The Best of Babalu: Three of Renato Sobral’s Greatest Fights

Renato Sobral has fought all over the world since debuting in 1997, but tonight “Babalu” will be walking into his Bellator debut. Holding a record of 37-9 with 19 submissions and five TKOs to his credit, Sobral steps into the Bellator cage against Mikhail Zayats to see who will advance in the Season Eight Light-Heavyweight Tournament. With such a rich fight history, and mountains of exciting  moments to choose from, here are the top three tilts from Sobral’s storied career:

Renato Sobral vs. Mauricio Rua
IFC: Global Domination
Colorado, United States

As part of the light-heavyweight tournament for an International Fighting Championships event in Colorado, Sobral met an undefeated Mauricio Rua, who was 4-0 at the time. Up to that point only one of Rua’s opponents had made it past the first round, and all were finished prior to the eight-minute mark.

Sobral was ready for Rua’s offense, and neutralized it with his grappling and jiu-jitsu. He easily won the first round with his grappling, but the crafty Rua was able to escape everything. “Shogun” was the fresher fighter in the second round,where he really turned the tide. However, at the end of the frame, Sobral came close to finishing him via armbar before Rua was saved by the bell. Both were tired in the third, so the fighters exchanged submission attempts until the final few minutes, when Babalu locked up a guillotine choke to score the victory.

Renato Sobral vs. Jeremy Horn
IFC: Global Domination
Colorado, United States

After fighting for six rounds, including the two-and-a-half listed above,  Sobral climbed into the cage against Jeremy Horn in the tournament final. While this fight was decided by the judges, it did not lack action. Sobral used his grappling to control the very dangerous Horn, who spent the whole fight threatening with submission after submission. In both the first and second rounds, Horn came fairly close to finishing him, but Babalu was able to use his ground and pound to neutralize the attacks. Still, Sobral was saved by the bell in both rounds after getting caught in submissions.

In the third frame, the action was stopped halfway through when Horn landed an illegal knee to Sobral’s face. The action ceased, and in a bit of fun trivia, the commission used live instant replay during the broadcast to determine if Sobral was grounded; he was. Sobral came back swinging for the fences and swarmed in for the takedown, and ended the round with a vicious attack from above. The judges gave him the decision. He dedicated the fight to his brothe,r who had passed away a month prior to the event. With the win, Sobral became the tournament champion, and was presented the belt by Chuck Liddell, who last held  it (and who Sobral would eventually go on to face twice in the UFC).

Renato Sobral vs. Fedor Emelianenko
Rings – 10th Anniversary
Tokyo, Japan

This is the only fight on the list that Sobral dropped and its the only one on the list where he fought as a heavyweight. The 7-1 Fedor Emelianenko was just beginning his heavyweight reign – a reign that would last almost a decade and span 32 fights. It was clear from the start that Babalu wanted to grapple with Emelianenko, but he was typically fighting from the bottom and unable to do much. Emelianenko spent a decent chunk of the ten-minute scrap landing punch after punch to Sobral’s body, though the attack left “The Last Emperor” open for Sobral to use his jiu-jitsu. In the end, it wasn’t enough to win fight, due in no small part to Emelianenko’s ability to use his sambo and shake away in the nick of time.  The match looked like two heavyweights fighting it out, though through the lens of history it was much more than that. In truth, when fans look back at it and realize what these two fighters went on to become, the fight increases in importance.

Photo Credit: Strikeforce