The end of 2019 has arrived and with the sport growing with each passing year, it is time for us to dream big and ask jiu-jitsu’s top professional promotions to take a few chances and put together the matches that make sense for the fans. There has been a recent trend of placing the very best grapplers in the world against former glories of jiu-jitsu or MMA fighters, which does make sense for the company’s Pay-Per-View numbers and can also be an entertaining novelty, but we hope our sport’s finest promotions find the room to accommodate the fights that will move the needle forward in terms of our own sport, and for that reason, we present to you 5 matches we hope to see in the next 12 months.
KAYNAN DUARTE x KYLE BOHEM (No-Gi)
We would love to see these athletes clash again, both being widely regarded as the main proponents of both strains of modern-day jiu-jitsu. Duarte being the IBJJF champion and Bohem the key figure of submission-only, particularly the EBI ruleset.
Duarte and Bohem met in 2017 as purple belts at the FIVE Grappling promotion. At the time Kaynan had just won the ADCC Brazilian trials and was riding high on the fame and recognition that had brought him, yet, the lesser-known Kyle Bohem reigned supreme that evening, beating the Atos standout by referee decision and if our memory serves us right, Kaynan suffered an injury during that match and was forced to the sidelines for a few months after their bout.
Both competitors have evolved exponentially since then, and 10th Planet athlete, Bohem is today a familiar face to many fans of grappling. This match-up makes a ton of sense in the sporting sense, given what they represent as athletes and their back story, plus it should also be one heck of a scrap.
We feel that Fight 2 Win or Polaris would be great rulesets for this to happen as neither favors the athletes. Judges would assess the performances instead of a point system, which is alien to Bohem or EBI, which is not something Duarte has competed in.
NICHOLAS MEREGALI x MARCUS ALMEIDA (Gi)
We alluded to this matchup earlier this week on Instagram and received plenty of feedback from those who saw it.
Meregali met Buchecha at the IBJJF World Championship back in 2018, Nicholas’ second year at black belt, in a memorable match that Almeida won by 5×2. Since then Meregali’s career has truly taken off, and today he is a contender to the top “Pound 4 Pound” gi athlete in the world. It would certainly be best to see these two face-off again while “Buchecha” is still at the peak of his physical abilities, as the Checkmat wrecking ball heads towards his 30s.
Adding to the spectacle is the bad blood that seems to be brewing between the two. Many will know of the exchange of WhatsApp audio messages by Nicholas and Almeida, which have been circulating among those who follow the sport closely for the past few months, a backstory that can be a professional promoter’s dream. Both the sporting aspect and the backstory are perfect ingredients for a luxurious main event match.
We feel this match-up would be best suited for (at least) a 10-minute match, with points.
JOÃO GABRIEL ROCHA x GORDON RYAN (No-Gi)
Although there has been plenty of internet kerfuffle about a possible 3rd match between Gordon and Preguiça — which we believe would also be an awesome headliner — we would give preference to seeing Ryan match João Gabriel again.
Ryan and Rocha met at Kasai in February last year, a very close match where Gordon injured his knee midway through the match and was unable to compete to the best of his ability. Throughout the match João Gabriel looked outstanding while pressuring from a top position, getting very, very close to passing Gordon’s puzzling guard.
A rematch would be a fantastic way to re-assess these two athletes, while healthy, in what we feel was an unfinished match. We also feel that Kasai’s all-encompassing ruleset would be the perfect setting for this to happen.
KEENAN CORNELIUS x PATRICK GAUDIO (Gi)
Keenan and Gaudio met only once, this far in their careers, and that happened at the 2018 World Jiu-Jitsu Championship semi-finals of the IBJJF, one of the hardest matches to watch of the past few years for Cornelius’ fans (a category in which we would be included).
We felt Cornelius has never been so close to a Mundial final, and he deserved to have gone through to that closing match had he not been “Gringo’ed” in that instance against Gaudio. Patrick, on the other hand, is as legit of an athlete as they come and we would genuinely love to see these two guys go at it again with the gi, preferably with a points system and some a solid refereeing group assessing the match.
FELLIPE ANDREW x FELIPE PENA (Gi)
Another remake of a 2018 IBJJF World Championship semi-final match is this Fellipe Andrew versus Preguiça, a match, we believed, was a challenger for Match Of The Year back then. Absolute berzerker of a fight.
There is no big back story here, just the sense that these two had great fun on the mats that day, and this would be quite a spectacle for the fans again. The match had it all: countless close submission attempts, guard passes, sweeps and whatnot.