Neither Diaz brother believes much in downtime. While challenging his suspension for a positive drug test, Nick Diaz signed up for a no-gi grappling superfight against Braulio Estima to be held on May 12, 2012. To couch this in terms of a metaphor, it is as if an Olympic decathlon contender decided to challenge Usain Bolt to a 400 meter run on live TV.
This grappling match is unusual because it is now rare that someone on the level of Diaz, a title contender in the comparatively more lucrative world of MMA, would participate in a grappling match against Estima, one of the twenty best Brazilian jiu jitsu grapplers on the planet right now. There is little in the way of mega-publicity headed Diaz's way for this match as it takes place outside the UFC - unlike the appearance of Brock Lesnar in the pro wrestling circuit. There is no financial reward - as Diaz is donating his expected purse to charity. All that is left is the purposeful choosing of an immense personal and technical challenge for Diaz that is worth respecting and bringing attention to. Can Nick shock the world and bring more glory to 209?
For Estima, this is a chance to show MMA fans what he can do and to make further connections within the MMA world. If he loses, his reputation takes a bit of a dent and his prospect wattage dims considerably. His training partner Roger Gracie has already taken that dent after a loss to Muhammad Lawal and is now going to make a new weight class his home. Will the same fate befall Braulio?
Hit the jump for a look at the styles of Diaz and Estima, as well as an overview of the other matches at the World Jiu Jitsu Expo in Long Beach, California on May 12, 2012.
Related Coverage: Nick Diaz to donate entire purse to St. Jude's Children's Hospital | Stephie Daniels interviews Braulio about impending MMA debut | Ben Thapa previews the ADCC 2011 Superfight between Jacare and Braulio | Ben Thapa on ADCC 2011 Results (the significance of Braulio's victory against Jacare)
Braulio spoke with our own Stephie Daniels for a short time while in Abu Dhabi on a dying phone regarding the Diaz super-fight and about Andre Galvao, a future opponent in yet another super-fight:
It is good for him to fight someone in BJJ because he cannot fight in MMA at the moment. He can take his fitness levels from MMA and transfer them here. This is going to be huge. It will be difficult to beat him and I'm actually very excited. I've also got a sponsor who is excited about this and is allowing me to fight him, which is great too.
Regarding an MMA rules fight with Andre Galvao subsequent to their upcoming ADCC super-fight in 2013:
I don't think so, because we are friends, and when you add punches to the face, that puts a strain on any friendship.
NICK DIAZ vs. BRAULIO ESTIMA (NO-GI)
Diaz battled Carlos Condit for the UFC interim welterweight title, but came up short on the judges' card and was subsequently suspended from fighting due to a positive drug test for marijuana metabolites. His talent and achievements within MMA are unquestioned and Nick built his very solid grappling game under the tutelage of Cesar Gracie, a notoriously difficult instructor in terms of handing out belts. The nine, often spectacular submission victories Diaz holds in his MMA career show his dangerous finishing abilities in the context of no-gi grappling. He gives almost everyone he meets fits on the ground, but Braulio Estima is not a regular run of the mill grappler.
Braulio Estima was at the absolute pinnacle of the sport of Brazilian jiu jitsu in 2009. He won every major tournament he entered and his ADCC 2009 run was magnificent. His double gold in the 88 kg and the Absolute divisions were both won by a rare submission called the inverted triangle. Unfortunately, the brilliance of the 2009 campaign dimmed in 2010, as Braulio dealt with nagging injuries in between then and the 2011 ADCC. Like the sprinter Bolt, his dominance was hampered by these injuries, but Braulio's victory over Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in the ADCC Superfight showed he was back and that he was grappling at a very high level. The 4-0 points victory does not reflect the extreme frustration Jacare experienced trying to pass Braulio's guard and the lightning-quick back take Braulio had off an unusual transition. Braulio wins again and again in and out of the gi.
Both fighters stand to gain little in their respective niches from this battle. If Nick wins, he gains little in the MMA world, but jumps considerably in the BJJ world. If Braulio wins, he's lived up to expectations, yet his MMA career isn't helped much. However, both should gain respect from the fans for agreeing to match each other as the headliner to what will be an entertaining superfight card.
Braulio's guard is immensely difficult to solve. He submitted Marcelo Garcia after a tiny grip-based mistake, submitted Andre Galvao in 2009 with an inverted triangle and caused Xande Ribeiro (a much bigger grappler) to quit due to injury after applying another inverted triangle. His back take on Jacare in the ADCC 2011 Superfight was very impressive and he should be able to do much more to Nick.
The two grapplers should be of roughly similar size, but Braulio will probably be the stronger of the two on the ground and much more able to take advantage of transitions after Diaz tries something. Both Diaz brothers have a tendency to expose their backs or chill out in turtle until they spin out and grab a limb. However, Braulio is too good to fall for that and will probably run up the score a good deal on a very game Nick after taking him down. Due to this being no-gi, a submission is difficult to predict, but Braulio probably can secure Nick's back after a while and get the RNC.
RAFAEL LOVATO JR. vs. LUCAS LEITE (GI)
Lucas Leite is a threat to win any gi tournament he enters. He recently reached the finals of the 2012 Abu Dhabi World Pro against Claudio Calasans and lost a points victory. Lovato Jr. is also a threat to win these tournaments, but hasn't quite cracked through to the gold medal since his victory over Rodolfo Vieira in the no-gi 2011 World Pro. Rafael took third in the same Abu Dhabi tournament, losing by an advantage to one of the finalists in a controversial match. Both men are probably going to engage in an extremely intense, pressure-based battle to get grips and sweeps. I suspect that this one will be decided by an advantage or two.
VICTOR ESTIMA vs. KRON GRACIE (GI)
This match actually happened at the 2012 Pan Am and Victor was disqualified for an illegal knee reap. The rules are the same and Kron is again the favorite to win. Victor loves pulling guard and then working for guillotines or sweeps. Kron does not care where he ends up and hunts submissions from all over, often to his detriment in a point-based decision.
NINO SCHEMBRI vs. BILL COOPER (GI)
Nino is perhaps the best innovator in the sport that the Americans overlook. He was playing around with omoplatas, twisters and all kinds of other unusual tactics in the '90s. His competition record is absolutely stellar and some of his matches could feature in a hypothetical Top 100 BJJ Matches of All Time list. Unfortunately, he is facing Bill "The Grill" Cooper who will push the pace higher and higher until neither grappler can go any further.
Cooper's match against Finfou a couple years ago remains my favorite spirit-breaking-through-pace-pushing moment ever. Bill actually has fought on the Strikeforce undercard a couple times and is 2-1 in his pro MMA career. Look for Bill to move through all the angles possible to attack and for Nino to follow, hunting a submission on the dangerous Cooper. Nino could get a finish, but it is unlikely. Look at their previous match in 2010 for a clue of what this insanity will look like:
KYRA GRACIE vs. ALEXIS DAVIS (NO-GI)
Kyra has an injured foot, but is still game for this. She lost the finals of the 2012 Abu Dhabi World Pro to Michelle Nicolini by footlock as she stuck it out at a bad time and couldn't tough it out enough to escape. If Davis is smart, she goes after that foot and wins. If not, Kyra will probably control her and slowly whittle her down until Davis wises up and attacks the foot.
CAIO TERRA vs. JEFF GLOVER (NO-GI)
Caio usually wins every competition he enters as a roosterweight - or loses in the finals to Bruno Malfacine. Glover is 20ish pounds heavier and a very strong submission grappler. If this were gi, I'd pick Terra in a heartbeat, but Glover finished Robson Moura, a legendary grappler in his own right, at the last ADCCs. Glover probably wins a controlled fight here.