Rodolfo Vieira is a beast.
Five times world champion as a black belt and already a hall of famer at the young age of 24, Vieira is the epitome of pressure passer.
He is a force that few in today’s competition circuit has the slight chance of resisting when confronted with it.
At the 2014 Worlds, he had a unthinkable performance, finishing all eight opponents both in the absolute and weight division, prior to the open class final.
Unlike Roger Gracie, who in 2009 finished all his opponents from the mount, Rodolfo Vieira presented his opponents with a wide array of submissions.
He caught Bernardo Faria twice, first with a wrist lock and then with an armbar, but he also handed out chokes from the back, clock chokes and more.
Even so, Rodolfo was still unable to reach his goal in full in Long Beach.
Once again, he was faced with Marcus Buchecha in the open class final and couldn’t put his game into action.
The 2 – 0 defeat to the three-time open class champion put their personal score at 5- 1 in favor of Buchecha.
After the match was over, one question lingered over the heads of those who just watched another chapter of today Jiu-Jitsu’s biggest rivalry.
Why is that Rodolfo Vieira cannot exercise his pressure game against Buchecha?
GRACIEMAG went after some of Jiu-Jitsu’s most recognized Professors and team leaders to help us solve this puzzle.
Xande Ribeiro, a two-time open class champion himself, knows a thing or two about beating heavier and bigger opponents, as he did in his battles against Roger Gracie.
He says the answer could be inside Rodolfo’s mind: “He has to believe in his judo skills and that he can do it. In each tournament, Rodolfo has an almost perfect record while Buchecha goes through some rough patches, being scored against, but then recovering to win. What changes when they face each other is that Buchecha always knows what he’s gonna do. Rodolfo needs to be willing to fight for 10 minutes straight and risk it without fear that things go wrong. Only with that he’s gonna be able to get to positions of control and win”.
Fabio Gurgel, a four-time world champion and leader of nine-time world champion team Alliance, weighs in analyzing Buchecha’s qualities as a fighter and trying to point out Rodolfo’s needs to overcome them: “Buchecha has been able to beat Rodolfo with his unpredictability. He is a guy that joins technique, explosion and speed that make the fight leans towards him. When the opponent thinks he is going to pull guard, he goes for a takedown, for example. Without a doubt, Rodolfo’s chances lay in playing on top, so the standing game is vital for him.”
Three-time world champion and leader of Gracie Barra, Marcio Feitosa joins the conversation agreeing that being on top is Rodolfo’s number 1 priority. “He has to work his stand up game better. He has strong takedowns, but he was taken by surprise this last time with Buchecha’s strategy to annul his judo. Once on the ground, Rodolfo needs to trust his guard passes. He has a lot of pressure passes and needs to believe in it.”
André Galvão, leader of Atos JJ and a two-time world champion, has competed against both Rodolfo and Buchecha and know the dangers each one can present to their opponents. He says that a combination of factors is causing Buchecha to win the race against Rodolfo. “First I think it’s psychological. Buchecha is very confident at the moment with his latest wins in their matches. I also think training has a lot to do with it. Buchecha is taking better results from his training, besides the fact that he is stronger, faster and taller than Rodolfo. It’s Buchecha’s moment now, but Rodolfo cannot give up. Nobody is perfect.”
Buchecha’s professor since always, world champion Rodrigo Cavaca adds to the discussion with an assessment on his pupil’s biggest quality: “Since the blue belt, he risks all with whatever comes in his mind during a match. Many times he made mistakes and needed to recover. One recent example was in the 2014 WPJJC open class final, when he tried a guillotine choke and ended with Rodolfo in his half-guard, Vieira’s strongest passing position. He had to fight the whole match to recover and win at the end.”
At last, Rodolfo’s Professor, Julio Cesar, closes the discussion for now with his view on the matter: “Rodolfo gets disappointed with the results because he trains always with the best result in mind. It’s always a tough match up. This last time, I think we lacked more judo training. In Abu Dhabi, we lacked a better refereeing. One thing is for sure is that we will never give up until we can reverse this situation. Buchecha is that guy that never comes to a match with the same game as the last one. All we can do is hold our head high and train harder.”