The purpose of this article is to compare those two great sweeps, similarities and differences, but far from me saying which one is better, as I like them both.
I included links to the original videos of the creators of the positions which I strongly suggest you watch before continuing your reading.
The first video is in portuguese and you can forward it to 3’44 where the techniques start. Marcel shows 2 variations but in this article I discuss the second one, which starts at 5’19:
The helicopter sweep, developed in the 90’s by my friend Marcel Ferreira, based on the famous De la Riva hook, with two variations shown in the above video, but I decided to focus on the second one he shows (from 5’18s on the video above). Marcel grips the collar, which allows him to break the posture of the passer, facilitating the sweep and helping his rotation to the top. He lands on half guard and with proper pressure from the hips you can pass the guard, establishing side control.
The berimbolo sweep, specialty of the Mendes brothers, uses a different grip holding the belt instead of the collar, but is very similar in the beginning of its execution, only that after sweeping, you spin and go under the second leg, which gives you access to your opponent’s back.
Not only the goal is other but the grip changes in order to help you take the back. Holding the belt gives a handle more effective to spin towards the back, and in this case the advantage of gripping the belt is on the second part of the position. I worked on both grips and felt that having the collar makes sweeping easier to me, but gripping the belt helps more to chase the back, at least for me.
I think that all comes down to a personal preference or adaptation. I know several techniques that can be executed with various grips with the same result, or allowing different outcomes, like in this case.
Marcel spins under the first leg to take top position, which secures him a sweep and a big chance of passing afterwards. The berimbolo’s goal is to take the back directly using a different route, which explores a different angle of the game. Both options are great and I would not exclude one to use only the other.
If you are able to perform both, you must decide what you want in that moment. If you want to take the back, go for the berimbolo, but maybe you have little time for it, or is confident on your top game, then use the helicopter sweep, get your 2 points and secure a guard pass as the berimbolo can also expose you to foot attacks. Explore both in sparring and make your choice in the competition when you get a chance depending on what you need more at that given moment.
End of the day, the choice is about your personal style and strategy, so my suggestion is that you drill those great techniques many times over, use these videos as reference, ask your coach for guidance, and make sure to try and succeed in sparring many times before doing them in competition.
Get your basics right before learning advanced stuff or you will slow your progress in the ground. I see people that cannot escape from the back, yet they want to learn berimbolos.
I believe that adding berimbolo to your game gives you another great option, and not only from the sweep but also as a transition to execute in different situations.
The problem starts when some of the new grapplers are only chasing it full time in comps, because they are afraid of taking the top position. Sincerely, if you fear someone’s guard, stay home and do not come to a competition to sit on your butt for most of the match waiting for one attack to win. This is against the philosophy of grappling and should be severely punished by referees.
It makes a match boring to watch and, in my opinion, guys relying only on that are not real martial artists, and they dishonour the legacy of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu left by Helio Gracie.
I remember in the old days when watching the small guys was exciting, but nowadays most people are turning away after seeing both guys sit and no one wants to move up (as one can see in many matches nowadays). Thankfully the big guys are putting up a show like never before in the history of BJJ. Marcus Almeida Buchecha, Bernardo Faria, Rodolfo Vieira and other names from this new generation fighting the Open Division are doing a hell of a job, saving the show and bringing the sport to a level I haven’t seen since my start, back in 1990.