Royce Gracie Shows Size Never Matters in MMA

Size doesn’t matter is arguably the most overused cliché in all of sports.  Despite its frequency being used, it is a rather true sentiment and holds value.

A prime example to show its validity is by taking a look at the infamous fight between Akebono and MMA pioneer himself, Royce Gracie.


This fight showcased why size truly holds little-to-no importance when you know how to use your skills properly.  Akebono was 486 lbs, Royce 180.  Big deal.

Sticking To The Basics Of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

In the early days of Mixed Martial Arts, the fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu were still a bit shrouded in mystery, and not everyone was aware of how the sport functioned.  It wasn’t until recently when many MMA stars began ranking highly in the belt system, but by watching old Royce fights, you can see that even back then he stuck the foundations of the sport.

Early in the fight, Akebono secures top position, as you expect given the size difference.  Knowing he didn’t want to allow someone of that stature to gain dominant positioning, Royce did an excellent job of maintain a hold on the back of the head of Akebono.  This prevented him from posturing up and throwing what would be without a doubt one mean shot.

By keeping the posture broken, Royce was able to work with a little more ease and comfort from bottom guard.  Normally, someone with the skill level of Royce wouldn’t mind working from here, but given the mass differential, there is no knocking him for wanting to escape.

In this shot, we are able to see the aftermath of Royce and his strategy at work.  While the camera angled neglected to show it, Royce was able to shift to his side ever so slightly and establish his hook across the lower back of Akebono.

Since he was much smaller, Royce was able to take advantage of any type of opening presented.  In the photo, we see Royce executing a perfectly timed side escape, while maintain that hook so Akebono was unable to regain any type of position in this scramble.

Briefly, the fight would return to the feet, where Royce held his arms out to keep distance, but almost as if he was taunting the larger foe.  Before long, Akebono used his weight to get the fight back down to the mat, which would quickly become a move he would instantly regret.


Properly Leveraging Your Limbs As A Weapon       

Almost like it was déjà vu, Akebono was on top of Royce, unsure of what to do next.  Given the clear size difference, Royce was unable to close his guard, given that he couldn’t wrap his legs around the back of Akebono.

Showing a keen sense of timing, this time around Royce was able to bring his left foot up on to the right hip of Akebono.  Upon doing so, he would occasionally obtain wrist control, which seemingly left the larger Akebono befuddled and a little bit lost.

With a few quick and short punches thrown in, Royce was able to begin working for a submission, which given the size of Akebono, would usually be a rather difficult task for your regular BJJ player, but we all know by now that Royce Gracie isn’t your typical grappler.

By pushing off of the hip of Akebono, Royce was able to get a slight angle just enough to allow him to attack the left shoulder of his opponent.  By throwing up his right leg, it seemed at first as if Royce might have been seeking an omoplata, but his intentions became clear rather quickly.


Any time that Akebono began to try and advance to break the hold, it was met with a fist to the face.  To better position himself, Royce was also able to use the isolated shoulder to prevent Akebono from fully regaining the top guard position.

After a few seconds passed by, Royce was able to lock his leg in a figure-four lock, and started turning the shoulder towards the head of Akebono.  Again, staying true to his BJJ roots, Royce knew that the further the arm was extended from the body, the more damage it would do and the less Akebono could defend.

Moments later, being unable to withstand any more damage to the shoulder, Akebono tapped out, giving us a rather memorable moment in the history of the iconic Royce Gracie.

Another element that can be added to Royce’s tip is also the importance of having a tight grip when performing hand based moves for BJJ in order to secure the holds that need to be secured. For more on that tip, read this blog post on the Finger Master.

Dan Faggella



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