Tezos WNO 20: Night of Champions

Just Keep Swimming: Breaking Down The Wrestling Of Diogo 'Baby Shark' Reis

Just Keep Swimming: Breaking Down The Wrestling Of Diogo 'Baby Shark' Reis

A look at the wrestling skills that have made Diogo Reis a near-unstoppable force at 145lbs

Sep 25, 2023 by Joe Gilpin
Just Keep Swimming: Breaking Down The Wrestling Of Diogo 'Baby Shark' Reis

Diogo Reis Has Wrestled To The Top Of His Division

Diogo "Baby Shark" Reis has quickly established himself as the elite no-gi grappler in the world at his weight class, winning 2022 ADCC Worlds in a breakout performance that saw his stock skyrocket nearly overnight. Now, he continues to turn away top contenders using his unique style and athletic ability.

One skill that has really helped set Diogo apart from the pack is his wrestling; not just the traditional skills but how he strategically approaches his system of offense. With just a few simple adjustments and combinations, he has created a system that makes him very hard to attack while giving him multiple avenues to score.


Wrestling For Wrestling vs Wrestling For Submission Grappling

Before we consider Baby Shark's system to wrestle, let's consider some important differences between folkstyle/freestyle wrestling and how athletes wrestle in submission grappling.

In submission grappling, athletes have to stand a little taller and more upright. That's for a few different reasons, most importantly that there are a lot more threats to your neck in submission grappling - so keeping it up and away is a little smarter. Also, matches tend to be longer so a more natural stance is warranted to avoid fatigue, and the lack of shoes makes connection to the mat less sure. Keeping strong grips like the collar tie off of you becomes even more important. We see upper body offense like drags, slide bys, throw bys, and more become even more important - similar to Greco-Roman styles of wrestling - and a rise in the use of foot sweeps and trips - similar to judo. 

This unique evolution of submission wrestling's basic blueprint on the feet is really evident in Diogo Reis's style, which makes him a great person to break down to understand the nuances of the modern game.

The Baby Shark System, Broken Down

The first thing that really pops out about Diogo's style is how active he is in breaking any connection his opponents get to him. He is constantly breaking their initial attempts and then grabbing their hands, gaining double one-on-one grips of his own that he then controls with. It isn't a grip that will hold for very long but that's ok - he just lets go and reestablishes it later on in the exchange. What matters is, by grabbing your hands he is preventing you from ever being able to hand fight effectively against him. Even when opponents are able to connect on solid collar ties, he clears with an elbow pass or two on one well.

This is how 'Baby Shark' is able to always keep moving, like a shark, by making sure he is never being slowed down in any given position. From here, with those one-on-one grips, he begins to gauge openings and launch attacks, making a simple read:

  • If they keep their elbows up and away the body, single leg
  • If they keep their elbows down and close to the body, arm drag

That simple dilemma, depending on the position of their arm to their body, is one that he has been able to go back to so many times against the elite.

Once Diogo shoots to the single, he will connect to the leg and then finish by driving hard back to the other side, for example his ADCC semifinal against Cisneros. This can also often lead to opponents bailing out and putting hands on the mat for balance - which opens up the rear body lock for Reis and gives him an opportunity for a back take. Diogo will also shoot often whenever he is clearing collar ties with two on one grips, usually preferring then to finish by driving straight ahead.

'Baby Shark' has a sneaky arm drag that he can use to take down someone or set up further combinations, and we've seen it in high level competition over and over. If his opponents keep their arms too low for him to shoot under the one-on-one, he drags instead. If he can get the angle, it becomes a rear body lock. If not, he will shoot off of that arm drag as their arms retract back for balance. He can even combine that drag with a trip, using a kouchi gari or kouchi gake to finish. In one of his most impressive sequences, he re-dragged Gabriel Sousa's arm drag attempt in the ADCC World Championship finals It's a very nuanced technique for 'Baby Shark' and one that he continues to rely on.

Those trips and foot sweeps don't just come off of the arm drag, but that is his most common successful set up (for example, against Pato in the ADCC South American Trials finals or Gabriel Sousa in the ADCC World finals).

One last evolving position for Diogo has been the shallow underhook. Because of the change in posture, a deeper underhook isn't always as available or advisable as it would be in wrestling - so instead Diogo adjusts by only going in elbow deep. This also helps keep away whizzers and overhooks that could lead to big throws or submission counters. From here, 'Baby Shark' has started to find his way to a really effective duck under - another strong pathway to the back.

For all of his offensive success, Diogo is also one of the hardest grapplers to take down on Earth. His use of defensively-sound gripping, strong hips, and insane balance give him a distinct edge when wrestling out of bad positions. Diogo has also been developing better timing on reattacks, which could be an avenue worth watching heading into the next ADCC.

Diogo will be one of four 145lb athletes in next week's Tezos WNO Championship bracket to crown a new champion for his division. Diogo's wrestling and recent no-gi pedigree make him a favorite coming in, but you'll have to tune in Sunday to FloGrappling to see who can get it done.