F2W 161 Competitor Jason Rau: “Leglocks Are No Different Than Any Other Part Of Grappling”

Jason Rau is always ready.

The Matt Serra black belt is a known workhorse in the BJJ world, with a sense of discipline that helped him get his black belt in 2016 after introducing jiu-jitsu to his life in 2010. Tonight at Fight 2 Win 161, he’ll be dealing with a bit of a shakeup after his initial opponent had to withdraw from the event, but as Rau prepares to face last-minute replacement JZ Cavalcante, he’s stayed unbothered.

The beginning of Rau’s jiu-jitsu journey followed a high school wrestling career. He was initially training with a friend who was a member of a BJJ gym at Long Island’s Hofstra University. “The guy who ran the club was a blue belt under [former UFC welterweight champion] Matt Serra. I was hooked right away and went to Serra BJJ the next week and signed up. I found it so cool I would be able to train under a local guy that had so much success at the highest level. It’s one of the unusual things about our sport, people like him are accessible to the average dude,” Rau told the Jiu-Jitsu Times.

Over the years, Rau continued to grow his jiu-jitsu career, ultimately becoming one of the better known grapplers to be associated with the Renzo Gracie team as John Danaher taught him more about the leg locks that would help define his career. As he competed (and won) at events like RISE and Sapateiro, though, Rau also worked to develop his coaching skills.

“One of the hardest things in BJJ has been figuring out how to make it a valid career from a financial perspective,” he says. “Matt Serra has been a big help with that, I’ve taught at his school for a number of years now, and that has been huge in helping me establish myself as not only a solid practitioner, but a good teacher as well. I think for most people trying to make this career work, teaching has to be a big part of that.”

Like most of Danaher’s students, Rau’s obvious favorite set of submissions happen on the lower fifty percent of the human body. A quick review of his matches will make it very clear that he has a bit of a reputation for finishing matches with heel hooks, and he asserts that leg locks are “no different” than any other aspect of grappling.

“There has to be an emphasis on specific training from those positions. I would say being comfortable on both sides of the equation — attacking and defending — is going to shape the best results whether your goal is to be someone who is attacking leglocks yourself or someone who is avoiding them.”

That comfort and expertise could make all the difference as Rau prepares to try to extend his F2W record to 2-0 following a decision win over Bassil Hafez at F2W 154. Now, he’ll be going up against ADCC division rival Cavalcante, but he’s armed with both knowledge of his opponent and the security that comes with constant competitive training.

“I’ve seen JZ compete a few times before. He was in my division for the ADCC Trials; we just missed facing each other in that tournament. He has a recent win over my teammate Nick Ronan, so I’m definitely looking to get that one back. As far as prep goes, I train a pretty heavy schedule, so nothing changes much. I feel I’m always ready to compete. Just specific goals in training depending on the rules/opponent’s style.”

Once his first big event of 2021 is over, Rau will shift his focus to the ADCC Trials, which are scheduled for November this year. But we’re likely to see plenty of him before then as he competes at F2W and beyond to “keep the momentum” before he once again puts it all on the line to try to secure a spot at the prestigious ADCC World Championship. In the midst of that, we’re likely to see him trying to earn some gold from the IBJJF as well. “I think things will really be shaken up with the addition of reaps and heel hooks,” he says, referring to the huge rule change recently announced by the organization.

Rau has some daunting goals for the future, but given his tendency to set his sights on what he wants and do whatever it takes to earn it, don’t be surprised if we end up seeing him at the top of the podium at November’s ADCC Trials.

F2W 161 will take place tonight and can be streamed live on FloGrappling.


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