Those in the grappling world have a lot of respect for Vinny Magalhaes.
The Brazilian-American transplant has a list of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) credentials and accolades that date back at least 12 years when he won gold at the Rio de Janeiro State Jiu-Jitsu Championships.
Needless to say, when he starts talking grappling, you'd better listen.
Knowing how solid Magalhaes is on the ground, UFC middleweight title challenger Chael Sonnen enlisted the elite BJJ black belt to help him prepare for everything his upcoming UFC 148 opponent Anderson Silva had to offer on the canvas. Sonnen certainly doesn't want history to repeat itself on Saturday night (July 7, 2012) in Las Vegas.
Magalhaes obliged and for a little over two weeks, he drilled Sonnen not only with offensive and defensive moves, but also with little tricks on avoiding perilous situations in the first place so he wouldn't even need to use escapes from Silva's crafty submission game.
In part one of our interview posted yesterday and taken from Bloody Elbow Radio, Magalhaes discussed working with Chael and how "The American Gangster" has improved on the ground. Today, he talks Sonnen's tremendous size, where he would rank Chael in terms of BJJ belts and whether or not Sonnen could actually submit "The Spider" to get some delicious revenge tomorrow night.
Check it out:
Matt Bishop: Were you surprised by anything Chael was good at when you first started working with him?
Vinny Magalhaes: Well like I said, I was actually surprised at him being such a good grappler. He does make mistakes but he does have good grappling. He's good on the ground. I just have to fix those mistakes and he has become an excellent grappler. Chael has a very good top game and he isn't bad on the bottom too. He can do really well off his back but his top game is actually a lot better than jiu-jitsu fighters I've trained with, especially in MMA.
Matt Bishop: We've seen other high level wrestlers like Ben Askren that are able to train and transition to jiu-jitsu very well. If you were to gauge Chael's skill level today, what belt color would you compare him to?
Vinny Magalhaes: Talking in MMA, not jiu-jitsu because in pure grappling, Chael still needs a lot of work. He could beat some guys in a grappling match with takedowns and points, maybe a submission if he gets a chance. It's hard to calculate. Here's the thing. The guy's been grappling in MMA since 1999. That's almost the same amount of time that I trained for. So timewise, experience wise, he'd have a high ranking belt. Worst case scenario, he'd be like a purple belt. He's not an expert in jiu-jitsu. He couldn't open a gym and teach jiu-jitsu but I think purple belt is as high as you can go with him, which is actually pretty good because that's legit. That's a higher level belt.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You saw Chael yesterday, I believe. You posted the picture after your review session and Chael came on ESPN and said he had to drop 20 pounds in 24 hours. He was 205 pounds. Do you think that's true? You were there next to him yesterday so you would know.
Vinny Magalhaes: He didn't look much smaller than the last time I saw him. When I trained with him last time, he was close to 230. Even though I was heavier than him, I was like, "Dude weight 230 when you're in great shape." When I'm in great shape, I'm like 235 or 230 and I'm a light heavyweight. He was the same as me and he's 185. I would definitely say the other day that was around 200 or 205. he was still really big. Chael's really good. People say Anderson's huge because he's taller than him but Chael is huge. I've never seen a 185-er weigh that much in shape. 230 is just insane.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): My last question for you is actually about Anderson Silva. People talk about how he has "world class jiu-jitsu" because he's a black belt under the Nogueira brothers. How would you compare Anderson Silva's submission skills?
Vinny Magalhaes: He's a legit black belt, just like I said about Chael, after spending so much mat time, so much training, he's a legit black belt. But to call someone world class black belt is just overrating. If he was a world class black belt he would not have spent 23 minutes on his back in the first fight against Chael with him doing nothing. Of course he got the submission, you cannot take the credit away from him but it could have been sooner. If he was really a world class Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, it would have been like Demian Maia, he would have got it in two minutes. That was the difference.
Of course he's had submissions before. He submitted Dan Henderson, but in that first round, Dan Henderson put him on his back and he couldn't really move. There's a big difference between a legit black belt and a true world class black belt. World class black belts are like Roger Gracie, Jacare and Demian Maia. Those guys are world class not just because of their sport of jiu-jitsu background but also for their MMA fights. They are capable of ending a fight and dominating from any position and that's not something Anderson can do.
When he fought Travis Lutter, he also got the submission but he was getting dominated up until that point. Yes, he's submitting guys, but he's not showing much beyond that submission skill. He's not showing overall grappling skill. To call someone world class, they have to be good at everything. That means positioning, grappling and submissions. He's not at that status.
Matt Bishop: We talked to Pat Healy on Tuesday's show and he says that Chael is the most focused individual that he's ever seen in his life right now. He says that he thinks Chael could potentially submit Anderson on Saturday. You being the jiu-jitsu expert, what do you think of that statement?
Vinny Magalhaes: Well I said that over a month ago too. Here's the thing. People don't realize that just because someone got caught in a submission, that he can't submit other people. Just because Anderson Silva is a black belt, that doesn't make him unsubmittable. In the first fight, Chael dominated Anderson on the ground. It's not like he was taking him down and Anderson would get right back up. He was just chilling after he was taken down.
If you looked, in like the fourth or fifth round, Chael had a head and arm choke and he could have gone for a submission but for some reason, he totally gave up the move. It's like, is he gonna submit Anderson? I don't know but one thing I can say is that Anderson is not going to submit Chael this time. I don't think Anderson can win by submission. Anderson chances to win are by knockout. He's not going to get a decision over Chael. Chael has a chance to win by decision if he takes him down over and over and over again. I don't see Anderson able to do anything other than knock Chael out. That's his chance.
If Chael really tries to get a submission, he can submit Anderson. I agree with Pat.
Matt Bishop: Real quickly, we've got to get your official prediction for Saturday. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen. Is there gonna be a new middleweight champion?
Vinny Magalhaes: Well there is. I'm telling ya, Chael wins this fight. I wish I could say Chael is gonna submit him. He can submit him. I'm not gonna say he will but the worst thing is he's gonna win a decision. Yeah, Chael is gonna be the new middleweight champion.
You can follow Vinny Magalhaes on Twitter @VinnyMMA.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Do you believe Magalhaes when he says Anderson cannot submit Chael? Or is the Brazilian-American a bit biased in his assessment of Sonnen's skills?