NEW YORK -- Neiman Gracie walked into his Bellator 213 showdown with Ed Ruth in the Bellator MMA welterweight grand prix quarterfinals as a sizable underdog, according to oddsmakers and analysts. “I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve,” Gracie said prior to the Dec. 15 battle. He spent three-plus rounds proving that his pre-fight confidence was not foolhardy bravado and showed he was a legitimate threat to win the tournament.
Gracie, now 9-0, always believed he could counter Ruth, a three-time NCAA wrestling champion at Penn State University, with his own grappling skills. His words proved prophetic, as he reversed Ruth from the bottom and eventually put himself in position to secure a fight-ending rear-naked choke 2:17 into Round 4.
“Of course, I have many tricks in jiu-jitsu,” Gracie told Sherdog.com while at the Renzo Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Manhattan. “I think that my style of jiu-jitsu is different from other people’s styles. It’s more for a fight, which is different than grappling jiu-jitsu. It was a pretty good fight [with Ruth]. I was happy that [it] was a five-round fight, because I had more time to work.”
Gracie, 30, explained that the extra rounds allowed him to display other parts of his mixed martial arts game, specifically his striking and wrestling. Many favored Ruth because of his credentials as an amateur wrestler and the strides he had made with his standup through his first six fights. However, Gracie proved to be the more effective striker and a capable wrestler in his own right, executing several takedowns.
“I think I still have so much more to show,” he said. “Most people don’t know me yet, so they don’t know what I’m capable of.”
With the quarterfinals in the rearview, Gracie awaits a championship opportunity in the grand prix semifinals. He will face the winner of the forthcoming affair between current Bellator welterweight titleholder Rory MacDonald and the venerable Jon Fitch. Gracie understands why MacDonald remains the odds-on favorite to win the tournament, but he respects Fitch’s abilities too much to risk overlooking him.
“Everybody thinks Rory will win this fight -- he’s the favorite -- but Jon Fitch is a good fighter. He’s a grinder. We cannot sleep on that guy,” Gracie said. “I don’t really know what’s going to happen. If Jon Fitch is able to get those takedowns, he’s going to win this fight.”