In the past three years, the submission grappling scene has exploded out of nowhere thanks in part to Metamoris (who, despite the deserved criticism, paved the way for the majority of the current shows). In recent years with Metamoris fading into obscurity, the likes of Polaris, Eddie Bravo Invitational (EBI) and more recently, Submission Underground have taken the mantle as being the premier platform for the worlds best grappler’s and, occasionally, MMA stars to ply their trade.
As a result of this explosion, a lot of smaller shows have emerged that, whilst not the biggest or the most recognisable, are putting on events that can hold their own with the very best.
This Saturday it’s the turn of Sapateiro, who are an organisation based in Florida whose aim is to gather the very best leg lockers in the business and showcase them in 10-minute long matches, with EBI rules should the matches go to overtime with the winner taking home a cool $10,000 in prize money. If that’s not enough incentive for the competitors, Sapateiro pay each competitor who wins their respective division $1,000, unlike other organisations who only pay should you submit your opponent. Or, in some cases, only the winner of the whole tournament.
There are 16 grapplers vying for the $10,000, with some names familiar to those who follow MMA, especially former UFC heavyweight title contender, Jeff Monson. Monson is highly decorated as a grappler, as a former ADCC, IBJFF and Pan American champion. And Monson is notoriously tough to submit too, and will be odds on to make at least the quarter finals of the tournament, likely using his wrestling heavy top game to nullify any submission attempts.
Antonio ‘Cara de Sapato’ Carlos Junior steps up on short notice for Hector Lombard, who is now scheduled to face Johny Hendricks next month. ‘Cara de Sapato’ could prove to be the biggest dark horse in the competition, with wins over Romulo Barral, Leandro Lo and Bernardo Faria in his career.
Before turning his hand to MMA, the Checkmat competitor was a world champion at brown belt, as well as a Pan American champ. Junior is a big fighter and one who’s not afraid to take risks, so keep an eye out for flying triangles and other crazy submission attempts.
A name unfamiliar to MMA fans, but a household name for those with any interest in grappling, is Gordon Ryan. The self proclaimed ‘King’ of submission grappling burst on to the scene in 2015 and made a name for himself as one of the best submission grapplers in the world. And having only been training Jiu Jitsu for a handful of years, it’s super impressive. Known for his online exploits as much as his on the mat exploits, Ryan will be a heavy favourite for this tournament.
Richie ‘Boogeyman’ Martinez, is a 10th Planet black belt under Eddie Bravo and another grappler renowned for his unusual style, emanating from his background as a break dancer. Despite being in the shadows of the Danaher Death Squad (Garry Tonon, Eddie Cummings and Gordon Ryan) in recent years, Martinez proved he’s no slouch with strong performances in EBI and other grappling tournaments.
Whilst not as accomplished as his brother, Geo ‘Freakahzoid’ Martinez, ‘Boogeyman’ will provide a stern test and a tough opponent to overcome for anyone looking to progress out of the group.
Another name to watch out for is Bill ‘The Grill’ Cooper – arguably one of the most talented American grapplers of his generation. After taking an extended period away from the sport due to drug addiction and personal problems, Cooper returned with a bang in 2016 and put in a superb performance to reach the final of EBI 7 before succumbing to a heel hook from Eddie Cummings.
Cooper is known for his wild style of Jiu Jitsu, but competing as a featherweight against much larger opponents could be draining and with the potential for each match to go 10 minutes plus overtime, it could prove just a tad too much.
Two brown belts who could cause a stir are Andre Galvao product Jimmy Friedrich and 10th Planet Bethlehem representative John “Thor” Blank. Friedrich is a leg-lock connoisseur and one of the most prolific competitors on the submission grappling circuit, most recently placing third at the GrapplingPro heavyweight tournament. “Thor” submitted highly-touted Firas Zahabi brown belt Oliver Taza earlier this year, but lost in the rematch to Taza just last weekend in the finals of the EBI 11 qualifier.
The rest of the competitors are a mix of savvy veterans such as Enrico Cocco and Marcel Gonclaves, and up-and-coming talent like Chase Davis and Dan Martinez.
The full card is as follows:
Jeff Monson vs. Josh Bacallao
Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Marcel Goncalves
Gordon Ryan vs. Bryan Brown
Jimmy Friedrich vs. Juan Caballero Jr.
Jesseray Childrey vs. John “Thor” Blank
Richie “Boogeyman” Martinez vs. Chase Davis
Bill “The Grill” Cooper vs. Matthew Tesla
Enrico Cocco vs. Dan Martinez