Rener Gracie (left at start) is the Grandson of Helio, Son of Rorian. As far as I can tell, this is his first and last IBJJF tournament at Black Belt. I saw him and his brother Ryron destroy everyone at brown belt the year before at the 2002 American Nationals (Helio was in attendance as a perfunctory witness to their last moments at that level. They were quickly promoted after that event). After this match, his competitive career went no further and he became the spokesperson for Gracie Jiu Jitsu and the co-leader of their academy in Torrence, California.
Roberto “Gordo” Correa was the 1996 World Champion at Middle Weight. He also was a four time Pan Ams Champion. But more importantly, Gordo is infamous for the development of the half guard. While the position was often obtained by accident, it was Gordo that explored and refined the position in the late 1980’s because of a knee injury. So all the current iterations of half guard that we see today began with Gordo’s innovations.
This match is a classic old school grinder defined by a basic closed guard submission attempt, and the defense to it. I watched this match from mat side and after I remember relaying the story to some of my training partners that they should have seen this guy defend the triangle for like 2 minutes… oh how I underestimated the time.
We have already introduced Marcelo (and for those unfamiliar with his resume, go research him), so we will introduce his opponent: Ricco Rodriguez.
Ricco was an early adopter of BJJ and was one of the first Americans to travel to Brazil to participate in the Mundials when it was still held in Rio. In 1997, he was the blue belt absolute champion. But, the following year, he would win the +99kg division of the ADCC Submission Championships. By the early 2000’s he is fighting MMA and for a brief moment held the UFC Heavyweight belt after he defeated Randy Couture in 2002. After that, he had a few missteps in his career but continued to fight in a variety of lesser known promotions. He is still actively fighting today (primarily in Eastern Europe) and has over 80 MMA bouts to his credit.
At these ADCC championships in 2005, Marcelo had just finished winning his second straight gold medal at -77kg (by defeating my instructor) and had entered the Absolute Division. Ricco had made it to the second round of the +99kg losing to Gabriel Gonzaga. When the match was announced, as you will see, there is massive support for Marcelo given the size difference (and that everyone truly likes Marcelo).
This match is one that I often refer to as evidence of Marcelo’s true greatness. Watching this video, you will likely focus on the physical aspect of the match: the ebb and flow between the two, the controversial move in the middle and the eventual conclusion. You can also expect your heart rate to go up a little as you watch, its that good. But watch it again and pay particular attention to Marcelo’s facial expression. It hardly changes. You would expect signs of struggle or exertion if you are giving 70lbs or more to your opponent. To me, his world class composure and focus are the real moves of the match.