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It's Science Michelle Nicolini

michelle nicolinni
The Breakdown: There are few women that have made their mark on the sport of Brazilian jiu jitsu quite the way Michelle Nicolini has. A mainstay of excellence in the women’s division over the past 7 years, Nicolini is an active and living legend in sport jiu jitsu. Michelle is known for her willingness to explore multiple weight classes, and as an extremely aggressive submission-specialist. She has experienced success on just about every major platform that the sport offers, and continues every year to add to her impressive resume.
The Study: Michelle Nicolini is a powerful ambassador for women’s jiu jitsu, but don’t let her pleasant demeanor fool you, she’s a killer on the mat. There are few we’ve studied with such an impressive submission rate, and even fewer that have hunted down as many feet, ankles, and knees as the female dynamo. Michelle has an extremely aggressive style of jiu jitsu that usually starts from the guard, and rarely gets much further.
In the matches we viewed the Michelle possessed an 86% win rate. Her submission rate for those matches was rate 76%. This means that she submitted her black belt opponent in 3 out of every 4 matches that we observed. It’s hard to do much better than that.
Michelle’s average match length was just over 6 minutes. Most of her matches began with her pulling guard (or her and her opponent pulling guard), and rarely did the match advance much further than those positions. Michelle does her most dangerous work from this position. With a dynamic mix of shin-on-shin, spider guard, and sit-up guard, she is able to throw a brutal mix of leglock, armbar, and triangle attempts at her opponents that is hard to stifle.
Nearly 40% of Michlle’s sweep started in the spider guard, but don’t let those numbers fool you. Nicolini used a diverse mix of different sweeps in the matches we recorded. She was able to execute 1.25 sweeps per match, and used over 6 different positions to do so. Although we did not see Nicolini receive, many chances to pass the guard (the fewest we’ve recorded) we saw her vary her passes quite a bit; with 50% coming from standing, and the other 50% coming from half guard.
When it came to submissions Nicolini was a master of triangles and leglocks. 50% of her submissions were triangles, and 30% were leglock variations. Most of these occurred in her guard; where 70% of her total submissions took place. Her game has proven difficult to escape; as opponents in her guard must battle against being swept and are often forced to concede a submission
Even though Michelle Nicolini has accomplished almost every major title that the sport offers, she continues to compete to this day. She is the figurehead for Checkmat’s growing and impressive womens program, and has become a mainstay of the emerging pro jiu jitsu events. Although it’s likely that Michelle will pass the torch to the next generation in the near future, there is no doubt that she remains one of the most dangerous and exciting competitors in all of Brazilian jiu jitsu.
Notable Study Stats:

  • 76% submission rate rate
  • 70% of submissions came from the guard


  • Scored first or submitted her opponent in 12 of 13 wins
  • Won 86% of matches observed
  • Average match length was 6:08
  • 40% of submissions were triangles
  • Utilized 6 different guard positions to sweep her opponent
  • 35% of sweeps executed were shin-to-shin spider guard sweeps

You can read the full study in the November issue of Jiu Jitsu Style Magazine.

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