The Stoic Samurai: Italo Moura

By Matthew Gioia

Hailing from just outside of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Italo Moura has made a name for himself fighting  the best grapplers all over the world, regardless of weight. A CBJJE World Champion at the black belt level as well as a multiple time World, Pan-American, and European Champion at the color belt level, Moura is notorious for taking on and defeating champions regardless of weight category. 

An avid competitor, Moura first gained prominence in Brazil under the great Cicero Costha, earning a scholarship soon after his academic career had finished, even moving away from home to jump start his professional grappling career. Through his relationship with Costha, Italo encountered the inimitable Murilo Santana and quickly ascertained that in order to reach his potential he had to continue his tutelage under the legendary pressure passer. 

“The attention to detail that Murilo has was critical to me learning Jiu Jitsu. No one quite has the understanding of the little details that make or break positions as he does. The competitive level  of the room was next level during my competitive career there was nothing like it.”

Like many of his Unity contemporaries, Moura is known for his excellent guard work. In particular, Moura employs the lasso guard to force his opponents into a dilemma that often ends in a submission.

To understand how Moura is able to use his guard to defeat decorated champions, it is important to understand the structure of the lasso guard. 

The lasso guard gives guard players great malleability while connecting them to one side of their opponent, specifically right underneath the elbow. This connection allows the guard player to constantly play with his opponent’s base  as their opponent is forced to constantly choose between correcting their base and leaving their elbow exposed, or protecting the elbow and allowing their base to be compromised. 

At the black belt level, most athletes choose to protect their base as not to give up any points and here is where Moura thrives as he often inserts his deep lasso to attack opponents regardless of weight class. One of his best wins came against Pan American Super Heavyweight Champion and ADCC +99kg veteran Max Gimenis when he claimed victory in the absolute division at the New Haven International Open.

“It was a great win, I’ve seen him competing against the top athletes for a long time and he is very accomplished. It was a great challenge facing him, another great thing was having the support of my teammates and friends for that fight.”

Of course, opponents can choose different measures of defense, with an attempted stack pass typically being the choice of lighter weight fighters. When an opponent tries to defend against the lasso by stacking, Moura applies a similar strategy.

Here as World Champion Shane Jamil Hill-Taylor looks to aggressively stack Moura, he maintains his lasso and a same side collar grip in order to stop Hill-Taylor from completely turning. Once Hill-Taylor commits his entire weight forward, Moura switches from the lasso to a collar sleeve with his leg fully extended into Hill-Taylor in the same manner he would for an omoplata. With Hill-Taylors weight fully committed forward, Moura kicks as he would for an omoplata, launching Hill-Taylor away while attacking the near side leg to enter a 50-50 entanglement.

While some favor the stack, other opponents attempt to kill the lasso leg using their knee and forward pressure with the idea being that by pressuring the hamstring Moura will not be able to properly employ the lasso. Moura counters this problem by switching to the De La Riva position, a perfect counter as if his opponent continues to pressure forward, Moura who is a berimbolo expert as well as a prolific finisher from the back has access to a dominant position. Therefore his opponent’s only recourse is to back off and stand, which to do so requires them to separate their elbow from their knee, allowing Moura to launch his signature omoplata.

A dominant force at any IBJJF International Open he enters, Italo Moura has expert tactical awareness and has built a game that reflects this. With his impeccable lasso, Moura has proven to be more than capable of taking out any competitor regardless weight class no matter the size or accolades of the man standing in front of him.