As COVID-19 is still keeping us off of the mats for the coming period, we’d like to direct our attention to the most accomplished BJJ fighter: Marcus Almeida ‘Buchecha’. With 13x Black Belt World championship titles, 2x ADCC gold, Nogi World title and his name in the Guinnes Book of records, there is no doubt about it that he is one of the greatest to ever do it. At BJJAA we have been lucky enough to have had him on our mats for three times already. So what makes him so good?
First of all, Buchecha is dominant in every aspect of the game. He is good at passing people’s guard and playing guard himself. With a wrestling-based takedown game, he can also decide from the start of the match whether he will be taking the top position or play guard. This is one of the factors that has led him to his successes. Another major factor that has given him a lot of success are his ‘scrambles’. In many of his matches he has been down on points or in a bad spot. It is not unlikely that you have seen his guard getting passed or that his back gets taken, but during those moments he manages to display the true heart of a champion. He can turn the tide real fast by using his athleticism and scrambling back towards a strong position. In spite of winning almost every major title in the sport of Jiu-Jitsu, he also holds a few losses and has shown that at times that he is not invincible. Especially during his early days as a black belt, where he still needed to find his dominant winning game. We like to have a look at the evolution and highlight some of his most spectacular matches.
The early days
The year is 2011 and here we see a young and explosive Buchecha at the open weight division of the Pan-Americano championship in Brazil. His opponents are not just your ordinary local black belt competitors. In Leandro Lo and Claudio Calasans he is facing some serious competition. Nowadays, Leandro Lo is another major household name in BJJ with 6 World Championship titles, but back in 2011 he was just starting to make his international breakthrough after defeating Michael Langhi – who at the time was undefeated for over 3 years at black belt – at the Abu Dhabi World Pro Championship. Now, let’s have a look at the showdown between Buchecha and Leandro Lo.
At the beginning of the match we see that Buchecha is engaging in a double guard pull situation, which is something you barely see happening now. It’s Leandro Lo that is actually coming up from the double guard pull situation, to score the first advantage of the match. Quickly after, Buchecha works towards a basic collar drag sweep to a single leg takedown from his sit-up guard position. This is followed up immediately with a guard pass, where he uses his athleticism to jump over Leandro’s guard into side control. Leandro manages to recover his guard and sweeps Buchecha back. After getting a sweep back on Leandro, Buchecha is once again in the top position and trying to pass the guard of Leandro. Around the 3m30s mark, we can see that he has a standing passing style and is using ‘torreandos’ and throw-by’s to get around Leandro’s guard. Which is something he doesn’t do often anymore nowadays. With some more back and forth action between Lo and Buchecha, we’d like to highlight the 11m mark of the match, where Buchecha is engaging in a 50/50 battle with Lo. Which is also something you wouldn’t see him play in his most recent matches. Buchecha wins the match on points and moves on to the final, where he is facing Claudio Calasans. The noticeable moments from his match with Leandro Lo are: double guard pull, standing passing style with torreandos and 50/50 guard.
Claudio Calasans was already a major name at the black belt scene back in 2011. In 2010 he had great success at the Abu Dhabi World Pro Championship by winning double gold and placing 2nd at the IBJJF World Championship, after losing the final only by a score of 2-0 against another legend of the sport; Marcelo Garcia. With wins over some of the top black belts of that time like Braulio Estima, Bernardo Faria and Sergio Moreas, it was definitely not going to be an easy task for Buchecha. As expected, the match itself didn’t disappoint and it was an absolute barn burner of a match where Buchecha shows his ‘scramble’ factor at several moments in the match. Let’s have a look:
At the beginning of the match we see Buchecha pulling guard first against Calasans. Which showcases that he still needed to be comfortable with his takedown game. Given that Calasans is also a black belt in Judo, it was a smart strategy by Buchecha to start with the guard pull. Around 2m10s into the match we see Buchecha lifting Calasans up for a sweep, but pulls back to guard after Calasans managed to stay standing with Buchecha. So it is clear that Calasans Judo game is something that Buchecha is very aware of. Continuing from that guard pull Buchecha sets up a toehold attack and the first scramble situation occurs, where Calasans displays his first Judo throw that Buchecha countered by posting with his head on the mat. A reset is forced by the referee and both fighters are starting from the standing position again. This time we see Buchecha diving very low towards the knees of Calasans and gets a takedown into a torreando pass, which he follows up with a folding pass and jumps from there into side control. The folding pass is a pass that Buchecha has developed into his main passing system and it is nice to see how he was already using that pass with success early in his BJJ career. Around 9min15s into the match, we see Buchecha transitioning into a deep half-guard position. Around 2010 and 2011 the deep half-guard position was very popular and also one the main position from guard for Buchecha. Occasionally, we still see him using that position in matches. As the match proceeds, around 10m15s Buchecha gets surprised by a guillotine attempt from Calasans and his guard gets passed. By inverting like a lightweight, he manages to reverse Calasans and get the top position again and another scramble situation occurs. As they go out of bounds, the match gets reset to standing situation. From here Buchecha works for a single leg and Calasans is trying to counter the single leg with a butterfly sweep, but Buchecha uses his athleticism again to counter the move by jumping over the sweep. From there he works his way towards the back of Calasans and seals the deal, to win a hard fought match on points.
Takeaways from his early days:
- Standing guard passing, 50/50 guard, pulling guard, scrambles, folding pass
Dethroning the black belt hunter
Fast forward one year to 2012. Looking at the quarter-finals of the IBJJF World Championship in Long Beach, California. Buchecha is now facing his biggest challenge in Rodolfo Vieira, also known as “The Black Belt Hunter”.
To put into perspective on how good Rodolfo Vieira was at the time; here is little background story on Rodolfo: In 2009, the brown and black belt divisions were mixed at the Abu Dhabi trials and World Pro Cup. Rodolfo was a brown belt and he was beating top-level black belts and thereby getting his nickname as “The Black Belt Hunter”. In 2011 he won double gold at the IBJJF World Championship and did it dominant fashion by submitting a lot of his opponents. With dominant performances at the major tournaments, many people in Jiu-Jitsu were starting to claim that Rodolfo would be the undisputed king of Jiu-Jitsu for a long time to come. It looked like people were right as he was riding on a win-streak of 33 Gi-matches leading up to the quarter-finals of the 2012 IBJJF World Championship:
Like Calasans, Rodolfo also has a strong Judo takedown game. So Buchecha starts the match by pulling guard. Right at the moment that the commentators want to highlight the dominance of Rodolfo, Buchecha hits a sweep from a kneebar attempt. Which is surprising to many, because Rodolfo does not often get scored on and especially this early in a match. You can hear that commentators also mentioning this fact around 1m22s. Later on in the match, Buchecha gets swept by Rodolfo and gets passed right after the sweep. Being down on points 5-2, he his remains his calm and recovers to half guard. From there we see him inverting towards a tornado sweep into a kneebar attempt and getting a sweep out of it. Even though, that Buchecha is giving Rodolfo Vieira a harder time than any of his previous opponents, the commentators are still favoring Rodolfo for the win as you can hear at 9m47s. With just a few minutes left in the match and down by 4 points, Buchecha is once again showing the true heart of a champion by scrambling out of Rodolfo’s strongest passing positions. He finishes the match by hitting a last minute double leg takedown to take the lead with a 8-7 score. Handing Rodolfo his first loss in a long time. The fact, that this was only the quarter-final shows that the IBJJF bracket makers did not rank Buchecha really high. As they usually put the favorites of the bracket on opposite sides. That was the last time they made that mistake, as Buchecha and Rodolfo would later only cross paths in the final of a major tournament. It was this match that started Buchecha’s dominance in BJJ. After the match with Rodolfo, he went on to win all his matches to get his first black belt double gold achievement at the IBJJF Worlds. In the final of the open weight he had to square off with Leo Nogueira:
This is another hard-fought battle by Buchecha. He is behind on points for almost the entire match. It is not until the dying seconds of the match when Buchecha manages to once again turn the tide. Making this one of the greatest comebacks in an open weight final at the IBJJF Worlds.
- Takeaways from his match with Rodolfo and Leo Nogueira: Guard pulls and a lot of heart.
The rise and fall of the King of BJJ
After his breakout performance at the 2012 IBJJF Worlds, Buchecha was being cited as the new King of BJJ. But obviously, the question that remained was: Could he repeat his performance? And for how long? People were saying the same thing about Rodolfo Vieira before his loss to Buchecha. Let’s have a look at some of the opponents that Buchecha faced in the years to come:
Buchecha has a new challenge in Andre Galvao at the open weight final of the 2013 IBJJF Pan-American Championship. Back in 2011, Galvao got a win over Buchecha at the San Diego World Pro trials. So he might be able to pull it off again. It took almost 2 years before this rematch could take place, because Galvao was not allowed to compete anymore at 2012 IBJJF Worlds. He got suspended by the IBJJF for climbing over the barrier to argue with the referee about a call during the match of his student.
In the beginning of the match we see Buchecha engaging in the stand up battle, even though Galvao is known for having strong Judo takedowns. Buchecha gets the takedown and tries the majority of the match to pass the guard of Galvao. At the end of the match Galvao gets a body lock takedown on Buchecha and the score is even, but Buchecha is leading with advantages. With less than a minute remaining, he gets a sweep to put him back in the top position. With this win over Galvao, Buchecha adds another big name to his list of victories and shows that he is here to remain on top of the game.
This rematch was bound to happen. A year earlier the match took place in the quarter-final of the Worlds and Buchecha was a big underdog. The rematch in 2013 was in the open weight final. As we saw before, Buchecha had a really tough match against Rodolfo. However, in this match Buchecha is showing that he improved a lot and is opening up his game. He does a rolling back take, passes Rodolfo straight into mount and almost gets an armbar finish at the end of the match. This time he wins against Rodolfo in the final without getting scored on and achieves his 2nd double gold performance at the Worlds.
In the open weight division of the 2014 IBJJF Worlds, Buchecha is facing off against Keenan Cornelius who introduces a new, tricky style match-up to Buchecha with the worm guard. Back then, not a lot of people were using the lapel as a guard and Keenan caught a lot of people by surprise with his game. In this match you see that Buchecha is having a low base and is trying to pass mostly from his knees. He gets swept by Keenan’s worm guard and around 7m45s we see him falling back to his deep-half guard game. It is not until almost the end of the match, where Buchecha finally finds a gap in Keenan’s guard game and passes him with a long step. With the win over Keenan, Buchecha is also showing that he can deal with the new upcoming generations in the black belt scene. At the 2014 IBJJF Worlds, Buchecha wins his 3rd double gold in a row and has cemented his position as the King of BJJ.
Buchecha kept on winning throughout his career and for many people in BJJ it was not even a question anymore about who would win double gold at the coming editions of the IBJJF Worlds. However, there is a saying that you can’t take things for granted. Sometimes, the odds are going to be against you. At the 1/8 finals of the IBJJF 2015 Worlds open weight division Buchecha is matched up against Ricardo Evangelista; an opponent that he has beaten many times before in his career. This time the match played out differently, against all odds:
Buchecha injures his knee badly in the match and suffers a devastating loss. This is Buchecha’s first loss at the IBJJF Worlds since he defeated Rodolfo Vieira back in 2012. His knee injury took him out of the game for almost a year.
The comeback and writing history
In every sport when an athlete suffers a serious injury, the same questions always arise: Will he be the same again? Will this change him? Can he repeat his performances? And the same applied for Buchecha when he made his comeback at the 2016 IBJJF Worlds. People were wondering how he would come back. Well, he had six fights and won all of them. Four of those fights were won by armbar. His wins were against the likes of Felipe Pena, Erberth Santos and Joao Gabriel Rocha. Below you can see Buchecha hitting the armbar from mount against Joao Gabriel Rocha in the semi-final of the ultra heavyweight division. It appeared that he came back even stronger after his injury and added another double gold to his resume, in extremely dominant fashion.
In 2017 Buchecha was on the hunt for his 9th and 10th black belt IBJJF World title, which would tie him with another legend of the sport; Roger Gracie. He continued his stellar performance of previous editions and managed to win his division once again. We now like to have a look at the open weight final against his Leandro Lo:
Since his knee injury, he tries to avoid dynamic passing from a standing position and we can see that in this match. Buchecha is working a lot more from pressure passing positions and from his knees. This makes the match a bit less exciting than their previous encounter in Brazil, but he did manage to win his 10th World title with this strategy.
Let’s now move on to 2018.The big question was: Will Buchecha make history? If he could win another gold medal at the Worlds, he would surpass Roger Gracie.
This is how it played out:
In the final of his weight division he was up against Joao Gabriel Rocha. He won this match by referee decision and wrote history by becoming the BJJ athlete with the most black belt world titles. In 2019 Buchecha would go on winning and extended his record to 13 World titles with another double gold performance. We hope that you enjoyed this post about some of Buchecha’s most memorable matches. There are a lot of other great matches of Buchecha that you can watch on YouTube and also some awesome highlights. That should keep you busy during this period of isolation. Stay safe everyone!