Footlock Friday! Imanari Leg Lock Attack

Masakazu Imanari vs. Jean Silva

Dan Faggella is a BJJ Academy Owner, No Gi Pan Am Champion at 130 pounds, and recognized expert in the area of leg locks. Dan writes or Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style, MMA Sports Mag, and more – find more of his leg lock articles and resources at

Are you into leg locks?  You are?  Great!  Do you follow Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts?  Then there is a name that you MUST know about by now!  While many people are familiar with the name Rousimar Palahres, there is another man that is widely considered the king of leg locks when it comes to MMA.  Meet Masakazu Imanari.

A veteran of 38 fights, the now 37 year old Imanari boasts 17 submission victories.  Out of these 17, an astounding 11 of them have come by way of some form of leg lock!  Yes, you read it right; ELEVEN LEG LOCKS!  Now that’s what I call efficient.

Pulling Guard: On Purpose or Last Ditch Effort?

In 2008, Imanari took on Brazilian Jean Silva in a title match under the Cage Rage promotion.  Two highly regarded grapplers, many expected this one to end on the ground.  Surprisingly, the two men exchanged strikes early on; landing some brutal blows.

Watching the tape, I noticed that Imanari targeted Silva with some nasty low leg kicks.  It didn’t take a long, drawn out equation to notice he was looking to soften up the legs of Silva.  Aware of what he was doing, Silva was able to counter strike Imanari with a nasty punch.

Leg Lock champion! Imanari's heel hook and leg attacks are some of the very best in the entire world.

Leg Lock champion! Imanari’s heel hook and leg attacks are some of the very best in the entire world.

Imanari then drops down which led me to believe; did he get rocked or was he pulling guard to save himself?  The shot was clearly effective, but when Imanari pulled guard he seemed to have his wits about him.

A sound BJJ player himself, Silva jumped right into Imanari’s guard.  Upon getting there, Imanari was able to keep his cool and did an excellent job of preventing Silva from posturing up and stifling any type of offense.

Seeing an opportunity, Imanari threw up his rubber guard which allowed him to land a few punches.  With Silva preoccupied with the punches, Imanari looked for an omoplata, but like always in MMA fights, the actual hold didn’t work and acted as a sweep.  During the madness, Silva was able to stand back up.

BJJ Chess Match

Back on the feet, Jean Silva knew the game plan of Imanari this time and struck first.  Blasting Masakazu with a leg kick, Silva was able to, yet again, drop his opponent.  Unwilling to stand back up, Imanari remained on his back waiting for Silva to strike next.

What had happened was what seemed to be the final straw for Silva.  A unique striker at times, the Brazilian went for what looked to be a spinning low-kick; something you would see in Kung fu movies. Reminds me a little bit of a recent Keenan Cornelius no-gi match where he hit quite a gnarly kneebar to the crowd’s amazement.

The kick had over shot it’s target, and ended up in perfect position for Imanari to grab on too.  Once he realized what was about to occur, Silva began fighting for a leg lock.  Almost instantaneously, Imanari dropped back for an ankle lock.

The two began their Jiu Jitsu chess match with Imanari rolling out of the potential hold while isolating Silva’s leg.  Before you knew it, he had the heel hook locked in and Silva had no choice but to tap out.

What was great about this was two things:

  • Imanari kept his cool.  Even on the feet when he was being blasted with some vicious shots, he kept a cool head and made sure he survived the onslaught and survived.
  • Tactical use of guard:  Off his back, Imanari did an ASTOUNDING job of breaking posture and making Silva work for every inch he got (which wasn’t much.)

I have a feeling there will be some more Imanari breakdowns on the way…

-Dan Faggella


You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *