Cleber Sousa says Osamah Almarwai’s BJJ is too ‘strategic’ for ONE Championship

Cleber Sousa spoke about his upcoming submission grappling match against Osamah Almarwai at ONE 166: Qatar.

Cleber Sousa is ready to sell out for the submission in his sophomore appearance in ONE Championship.

This Friday, March 1, the veteran black belt will take on 2022 IBJJF no-gi world champion Osamah Almarwai in a flyweight submission grappling contest at ONE 166: Qatar.

Sousa made his ONE debut in September 2022, losing a decision to Mikey Musumeci in their clash for the vacant ONE flyweight submission grappling world title. Since then, he has competed frequently on the IBJJF circuit, taking home third place at the gi and no-gi Worlds and picking up notable wins over no-gi Pans champion Willis Nunes, European champion Malachai Edmond, and world champion Meyram Maquine.

Sousa’s opponent, Almarwai, also came up short in his promotional debut against Musumeci, tapping to a rear-naked choke late in their May 2023 match.

Looking back on his loss to Musumeci, the Brazilian knows where he went wrong.

“It was my debut for ONE, and I was immediately fighting for the belt,” Sousa said in an interview with ONE Championship,” Sousa said in an interview with ONE Championship. “I learned from this fight that I need to look for submissions more.”

In that match, Sousa spent much of his time looking to employ outside passing – including cartwheel and somersault passes – to get past the American’s vaunted open guard. Ultimately, he was unable to achieve a dominant position, and Musumeci was awarded the decision on the strength of his submission attacks.

Sousa says he’s learned his lessons from that experience.

“I kept trying to pass his guard to gradually progress my game, but under ONE rules I don’t have time for that. I need to look for submissions soon, I need to attack at all times. Do not attack to gain position, but to submit.”

Indeed, ONE’s submission grappling ruleset emphasizes legitimate submission threats above all else.

With that in mind, Sousa promises to go submission hunting against Almarwai.

While he respects his opponent’s skill set and accomplishments, Sousa says that “Osa” plays a tactical, points-based style that won’t serve him well in ONE:

“I was at the 2022 Worlds, where I came in third place, and I watched Osamah’s fights. I saw that he is a very strategic athlete. It works very well based on the IBJJF rules, but these rules don’t fit very well with the ONE rules. In ONE there is no scoring, so I believe that if he comes with the same strategy, it won’t work in ONE. ONE’s jiu-jitsu is aggressive jiu-jitsu, and the jiu-jitsu he presents is strategic jiu-jitsu.”

What’s more, Sousa believes he spotted a weakness in Almarwai’s 2023 loss to Musumeci. 

“In his last performance against Mikey Musumeci, Mikey stood out. He set the pace, being very aggressive, and Osamah got tired,” said Sousa. “Then Mikey managed to get Osamah’s back and submit him.”

Working closely with accomplished competitors Carina Santi and Claudio Calasans, Sousa says he’s put in extra work in the training room recently, making sure he’s in top physical condition and ready to push the pace for 10 full minutes.

He hopes that Almarwai comes just as prepared.

“I hope he’s in good physical condition, because I’m going to arrive with a lot of energy and full of desire to win this fight.”

Ultimately, Sousa is confident he can take out the Yemeni grappler in front of what will be a raucous Middle Eastern crowd in Qatar.

And he’s not just confident in the victory, he’s sure he’ll score the submission.

“I’m sure this fight will be a great show,” Sousa added. “Fans will be very excited watching this fight. And, of course, the end result will be my victory by submission.”

How to watch: Osamah Almarwai vs. Cleber Sousa takes place on Friday, March 1, at ONE 166: Qatar, which airs live on Prime Video (free with Amazon Plus subscription) beginning at 7:30 AM EST.

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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