Nicholas Meregali’s Most Intriguing Potential Meetings at ADCC 2022
Nicholas Meregali impressed at every turn of his 2022 no-gi experience.
He appeared somewhat stiff and determined in his Tezos WNO debut against Arnaldo Maidana in March, favoring a single-leg takedown and continuing that attack until he finally pinned down Maidana towards the end of the game. Then, he sped through Maidana’s guard to get a last minute armbar.
In her second match, at Tezos WNO: Who’s Next Finale presented by Fat Tire in July, Meregali looked considerably more confident in her abilities, still pursuing a simple snatch, but experimenting with shots and calmly working through a progression of passes and mounted attacks. before cashing in a triangle arm finish.
But his last match against Rafael Lovato Jr on Tezos WNO: Gordon Ryan vs. Felipe Pena presented by Fat Tire last weekend was his most impressive yet. Twice, Meregali favored a clinch to earn a takedown, using the technique to set up an ouchi gari style throw and deliver Lovato to the mat. Then Meregali demonstrated his passing abilities and a new level of control from the top position.
Lovato is a decorated veteran in all no-gi competitive formats. He’s one of America’s first IBJJF No-Gi World Champions, he’s a six-time ADCC veteran, and he’s an undefeated MMA veteran who once won the Bellator middleweight title.
That says a lot about Meregali’s no-gi pedigree, which he’s developed over the past six months with the help of John Danaher at New Wave Jiu-Jitsu. Meregali has now proven he belongs in the ADCC and can take on the best in the 99kg loaded division at the 2022 ADCC World Championships.
His no-gi skill is undeniable, and the group of athletes who stand to test him provide an intriguing list of potential opponents.
Perhaps Meregali’s most compelling opponent is Craig Jones, the ADCC silver medalist who has focused heavily on no-gi competition since his breakout year at the ADCC in 2017. Jones has reputation for squeezing legs, but he has quickly developed his wrestling in recent years. Whether he gets up and trades takedowns with Austin neighbor Meregali or pulls guard for a quick advantage is anyone’s guess. Either way, Jones A-game and Meregali would make for a perfect clash of styles.
Jones’ leg-oriented guard, his bread-and-butter stance, is a challenge for any grappler on the planet. But Meregali has shown himself to be able to pressure every guard he’s faced so far. Jones would provide an excellent test of Meregali’s passing abilities. And if he were to fight against Meregali, this match would raise even more questions.
Possibly one of the best wrestlers in the 99kg division at the upcoming ADCC, Elder Cruz has a style that seems to follow the same archetype as Meregali. Both have used takedowns to secure first place and consistently crush their opponents.
Cruz has a looser style, which makes him a dangerous wrestler from anywhere on the mat, but can leave some room to escape on the mat. Meregali is a more rigid and calculated wrestler, which may prevent him from disguising his attacks against a talented wrestler like Cruz. But on the mat, he has the thoughtful, precise pressure expected of a multiple-time world champion. This match would surely be a wrestling match and could be decided by who would settle down first.
Yet another tricky guard player with a flair for leg locks could challenge Meregali’s precision passing game. Kyle Boehm has a reputation for incredible grip strength, which he relied on to set up his devastating leg attacks. Meregali’s pressure could break through, but Boehm’s guard will almost certainly be foreign to the style of guard Meregali is used to approaching.
Another clear wrestling battle could put Meregali at risk in two ways. A high stance would leave Meregali open to a brace from the no-gi world champion, while a hunched stance would put him in danger of Pedro Marinho’s famous guillotine. Meregali has shown improved versatility in his takedown game, and he will need to have multiple responses prepared to deal with Marinho’s aggressive takedown approach.
Kaynan Duarte and Nicholas Meregali are 2-2 against each other in their gi careers. But Duarte is the man to beat in the 99 kg division at the ADCC. He is the defending champion at 99+ kg and is almost certain to be the No. 1 seed. In 2019, Duarte knocked off stellar artists: Marcus “Buhecha” Almeida, Yuri Simoes and Nick Rodriguez.
Duarte has proven to be an ace counter-attacker, so Meregali should be careful not to engage too stubbornly. But if Meregali can prevail, he could call his short no-gi camp a huge success.