BJJ Escapes and Scrambles – Jeff Glover Case Study

Jeff Glover is known for a great many things, being unorthodox, being unpredictable, loving scrambles, giving his back every now and then, spinning upside down and many other things. He isn’t known, however, for having an easy guard to pass. That along with his very unorthodox style makes discussing Jeff Glover’s phenomenal escapes a lot harder than it seems. 

Glover vs. Cobrinha! An epic match of scrambles and escapes.

Glover vs. Cobrinha! An epic match of scrambles and escapes.

Luckily Jeff Glover isn’t king of the hill yet and there are still people able to pass his guard, Rubens Charles “Cobrinha” for example. We have some awesome footage from their match during the adcc 2011.  The awesome John William very adequately narrates this match, check him out at:

Jeff Glover, like I just mentioned, is known for his very unorthodox style. Everybody who has ever seen him fight knows this. A lot of people would probably describe his style being very flashy and gimmicky but what I think that what many miss is that his style is based on some very very legit concepts. His escapes are no exception to this.

I would say that the most visual apparent concept is that jiu-jitsu is all about movement and creating the opportunities to move. Also that winning scrambles is about way more than just plain ol’ luck.

In his post fight interview Jeff Glover said that he wanted to give the crowd a good match with a lot of movement, exactly what he is known for. In order to have a fight with lots of action you usually need two fighters who are willing to open up their game and go for it. A lot of movement means a lot of scrambles; Jeff thrives in scrambles and often comes up on top or at least ends up in a safe spot. 

Scramble Concepts:

If you ask me there are, in general, a couple of basic ways to force movement/a scramble:

  1. Being the aggressor when you are in a position that lends itself to attacking.
  2. Giving your opponent some sort of opening to attack.
  3. Finding a way to disengage or starting from a neutral position gives both opponents room to move freely and create a scramble.
  4. Make your opponent feel uncomfortable in his current position and thus force him to start moving, tis often allows you to start the scramble while you are ahead.
Jeff Glover himself.

Jeff Glover himself.

If you are confident in your ability to come up on top from most scrambles than all you need to do is using one of the previous principles to start a scramble, if you aren’t that confident that you can win the scramble but just want movement for the sake of movement (as Jeff seems to want to get the crowd interested in his match) or really really need a scramble in order to try and survive the same concepts still apply.

Applying BJJ Scrambles to Escapes

Now all these ideas on how to force a scramble are cool and stuff but forcing your opponent to make big movements when you are in bottom side control is often easier said than done. You can’t really attack him too much, preventing you from disengaging is one of his primary goals and he is probably more able to make you feel uncomfortable than you him. If he is making you feel uncomfortable moving to relieve that pressure usually puts you into an even worse position.

You do however have one way left, you can make your opponent think that he has an opening to attack and anticipate his reaction. This is what I think that Jeff Glover uses for most of his escapes and he has become very good at it. In this sense his ability to escape is directly linked to his ability to start scrambles. 

Jeff Glover vs. Cobrinha

So what elaborate ruse did Jeff carry out in order to bait Cobrinha into making big movements that would allow Jeff to get back into the fight and regain his guard after having it passed? He gave Cobrinha the opportunity to take his back by turtling, I mean kind of. Of course he wasn’t all like: “Hey yo, Cobrinha take my back seatbelt and all”. He was just showing Cobrinha enough of his back to lure him in, and make him go for it. We are talking about the transition around 04:57 and the same thing happens again around 08:40.

As soon as Cobrinha starts going for Jeff’s back for real Jeff Immediately makes sure that Cobrinha misses some key details in order to fully take his back:

  1. He makes sure that Cobrinha can’t touch his hands together in order to get the full harness grip, this allow Jeff to stay Mobile and prevents Rubens Charles from truly gluing himself to Jeff.
  2. Secondly he hides his back from Cobrinha by placing it on the floor as soon as the little cobra starts moving, if the floor is occupying his back then Cobrinha can’t.

Once he has successfully defended his back the time is right to start using the space, movement and momentum he created in order to get back to his guard. He has a video about how he does this escape so I’m going to let Jeff do the talking.

Jeff pretty much always escapes to the deep half guard, I think that this is one of the keys to his success from this position, if he can play deep half guard time and time again in a match he is bound to have some success with it eventually.

Marcelo Garcia has a near-back-exposure escape as well, check it out under “video 5” at the Science of Skill blog:

What we Can Learn About Escapes from Jeff Glover

With Jeff’s impressive flexibility and unorthodox style it’s going to be very hard replicate his style. Not everyone is going to spin inverted like it’s nothing for example but I believe there I still a lot that we can learn from him.

  1. Scrambling is an art and if you’re good at it than being able to create them from all kinds of positions is a valuable skill to master. Escape wise they seem to be exceptionally useful too.
  2. Being able to escape directly into your strongest position could allow you to turn the tables very quickly and if not you can at least try and use your best stuff.
  3. Knowing what it is exactly that your opponent needs in order to be successful at a certain move will help you to counter it. Jeff knew for example that Cobrinha need to touch his hands in order to truly control Jeff’s back and used this knowledge in order to defend his back.

Stay squirrel-y, and fight hard.

-Daniel Faggella