Its Saturday morning, August 29th, in Sao Pãolo, Brazil as a crowd filters their way into Mauro Pinheiros Arena. As they make their way into the stands of the arena they get their first glimpse at the scene in which this years ADCC will take place. Three yellow mats side by side with a black border around each one, three judges tables, and group of the most elite grapplers on the planet warming up for the most prestigious grappling tournament on the planet today. Among these competitors is Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles. He is making his 4th ADCC appearance, but this time is different from the others before it. This time he is here as the defending champion in the -66kg division. Already a legend in the game when he won the title in China in 2013, completing his collection of major titles in the BJJ world, he now gets to return to his home country of Brazil in 2015 to defend the title that he spent so many years chasing.
Cobrinha’s first fight is against a young, relatively unknown, trials winner from Kyrgyzstan named Tezekbaev Rasul. The young fighter that made his way through the trials in impressive fashion arrived in Brazil with dreams of gold. However, he is quickly acquainted with the reality of his situation. That reality being that he is on the biggest stage of his sport competing against someone that is considered by many to be the best ever in the division.
This seems to be a bit overwhelming for Rasul as he spends most of the beginning of the match standing and backing away from Cobrinha who is sitting in guard waiting to attack. As Cobrinha scoots along the floor in pursuit you can’t help but notice that he looks like a snake, or “Cobrinha,” scooting across the floor in pursuit of his prey. Eventually Cobrinha is able to sweep, comes up, and almost pulls off an arm bar but Rasul is able to retain his guard. From there he is able to hold off Cobrinha’s knee slide attempt at passing until eventually both fighters are standing. Cobrinha then utilizing his great wrestling skills and shoots in for a takedown. As this happens Rasul turns to retreat giving Cobrinha an opportunity to take his back. He quickly grabs him and takes him to the ground locking up a body triangle on the young fighter. From here Cobrinha is able to take his time hunting the submission, and eventually is able to finish a rear naked choke adding to the already exciting number of submissions that have happened in the 1st round.
The next fight is against Alliance teammate Gianni Grippo. Gianni, a black belt under the legendary Marcelo Garcia, is one of the best young competitors out fighting today, and is coming off a gold medal at the 2015 Pan Ams just months ago. He quickly sits in guard and Cobrinha begins to work his knee slide pass. Showing patience, and never really seeming in a hurry, Cobrinha begins to kill Gianni’s guard by pinning one leg down with his knee and controlling the other with his hands forcing him into a weird inversion where no real offense can be played. From here Cobrinha nearly passes to side mount, but Gianni rolls to the turtle position to prevent it. However, that’s just what Cobrinha wanted since he is a master at taking the back when his opponent turtles. He is able to secure a seat belt grip on Gianni but is never able to get both hooks in, so he was rewarded no points for his effort. Gianni displays great defense by defending his neck as well as making sure Cobrinha is not able to get hooks in to score points. He is able to roll out and get Cobrinha back into his guard where the passing war resumes. Like the beginning of the match Gianni looks to sweep, but Cobrinha, showing patience and discipline, never seems off balanced or threatened.
Regulation runs out and overtime begins. As they stand looking for the takedown Cobrinha shows us again that his wrestling game is on point nearly scoring a takedown, but the ref felt that Gianni was attacking as Cobrinha was taking him down resulting in no points for either fighter. Again they fight for passes and sweeps until eventually Cobrinha is able to pass. Gianni tries to invert to prevent the pass but its too late. Cobrinha flattens Gianni out and secures the position. From here he makes his way to the North-South position looking for a way to advance his position. The ref signals for time shortly after, and Cobrinha advances to semi-finals the next day with a 3-0 victory over the young Marcelo Garcia student.
In the second day of the tournament 4 fighters remain in the -66kg division. Geo Martinez and Bruno Frazatto will face off on one side of the bracket, while Cobrinha and Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes will fight on the other. Tanquinho has defeated Cobrinha in their last two fights including a fight in the semi-finals on his way to win gold in the 2013 World championships, but has been away from the BJJ competition circuit focusing on his MMA career since then. Be that as it may Cobrinha still holds three wins over him going into this fight.
The match starts with them feeling each other out, and respecting the others takedown ability. So much so that they are both warned about stalling. Tanquinho seeming to be looking for a foot sweep while Cobrinha is hunting for a single leg, as you would expect him to do. Finally Cobrinha sits into his guard and we get to see his guard play for the first time since the early minutes of the first match the day before. As Tanquinho tries to pass Cobrinha starts to look for a heel, and then Tanquinho starts to go for one of his own. This must be particularly annoying for Tanquinho considering he fought leg lock specialist Eddie Cummings in round before and had to fight off leg lock after led lock. A very quick and intense scramble leads to the two fighters going out of bounds and being reset on their feet in the middle.
They begin to wrestle and look for their takedowns. Twice Cobrinha is in a spot to take Tanquinho down but they go out of bounds and for some reason Cobrinha is forced to give up his more advantageous position for a neutral one. The first one he shoots in for a single leg, gets ahold of a leg, and is going for a takedown when the reset happens. The second is even worse as Cobrinha manages to get to the back of Tanquinho, and with his hands around his waist is going to look to take him down when the ref again resets them in a neutral position. This time the crowd voices their disagreement with the referee’s decision. Eventually time runs out and Cobrinha wins by decision as he displayed superior wrestling throughout the fight.
Cobrinha is now set to fight Bruno Frazatto, who just defeated Gio Martinez, in the final match. Like Tanquinho, Bruno has also been away from the BJJ circuit for a while pursuing his MMA goals. Also, as before, these two have fought each other in the past. Cobrinha is ahead in the win column of that match up as well, so these two are no stranger to each other and know full well what the other is capable of.
They start out with a lot of grip fighting, and again Cobrinha is looking for that single leg that he loves so much. This goes on for some time, and it feels a lot like the finals in 2013 against Rafa Mendes, which was fought mostly on the feet as well. Cobrinha finally is able to snag a leg. He backs up to the center of the mat dragging Bruno with him, forcing him to hop on one foot, fearing the neutral reset that haunted him in the last match. He loses the leg but quickly snatches the other one up. Bruno is able to free his leg and turns to retreat, but Cobrinha is quick to react as he chases Bruno down and gets ahold of him from behind. He puts his knees to the back of Bruno’s and is able to take him down.
Cobrinha is nearly in side mount with Bruno inverted trying to prevent it. Eventually Bruno has to turtle up to prevent the pass, but again that’s one of Cobrinha’s favorite positions to take the back from and as Bruno tries to roll Cobrinha rolls with him and ends up on the back. Unable to get his hooks in Cobrinha decides to go for a body triangle. In a lot of competitions the body triangle from the back is not awarded points, but it is in ADCC, which puts Cobrinha ahead 3-0. Now he begins to look for his second submission of the tournament. He switches back and forth between threatening the arm of Bruno and then attacking the neck. Bruno, although breathing very heavily due to the body triangle around his mid-section, is able to defend for the remainder of the fight leading to a 3-0 win for Cobrinha, and a 2ndconsecutive ADCC title.
Congratulations Professor Cobrinha! Not only have you defended your title in the most prestigious grappling event on the planet, but you also have inspired and motivated your students showing that hard work does pay off and that if you have a goal you should chase it with everything you have. We look forward to your return to LA. Until then enjoy your time in Brazil with friends and family! OSS!!
Written by Zach Smith