By Josh Stein on Jun 26, 2009
Ricardo Arona (13-5 MMA) is probably one of the scariest grapplers in the world. For those who only remember him as the guy Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (6-4 MMA, 1-2 UFC) knocked out after he KO’d Little Nog, or the guy that that Rampage TKO’d with the crazy powerbomb at Critical Countdown in 2004, it needs to be made clear how good Arona is on the ground.
In 2000, Arona made his first appearance at Abu Dhabi Combat Club, already an accomplished grappler (which you sort of have to be in order to get invited, though there are certainly levels of respect among elite grapplers). He took home the 88-98kg weight class. That same year he finished second at mudials in the blackbelt division, losing to Fabio Gurgel (3-2 MMA) , perhaps one of the most respected grapplers in the world. Returning to ADCC in 2001, Arona again won his 88-98kg weightclass, and also took home the Open Weight division, which he had not competed in previously.
Arona is the only fighter in the history of the Abu Dhabi Combat Club to have an undefeated record at the tournament and have a championship, an incredible honor. His MMA career, however, has been rockier, and he has struggled to translate his jiu-jitsu into solid victories over top lightheavyweights, though his losses have all been to high profile fighters.
With Arona reportedly set to return at an event called Bitetti Combat IV in Rio De Janiero later this year, it’s worth acknowledging the man’s skill as a grappler, and his career as an MMA fighter.
Ricardo (pronounced: hi-kar-do) began his career in MMA coming up in a small promotion called RINGS, which grew quickly and brought up some of the best figthers in the world. In fact, it brought up the best fighter in the world. While in RINGs, Arona defeated Russian heavyweight Andrei Kopylov (5-10 MMA) , Jeremy Horn (81-19-5 MMA, 6-7 UFC) , Japanese veteran Hiromitsu Kanehara (16-20 MMA) and Horn again, his only loss coming as a unanimous decision at the hands of a fighter who would go on to make a major impact in the world of MMA: Fedor Emelianenko (30-1 MMA, #1 IWMMAR ) .
Arona then moved up to PRIDE, which was fast becoming the best organization in the Eastern Hemisphere, and he racked up three quick wins in the organization before meeting Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (30-7 MMA, 5-1 UFC, #3 IWAMMR ) in what would become the staple of Rampage’s highlight reel. After the powerbomb, Arona would go on a four fight winning streak in PRIDE before going on the 1-3 slide that would end in the viscious knockout by Sokoudjou that left Arona stepping out of the ring for a while to reevaluate himself.
It’s not clear what kinda of headspace Arona is in, at this point in his career, and the fight this September will certainly be a good judge of whether or not he still has the ability to fight. If he wins in September, there will have to be some considerations taken into whether he can still compete at the top level of this sport, but given the relatively small number of top Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters in the lightheavyweight division, Arona might be a welcome addition to the ranks of Strikeforce champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral (13-5 MMA, 6-4 UFC, #9 IWMMAR ) and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (17-3 MMA, #10 IWMMAR ) , who seem to be the most prominent submission grapplers in the top tier at the moment. Hopefully he can return to form and make his way back onto the big stage of the sport.
Filed Under: MMA
About the Author: Joshua Stein is a writer and editor for MMA Opinion. He has worked as a photographer and journalist and has a number of print journalism credits. He also works as a moderator for MMAForum.com and a grappling columnist (covering judo, collegiate wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling) for profighting-fans.com.