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The Road To Mikey Musumeci Vs. Cleber Sousa Trilogy Fight At ONE On Prime Video 2

Sep 16, 2022
Mikey Musumeci makes his way into the Circle at ONE 156

Mikey Musumeci and Cleber Sousa are set to make history when they collide in the inaugural ONE Flyweight Submission Grappling World Title fight at ONE on Prime Video 2.

But the highly anticipated showdown at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, September 30, won’t be the first time these two Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts have competed against each other.

Five years ago, Musumeci and Sousa squared off in a pair of submission grappling bouts and each man walked away with a victory.

Unlike their forthcoming U.S. primetime matchup on September 30, the first two contests took place in the gi and under points-based rules. Still, those encounters can tell us plenty about how these two elite competitors stack up against one another.

Ahead of their trilogy fight at ONE on Prime Video 2, we take a look at the road that led Musumeci and Sousa to this point.

What Happened In Their First Match?

Musumeci and Sousa initially faced each other as black belts in the quarterfinals of the 2017 IBJJF Pan American Championship. Both men were World Champions in the brown belt category and, at the time, two of the most promising young black belts on the scene.

Both competitors pulled guard in the opening seconds of the bout, with Musumeci hunting submissions early and often. “Darth Rigatoni” attacked with his trademark butterfly hook ankle lock (the same ankle lock he would later use to capture an IBJJF World Title in record time) and then a toehold.

After the American’s barrage of attacks, the pace of the match slowed through the middle minutes as the pair found themselves in a 50/50 leg entanglement – a position in which grapplers have their legs intertwined equally.

Musumeci next found his way to top position. Then, he continued to string together a variety of submission attacks, specifically aimed at Sousa’s arms and legs.

Heading into the final minute of the contest, “Darth Rigatoni” and Sousa each traded a pair of sweeps to even the score at 4-4. But Musumeci’s early submission attack had earned him an advantage, putting him ahead.

Knowing he was behind, Sousa relentlessly attempted to pass his rival’s guard, nearly gaining an advantage at one point. But Musumeci seemed to have an answer for everything, countering the Brazilian’s advances with submission and sweep attempts of his own.

The match would end in dramatic fashion.

With just 10 seconds remaining, the pair had returned to their feet. Musumeci and Sousa both pulled guard, just as they had in the opening seconds. This time, however, the Brazilian took top position, earning him an automatic advantage under IBJJF rules. As time expired, the score was even at 4-4 and one advantage each.

To the surprise of “Darth Rigatoni,” Sousa was awarded the referee’s decision. A visibly distraught Musumeci not only contested the referee’s decision, but also the determination that the Brazilian was awarded an advantage in the closing seconds of the match.

Outcome aside, the first match between Musumeci and Sousa gives fans a good idea of how each competitor grapples.

Musumeci is an offensive dynamo who can attack the upper and lower body equally well. He tends to do his best work from an open guard position where he can chain together submission attempts, sweep attempts, and attempted back-takes.

If the American showed a weakness in this match, it would be his top game. Whether he disputes the call or not, his refusal to take top position cost him the advantage and, ultimately, the victory.

For his part, Sousa is a calm, patient, and technical grappler. As offensive as Musumeci was in this contest, the Brazilian defended all attacks with seemingly no issue, and he even used his rival’s aggression to nearly secure a guard pass late in the match.

If their first match is any indication of things to come, Sousa should prepare to defend and counter the onslaught of attacks that “Darth Rigatoni” brings. For the Brazilian, he can’t rely on simply surviving; he must turn Musumeci’s attacks into moments of offense for himself.

What Happened In Their Second Match?

Not long after their first encounter at the 2017 IBJJF Pan American Championship, Musumeci and Sousa squared off again – this time, it was at the 2017 Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

Both men started the match pulling guard, but with Sousa opting to take top position. Musumeci wasted no time in attacking with perhaps his best overall technique – the berimbolo. When performed perfectly, the berimbolo will allow the guard player to move directly to his rival’s back.

Musumeci would hunt the back-take for over a minute, nearly securing the full position at one point to earn himself an advantage. 

Eventually, the American swept to top position to earn a two-point lead with just over four minutes remaining in the tilt. From there, “Darth Rigatoni” showed off his rarely seen guard-passing skills as he used an over-under pass to force Sousa into the turtle position.

Although Sousa’s decision to turtle prevented his opponent from scoring guard pass points, it did give Musumeci an opportunity to take the back.

Musumeci quickly moved to a body triangle, holding the Brazilian in that position until about one minute left in the contest. The Brazilian escaped to top position, standing over his foe’s open guard.

Down by two points, Sousa turned up the aggression as he desperately tried to pass Musumeci’s guard. But the American’s berimbolo game once again proved to be too much, with Musumeci again nearly taking the Brazilian’s back in the final seconds.

Not unlike their first match, “Darth Rigatoni” showed here that he is an offensive powerhouse who will use advanced techniques – like the berimbolo – to force his rival on the defensive. 

And even though Sousa lost, he once again proved to be a calm, patient competitor who was able to survive the worst of positions to eventually escape.

Through their first two matches, the duo saw a particular dynamic develop. Musumeci relentlessly attacks from his guard while Sousa patiently defends from top position, never allowing his rival to fully complete his desired technique. 

Sousa’s best moments in either bout came when he was able to counter the American’s attacks with offense of his own. Because Musumeci is so offensively minded and so technical, the Brazilian cannot afford to simply defend attacks and wait for an error. Instead, he must put his foe on the defensive.

It’s also worth noting that in this match, Musumeci’s strongest offensive sequence came from the berimbolo, a technique that is best suited for gi competition.

While he may try to hit the berimbolo on Sousa during their ONE Flyweight Submission Grappling World Title fight on September 30, “Darth Rigatoni” will likely struggle to find the same success without any gi grips available.

Regardless, it will be exciting to see each competitor’s approach at ONE on Prime Video 2.

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