The Severe Spotlight: Rodolfo Vieira

Adaptability. This week and last week, there is a theme of fighters adding, or adapting skills to their arsenal later in their games. The interesting difference in this specific example is that Rodolfo Vieira reached the pinnacle of a completely different sport before transitioning over to MMA. He won multiple black belt world titles throughout his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu career, both Gi and No-Gi.

Whilst his grappling style was centred around being the top player, the sport itself, the demands of the ruleset and the application of his game in sport grappling over MMA is vastly different.

In his early fights the cavity of his game was the standup skills, and how could it not be?  That however was not the case on Saturday night against Armen Petrosyan.

As the first round begins, Veira adopts a much cleaner stance and bouncing cadence, hiding his centre line better, open palms ready to receive strikes and block them, his resetting footwork much cleaner, bounding out of the pocket of range and circling back, forcing Petrosyan to square up. All of this is inside the first ten seconds.

In the next ten seconds Veira shows awareness of space and timing as he pumps out a crisp jab and parries a Petrosyan jab not with his lead hand, but with the open palm of his back hand. Why is that smart? He is circling to his left-hand side, so his momentum is shifting that way already, to parry with his left sends force back toward his right, slowing up his circling off. Secondly because of the angle he had already cut on Petrosyan, the back hand was the closest and most efficient hand to use. Thirdly, and maybe most poignantly, using the right hand to parry, knowing that the left hand is available for check hooks or return strikes, shows the level of skill acquisition even in a basic trade of jabs.

The remainder of the first minute has Veira check a leg kick, land a couple of jabs to the body, and circle off well.

The second minute Veira adds in level change feints, some low kicks of his own. Some double jabs as he fades to his left, and a general all-round awareness of the striking threats of Armen Petrosyan.

Like clockwork, as the turn of the third minute occurs, Veria ducks under a Petrosyan jab and dives on a single leg. Turning the corner and sitting Petrosyan down, covering the Armenians hips, piking his own hips higher than his head, making his body weight heavy to carry. Petrosyan stiff arms the head, looking to scoop his hips back underneath him, but due to the grips around his hips, Vieira ensures he does so slowly. As Petrosyan drags himself up, he drags Vieira up too, who immediately starts searching for hooks from the back bodylock.

Vieira is gorgeous in his work to dump Petrosyan back to the mat. Firstly, looking to knee tap him along the cage wall and immediately level changing into a double, anticipating the turtle and attacking the back right away.

Vieira works with a grapevine hook and a half nelson to control posture to begin with. Petrosyan refuses to buckle and begins to strip the grapevine, as Petrosyan builds height and turns in, Vieira strips the balance with a reverse broomstick off balance. This off balance keeps Petrosyan’s hands on the floor, allowing Vieira to knee tap to the same side Petrosyan wants to exit on. Giving him only the choice to turn back in, which gives Vieira the bodylock up against the cage.

Vieira sucks up the left leg of Petrosyan, selling the feint to give him access to another locked hands double leg. Vieira hoists Petrosyan up, deciding on where to place him and choose right up against the fence after some deliberation as to whether to place him centre cage in open mat space.

Petrosyan now is in trouble, a locked body lock, with Viera’s head driving through his chest. The legs collected between Viera’s legs who settles into a half guard with a cross face. Vieira immediately goes to work on getting an underhook to meet his crossface. There is a moment as Vieira looks to leg pummel into mount that it seems as though Petrosyan has done some good work by squaring his hips – this is a fallacy. Vieira has allowed Petrosyan to square the hips up, so he can step over the knees and right into the mount.

Petrosyan pressed up against the fence under the mount of Rodolfo Vieira is not the place you want to be. Petrosyan gives the back, and instantly regrets it as Vieira bellies him out. The Armenian fighter desperately turns in to Vieira’s glee, with an elbow raised.

With 34 seconds left a cross face and underhook in full mount for Vieira, he sets to walking the underhook up into choking territory. He locks up the choke with 18 seconds left but makes a brilliant adjustment. He is opting to not dismount for the choke, but instead to leave a single leg inside mount, this helps to kill the hips and stop Petrosyan turning in, but as he began to sprawl, he felt the cage wall behind him. Using his right leg, he kicks off the wall to move both himself and Petrosyan further into the open space of the cage, giving him the room to sprawl out and down, into the neck.

Petrosyan desperately fights but 16 seconds in the head and arm triangle of Rodolfo Vieira is a lifetime. He moves to 5-2 in the UFC.

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