House until Lyoto’s fight [against Ryan Bader] at UFC on Fox this August 4.”

Após a luta, missão cumprida: "O Roger está se tornando um lutador melhor e um homem melhor a cada desafio desses", comentou Renzo Gracie, seu córner.

After the fight, mission accomplished: “With each new challenge Roger is become a better fighter and person,” remarked Renzo Gracie, his cornerman at Strikeforce.

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