Brazilian jiu-jitsu superstar Marcus "Buchecha" Almeida (4-0) is wasting no time in his professional mixed martial arts career.
Less than a year after making his MMA debut, the 17-time grappling world champion picked up his fourth consecutive victory when he submitted former ONE interim heavyweight world title challenger Kirill Grishenko in just 64 seconds at ONE on Prime Video 1 on Friday, August 26.
The win over Grishenko was the most significant of Almeida's MMA career so far, and it has unquestionably set him up for another big opportunity in his next outing.
But who could be next for the Brazilian grappling legend? Here are three potential options.
Fresh off his successful ONE Championship debut, Martin Batur's MMA experience and diverse skill set would make him a stiff test for "Buchecha."
At "ONE 160: Ok vs. Lee II," the Croatian impressed with a first-round TKO finish of Paul Elliott after surviving an early knockdown. Batur (8-3) is a veteran of 11 fights, is undefeated at heavyweight, and has finished all but one of his eight career victories inside the distance.
Most importantly, the Croatian has proven to be both a powerful striker on the feet and a skilled grappler with devastating ground-and-pound, indicating that he could compete with or even threaten "Buchecha" on the mat.
In what would be a grappling fan's dream matchup, Almeida could also take on Greco-Roman wrestling world champion Amir Aliakbari (11-3). The Iranian powerhouse is coming off a second-round TKO win over Italian knockout artist Mauro Cerilli at ONE on Prime Video 1.
A veteran of 14 professional MMA bouts, Aliakbari is an interesting potential opponent because he would be, by far, the most accomplished grappler "Buchecha" has faced in the sport. On paper, at least, the wrestler has the credentials to be the first man to ever stop Almeida's takedowns inside the ONE circle.
Moreover, the Iranian has the massive frame and physicality needed to compete with the Brazilian star's size and athleticism.
Almeida and current ONE interim heavyweight world champion Anatoly "Sladkiy" Malykhin (11-0) share something in common: they are both coming off stoppage wins over Grishenko.
While the Russian finished Grishenko in the second round, "Buchecha" needed just slightly more than a minute. That alone makes this an intriguing matchup.
Malykhin was slated to unify the belts with reigning ONE heavyweight world champion Arjan "Singh" Bhullar at ONE 161 later this month, but the Indian was forced to withdraw from the headlining bout due to injury. If the Russian doesn't want to wait on the sidelines for too long, then perhaps he could defend his strap against Almeida.
Make no mistake, the interim heavyweight king would be a massive step up in competition for the Brazilian. But in just four MMA contests, "Buchecha" has quickly proven himself to be a truly elite fighter.
This story first published at ONEFC.com.