This Friday at Fight to Win 180, the American legend Rafael Lovato Jr. takes on the Brazilian Gabriel “Frodo” Arges. Lovato is an IBJJF World Champion and a former Bellator middleweight champion. Arges is a BJJ stalwart with three IBJJF World Championships.
Both men have accumulated multiple accolades and titles in our sport, and on August 7th, they go to war.
Who do you think will win?
Let’s dive deeper to see how this match may play out.
Rafael Lovato Jr
- Record: 108-49-0
- Height: 6’1” | Weight: Middleweight | Age: 35
- Wins: 56 SUB, 8 decisions, 37 points, 5 Advantages,
- Losses: 9 SUB, 26 points, 9 Decision, 5 Advantages,
- Noticeable Wins: Richie Martinez, Jake Shields, Josh Hinger, Tim Spriggs, Mahamed Aly, Tim Spriggs
- Noticeable Losses: Roberto Cyborg Abreu, Tex Johnson, Lucas Barbosa, Gilbert Burns, Rodolfo Vieira, Rustam Chsiev
- Last match: Alexadre Ceconi
Rafael Lovato Jr has been training martial arts his entire life, 25+ years…. He does not have many weaknesses in grappling.
And even if he did, I would say Gabriel Arges does not possess the technical competency to capitalize on Lovato’s deficiencies.
That said, Lovato is a bit past his athletic prime. It is an unfortunate reality going into this match.
Now, some would argue that his age and time on the mat is an advantage, but I would say against a young, aggressive, giant like Gabriel Arges, it’s a vulnerability.
Strength, explosiveness, and size factor significantly in combat sports as does experience on the mat. It’s safe to assume, that Lovato may get tired out.
Yet, I don’t think this is statistically likely to happen because he’s competed against the likes of Gilbert Burns, Robert Abreu, and Gabriel Almeida in the last year and was able to hold his own against these three big boys.
So, it’s hard to say how much of a factor his age will play in this upcoming match.
Rafael Lovato Jr. is an exciting grappler because his grappling style straddles his MMA background, old-school BJJ techniques, and the new game he is learning from today’s grapplers.
There are not many people who have his martial arts pedigree. That said, it’s safe to say his main strengths right now are his closed guard and his Juji-gatame.
According to BJJheroes, 18% of Lovato’s submissions and 3 of his 8 wins in 2021 come via Jujj-gatame.
In many of Lovato’s recent matches, he’s been reliant on his close guard to either submit or fend off his opponent’s long enough for him to counterattack.
Rafael Lovato Jr tends to play a specific dilemma-based game from closed guard. In other words, he forces his opponents to choose between defending an armbar and omoplata. That seems to be the sequence he favorites most.
When Rafael Lovato Jr faced Yuri Paiva at the 2021 IBJJF Dallas No-Gi open, he used this impressive sequence to finish Yuri with an armbar.
Lovato jumped on Paiva’s neck for a guillotine, then as Paiva went to counter the legend with a double leg takedown, Lovato quickly switched to a closed guard and began off-balancing Paiva.
Ultimately, he straddled Paiva in between a triangle and Juji-Gatame, then initiated a sweep, and transitioned fully into the armbar position, and eventually made him tap.
Against his larger opponents such as Roberto Cyborg Abreu, Yuri Simoes, and Marcus Buchecha, Rafael Lovato Jr used his closed guard to fend them off when they tried to pass his guard explosively and immediately began counter-attacking with an armbar and omoplata sequence.
Rafael Lovato Jr. is tall and dexterous, and his limbs are long which favors this closed guard sequence.
- Record: 88-22-0
- Height: | MiddleWeight | Age: 28
- Wins: 33 SUB, 10 decisions, 31 points, 14 Advantages,
- Losses: 4 SUB, 8 points, 2 Advantages, 4 Decision
- Noticeable Wins: Dante Leon, Isaque Bahiense, Alec Baulding, Marcio Andre, Edwin Najmi, Otavio Sousa,
- Noticeable Losses: Jackson Sousa, Leandro Lo, Adam Wardzinski, Craig Jones, Matheus Diniz, Gustavo Batista
- Last match: Marcio Andre
Right now, it’s hard to pinpoint Gabriel Arges’s weaknesses in No-Gi grappling because many of his matches are in the Gi, and many of his losses are in the Gi. That said, you can tell his main weakness going into this match is his lack of experience in the No-Gi circuit.
3 of his 4 submission losses come via toe hold, ankle lock, and kneebar, so you could argue leglocks are his main weakness. But these losses come in Gi matches, where friction plays more of an advantage for the attacker.
In other words, the “slipperiness” of No-Gi grappling may allow him to escape leglocks better. Therefore, his main weakness will be getting better accustomed to submission grappling.
He needs more time on the mat without the Gi.
So, the central part of Arges’s game that translates well from Gi to No-Gi is his offensive and defensive wrestling. If you watch his 2019 ADCC match against gold medalist Matheus Diniz, he’s able to scramble out of lousy wrestling positions relatively quickly.
When Matheus shoots in for his signature single and double leg takedowns, Arges quickly stumbled back to his feet before the referee could award Diniz points.
Simultaneously, he was able to pressure Diniz a few times with his own double leg takedowns. Gabriel Arges was also able to pressure Dante Leon the same way at F2W 123.
Even if Gabriel Arges does not win, it’s safe to assume Arges will take Lovato Jr down.
I don’t think we will see a submission finish, but I’m expecting Rafael Lovato to beat Gabriel Arges via points or referee’s decision.
The American legend will use his technical prowess and experience in No-Gi & MMA grappling to defeat the Brazilian stalwart.
But I don’t believe Lovato will be able to “break” Arges and force him to tap. Arges won’t allow that to happen.
…. But I could be wrong.
Arges could surprise us all by taking the American’s back and winning via rear-naked choke as he did against Jake Watson at 3GC Kumite 1. Or perhaps, Arges will ride Lovato out as he did to Alec Building at the 2019 ADCC championships.
Although it’s statistically unlikely Arges does, it is possible.
That’s my prediction, what’s yours?