Rafael Sapo vs Travis Lutter was the first MMA match to start with a bell and end with “What did I tell you, fool?”
That was what Sapo’s teacher Vinicius Draculino spat as the black belt sprinted into the arms of his cornermen after landing a TKO at 4:12 min of the first round last Friday the 21st.
The reason for the outburst was the strategy laid out for the fight at the Moosin show against the seasoned Travis Lutter and his menacing takedowns and ground game, having even challenged for Anderson Silva’s UFC title.
“Never before has a strategy worked out down to the millimeter like that,” said a vibrant Rafael “Sapo” Natal, in a chat with GRACIEMAG.com.
“After watching the tape on him, Draculino noticed he always starts by faking a takedown before throwing a punch up high. The tactic was to defend, frustrate his initial takedown attempts and, when he starts to wear out and throw a now slower punch, I would take a step back and throw a right uppercut,” he said, heaping praise on his boxing coach at Renzo Gracie Academy in New York, Mike. “That was exactly how it played out.”
Exactly as planned? No, not quite exactly.
“Despite all our planning, our overall plan, I have a problem,” admits Sapo (12w, 2l). “When someone hits me in the face I go nuts and try and hit him right back. When Travis’ hand landed his first try, I forgot everything and looked to hit him. That was when Rolles and Igor (Gracie) shouted from the corner that getting hit like that was on the program, reminding me to stick to the plan. I held myself back and everything worked out,” said Sapo, who isn’t yet thinking about his next challenge.
“I’ve been training hard since November here (in NY) because several fights were postponed. That’s why the gang asked me to rest my body now. I’m heading to Brazil and we’ll see what offers turn up. I may go to a big event, I don’t know, but Moosin already called me up for another event,” says Sapo, who will return to the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais in time to celebrate with his Jiu-Jitsu team, Sapo Team, which won the adult, child and female divisions of the MG Cup, a state title.