Marcus ‘Buchecha’ Almeida, the BJJ Ace Destined to Become One Heavyweight Champion

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The latest addition to One Championship’s heavyweight roster has a golden future ahead.

In a matter of days, Marcus Almeida will finally inaugurate his mixed martial arts career when he meets Glory Kickboxing veteran Anderson “Braddock” Silva at One Championship “Revolution.” The 31-year-old Brazilian is better known as “Buchecha,” a nickname that commands massive respect on grappling mats all over the world. With six IBJJF World Championship (also known as “Mundials”) open-weight titles, seven IBJJF World Championship super heavyweight titles and two gold medals at Abu Dhabi Combat Club among a plethora of other accolades, the résumé of one of the greatest heavyweight grapplers ever speaks for itself.

Almeida’s sister was 15 when she took up Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes, drawing the ire of their father, Cleiton Almeida, who wasn’t thrilled that his only daughter was doing a contact sport — not to mention being the only girl in the gym. Dad went and saw for himself what the sport was about. It was instant love. After seeing a few sweeps and submissions, he was hooked. Cleiton decided to enroll in the new activity himself, dragging along his 14-year-old son, Marcos Vinicius Oliveira de Almeida. It is worth noting that the elder Almeida not only went on to earn his black belt, but won a few IBJJF championships of his own along the way.

Marcus immediately felt at ease on the mat, and spent most of his days there studying under former world champion Rodrigo Cavaca, who gave Almeida his black belt — and his nickname, which means “big cheeks” in Portuguese. After leaving Brazil for Long Beach, California, he settled down at the renowned Checkmat gym under the aegis of Leo Vieira and his two brothers, Ricardo and Leandro. From 2011 to 2019, Almeida won everything, mainly by forcing his challengers to tap. His favorite way of finish is the armbar, a weapon that he used with ease to subdue four consecutive opponents at the Mundials in 2015.

One of the most enlightening examples of Buchecha’s aggressive style is his battle with current Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight contender Rodolfo Vieira (no relation to the Vieiras from Checkmat). The year before, the still inexperienced 21-year-old Almeida capitulated to an armbar — armlock, for the BJJ purists — and was looking to avenge that stinging defeat. As the match began, Almeida gained top position, defending many sweeps and a leglock attempt. Fusion X-Cel standout Vieira moved to an omoplata attempt to overthrow his op-ponent and almost mounted him. That’s when Almeida showed his tenacity and finesse, sweeping Vieira with a magic trick and looking for a kneebar that brought him back on top. After both contenders got back on their feet, Almeida misstepped by calling guard, which allowed Vieira to take lead on the scorecards. Almeida found the strength to get on top of his opponent and the contest took off from that point onward. “Buchecha” got back on the feet and rushed forward for a successful double-leg takedown that made Vieira fly off the edge of the mat. After the action resumed, Almeida struggled to stay on top as his opponent furiously looked for a sweep before switching to an armbar. The ghosts of the past were hunting “Buchecha” for those long few seconds. However, he stoically resisted and won after blocking his rival’s final submission attempt. Almeida would meet Vieira four more times over his career, overcoming his opponent each time and setting a total score of 5-1.

Once he joins fellow Checkmat representative Michelle Nicolini in One, Almeida, who trains MMA at American Top Team, will likely follow the same path as many other BJJ crossover. Fans can exppect the Brazilian to take a similar route to current two-division champion Reinier de Ridder, who spends little time on the feet before shooting for takedowns, submitting or overwhelming the opponents to a decision. “Buchecha” won’t have any issues with pure strikers like Silva or Alain Ngalani, but he will meet people who will test his skills. Besides current One heavyweight title-holder Arjan Singh Bhullar and Senegalese wrestling machine Oumar Kane, he might encounter some stumbling blocks with fighters like Mauro Cerilli, who can defend double-leg takedowns well, even from someone with a wrestling pedigree like Bhullar’s. Almeida’s striking game is a big question mark, as there are no videos of him hitting the pads, nor has he ever tested himself in standup combat sports. Should his striking be on point, his path leads straight to winning the divi-sional championship.

One Championship is also home to another world-class grappler looking to make his name in MMA: Gordon Ryan, who has some history with Almeida as well. The pair met in the ADCC 2019 final, where “The King” won a decision after Almeida lost a point for inactivity. The promotion will likely seize the opportunity to book an MMA rematch between Almeida and Ryan with both hands, but it might be some time before fans will see that, as One will likely take some time to allow the Brazilian to acquire as much cage time as possible before throwing him to the wolves.

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