Imanari and the Unstoppable MMA Leg Lock


Dan Faggella is a No Gi Pan Am Champion, a BJJ School Owner, and Writer for Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style (UK), and More. A Recognized Leg Lock Instructor, Dan is Giving Away a Free Heel Hook DVD (with Breakdowns of “Toquinho’s” Awesome Matches) with his Leg Lock Mastery Program at

 Let me preface by saying that this video was RIDICULOUSLY hard to find, but I did end up finding it:


By now, if you keep up with my entries, you know I sort of have a thing for leg locks and leg lock artists.  Recently I’ve been shedding some light on the king of leg locks; Masakazu Imanari, and this entry is no different!

Tonight we’ll look at a recent fight of his from August 2012 when he took on Masahiro Oishi at DEEP Impact 59.  Care to take a guess as to how this one ended?

The Power of Jiu Jitsu – Leg Locks in MMA

Going into this fight, Imanari had turned 36 and was facing a 44 year old Oishi; a far cry from his early days battling Mike Thomas Brown.  Even with a little more mileage on the metter, Imanari still did what he does best; leg locks.

Right out of the gate, similar to his fight with Brown, Masakazu threw out a flying kick—and I’m CONVINCED he didn’t throw it to land, just to distract.  If that was his plan, then it paid off because Oishi quickly reached up to defend the kick, allowing Imanari to quickly drop down for a leg.

Despite grabbing the leg, Imanari quickly found himself working for other various holds, almost forgetting about the foot.  Close to a triangle with a straight armbar, Imanari was seemingly keep Oishi distracted while he went for something bigger…which he was.

Abandoning the blood chokes, Imanari rotated slightly on his shoulder turning his full attention to the foot of Oishi.  After transitioning through a few holds, Imanari was able to finish off the fight via toehold.

It took just 61 seconds.

Submissions in Streaks – and It’s Not About Athleticism Alone

As I noted, Imanari had a menu full of submission to choose from in this one.  What was so impressive was that all of these holds appeared in just a matter of seconds!  It was a statement as to just how quickly Imanari can transition and finish a hold.

Neither of these men are in thier "prime" – but since his early days in professional fighting – Imanari’s game has not been about athleticism alone. In fact, plenty of fighters could be argued to be much more well-rounded, and physically much more promising – but it’s strategy that prevails when Imanari wins, not brawn. In fact, Caio Terra, Mike Fowler, and plenty of the best "pure grappler" competitors weren’t born with superior athleticism – and often quite the opposite (cite: my previous article on this topic of "athleticism" and "mma/grappling success").

Another reason why it was so impressive was the fact that it seemed as if he was using it to set up Oishi.  Like I said before, the triangle and armbar he was setting were almost used just as distractions and were not actual holds.  Even if it wasn’t the fact, it worked well for him!

The torque that he adds to his holds makes you flinch while watching; almost turning away from your computer screen as he cranks the poor leg of his opponent.  From knee bar, to heel hook, to (finally) a toe hold…I cringed every time just waiting for Oishi’s knee to pop.

I don’t care if this was against a 44 year old man; this fight was impressive!  The pace at which everything played out still amazes me; various transitions in just 61 ticks of a clock!  As always, I’ll toss the video of the fight down below and you guys can send me some feedback on it.

Imanari is as a good as it gets when it comes to the leg lock game in mixed martial arts…maybe even better than Palhares!

-Dan Faggella

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