AJ Agazarm is a World and Pan Am champion under Gracie Barra and Eduardo de Lima. He recently received his black belt. AJ got a late start to wrestling (in the wrestling world) and started competing in his sophomore year of high school. He accelerated quickly however by pursuing both greco roman and freestyle competing for Team Florida. Eventually he wrapped up his wrestling career at the collegiate level wrestling for Ohio State University. He simultaneously competed in BJJ and the crossover between the two sports is evidenced throughout this game. Check out this wrestlejitsu highlight of AJ based on his most frequently used techniques:
You’ll notice his takedowns are focused on the snatch single. Most high level wrestlers are currently employing this technique due to its simplicity and effectiveness. The Olympic Iranian Reza Yazdani’s entire strategy almost exclusively revolves around the technique. The snatch single is such an established technique at higher levels as it negates the necessary action of dropping the knee to the ground during a dropstep as many single leg techniques employ. Care must be taken however to maintain pressure of the head and ideally the face in the opponents ribcage. AJ executes it a number of ways. In gi, he uses dual control of his opponents wrists to quickly circle his opponents leg towards him. This prevents his opponents from grabbing his lapel to prevent the shot and angles the leg (the target) towards him. Sometimes he simply initiates the single from a distance to also prevent his lapel from being controlled. He then snatches up the high single and finishes the single with appropriate pressure. For any non wrestlers out there this means continuing forward if the opponent moves backward (ideal), snapping down (also known as running the pipe) if the opponent provides forward pressure, or tripping if the opponent remains neutral in body position. In no-gi, he often initiates the technique from a fake to the head and immediate entry. We’ll do a complete breakdown of this technique alone in the near future.
AJ uses two main guard passes. The first is a hybrid head-forward-leg-drag-backstep whereby he puts pressure on same side leg as the same arm while keeping his head or torso pressured downward. That is, he grabs the left ankle or pant leg with his left arm and either grabs the opposite lapel or head lassos with the other arm while passing. He maintains forward pressure while executing this pass. His next pass is the double under pass. The advantage of the double under pass is it avoids a great number of moves of which the modern sport jiu jitsu practitioner predicates their game upon. This includes De la Riva/berimbolo and long legged triangle specialists. AJ’s use of this techniques got him closer to passing the guard of Cornelius and Miyao than most other BJJ competitors could ever dream of. AJ initiates the pass by diving forward and reaching for the belt. He then tripods his body upward and pulls his opponent into him launching his hips forward and attempting to throw them backward into turtle. If his opponents provide counter pressure he often immediately switches to the over-under pass.
I initially titled AJ’s bottom game “sweeps” but most of his bottom game revolves around his ability to initiate a single leg or takedown from the bottom position. He often does this from half guard by first feeding his opponents lapel between their legs to provide additional leverage for the single leg (as shown in his demonstration video). Rodolfo Viera also uses this move from bottom (whenever he finds himself there – which is rarely) and will likely be an entire discussion on its own here at wrestlejitsu. From bottom, AJ also often buys time using a leg lasso before initiating a scramble that often results in a takedown. A unique aspect of AJ’s leg lasso is that he uses counter pressure from his neighboring leg and his opposite foot to press on his lassoed ankle. This prevents his opponent from prying their lassoed arm free. He also uses a quasi-x guard position with the arm under one leg to initiate a takedown from bottom moving forward rather than backward in a technical standup. The beauty of this move is that once he completes the reversal he’s already in an over-under pass to immediately transition.
Submissions are rare in high level jiu jitsu but AJ’s favorites include the step over armbar and baseball bat from knee on belly in gi.
There are of course always cautions in reference to certain individuals and their associated game/strategy. Low passes often leave one open to kimuras and other armlocks and AJ sometimes finds himself caught in them. Not to worry, he has rubber shoulders. In fact, he often uses this position to pass his opponents guard. In one of his epic battles (where he won) with Cornelius he passed to Keenan’s side while Keenan had him in a kimura…. a shining example of how a seasoned wrestler employs a simple and effective game in the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.