Osamah Almarwai details lessons learned, what it felt like to face Mikey Musumeci

No-gi world champion Osamah Almarwai spoke about what it felt like to compete against Mikey Musumeci in ONE Championship.

In May 2023, IBJJF No-Gi World Champion Osamah Almarwai came up short in the biggest match of his career. At ONE Fight Night 10, the Yemeni grappler suffered a submission loss to reigning ONE flyweight submission grappling world champion Mikey Musumeci – a man widely regarded among the planet’s top pound-for-pound competitors.

Almarwai is currently preparing for his sophomore appearance in the organization, as he’s set to take on 2019 IBJJF Pans and Brasileiros champion Cleber Sousa on March 1 at ONE 166: Qatar.

For Almarwai, the match represents his chance to bounce back to the win column, erase the memories of his defeat to Musumeci, and put on an impressive performance in front of his Middle Eastern fans.

Now nine months removed from his loss to Musumeci, Almarwai says the experience was a learning lesson.

“Mikey is very technical,” he said in an interview with ONE Championship. “People always ask me, is he strong? I’m like, yeah, he’s strong, but he’s more technical than strong. I didn’t feel the strength is what gave him the win, it was the technique.”

Almarwai found himself on the defensive early and often, trying to ward off the champion’s relentless leg lock attacks through much of the bout’s opening minutes before having his back taken late.

“He was quick to answer my defenses,” he said. “Whenever I wanted to defend, I remember he was waiting for me with another leg lock or something.”

Looking back, Almarwai says that his match with Musumeci – from the hours of hard preparation to dealing with the media, to the match itself – turned him into a better grappler and competitor.

Now, as he prepares for another high-profile match under ONE’s bright lights, he’s leaning on the lessons learned from his clash with Musumeci:

“That camp changed me. Even though I lost, it made me a way better grappler than I was, just dealing with all the pressure because it was something new. I was doing interviews every day with people from in the Middle East and in the US. So it made me a better person. I learned a lot about training, about preparing for one opponent. I think this is going to help me with Cleber because now I know how to prepare for opponents and know what to watch. Because before that I was just doing – I had only had one super fight but other than that, it’s just tournaments. You go against a pool of people or whatever. But Mikey was only one guy. I had to focus on one guy.”

More than sharpening his mindset, Almarwai says that made specific technical improvements as a result of his match with Musumeci.

“It may not have showed in the match, but my leg lock defense improved a lot,” he explained. “I mean, it didn’t work against Mikey – obviously he wasn’t getting me with leg locks. But in other matches, when I go against people in the gym or other matches, I feel my leg lock game defense improved. So I have to look at the brighter picture.”

Notably, Almarwai has added to his game the specific sequence that Musumeci used to defeat him:

“The technique that Mikey caught me with, the pass, taking my back, and submitting me, and I went back and I studied that and I started applying it in the gym. When I catch you with this I’m like, ‘You know where I learned this from? Getting caught by Mikey.’ Because if you look at the negative things, you’re not going to improve. And I watched some of Mikey’s techniques, like how he finishes foot locks and so on, and I learn. Even though he’s my opponent, but you got to learn.”

How to watch: Osamah Almarwai vs. Cleber Sousa takes place at ONE 166: Qatar on March 1 and will air live on pay-per-view at watch.onefc.com beginning at 7:30 AM ET.

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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