BJJ specialist Alex Silva plans to use “old school jiu-jitsu” in ONE 158 rematch

Alex “Little Rock” Silva is undeniably one of the best grapplers and submission artists in all of MMA. The former ONE Championship flyweight champ has earned nine submission wins across 11 career victories, with nearly all of those wins coming in the deep waters of ONE Championship.

On Friday at ONE 158, Silva will face Adrian Mattheis in a rematch of their March 2022 bout that saw Mattheis defeat Silva by controversial second-round stoppage. Silva will be looking to not only avenge that upset loss, but also showcase his world-class jiu-jitsu skills, just as he has over the past 11 years of his career.

“My very first memory of jiu-jitsu is when I watched the first UFC,” Silva told Grappling Insider.

Like countless other grapplers worldwide, Silva was introduced to the dominance of jiu-jitsu by way of Royce Gracie at UFC 1. A martial arts fanatic from an early age, Silva was excited to see a Brazilian competing, but with no understanding of jiu-jitsu at the time, he didn’t expect Gracie to find much success.

“When I saw [Royce Gracie], I thought he’s too small to fight with those guys. That was my first impression of jiu-jitsu,” Silva said.

Of course, Gracie dominated the competition, firmly establishing Brazilian jiu-jitsu as the strongest martial art in the budding sport of MMA. For Silva, it was the first day of long career in both jiu-jitsu and MMA.

“After we watched, we went straight to the garage to fight, to grapple with each other, me and my friend.  Tried to just go and do what they did.”

Silva, who described himself as a “troubled kid,” immediately took to jiu-jitsu. After just a couple months of training, he entered and won his first tournament. He continued to compete as much as he could in jiu-jitsu throughout his childhood and early adulthood, finding plenty of success along the way.

Around 2010, Silva moved to Singapore to focus his full efforts on MMA. In his seventh fight for ONE Championship, Silva captured the flyweight title. He would lose that title by split decision in his next bout, but Silva had shown to be a world-class fighter and grappler.

Part of what makes Silva so interesting is his confidence in jiu-jitsu. Whereas many other grappling specialists might eschew their jiu-jitsu base in favor of wild exchanges on the feet, it’s no secret that Silva’s gameplan will always involve bringing the fight to the mat where he hunts the submission, whether from top position or from his back.

“I think I feel very comfortable to be on the bottom… I believe I have old jiu-jitsu, old school jiu-jitsu,” he said. “I see jiu-jitsu has different ways to play, like sport, tournament, self-defense, MMA… I still believe in the old school for MMA.”

For inspiration, Silva looks to friend and current training partner Shinya Aoki — the grappling specialist with a whopping 30 submission wins in professional MMA.

“My idol in the sport in Shinya Aoki… For me, he’s the best jiu-jitsu in MMA ever, based on numbers. He’s submitted so many people…

“[Aoki is] kinda like a magician. He’s unpredictable. I believe people can see me and I’m quite predictable. You know what I’m gonna do. Maybe I’ll get top position. If I’m on top you’re probably gonna see me passing guard, getting mount, or improve position and work submissions on the bottom. But him, you can’t predict. When you’re playing, he’ll get you in some crazy thing. He’s a genius, man.”

Silva’s rematch against Mattheis at ONE 158 is an opportunity to avenge a loss that Silva immediately disputed. In their first fight, Silva dominated Mattheis on the mat for essentially the entire first round. In the opening moments of the second round, Mattheis dropped Silva with a wild punch. Silva seemed coherent and ready to fight from the mat, but the referee called a stop to the bout; Silva wasted no time in contesting the stoppage.

“I really still cannot believe that the referee did that to me,” he said. “But like everybody say, it is what it is. I cannot change the past… He got me with a good overhand which dropped me, but I was 100 percent in the fight. I didn’t feel I was out for even one second. As soon as I hit the ground I’m already start to go for my position.”

As frustrated as he is with the premature stoppage, Silva points to a lack of aggression in the first round as a critical error on his part.

“I believe my mistake, I should be more aggressive. I believe a lot in jiu-jitsu, sometimes it’s not like you hunt much for the submission. Sometimes you have to take whatever your opponent gives you. Sometimes you have to chase for that and sometimes you have to wait and attack. I was maybe waiting a little bit for some mistake, and I should push more and work more to finish…”

“Mattheis a nice kid, you know. He keeps saying I’m his idol, blah blah blah. He’s a nice kid, but I believe that was the best night of his life… It’s like he won the world title or something like that… I’m sad for what happened, the way it happened, but in the end of the day I’m happy for him to have one night like that. For sure he’s gonna always remember that night. But this Friday, now, I’ll make sure things go my way now.”

Other than maybe a bit more aggression on the mat, Silva isn’t planning on changing much in his rematch with Mattheis. Silva is a jiu-jitsu fighter, plain and simple. He is a grappling fan’s fighter. Which is exactly why he’ll approach his fight at ONE 158 just like he has all others: by imposing his world-class grappling and submission ability.

“I predict what I always do. Pressure him, take this fight to the ground and finish him. Smash him any way.”

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

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