Flying back from Lisbon, I've had time to think and I still want to watch back the fight but it's honestly hard to say whether I am disappointed or not about my performance at the IBJJF European Championships this year.
Last year on my first time out I didn't get a score at all. In some ways it was a more chastening experience but it was my first IBJJF competition and once I unpacked it I was able to realise that it was a good experience. That performance put me on a solid run throughout 2016.
This year my preparation was good, I flew back from Romania just under two months before the competition and worked with my Combat Academy team mates solidly throughout December and January. I felt strong and aware going in and my nerves were in check, probably thanks to the previous years performance.
Unlike last year I didn't research my opponent. I knew his name, Francisco Sanchez, and bar a very quick google search I didn't really look. In the pen it looked like he was getting sent back for an illegal gi and when they last called him I thought I might get a first round bye, however he made it at the death.
As I have not watch the fight my timeline is a bit shaky from here. I am going to try to break it down from memory.
Similar to last year the guy pulled to Half Guard and then Guard straight away.
While I worked for standing pass and he moved to De La Riva he worked for a sweep but I managed to counter and avoid the full sweep but he jumped around for my back. I've been working a Deep Half Guard reversal from back so I wasn't too worried but I had to defend the choke and get under him while avoiding letting his hooks in. I should have tried to establish the Deep Half Guard and try to take some points here but instead I went straight for the reversal. The reversal worked but I lost an advantage. I also ended up back in his Half Guard.
From here he moved back to Full Guard and we got moved back to the centre. This time I looked for the Sao Paulo pass but I felt like my arm was in danger and he put his shin across so I bailed on the pass.
After a bit of back and forth in his half guard I attempted to Gi wrap his arm. He used this to pop up into Triangle. I stacked and broke the triangle but then I passed the wrong side coming back into his Half Guard. He then worked a Worm Guard type grip and I gave up a sweep. I guess that is the most annoying point. I spent a year thinking about not getting swept but got caught with a similar sweep as last year.
From the sweep I got into Half and the Full Guard. I then worked his Gi out to hold his posture down and looked for Deep Half. As I rolled he went for the back but this time I managed to come out on top giving me the sweep and him an advantage and we were back in his Half Guard.
At the death I tried to force the pass by standing and he got a single leg but the timer was done so he just got the advantage. My thinking was to try and kick out but I was totally out of time and it ended.
Unfortunately I just could not force the pass from Half Guard throughout. I could hear my coach, Dave Coles, asking me to establish the half guard top but I was so focussed on trying to get the underhook that I didn't really register, which is super annoying as that might have got me an advantage or two. All that time in his quarter guard probably cost me the match so I have to look at that and force it more instinctively.
So. I did manage to get some things that I wanted working (a kind of deep half guard) I competition tested a few things that need more work (Sāo Paulo pass) and I got caught with something I know I need to work on (De la Riva). I learned some things, mostly if you get stuck in quarter guard switch to half guard top. Most of all I didn't feel outclassed at purple.
I'm not happy but it wasn't a disaster, feels like purgatory. It sucked being the first guy on the team not to win his first fight and I feel like I let Dave and the guys down a bit. I plan to do the Masters Euros and UK Masters, as well as a few others this year, so plenty of time to work on what I need to improve.
On the flip side I did get to watch my team mate Merv get bronze and that was just magic. That on top of Sam Bentley and Fraser Hackley getting Gold and Silver respectively in the white belt divisions made it a good trip.
Next year Lisbon... next year!