There has been a long debate over whether submission only or points based competitions are the best gauge of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Grappling skill. I’ve done both types of tournaments and here’s what I notice: The vast majority of the time, the guys who win in point tournaments are the same guys who win in sub only tournaments. I don’t want to start or solve the debate about which is better. I do want to talk about the Eddie Bravo Invitational 6. Based on how the rules of a tournament and monetary(if there are any) incentives are set up, some styles may have a slight advantage over others. For example, the ADCC rules tend to favor competitors with stronger stand up as it penalizes sitting to guard in overtime rounds. From the venue, to the marketing, to the coverage of the event, and even the rules, I think Eddie Bravo has found the most successful combination to put on an awesome show. It was especially exciting that it was picked up by UFC fightpass, which bodes well for the sport. Although the rules are a bit complicated to follow(we will cover them in a second), EBI6 is probably one of the most accessible shows for someone who is not a grappling fanatic to understand and enjoy watching. And for all the grappling fans in the house, it was a spectacular display of technique and heart!
EBI6 was a 16 man submission only tournament with a chance to win $50k. Matches were 10minutes long and each fighter had a chance to bank $12500 per fight if they achieved a submission in the first 10 minutes. If a submission didn’t happen the fight went into overtime where a coin was tossed and the winner of the toss got to choose whether they would attack or defend. The attacker chooses either taking the back with a seatbelt grip or taking the “Spider’s web” which is the top armbar attack position with control of the near side leg. There are no timelimits in OT and Both grapplers get to attack and defend. If the first attacker subs his opponent in a minute, the opponent then gets a chance to attack and has a minute or less to get a submission of his own to win. If no one gets a submission in OT then the person with the fastest cumulative escape time wins. As I said, it’s a little complicated. The money piece was the hardest for me to follow as it wasn’t talked about as much but they did a good job of reminding the crowd, many of whom were familiar with the rules from previous EBI events, about what would come next and how the winner was decided.
The Orpheum is a cool place to watch Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The only places I’ve been that I’ve enjoyed more are the European open on finals day; and the absolute meca, Worlds in the Long Beach Pryamid. It’s intimate with good views from anywhere in the house and a cool vibe. Many stars were in attendance including Fabricio Werdum, Orlando Sanchez, Jean Jacques Machado, Henry Akins, Chris Hauter, and even Renato Laranja.
As is often the case with our sport, injuries tend to keep people out of competition. Abraham Marte was the last competitor to drop out which opened the door for Gordan Ryan. The final list of competitors were: Rustam Chsieve(The Russian Bear), Amir Allam, DJ Jackson, Bruno Bastos, Matheus Diniz, Lucas Rocha, Richie Martinez, Jimmy Friedrich, Marcello Bergo, Fabian Bolanos, Gordon Ryan, Jacen Flynn, Yuri Simoes, Evandro Nunes, Garry Tonon, and Felipe Fogolin. I ran into my friend and recent quadruple gold champion at the Chicago open, Josh Hinger, just before the show and we talked about our picks to win. I was quick to say I was pulling for my Alliance teammate Matheus. Josh thought Jimmy, a leg lock specialist from Atos, would surprise people and thought Yuri and Garry were solid picks. I agreed about Garry and Yuri and mentioned that it was really about who was having the best day but that I was really curious about the new kid(I didn’t even know Gordan’s name at the time but we all do now) who I heard had killer leg locks and could be the dark horse that upset everyone. We went to our respective seats ready to watch the action unfold.
The action kicked off with Garry Tonon and Felipe Fogolin. Garry was active and exciting as always and pushed the pace until he forced Felipe into a reverse heal hook that ended the match.
Yuri went up against Evandro, a crafty black belt I sparred with at the Gracie Academy in Beverly Hills, next. Yuri was aggressive and almost bullying throughout this fight, and the night. Evandro showed excellent defense and composure as Rener Gracie coached him. The fight went into overtime and Yuri, keeping up the aggression, caught his chin and neck in what turned into a fierce rear naked neck crank that forced Evandro to tap.
In match 2 the dark horse, Gordon Ryan, confronted the seasoned Jacen Flynn. It was obvious, straight away, that Gordon’s style was very similar to Garry’s as he used butterfly guard to set up leg attacks and was very mobile for his size. Jacen started falling behind early in the match and seemed to be outpaced by the younger and more energetic Gordon. I was impressed by Jacen’s heart and tenacity, though, and he simply would not give up despite being in a series of bad positions. Ultimately, though, Gordon was able to wear him out and seal the match with a rear naked choke.
Marcello Bergo and Fabian Bolano were up next, neither of whom I knew much about. The match was back and forth and I was impressed with Fabian’s defense and attacks and I thought he had a chance to take the match. As the match got into the 4th and 5th minutes, however, the tide started to turn and ultimately Fabian kicked it up a notch and caught Marcello in an Armbar.
Richie “the boogie man” Martinez faced off with Jimmy Friedrich and I was curious to see if Hinger’s predictions would come true. The match was exciting at the start with the much larger Jimmy explosively attacking and using his size to put pressure on the smaller Martinez. Richie’s flexible guard kept Jimmy at bay until, in the weirdest moment of the entire evening, the two ended up in a double donkey guard stalemate. Neither could risk opening up for fear of leg locks and neither could really move. For 4 or more grueling minutes the fans of Jiu Jitsu that ardently try to combat the snide remarks of the uninitiated who refer to the sport as “sex on mats” had to stare at an awkward position that would make even the most sexually adventurous individuals chuckle.(I can’t believe Eddie didn’t crack a smile while reffing and reset the match. Professional and impressive!) Fortunately for all of us, time ran out and the first of several overtime matches ensued. The two cycled through starting in the spider’s web and the back and ultimately Richie was able to sink a rear naked choke that ended the match.
I snuck my way to the front row to support my teammate Matheus as he faced off with the well known Lucas Rocha. Matheus seemed possessed and focused and aggressively went after Lucas. Lucas was calm as could be and was able to reverse positions and confidently attempted a flying armbar that Matheus easily shook off thanks to quick reaction and a little sweat. He followed the escape with an onslaught of explosive guard passing that Lucas shut down with his closed guard. It was a draw after ten minutes but Matheus prevailed with a rear naked choke in overtime.
Next up was DJ Jackson vs the legendary Bruno Bastos. I expected DJ to push the takedown game but he seemed to be feeling out the match, probably aware of Bruno’s experience and craftiness. Bruno tried to play guard and DJ kept his relentless pressure. I expected Bruno to start to fatigue as the fight progressed against the superior conditioning of DJ. It was almost like DJ heard me when I mentioned to my wife that I respected his passing and pressure game but couldn’t remember the last time I saw him sub someone. As if on queue, DJ took advantage of Bruno turtling to defend and snatched up his neck in a tight guillotine. He didn’t over commit at first, expecting the crafty veteran to escape most likely; but when he saw that Bruno wasn’t reacting immediately, he laid back into half guard, threw his leg over the top to stop a roll, and ended the match with a submission. I stood corrected.
Last up was Rustam and 10th planet practitioner, Amir. Amir looked a little out of shape compared to the beastly Russian Bear but quickly displayed excellent flexibility and guard work. He didn’t look excessively outclassed but he definitely got outworked and overpowered. Bear passed the guard and finished Amir with a north south choke, showing the crowd that he was more than just a wrestler.
Intermission was skipped and the quarterfinals started immediately. Yuri Simoes faced off with Garry Tonon in what was one of the most exciting fights of the evening. Yuri maintained his aggressive pawing and explosive style as Garry methodically worked to get into position for a leg lock and was undeterred by Yuri’s stand up. He did an awesome counter to Yuri’s flying guillotine with a wicked duck under that made Yuri break his fall with his face and get a good taste of the mat. There were several times where Garry got Yuri into deep heal hooks but Yuri simply would not give up and found his way out despite grimacing on a few occasions. After 10 minutes of non-stop action the fight went into overtime. Yuri’s escapes were explosive and the size and strength difference definitely played to his advantage. Garry was smooth like silk, technically evading each of Yuri’s attacks. After 3 rounds of escapes, Yuri’s body lock slowed Garry down just enough to give what many viewed as an upset win to Yuri by quickest escape time. (it was so exciting I actually forgot to take pictures!)
Still flying somewhat under the radar at this point, Gordon Ryan faced off against Marcello Bergo. Gordon was never excessively aggressive but constantly put Marcello in danger and ultimately secured his leg to finish the fight via knee bar. At this point I started thinking it would come down to Gordon and Matheus and I was really impressed with Gordon’s seemingly laid back Jiu Jitsu that was dismantling his opponents.
Richie went up against Matheus next and started off working some of his famous rubber guard. Matheus turned up the heat, powered out of the position and worked his way into his favorite half guard passing sequence. He relentlessly dug for underhooks and trapped Richie’s far arm. Richie tried to off balance him, but was unable to stop Matheus from securing the reverse armbar. He seemed to be on fire.
Last up was DJ Jackson and the Russian Bear. I thought it would be interesting to see how the two wrestlers matched up but it was evident when Bear got into a Russian tie and threw DJ clear across the mat that his wrestling was superior. DJ stayed active and showed off a seldom seen guard game that was strong and kept Bear at bay. Several times he looked to get underneath but couldn’t and had to scramble up to his feat as Bear tried to pass. Their battle continued into overtime and it was clear that Bear’s explosive escapes were happening faster than DJ’s. After 3 rounds Bear edged out the win with the lowest times.
The semifinals were set to be electric!
The semifinals were set to be electric! Yuri and Gordon were up first. Yuri continued to bully and bother Gordon. I was really struck by how nice Gordon was. Yuri, while very technical, is able to put almost all of his power behind his technique consistently, without fatiguing. Gordon calmly shrugged off the onslaught and quietly attacked, often making Yuri retreat in a hurry to avoid a leg lock. The match progressed into overtime and Yuri went after the face/neck crank that got him the W earlier on. This time, though, Gordon calmly endured the storm and was able to slip out. Again I noticed how nice Gordon was as he could have choked Yuri’s face on several occasions but instead chose to patiently work for an opening. He got to Yuri’s neck, and Yuri powered out. He got to Yuri’s neck again and it looked like Yuri was done when he sank the second hand, but Yuri was indomitable and narrowly escaped again. He wasn’t going to lose because of heart. Finally, Gordon got under the chin one last time and was able to sink a deep rear naked choke to win the match.
The last semifinal was Matheus vs the Bear. I will tell you, that I would pull guard against Rustam. Matheus was fearless and started on the feat. Like DJ, he was tossed across the mat from the Russian tie. You could see the fire and determination flare up in his eyes as he puffed his chest and went straight back at Bear. After crashing against the wall a few more times he ended up playing guard. I was waiting for him to play his deep half and invert and knew that if he got on top he’d have a good chance to win. Rustam wasn’t having it. He crushed the sweep attempts and looked as though he was bolted to the ground and Matheus couldn’t budge him. There was a near sweep from deep half, but Bear easily returned to his feet. 10 minutes passed and they went to overtime. Each one took the back and each one escaped. Again they took the back and they escaped. With each passing round, Rustam was getting out just a little quicker than Matheus. By the end of the 3rd the winner was clear. Bear by escape time.
I snuck towards the front one more time for the final match. Although not as close as the first match with Mathues, I had a great view of the action and was close enough to hear John Danaher, Eddie Cummings, and Garry Tonon coach Gordon as he faced off with Rustam. Inteligently, Gordon pulled guard and Rustam started his crushing top game. I loved every match up to this point and picked up some cool moves, but I will tell you that I learned the most from just listening to the methodical coaching of John, Eddie, and Garry. Each of them were calmly giving instruction to Gordon independently yet cohesively. There was a clear system of not staying on the back, testing base and reaction, and seemingly offering up position to get into the superior leg lock position. It was science! Gordon seemed to start slow and not quite have the quickness to catch the athletic Bear who each time would explode out and then come crashing down like a wave. The 10th minute passed as the crowed was in silent awe of the action.
The overtime game began and for the first time Gordon’s size was noticeable. He’s actually quite tall and that would be his ultimate advantage against Rustam that his earlier opponents lacked. Initially Gordon couldn’t hold on and seemed, once more, to be just a little too nice. He showed great composure while under attack and methodically worked his way out. I felt a little bad for Rustam at this point. He looked like he was going to pull off the win and the crowd wasn’t behind him. I wasn’t behind him, as I was disappointed at Matheus losing and was starting to really be impressed by Gordon and wanted to see the good kid win. But it’s worth saying, that Rustam is legit, powerful, and skillful. He played smart and he was winning. I was impressed, even if the crowd wasn’t.
The deciding factor of the match was Gordon’s body lock. Gordon’s height and composure were his allies. Finally, someone was able to slow down Rustam. The crowd was in stunned silence as Bear stood up and Gordon stayed glued to his back. The energy was palpable as the Dark Horse was about to be the biggest star of the show. Gordon did it! He sank in a rear naked choke. The crowd went balistic! And then we were all reminded that Rustam still had a chance to even the score. He chose to start attacking from the spider’s web. Gordon adjusted his angle, lifted the leg pressing against his head, and slipped out for the win sending the crowd into a frenzy! At 20 years old, he exploded onto the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu scene beating a stronger opponent showing the true strength of Jiu Jitsu!
As I mentioned, this was an exciting event! I was invested in the fighters, knowing most of them; and like the whole crowd, was absolutely won over by the “gentle assassin”, Gordon Ryan.(If that becomes his nickname, you heard it here first)
EBI 6 provides a product that is easily accessible to the masses and a lot of fun to watch. It seems to have learned from the mistakes and short comings of some of the other paid BJJ events. I can’t thank my wife, Miki A La Mode, enough for buying me tickets to the event for my birthday and I’m looking forward to attending the next installment. Mark the name Gordon Ryan, aka the Gentle Assassin! This kid is going to make a big impact on the BJJ scene!
Enjoy the additional pics of the event, the super fight between the semis and finals, and me rubbing elbows with BJJ celebs in my VVV words t-shirt. Next time, Renato Laranja, I’m not going down so easy!