Arm Drags Against Larger Opponents

Dan Faggella is a BJJ Academy Owner, No Gi Pan Am Champion at 130 pounds, and recognized expert in the Lightweight BJJ Game – noteably lightweight Sweeps and transitionals. Dan writes or Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style, MMA Sports Mag, and more – and his FREE “7 Sweeps Training Manual” can be found online at:

We’ve all seen it before, the little men in the absolute division. Some onlookers look in amusement just waiting to see them get squashed by the monsters of men they are fighting. But that same fighter goes on to embarrass the rest of the division just to prove that it is technique and strategy not size and power that win in this sport of BJJ. That guy is me, weighing in at only 128 lbs I was never the favorite in any of my matches. Through years of trial and error and interviews with the top lightweight BJJ black belts in the world I’ve figured the system to beating bigger opponents. You can learn about some of my findings in this article on Science of! One of the keys is getting on the back and to do that today we’re going to check out the arm drag.

Take the back!

We will start by taking a look at the basic arm drag from open guard. This technique works best on opponents who prefer to use a low style of guard passing. It’s not impossible to hit an arm drag on a standing opponent, but there are better options from there than attempting an arm drag. It is very important that this technique is done with the maximum amount of speed, just like any sweep we are going for on a larger opponent. The key is to hit the angle and get around our opponent as fast as possible without he or she even knowing what is going on. If you watch Marcelo Garcia do it, he completes the technique within a fraction of a second, and that is why he has so much success with it. He uses his speed which gives him the ability to hit the angle quickly to get on his opponents back. Keep that in mind when attempting or drilling arm drags. If you are wearing a gi, don’t worry too much about getting grips on the sleeve. If you are focused on getting a firm grip on the opponent’s gi, then he or she will probably pick up on it and realize that you’re going to try to take their back. Even if the gi is there, just grab the wrist as if it’s not. You need to be fast!

Troubleshooting Scenarios

Ideally, we want to be able to get on our opponent’s back from here, but life isn’t all roses and puppies sometimes. There are two scenarios that can stem from going for this sweep: The first is when you are able to hit the perfect angle and make it all the way to a full back mount with both hooks sunk and a choke around the corner. The other scenario is when your opponent feels you going for the arm drag, so they try to either turn to face you or try to pull their arm back, forcing you to finish the arm drag with a single leg takedown variation. This second scenario is not the end of the world. Even though you may not get to their back, you will probably still end up on top and will have gotten the sweep points. If you like this article then you should check out this other one I wrote about using sweeps against bigger fighters!

Dan Faggella

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