Ronda Rousey and the Power of Gameplans

UFC Belt

In case you were hiding under a rock, Ronda Rousey fought Liz Carmouche last night at UFC 157. She both validated her UFC Women’s Bantamweight title, and made history by being in the first-ever women’s match in the the UFC.

And just in case you were under that aforementioned rock, despite a very spirited fight by Liz Carmouche, Ronda won the match with an armbar at 4:49 of the first round.

She has now won all of her seven professional MMA fights by armbars in the first round.

There is now no doubt that his woman is on a mission to break your arm.

Clearly she has a plan when she steps into the ring. (She even says as much during the spectacular pre-fight trash-talking, threatening to rip her opponent’s arm off and throw it at her corner.)

Her basic gameplan has worked pretty well for her so far: close the distance with strikes, get the clinch, use a Judo throw to take the fight to the ground, and then hunt relentlessly for the armbar.

Which brings me to the power of gameplans…

The first person I ever heard talk about a gameplan for a fight was Adriano Emperado – the founder of Kajukenbo Karate. I met this legendary streetfighter when he came up to Montreal, Canada, to teach a seminar at Philip Gelinas’s school.

During that seminar he summed up the Kajukenbo philosophy very succinctly:

“Hurt the guy. Take him down. Finish him off.”

That’s a pretty basic gameplan, but it’s still a powerful idea when you’re new to self defense. As a Kajukenbo practitioner you now know what you’re supposed to be doing next at every stage of the fight.

Of course fights are unpredictable, and things can go sideways in a hurry. At UFC 157 Ronda did get somewhat derailed from her plan when Liz Carmouche took her back during a Kesa Gatame escape and almost finished the Rear Naked Choke.

But Ronda survived the attack, escaped the position, and then went right back to her gameplan. A little while later – BOOM – armbar!

Gameplans do get derailed – in fact there’s a famous saying attributed to a  Prussian general with a very Prussian name (Helmuth von Moltke the Elder) that goes:

“No plan of action survives contact with the enemy”

Now that may be true, but notice that Helmuth von Moltke the Elder didn’t say to not have a plan.  He was a big believer in plans; he was just encouraging you to be realistic about them and not get all demoralized when you get temporarily off track.

A gameplan is an incredibly useful thing to have. I have seen lots of not-so-good guys beat better opponents simply because they had a plan and stuck to it.

By imposing a well-thought-out plan on your opponent, by having a goal, you avoid the hesitation that comes from simply going out there and trying to react to whatever your opponent does.

The use of game plans gets even more widespread when you get to higher levels.

My friend Brandon Mullins talked about and demonstrated his game plans for different positions in great detail when we were working on How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent, Series 2.

Here’s Brandon introducing the concept of game plans, including how it helped him out for his very first black belt match that he ever had:

Still not convinced? Let’s talk about Marcelo Garcia, the greatest pound for pound BJJ and submission grappling competitor of the last 10 years.

Let’s say that you’re a big strong aggressive guy with great base, balance and athleticism.  Maybe you’re a wrestler.  You’ve fought your way through the Abu Dhabi brackets and now you’re facing Marcelo Garcia in the finals.

What’s Marcelo going to do?

Well the odds are fairly strong that he’s going to pull butterfly guard, then gripfight and attack you with the butterfly sweep, the arm drag, the single leg X guard and the regular X guard.

When he sweeps you (and he will) then he’ll try to tap you out, probably using the north south choke if you stay flat on your back, or rear naked choke if you turn to your knees, or the armbar-short choke combo if he gets the crucifix position.

Does Marcelo know and use other submissions? Of course he does!

Off the top of my head I can recall Marcelo also using armbars, heel hooks, triangle chokes and omo plata variations in competition. But after watching countless hours of him rolling (and getting tapped out by him myself repeatedly) it’s clear that the north-south choke, the rear naked choke, and the dual arm-neck attack from the crucifix are his bread and butter.

Those submissions are part of his go-to strategy. They are the last moves in his default gameplan.

So you need a plan, ESPECIALLY if you compete.

Don’t just go out there and see what you feel like doing in the heat of the moment. Instead go out there KNOWING what your first couple of moves are, exactly what position you’re trying to get to, and exactly what submissions you’re going to shoot for.  Then go out there and try to impose your ‘A game’ on your opponent.

If he beats you despite you having used your A game then he’s better than you – no shame in that.  But if you go out there and lose after using your B, C, or D game on him, then you’ll never know if you were better than him.

Lead with your best stuff.  Don’t keep it in reserve.

David Meyer who wrote ‘Training for Competition’ summed it up perfectly when I interviewed him about competition in BJJ and submission grappling.  At one point David said:

“Plan beats no plan.”

Be like Ronda Rousey, Brandon Mullins, Marcelo Garcia and David Meyer.

Know what your best moves are, and put them together in a logical sequence taking you from the the beginning of the match through to the end where you tap out your opponent. Then train that sequence, and the transitions between those moves, until your default game plan is second nature.

Of course s*** happens.  We know that you won’t always be able to follow your game plan. That’s OK, after all you also drill bad positions and situations , right?

But many times your match will go exactly according to plan, so long as you actually have one!

Remember: plan beats no plan, so get yourself a plan!

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