Keenan Cornelius vs Vinny Magalhaes
This is a great clash of old and new. Vinny Magalhaes is a black belt under Vini Aieta of Gracie Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro. He had accomplished a lot in jiu-jitsu before focusing on MMA where he was a season 8 finalist on The Ultimate Fighter UFC show. In jiu-jitsu, his most notable accomplishments are winning the nogi world championship in 2007 and the ADCC in 2011.
Keenan Cornelius represents the new stream of jiu-jitsu and has a lot of momentum behind him. Along with JT Torres and Rafael Lovato, Cornelius is considered to be one of the top American jiu-jitsu competitors today. Within his first year of holding a black belt, he won the IBJJF Pro League tournament in 2013 and 2014 is looking promising for the young American.
So how will this match unfold? Vini is still a very dangerous opponent and he may be one of the few MMA guys that still has very sharp jiu-jitsu, especially in nogi. Keenan has openly shared his opinions on how he does not like nogi, so if this is going to be a nogi match, expect a draw - Keenan is very hard to tap. If the match ends up being in a gi, which is less likely, still expect a draw but with Keenan having the upper hand.
Rafael Mendes vs Clark Gracie
Here we have the battle of the poster boys. Rafael Mendes, also known as ‘Rafa’ for short, is a three-time world champion and can be considered one of the top lightweight competitors of all time because of his success in both gi and nogi competition, notably at the ADDC for nogi.
Clark Gracie, although significantly less accomplished than Rafa, is the 2013 Pan American champion and has the size advantage going into this match that will most likely be in the gi.
Expect to see a very exciting fight since both athletes are known for their very unorthodox styles. Rafa likes to play his signature berimbolo and leg drag tactics, while Clark Gracie is famous for catching people in omoplatas from all angles. In the end, I believe that Clark will be outmatched by Rafa and will succumb to a berimbolo perhaps mid match. Rafa is also always in peak condition, so the longer the match lasts, the harder it will become for the Gracie.
Royler Gracie vs Eddie Bravo
This is the main event of the show. The entire premise of the fight here is based on settling the score between Royler and Eddie Bravo. When they first fought, Eddie Bravo had been only the second person in history to tap Royler Gracie, after Mario Sperry. He did this in the 2003 ADCC. The issue is that many people argue that it was a fluke for Eddie Bravo and that he is actually not more technical than the legendary Gracie.
So will Eddie be able to do it again? This is an interesting match up because right now they are more closely matched than they were before. Eddie Bravo had been unknown in the community then and had very little experience in relation to Royler. However, now, although both veterans have been less active, Eddie Bravo has been constantly working on developing his unique ‘rubber guard’ game at his gym. So he’s had the opportunity to close the experience gap.
The age difference is also not a huge factor since Royler is only five years older than Bravo. Expect to see Bravo being very aggressive to close guard, or half guard, and Royler defending most of the round. I think it will be a very slow match and it will end in a draw.