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It may look like Roberto Jimenez has the odds stacked against him when he faces Keenan Cornelius at Who’s #1, but he wouldn’t have taken the match if he didn’t believe he could win.
Yes, Keenan is the heavy favorite. He’s been competing as a black belt for seven years, while Roberto was promoted just last December. Keenan is one of the best-known American athletes, and has earned his reputation as a technical innovator and elite competitor. Jimenez is a standout talent with accolades at purple and brown belt, but is unproven against the upper echelon competitors.
It’s going to be a tough challenge for Jimenez, but as we’ve seen from him in the past, he revels in being the underdog and will step up to the challenge. Everybody loves an underdog story– here’s how Jimenez’s could play out on Saturday, Feb. 8 against Keenan Cornelius at Who’s #1.
Jimenez’s Strongest Weapon
Roberto has an uncanny ability to find his opponent’s backs. He thrives in chaos, using his speed, agility and seemingly endless cardio to out-position his opponents while in the scramble. He has an almost uncanny ability to get the back– the majority of his submissions come from here. If he’s going to beat Keenan, it’s got to be by setting hooks and going for the finish.
“It feels fun for me, it feels fun to take the back. You play a video game and pass a level and get the satisfaction of the achievement, that’s what taking the back is like for me.”
What Roberto Needs to Avoid
Getting tied up with the lapels, obviously. But not just that. His lapel game is what he’s best known for, but he’s by no means a one trick pony. Keenan’s passing is a threat, too. He’s not all tricks– Keenan has solid fundamentals and will use high level basics to beat top level competition. People are starting to catch up to the various lapel systems, and aside from his win over Mahamed Aly at Euros where he unveiled his worm passing, Keenan will go back to basics whenever necessary– that means closed guard from bottom, and open guard passing from top. Roberto needs to keep his lapels well tucked away, and will need to deny Keenan pant grips should he find himself playing guard– Keenan’s torreando passing is too good to let him control your legs.
“I’m going to make sure my belt is tight. But nothing crazy, my game is going to be different from his anyway. So long as I keep a good flow and a good head, I’ll be OK, because he likes to get into people’s heads.”
“I’m going to do like Buchecha and Leandro Lo, and just not respect his game.”
Keenan’s Biggest Weakness
Honestly, Keenan doesn’t have a lot of holes in his game. When he’s lost it’s generally been to opponents with a distinct physical advantage who can avoid his techniques while putting him under pressure. That’s not the kind of person Roberto is, and not the kind of age he plays. Keenan can be a slow starter, but if he weathers the early storm he is good at riding out the rest of the match– see his matches with Meregali at 2019 Worlds and Mahamed at 2018 Pans for examples.
“His head is his biggest weakness, I don’t know how to explain but he doesn’t take it the same way I would. Not so serious. When I’m there I feel like I’m in a different world. I saw his fight with Fellipe Andrew, and he was chilling out next to the cafe. Everybody has his process, but he doesn’t seem 100% into the game.”
Roberto’s Best Strategy for Victory
No secret here: get the back, get the back, get the back. “I hope to either take his back from top or take his bottom, but I want to get his back and submit him.”
Roberto Jimenez will face Keenan Cornelius at Who’s #1 on Saturday, Feb. 8. Watch it LIVE or On Demand only on FloGrappling.com