AZ Combat Sports Head Instructor Steve Rosenberg Teaches a Simple Lesson the Hard Way

By Tony Cadorin

In terms of epic, come from behind wins, there’s no bigger stage for something like that to happen than at the Pan American Championships.  One of the most epic and memorable of these moments involved Steve Rosenberg, head BJJ instructor at Arizona Combat Sports, at the 2009 edition of the Pans.  The clip shows up at the end of his second highlight reel on YouTube and it sticks out to me because Steve seems to teach a top-level brown belt competitor a very simple lesson: don’t cross your feet when you take someone’s back.

At the start of the match, Steve anticipates his opponent's guard pull and immediately jumps over to pass to the left side.  He lands it clean, but can't quite establish as his opponent shrimps and grabs an under hook.  Steve follows tightly and manages to hop to mount but his opponent elevates him and sneaks out the back to start trying to take Steve's back instead.  The video cuts after 10 seconds (as highlight reels do) and when it cuts back in, you see his opponent take Steve’s back with an over-under grip and both hooks in.  They pause for a second but Steve catches his breath and traps one of his opponents’ feet between his own legs.  His opponent doesn't react, so Steve takes a chance and stops defending his neck with his left hand, reaches down, and puts his opponent's other foot between his leg, crossing his opponent's legs.  From there it's less than a second before Steve applies pressure and his opponent taps and rolls in pain and disappointment on the mat.  Steve springs up from the mat, hands in the air in victory, looking elated and a bit surprised with his celebration extending across two more empty mats.  Steve Rosenberg just won the 2009 Pan Ams at Brown Belt lightweight.

What was your training like leading up to that Pans?

It was good, I was training every day, rolling twice a day and doing cross fit 2-3 times a week.

Had you won Pans before?

No, I had a silver and a bronze in gi Pans and had won no gi Pans before but never won Pans in the gi.

Had you ever hit that submission before by making somebody cross their own legs?

No, I’d never done that in a tournament, but a while before that, when I was in Brazil, Bernardo Pitel did it to me.

What do you remember about that moment at Pans?

Well what the video doesn't show is that he had me in his negative half guard for basically six minutes, so you see the first 10 seconds, then there's 6 minutes cut out of me sitting in his negative half guard.  It was kind of boring even though the beginning was fast paced.  He tried taking my back twice during that time and I managed to shut it down twice.  I was up the whole match on an advantage but then you can see him finally take my back in the video.  I thought I was done and thought the match was over with 15 seconds left.  I was super disappointed because I was winning the whole match.  I remember I looked down and saw the submission and just barely pushed it and they crossed.  His ankles popped really loudly and he screamed.

And that was the finals match?

Yeah, that was my fourth match and was against Jake MacKenzie, who is still a very active competitor.  I had three submissions and four matches.

What have you been working on lately?

I've been training a little bit but mostly working on the team.  Seth Wheeler has a sub only match coming up and we have three students doing IBJJF Worlds and also want to bring a good team for the AZ State Championships.

Anything else?

Come to Arizona Combat Sports and train!

The video clip that is referenced for this article can be seen here starting at 9 minutes: