The Tides Have Turned in the Cornelius and Miyao Rivalry


Written for BJJ Eastern Europe by Dan Faggella

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines underdog as a loser or a predicted loser in a struggle or contest, as a victim or injustice or persecution. Often times in sports people will choose to root for the underdog for the excitement to see if David will beat Goliath. There’s no doubt that in the rivalry of Keenan Cornelius and Paulo Miyao, Paulo is the underdog. In the 6 times they have fought before the Worlds this year Paulo has lost 4 times.

The fifth match was at the Abu Dhabis where both fighters were ruled stalling and the match was considered a draw. It was an extremely controversial call and it still has a civil war between the BJJ community raging. For more on the call check out this article. This year at the 2013 BJJ World Championships the two met for the sixth time and Paulo for the first time Beat Keenan. Let’s see how the underdog Paulo stopped Keenan right in his tracks.

The Proving Ground

Watch the fight here

The match starts with Keenan shooting in for a takedown but Paulo pulls guard and Keenan sits back. They ended up in a funky double guard pull situation which we commonly see in modern BJJ as a setup for things like the 50/50 guard, leg drags, leg locks, and berimbolos. In the start Paulo keeps trying to fence his leg underneath Keenan’s to set up a berimbolo. You can learn more about berimbolo set ups in the video I provided below.

Watch the video about Berimbolo setups

He fails and they end up back in the position they started in. After fighting in this position for a while, Keenan stands and starts working to pass Paulo’s guard. Paulo ends up getting in position on Keenan to try a kneebar but doesn’t get it so he transitions to a toehold and Keenan starts rolling and tumbling with it. He uses these rolls to return back to the 50/50.


Keenan’s coaches start yelling how he is losting and has to make something happen in the finishing moments of the match. Paulo sweeps Keenan to take top and drops back for a leg lock. Keenan tries to sweep Paulo but fails and stands up with Paulo attacking his legs. The crowd cheers in amazement when the clock runs out and it is recognized that Paulo beat Keenan by two advantages.

Modern BJJ: The New Age

Whether or not you’re a fan of modern BJJ the truth of the matter is it works. High end fighters in the IBJJF Worlds, Pan Ams, etc are using it with great success. Buchecha used the berimbolo, a modern BJJ technique, to help him win the black belt world championship. This entire match was a great example of modern BJJ; the fighting in the 50/50, the increased usage of leg locks, the berimbolos, etc. We can all take principles of it in our own game. If you are interested in more match breakdowns from the 2013 Worlds and exclusive interviews you can check out my articles here!

This match just makes me wonder what the future of this rivalry will be. Did Paulo find the key to beating Keenan or was it just a fluke?

Dan Faggella

Dan Faggella is a BJJ Academy Owner, No Gi Pan Am Champion at 130 pounds, and recognized expert in the area of leg locks. Dan writes or Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style, MMA Sports Mag, and more – find more of his leg lock articles and resources at www.BJJLegLocks.com


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