The Nicolas Meregali Project Part 1 His Guard

The collar and sleeve guard has long been heralded as one of the best open guards to develop, especially if you are tall. The foot on the hip controls distance and combines with the cross collar grip to destroy an opponents posture. When an opponents posture is broken they become weaker and their movements are inhibited. The sleeve cuff grip ties up that arm, preventing it from being used in dismantling the guard and completely eleminates the risk of double under passes.If at any point the opponent’s elbow can be drawn inside the hip line omoplatas and triangles are available.

One of the most promenient athletes utilising this guard structure in modern competition is Nicholas Meregali. From here on referenced as NM.

The most interesting aspect of his use of this guard is the way in which he uses the upper body grips to control distance while his right leg switches from foot on hip to de la riva to lasso. When one of these hooks is established and an opening is created it triggers one of 3 distinct attack systems.

  1. Triangle/omoplata system
  2. De La X system
  3. Lasso System

Each of these systems are based around a couple of high percentage techniques and the counters to opponents common defences. The way in which NM is able to switch between these 3 complete systems with a simple low risk leg movement is a great strength. This right leg acts like a jab in, searching for openings while minimising risk. The opponent is kept of balance and the tempo of the bout is kept in NM’s favour.

The transition between the 3 right leg hooks is simple but forces different reactions from the opponents. The threat of the Triangle or omoplata forces them to posture up, which leads into the de la x. Anytime the opponent moves laterally the lasso system comes into play blocking the movement to that side while providing offensive options.

The CAS Triangle/omoplata System

This is used opportunistically and is a constant threat to opponents. They are often forced to maintain a solid elbow to knee connection in order to avoid being instantly submitted. To counter this NM places a block on the lower body (kick to the lead knee, pushing with the hamstring vs combat base or foot on hip) prior to aggressively pulling the upper body forward via the cross collar and a high pull on the sleeve. Once the elbow is drawn past the hip line the triangle is immenient.

The omoplata is a new addition to his competition game and only really started making an appearance in 2019. It may have came about as an option for when opponents turn away from the triangle thus creating a classic dilemma. Turn in get triangled to death or turn away and get swept with the omoplata.

De La X System

The de la x hook gives NM control of both the opponent’s hips and the ability to tilt them to either side, The bottom hook reinforces the deep de la x hook while preventing the common counters (back step, step over etc). The combined pulling action of the legs, supported by the upper body grips, loads the opponents center of mass on to NM and he can then direct them to either side, depending on which upper body grips are used.

It should be noted that NM is proficient in hitting the de la X on either side, This will be especially important when opponents hide their left sleeve, more on this below.

A number of upper body grips (double sleeve, collar and sleeve) can be used to facilitate sweeps but the sweeps themselves can be subdivided into those directed towards the rear arm grip and those directed towards the lead arm grip.

Rear arm Grip De La X Sweeps

The rear arm grip DLX sweeps are the hardest to stop and easiest to perform. By securing the far arm sleeve and pulling the shoulder forward NM guides the opponent towards the dead zone (area where posting is prevented). In the videos below note how NM’s legs are not straight when initiating the sweep action, there is usually a strong pulling action of the arms and legs preceding the actual movement. This loads the opponent’s weight onto their lead leg or on to NM himself facilitating a much easier sweep

Lead Arm Grip De La X Sweeps

The lead arm DLX usually involve a cross grip being taken on the opponents lead arm and the arm itself being dragged across the centerline for back exposure. See the clips vs Kaynan Duarte and Felipe Andrew below.

However if NM can pull the opponents center of mass forward enough to elevate them a tilt sweep similar to the rear arm sweep can be utilised to the lead arm side. This is particularly effective when opponents base their body weight towards the lead arm side to avoid the more commonly seen rear arm grip sweeps.

If the opponent counters the intial collar and lead sleeve grip by externally rotating their lead hip out of the Dela X hook, NM can use the collar and sleeve to push them over laterally.

If either the lead arm or the rear arm variations are countered by the opponent basing on their elbow or sitting back on their rear leg, a lapel single leg is the appropriate next move. NM’s outside arm passes underneath the opponents leg and grips up on the lapel high enough to affect their posture. The original sweeping action is then performed to force the opponents weight onto their hands unloading their legs, allowing NM to come up in a strong single leg position. A scoop grip usually follows to further elevate the leg to secure the sweep.

Lasso System

A shallow lasso usually comes into play vs forward pressure or when opponents circle. When there is commitment to the lasso position there is a grip change from the cross collar to the straight collar. The straight collar grip is useful for framing out the far shoulder during opponent’s passing pressure, preventing the far shoulder moving away and gaining access to the lasso leg and to be able to pull more of the opponents upperbody over their center of mass during sweep attempts.

There are two primary sweeps that are utilised, the de la lasso and the meregali sweep. If the opponent is in a staggered stance the de la lasso is favoured. When faced with a squarer stance the meregali sweep is utilised.

De La Lasso Sweep

The de la lasso is a effective in that it ties up the the same side shoulder and hip with one hook. The free leg is then used to circle round to create a more favourable sweeping angle and can be used in a bridging action when finishing the sweep.. The left hand often moves back to the cross collar grip or to the trapped ankle to help finish the sweep.

As opposed to coming up with a clean sweep the opponent is often dropped to a hip. Here successful completion of the sweep is determined by who can gain control of the bottom leg and deny their opponent the ability to rebuild their base

The Meregali sweep

The opponents hips are connected to their lassoed shoulder via the butterfly lasso hook. This prevents posting above the shoulder line while simultaneously breaking posture. The opponent can then be brought forward with their head being pulled below their hips, the butterfly hook extends guiding the opponent into the deadzone above the shoulderline.

Once more opponents often end up being dropped to a hip with the legs entangled. To finish the sweep NM will be dilligent in taking a grip on the opponent’s bottom leg, preventing them from building up a base and taking top position.

Contingencies

Vs Collar grip break

As so much of NM’s offence stems from the collar and sleeve grips, opponents have had some success in denying him these grips. As a result certain offensive contingencies have been developed.

Whenever the collar grip is broke the now free hand moves to the opponent’s far ankle and a DLR hook is established . The left sleeve grip is maintained and De la X System is ready to go.

Whenever the collar grip is removed the opponent now has posture and with it the ability to move more efficiently. The automatic switching to the ankle grip de la riva is a good call as it prevents the opponent utilising this newly won mobility while setting Rear arm grip De la X sweeps.

Vs sleeve grip denial/grip break

A number of athletes have tried to deny NM from getting the all important left sleeve grip with his right hand. When this occurs the focus switches to taking a cross sleeve grip with his right hand and establishing and ankle grip DLR on the opponents right side. Thus priming the deep DLX System with the lead arm.

Vs toreando

Vs toreandos the lasso is used and plays straight into the effective lasso system. Defence immediately turns into attack, making opponents wary of commiting their weight forward. The extra momentum taken from the pass attempts assists in the execution of some very impressive meregali sweeps.

vs Head quarters

If the left leg is ever stuffed to head quarters the DLR reset is the go to movement. Note how the trapped leg never gets forced into less than 90 degrees of knee flexion, where the position becomes a passing checkpoint. Instead the opponent is forced to base above the shoulderline where they are vulnerable to the triangle or omoplata.

Vs opponent kneeling

Many opponents will kneel when the find them selves in NM’s Collar and sleeve grips. This prevents them getting caught up in the De La X and Lasso systems, but makes them more vulnerable to the triangle and omoplata system. The distance between the opponent’s shoulders and NM’s hips is greatly reduced when an opponents kneels and he no longer has to worry about combat basing knees impeding triangles

One addition to the triangle/omoplata system that only occurs in standing or combat base postures is the loop choke. This is the favoured attack when opponents are sitting back on their base and not engaging.The triangle and omoplata system, as detailed, above involves significant pulling. When an opponent hides their elbow behind the hip line and lean away from the constant pulling, NM will sit up and attack the loop choke.

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