With the 2016 Summer Olympics scheduled for Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sherdog.com staff and contributors sat down to put together hypothetical MMA Olympic teams for the following countries: United States, Canada, Japan, Great Britain, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Poland, Australia and Sweden. This 10-part series will map out the yellow brick road to Rio de Janeiro for the men and women who call the cage home, Zika virus be damned.
The International Olympic Committee on Oct. 2, 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark, made the historic announcement: Rio de Janeiro would become the first city in South America to host the Summer Olympics. Nearly seven years later, more than 11,000 athletes from 206 countries have descended upon the “Cidade Maravilhosa,” its arms, like Christ the Redeemer, spread wide open.
Brazil has captured 108 medals since its Olympic debut in 1920, tying a team record (15) at the 2008 Summer Games in China before breaking it with 17 four years later in London. Sailors Robert Scheidt and Torben Grael remain the most decorated Olympians in the nation’s history, each having reached the podium five times. Scheidt was awarded gold in the laser class competitions at the 1996 and 2004 Olympics, while Grael won gold in the star class competitions at those same Games. Brazilian athletes have also shined in combat sports: Aurelio Miguel (1988), Rogerio Sampaio (1992) and (2012) all struck gold in judo. Meanwhile, Esquiva Falcao took silver in boxing in 2012, and Natalia Falavigna claimed bronze in taekwondo in 2008.
Envisioning the formation of a hypothetical Brazilian MMA squad for the Olympics gets the blood of any hardcore fan pumping. The possibilities are endless. Brazil would be favored to medal in a number of weight classes, most notably heavyweight, lightweight, featherweight, women’s bantamweight and women’s strawweight. Four current or former Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholders tip the team’s spear: Fabricio Werdum, Rafael dos Anjos and Amanda Nunes, giving the country that gave us the Gracies a veritable Murderer’s Row for the rest of the world to navigate.
Nova Uniao’s Andre Pederneiras, Kings MMA’s Rafael Cordeiro and American Top Team’s Ricardo Liborio will oversee a powerhouse coaching staff that includes Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Renzo Gracie, Murilo Bustamante and Ricardo Almeida.
2016 Brazil National MMA Team• Heavyweight: Fabricio Werdum
• Light Heavyweight: Glover Teixeira
• Middleweight: Ronaldo Souza
• Welterweight: Demian Maia
• Lightweight: Rafael dos Anjos
• Featherweight: Jose Aldo
• Bantamweight: Marlon Moraes
• Flyweight: Jussier da Silva
• Women’s Bantamweight: Amanda Nunes
• Women’s Strawweight: Claudia Gadelha
HEAVYWEIGHT: “Vai Cavalo” has a wealth of international experience upon which to draw, in mixed martial arts and beyond. A two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist and multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, Werdum has blossomed into one of the best heavyweights in MMA history. The 39-year-old owns submission victories over three all-time greats -- Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cain Velasquez, the latter bringing with it the UFC heavyweight crown in June 2015. Werdum saw his six-fight winning streak halted in stunning fashion at UFC 198, where he was cut down by a Stipe Miocic right hand before more than 45,000 of his fellow Brazilians. Nevertheless, he remains a preeminent force in the division and would be one of the favorites for gold in Rio de Janeiro. Alternates: Junior dos Santos, Augusto Sakai
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT: With the decline of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and relative inactivity of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Teixeira has risen to the top of the 205-pound pecking order in Brazil. The 36-year-old has rattled off three straight victories against Rashad Evans, Patrick Cummins and Ovince St. Preux -- he finished all three -- since a two-fight hiccup in 2014. A former Shooto Americas champion, Teixeira holds other noteworthy wins over Quinton Jackson, Ryan Bader, James Te Huna and Fabio Maldonado during a distinguished career that spans more than 14 years. He was undefeated in 20 consecutive bouts from May 5, 2006 to Sept. 4, 2013. Alternates: Mauricio Rua, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
MIDDLEWEIGHT: The Souza resume speaks for itself. One of MMA’s most accomplished and feared submission grapplers, “Jacare” has paired world-class ground skills with an increasingly potent standup game to transform himself into a complete fighter. The former Strikeforce middleweight champion has compiled a 13-2 record across his past 15 appearances, losing only to Yoel Romero -- he was later suspended -- and the American Kickboxing Academy’s Luke Rockhold. Souza, 36, has delivered 19 of his 23 professional victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. His list of victims includes Vitor Belfort, Gegard Mousasi, Yushin Okami, Derek Brunson, Robbie Lawler and Matt Lindland. Alternates: Anderson Silva, Thales Leites
WELTERWEIGHT: Maia has flown under the radar from a historical perspective, despite high-level success in two Ultimate Fighting Championship weight classes. His 17 UFC victories tie him with Donald Cerrone for fourth on the all-time list, trailing only Georges St. Pierre (19), Michael Bisping (19) and Matt Hughes (18). The 38-year-old Sao Paulo native currently finds himself on a five-fight tear -- a run of sustained success that includes decisive wins over Matt Brown, Gunnar Nelson and Neil Magny. Maia has proven durable throughout his 29-fight career, as he been finished just once, a Nate Marquardt right hand doing the honors in 2009. The 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist and two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion has remained true to his roots in the cage, having executed 11 submissions as a professional mixed martial artist: six by rear-naked choke, two by triangle choke and one each by neck crank, guillotine choke and armbar. Alternates: Douglas Lima, Alex Oliveira
LIGHTWEIGHT: Between June 7, 2014 and Dec. 19, 2015, dos Anjos pieced together one of the great runs in the history of the UFC lightweight division. What started with a technical knockout of Jason High continued with one-sided victories over Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz and culminated with his five-round rout of Anthony Pettis at UFC 185. The unanimous decision over “Showtime” brought with it the UFC lightweight crown and painted dos Anjos in new light. The Kings MMA rep successfully defended his 155-pound title in a rematch with Donald Cerrone -- he disposed of “Cowboy” in a cool 66 seconds -- before surrendering it in an upset loss to former Bellator MMA champion Eddie Alvarez on July 7. At 31, dos Anjos remains a force in the cutthroat lightweight division. Alternates: Edson Barboza, Patricio Freire
FEATHERWEIGHT: Were it not for his stunning 13-second knockout loss to Conor McGregor at UFC 194, Aldo would likely be planted atop every reputable pound-for-pound list. As it stands, he has already established himself as the greatest featherweight of all-time. Aldo had fashioned an 18-fight winning streak prior to his ill-fated encounter with McGregor, including victories over Cub Swanson, Urijah Faber, Mike Thomas Brown, Kenny Florian, Chan Sung Jung, Ricardo Lamas, Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes (twice). Few others in MMA history have dominated a weight class so thoroughly. The Nova Uniao cornerstone rebounded from his defeat to McGregor by outclassing Edgar over five rounds for the interim featherweight title at UFC 200 and now awaits the outcome of the Irishman’s forthcoming rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202. Alternates: Charles Oliveira, Renan Barao
BANTAMWEIGHT: Moraes might be the top fighter competing outside the auspices of the UFC at any weight. A big fish in a small pond, the World Series of Fighting bantamweight champion has carved up largely inferior competition over the past four years. Moraes started his career at a mediocre 5-4-1 but has won 12 straight bouts since to establish himself as one of MMA’s best at 135 pounds. Operating out of the Ricardo Almeida Jiu-Jitsu camp in New Jersey, the 28-year-old Brazilian last appeared at WSOF 32 on July 30, when he wiped out Josh Hill with a second-round head kick and follow-up punches. It marked the final fight on his World Series of Fighting contract, making Moraes a free agent. Alternates: John Lineker, Thomas Almeida
FLYWEIGHT: A former Shooto Americas champion with a knack for advancing to an opponent’s back, Da Silva’s high-profile failures have overshadowed his UFC successes, as he has fallen short in three flyweight title eliminators against John Dodson, Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo. Still, a stellar 18-4 career record cannot be ignored, nor can his wins over Shinichi Kojima, Mamoru Yamaguchi, Zack Makovsky and Wilson Reis. The 31-year-old judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt relies almost solely on his grappling chops to get the job done, as he boasts eight submissions among his 18 victories, six via rear-naked choke; his other 10 wins have resulted in decisions. Da Silva has never suffered back-to-back defeats as a professional. Alternates: Wilson Reis, Matheus Nicolau Pereira
WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHT: Nunes is a buzzsaw at 135 pounds. The judo brown belt and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt chewed up Miesha Tate with punches before submitting her with a first-round rear-naked choke in the UFC 200 main event, capturing the women’s bantamweight championship in an utterly dominant performance. Nunes, 28, has pieced together a four-fight winning streak since her technical knockout loss to Cat Zingano at UFC 178. It remains her only defeat in seven appearances inside the Octagon. Nunes has since dropped anchor at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, where she only figures to improve under the watchful eyes of some of the sport’s top trainers. Alternates: Bethe Correia, Taila Santos
WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT: Playing second fiddle to UFC champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk may not be an ideal situation, but it still leaves Gadelha in rarified air at 115 pounds. The Nova Uniao ace has compiled a 13-2 record -- her only two losses have come by decision to the undefeated Jedrzejczyk -- and owns victories over Valerie Letourneau, former World Series of Fighting champion Jessica Aguilar and reigning Invicta Fighting Championships atomweight titleholder Ayaka Hamasaki. Gadelha, 27, has seven first-round finishes to her credit. She was a three-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion at the brown belt level and has since been awarded her black belt by Andre Pederneiras. Alternates: Jessica Andrade, Livia Renata Souza
More Hypothetical MMA National Olympic Teams »
• United States
• Great Britain