You got to have some kohoonas to walk into the cage wearing a Nacho Libra style wrestling mask and cape. That's what my team mate, and eventual winner of the Submission 1000 Grappling Challenge, Daniel Strauss did when his name was announced to the bemused audience.
If you recall my many previous posts about the Sub1K Challenge, you'll remember the concept as an eight man submission wrestling tournament incorporated within the fight card of an MMA cage fighting tournament. It was a risky decision and may have sent the MMA audience off to the bar in disinterest. But on the night, it proved to be hugely popular and I have to give credit to the audience, who were very appreciative of the action and showed good vocal support.
Here is a potted summary of the action:
John Maguire v Andy Roberts
A tricky match for Andy, who was evidently much smaller than his wrestling based opponent. After some nifty guard play, John's dominance on the top began to tell and he soon worked a kimura arm lock. Win to Maguire.
Daniel Strauss v Marcos Nardini
An exciting and fast paced match, Daniel caught Marcos in his guard and would not let the black belt BJJer posture up. Daniel eventually caught Marcos with a powerful armbar from the guard. An electrified audience went wild! Video here.
Kenny Baker v Daniel Agard
Kenny was labelled by some in the know as the dark horse of the set. Not many knew his background and by his own admission, he has kept a fairly low profile during his rise to BJJ brown belt status. Agard on the other hand is well known as a super gifted purple belt and winner of his division at the World Pro BJJ Cup last year. This match was tense with each combatant zeroing for foot locks, heel hooks and toe holds aplenty. Baker wins with a heel hook.
Luciano Cristovam v Pedro Bessa
This was the match up everyone had been eagerly anticipating. Cristovam, cousin to Roger Gracie, BJJ brown belt and World no gi champion versus the hugely respected BJJ black belt Pedro Bessa. This was a tough match and less frenetic than the previous fights. It seemed that almost every attack was anticipated with a defense and counter - as would be expected from two highly skilled and experienced grapplers. In the end, Cristovam's dominance towards the bell, by taking Pedro's back and shaping up for a RNC, gave Luciano the decision.
Daniel Strauss v John Maguire
Before the event I don't think John Maguire was given much chance of progressing to this stage, here he was with a shock victory over Andy Roberts, how did he cope with the guile of our man Straussy? Well actually it was a closer fight in the beginning that most expected. Daniel using the cage to his advantage eventually took John's back and attempted a RNC. John defended strongly all the way throughout. Daniel wins by decision.
Kenny Baker v Luciano Cristovam
After Luciano's athletic and aggressive display in round one, most expected him to beat his opponent. But Baker is not a brown belt (who has trained extensively under Renzo Gracie) for nothing. He showed immense calm and tactical nous to eek out a win by decision. Video here.
Daniel Strauss v Kenny Baker
By now I think everyone was giving Baker the props he deserves for his skill and ability in getting to the final. But with Strauss's energetic and talented displays in the first two rounds, I think the money was on Daniel to win. Again, a much closer match than anyone could have called, it went to a decision and Strauss was crowned the title of Submission 1000 WINNER.
My thanks to Darren 'Force' Jones and his team for putting on an amazing event and for showcasing jiu jitsu grappling to a different audience. Well done to all the fighters who took part. I hope the Submission 1000 will be a regular event.
More photos on my Facebook page.