Rodolfo Vieira is one of the best grapplers in jiu-jitsu history, having won five world titles and one ADCC gold medal before leaving the sport to become a full-time MMA fighter. But being in the UFC for nearly four years now has taught him important lessons — the biggest one being not to ignore unlikely challenges.
Vieira returns Saturday to face Cody Brundage at UFC Vegas 72, a matchup originally planned for November 2022 that was cancelled after Vieira injured his ribs in one of his final grappling sessions — another lesson learned, as Vieira has since classified that session as extremely unnecessary.
Another lesson stems from his 2021 loss to Anthony Hernandez at UFC 258, when Vieira gassed out and tapped out to a guillotine choke in the second round. Brundage is 8-3 in MMA with a trio of submission finishes, and Vieira is not overlooking his grappling.
“We also prepared for that,” Vieira said on this week’s Trocação Franca podcast. “We trained a lot of takedown defense as well, countering takedowns, guard, scenarios where I’m off my back or defending my back. We’re taking this fight very seriously. At first I used to get tired quickly, because that’s not something I do very often, training specifically to defend takedowns, because most people won’t want to [take me down], but I can’t think like most people, that, ‘No way he’ll try to take me down.’ We’ve included that in our training so we have no surprises.”
Vieira said his striking coach Mano Santana broke down Brundage’s standup game and deciphered everything Brundage can threaten Vieira with on Saturday, but Vieira defines his opponent as a “very unpredictable” athlete.
“I don’t think he’s great at anything, but he’s tough,” Vieira said. “I respect him like I respect everyone I fought. I’m taking this fight very seriously and I’m ready to come home with a submission, God willing. There’s a fight he got taken down and we’ve seen many holes. He gives his back a lot.
“I don’t think he will grapple with me like he did in his last fight, but if he does that, that’s great for me, right? That’s what I want. But I’m not expecting that. I think he’s coming prepared to get back up at any cost, and you give your back when you get back up.”
Vieira said he’s “anxious” to score his first win in nearly two years, when he finished Dustin Stoltzfus in the third round with a rear-naked choke, and hopes to tap Brundage in under 10 minutes.
“It feels like yesterday when I think about [my last win], but it was a great time to learn,” Vieira said. “Everything I’ve been through has made me better. I’m more confident and mature now, ready to fight. I can’t predict the result, I just want to go there and do my best and come out with the win.”