In the main event of The Road to ADCC on July 17, Matheus Diniz will take on Kaynan Duarte in a 20-minute ADCC rules match. Simply put, this match-up between 2019 ADCC champions represents the pinnacle of submission grappling. Although Diniz currently finds himself on a losing skid and Duarte is riding a long unbeaten streak, don’t be fooled, this should be a competitive match of the highest order.
With that in mind, let’s dive into the particulars.
Notable accomplishments: 2021 Third Coast Grappling absolute grand prix champion, 2019 ADCC heavyweight champion, 2019 IBJJF Pans champion, 2019 Abu Dhabi Pro champion, 2019 Kasai Pro 5 grand prix champion
Recent notable wins: Victor Hugo (decision), Mason Fowler (points), Rodolfo Vieira (submission), Tex Johnson (points, submission) Nick Rodriguez (points, submission), Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida (decision), Yuri Simoes (points)
Perhaps the top active competitor out of Atos, Duarte has lost just twice since winning gold in the heavyweight division at the ADCC championship (an upset heel hook loss to Lachlan Giles in the absolute division, and a heel hook loss to Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu in 2020). Albeit against somewhat limited competition, Duarte has looked nothing short of dominant in competition this year. At the Third Coast Grappling absolute grand prix, he dispatched top competitors Tex Johnson, Mason Fowler, and Victor Hugo with what is becoming Duarte’s trademark calm demeanor.
Duarte is an impressive athlete, but he is a technician through and through. He is a master at dictating a relatively slow-paced match while mixing in burst of explosion to sweep or gain dominant position. One of the most technically proficient and well-rounded grapplers on the planet, he is comfortable in both top and bottom position, and has shown a willingness to sit to guard in the first half of ADCC matches. Duarte is also an excellent wrestler, as he was able to match two-time ADCC champion Yuri Simoes on the feet when they met at the 2019 ADCC championship.
Beyond his well-roundedness, Duarte’s best skill-set might be his ability to control from dominant positions. He is a methodical worker, and will rarely make a mistake in the name of blind aggression. Although Duarte’s two recent losses came by way of heel hook, he has shown an ever-improving leg lock game, particularly with respect to his ability to sweep to top position from leg entanglements.
Team: Marcelo Garcia Academy
Notable accomplishments: 2019 ADCC 88kg champion, 2015 IBJJF no-gi Pans double champion, 2018 Kasai Pro middleweight grand prix champion
Diniz has competed sparingly since 2019, and is currently on a three-match losing skid to Gordon Ryan, Otavio Sousa, and Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa, respectively. That record is deceiving, though, as Diniz has looked in top shape, and his loss to Barbosa came under dubious circumstances.
Not unlike Duarte, Diniz is a well-rounded grappler. That said, Diniz tends to do his best work from top position where he uses blitz style passing to create back exposure. To get to top position, Diniz relies on a superb and varied takedown game, and while he won’t be shooting any blast double legs on Duarte, he’s proven in matches with Hinger and Lucas Barbosa that he can hang on the feet with jiu-jitsu’s best wrestlers.
As would be expected of a Marcelo Garcia black belt, Diniz is an excellent back-taker and an overall opportunistic grappler. Although he can be lulled into a bit of a slow match, he tends to meet aggression well and will rarely lose a scramble. Once on the back, again much like his coach, Diniz is an excellent finisher. Diniz’s recent performance against Barbosa — a match in which Diniz took Barbosa’s back and choked him unconscious in a matter of seconds (after time had expired) — is a perfect example of Diniz’s ability to take over the match at the drop of a hat.
Diniz will certainly have his hands full against the larger and younger Duarte. Indeed, oddsmakers have listed Duarte as a four-to-one favorite over Diniz. However, Diniz certainly has the skills to spring an upset.
At his best, Duarte is dictating the pace of a relatively slow-paced match. That type of match favors Duarte, who would use his size and seemingly unbreakable positional control to shutdown the smaller, speedier Diniz. If Duarte feels threatened by Diniz’s takedown ability, don’t be surprised to see Duarte sitting to guard in the first ten minutes of the match, where he may look to create a leg entanglement to sweep to top position and use his weight against Diniz.
Diniz certainly shouldn’t be counted out, though. Most importantly, Diniz is an opportunistic grappler and an expert back-taker. Against Nick Rodriguez, Duarte found himself in brief moments of trouble, and if Diniz is able to create scrambles, he could find himself on Duarte’s back at one point in the match.
Ultimately, this will be a match that is determined by pace. If Duarte is able to slow the match down, that likely means he’s able to control Diniz and shut down his best attacks — a strategy that Gordon Ryan successfully employed against Diniz. On the other hand, if the smaller Diniz can create scramble situations, whether on the feet or on the mat, look for him to aggressively attack Duarte’s back to spring the upset.
How to watch: The Road to ADCC takes place on July 17, and airs live on FloGrappling (subscription required) at 8 PM EST.