The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu icon is one of the most decorated practitioners of all time, and there’s an incredible amount of intrigue surrounding his heavyweight bout against veteran striker Anderson “Braddock” Silva at ONE: REVOLUTION on Friday, 24 September.
Almeida’s move to the all-encompassing sport has been teased since way back in 2015, and fans will finally see how his incredible ground game transitions to MMA.
But what has made the Brazilian so dominant in BJJ, and how exactly will that skill set help him in mixed martial arts? Here, we break down “Buchecha’s” past success and preview what to expect against an accomplished kickboxer in Silva.
Unparalleled Success Against The Best
First, let’s take a look at what Almeida has achieved in his competitive career to date.
“Buchecha” has won 13 IBJJF Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championships — the most of anybody in history. He’s also claimed four IBJJF No-Gi World Championships, two ADCC World Championships, and a raft of other prestigious honors.
The list of accolades is almost unrivaled, even surpassing the likes of former ONE Light Heavyweight World Champion Roger Gracie, Andre Galvao, Alexandre “Xande” Ribeiro, and Marcelo Garcia. But what does the Brazilian’s BJJ game suggest about his potential in mixed martial arts?
He Can Wrestle
While it’s clear “Buchecha” has few peers on the ground, some athletes who’ve moved from BJJ to MMA have struggled with taking the match to the canvas.
That shouldn’t be a big issue for the Brazilian, who’s known for his explosive double-leg takedown and ability to get on top.
The 191-centimeter freight train can power through with his blast double to establish that top position, but he also has an effective chain of attacks that he can run through if his first option doesn’t work.
His switch to single-legs is productive, and he can then move swiftly to upper-body controls to get body locks and trips so that he doesn’t let the connections go to waste.
Almeida spent time at American Kickboxing Academy with the likes of Daniel Cormier and Khabib Nurmagomedov, which will certainly help, and he now trains at American Top Team under elite wrestling coaches in Mo Lawal and Steve Mocco.
In recent times, fans have seen elite grapplers struggle to bring MMA fights into their world and being forced to pull guard – thus landing on their back – which is not ideal when opponents are raining down punches.
With that in mind, “Buchecha” will likely aim to battle from top position.
On Top, Won’t Stop
If the 31-year-old heavyweight can establish top position, there won’t be many opponents who will survive against him.
Almeida has a relentless guard-passing game and can work his way into dominant spots, where he can set up submission and ground-striking opportunities.
His patented “folding pass” has been unstoppable against elite heavyweight grapplers, so it’s hard to see anybody stopping it inside the Circle.
It also opens up options to pass to side control, mount, or take the back — all of which give “Buchecha” a lot of options to finish.
From the mount, his armbar is especially potent. He expertly exhibited the move on his run to World Championship success in 2016.
From the back, chokes are his go-to weapon of choice. And although Almeida does finish with a lot of gi variations, he also has a powerful rear-naked choke.
Just As Dangerous From Underneath
To be so dominant in BJJ, Almeida had to become proficient in every area. His top game is phenomenal, but he’s also adept off his back.
Notable for his switch to MMA, he has a few tricks up his sleeve that should work well for him both offensively and defensively.
Those tricks include excellent leg locks, with toe holds and kneebars being his main focus.
He sets them up from a variety of guard positions — though some are more applicable to mixed martial arts than others.
His toe hold is a promising attack, as it pushes opponents away from him with his feet on their hips. Doing so also comes with the added benefit of being a good defense against ground-and-pound because he can control the distance.
A promising leg attack doesn’t just have one end goal, however. They can also lead to sweeps, which would revert Almeida to his powerful top game.
A Physical Specimen
Given all of his grappling mastery, it’s easy to forget that “Buchecha” is also a monster athlete.
He moves with the finesse of a much lighter man and is renowned for his technicality, but if it comes to the crunch, he also has athleticism in his back pocket.
When it comes to full-contact fighting, that’s always a useful trump card, especially if the Brazilian does get caught with strikes. His muscle memory and explosiveness may allow him to power through to safety.