Tailor Your Game: The 11 Best Guard Players In BJJ


The 11 Best Guard Players In BJJ

The list includes exceptional guard players both from gi and no-gi grappling. As BJJ constantly evolves and has improved tremendously, so does the advancement in techniques, particularly with the guard. While the list is composed of most modern grapplers, this does not discredit the contributions of the ones who came before them. Below are some of the best guard players you can take inspiration from.

1) Roger Gracie

Starting off the list with many who consider the BJJ GOAT, Roger Gracie. Roger is known for his dominance, using his supreme technical knowledge using what grapplers call the “fundamentals” in the highest levels of competition. What makes Roger the greatest, according to John Danaher, is that his game is composed of proactive (a game where you initiate your moves against the opponent) and reactive (a game where you wait for the opponent to act as you react to their movements, thus, using the advantage from their vulnerability) elements, working at the same time.

While you can learn a lot from Roger, you can start by adapting how he controls the opponents using his closed guard.

2) Gordon Ryan

Gordon Ryan is considered the GOAT of no-gi grappling. Gordon is known for playing different types of open guards, especially the butterfly guard, which he uses to execute his famous shoulder crunch sweep. He is also very proficient in using the De La Riva, reverse DLR, X guard, and single-leg X guard.

As being able to play the open guard is a valuable skill every grappler should have in their arsenal, studying it opens up other areas of your game for improvement, such as wrestling up, sweeps, and entries to leg attacks.

Many describe Gordon’s grappling style as nonchalant, almost looking lazy at times. This is because he has practiced the most common scenarios hundreds (if not thousands) of times in the gym. His efficiency, as well as his technical prowess, make him a dangerous opponent for anyone, regardless of size.

3) Marcelo Garcia

Marcelo Garcia is a multiple-time IBJJF and ADCC champion. He is one of the most influential figures in modern BJJ and popularised techniques like wrestling up, arm drags to back takes, high elbow guillotines, single leg X and X guards. His game pretty much became the framework of today’s modern submission grappling. Marcelo’s open guard can be described as highly dynamic and is applicable in all grappling rulesets.

4) Mikey Musumeci

Mikey Musumeci is currently the ONE Flyweight Submission Grappling World Champion. He is known for having an impassable guard, which he uses to attack and employ leg attacks. He holds the record for the fastest submission in the IBJJF, along with his other impressive feats, such as signing up in heavier divisions despite weighing only 135 lbs.

With a God-given gift that’s uniquely his, Mikey sees Jiu-Jitsu differently. One of his biggest contributions to our sport, technique-wise, is his brutal leg submission known as the “Mikey Lock.” He is respected worldwide for his skill and humbleness on and off the mats.

5) Craig Jones

Craig Jones is one of the superstars of today’s grappling scene. He is well-known for his leg locks, typically from the Z guard, SLX, X, and reverse X positions. Craig is constantly evolving his game, so you can expect to see a lot of funky techniques from him. If you are looking to build your game around leg locks, you can start with Craig’s version of the Z guard.

6) Eddie Bravo

Eddie Bravo is the founder of 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu and is the primary innovator of the Rubber Guard. He is known for pulling the biggest upset in the world of submission grappling by beating Royler Gracie. Eddie and 10th Planet JJ are known for their unorthodox flavour of grappling, particularly using techniques like the rubber guard. This closed guard variant breaks the opponent’s posture while opening up different attacking options.

7) Miyao Brothers

Paulo, and his brother Joao Miyao, are known for their excellent guard work that revolves around the Reverse De La Riva, De La Riva, and berimbolo back take. Known as one of the best athletes of the modern game, the Miyao brothers’ way of playing the open guard is absolutely worth studying.

8) Xande Ribeiro

Xande is one of the founders of Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu. A master of BJJ, he is known for using the closed guard to attack with sweeps, submissions, and back takes. He also has a super tricky collar drag from the knee shield half guard. His guard is the stuff of legends and is perhaps one of the best defensive guards of all time.

9) Keenan Cornelius

Keenan Cornelius is one of the top BJJ competitors of the modern generation. He is widely known for utilising variations of lapel guards, such as the worm and squid guards. Keenan is a taller guy, but his approach to Jiu-Jitsu is efficient and can work with any body type. If you are looking for ways to utilise the opponent’s gi to your advantage, then Keenan is your man.

10) Braulio Estima

Braulio is one of the key BJJ figures of the 2000s. Braulio has one of the best closed and open guards in the sport and is the inventor of the galaxy guard, and a master of the Estima lock alongside his brother, Victor. Braulio is one of the best grapplers to study if you want to work on your overall guard game.

11) Romulo Barral

Romulo Barral is one of the best BJJ competitors ever (ranked number one BJJ fighter in 2007 by Gracie Mag) and has one of the open guards in the game. He is widely known for playing the spider guard, which he uses to quickly sweep his opponents off their feet. His classic approach to grappling is such a beauty to behold.


Watching the most successful athletes play guard is one of the best things you can do to improve your Jiu-Jitsu. While each grappler is unique, learning from successful BJJ players can give you a blueprint to further develop your overall grappling style. Study up on these names and get to know the best of the best in BJJ!

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