World Champion Robson Moura on Beating Bigger and Stronger Opponents

Dan Faggella is a No Gi Pan Am Champion at 130 pounds, and recognized Expert  in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Dan writes or Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style, MMA Sports Mag, and more – and his FREE “7 Escapes For The Smaller Grappler for FREE” found online at:

Moura is easily considered to be one of the all time greats in the realm of lighter-weight Brazilian jiu jitsu competitors. Being a multi-time world champion, he has one of the most exciting games to watch when he competes.

For one, Robson has incredible guard passing. His game from top is very sharp and he is able to counter sweeps easily with his excellent and flexible hips and base. He also has a very dynamic guard with some very powerful sweeps in his arsenal.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch a few of his matches, It’s more than worth your while (especially when he battled Jeff Glover in LA Sub X). You can also learn more about his technique by checking out this Robson Moura interview.

Here’s a great highlight reel of his awesome work. Check out the guard passing and the transitions!

Not too long ago, I was given the chance to interview Robson Moura over the phone which was great. I was able to ask him many different questions, including his thoughts and ideas on beating larger and stronger opponents.

Considering he’s one of the all-time greats who has competed against many larger guys, and considering I’m a 130 pound grappler myself, I figured it would be an appropriate topic.

Here’s a short audio clip of Robson talking about competing against larger and stronger opponents as well as submission strategy. Take a listen:

Robson may have been a little hard to hear due to the connection, but I was able to gather some of the main points from what he had to say on the subject of grappling against larger opponents.

Avoid Being Controlled

When I asked Robson if he had any specific advice he would tell a student if the student was in a competitive situation against a larger opponent, he had some great insight on the matter.

Basically, try to avoid being controlled and squished. I know, it sounds simple enough, but it goes much deeper than that.

We know that the worst positions to be in against larger and stronger grapplers are when they have complete control over us from the top position.

Picture this: Our back and neck is flat on the mat, our head is being controlled, we don’t have the underhook, and maybe we are getting crossfaced into oblivion.

Obviously, we know that these are all bad things.

Robson really emphasized the fact that by knowing what things to avoid, it will be an easier match for you and your body will not take such a beating, short-term as well as over the long-term.

You can be very light and be very technical against a much bigger opponent, but it does take a toll on your body over time. By avoiding getting flattened, crossfaced, shoulder pressured, squished, etc, you’re going to do much better in the match while at the same time keeping your body safe for the short-term as well as long-term.

Prevention plays a big role in avoiding these situations. Robson also strongly emphasized and mentioned specifically that he does not let larger opponents control his neck.

He feels that when a larger opponent has control of the neck, the smaller grappler will be at a huge disadvantage. That’s why no matter what, he prevents guys from controlling his neck at all costs and avoids it like the plague.

robsonThis can be said for underhooks as well as shoulder pressure. Try to prevent your opponent from getting the underhook or the pressure on your jaw and avoid it like the plague.

Distance plays a huge role in preventing bad positions and head control as well. By maintaining good distance and having a solid concept of distance management, you can prevent and avoid as well.

Once you’re in a squished position or situation, it’s going to be a very daunting task trying to escape and recover to a better position. By subtracting your larger opponent’s points of control and pressure and keeping a proper distance from them, you can avoid being trapped under them in bad positions.

Submission Strategy

I then went on to ask Robson what his thoughts were on having a submission strategy while fighting against much larger opponents.

From my own experiences, I have found that there are certain submissions that tend to be much higher percentage for me against larger and stronger opponents.

However, Robson brought up a very interesting point when I asked him his thoughts on submission strategy.

Basically, He said that he strongly believes in every jiu jitsu technique out there, especially submissions. Just because the larger opponent might stack you up after you put him in closed guard or whether you like using leg locks or not against bigger and stronger opponents, the most important thing is to try everything.

He said that it’s important that you literally try everything, even if it might not be from the best positions.

I found this very interesting. Like I said, I have my preferences in submissions when going up against bigger and stronger guys. For example, I enjoy using leg locks and foot locks when facing an opponent who is way bigger than me. The concept of trying every submission possible whether it be a good choice to use against a larger opponent or not was intriguing.

If you take a look at the highlight reel in this article, you’ll notice that Robson is able to really adapt well to positions and is able to achieve the submission from many different spots.

Whether it’s an Achilles lock, an armbar, or even some sort of crucifix armlock variation, it’s evident that Robson is definitely very skilled in throwing up submissions from various different positions.

You might also notice that he does a great job of controlling the distance from the bottom position, not allowing opponents to control his head, just like he talked about in our interview.

It was a pleasure to gain such insight from a lightweight competitor and master such as Robson. He is definitely one to watch when it comes to developing a game and strategy against bigger and stronger opponents. If you haven’t already done so, go check out this Robson Moura interview!

Hope you enjoyed!

-Daniel Faggella

PS: Robson’s Jiu Jitsu tracker is more than worth checking out as well – for anyone with a serious interest in tracking daily / weekly goals – here’s the URL:

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