The recent high profile submission only grappling events such as Metamoris and the Gracie Nationals have led to a resurgence of interest with extended time or no time limit submission only contests. The invitation only SUBF15TEEN tournament in the UK is one of these. This, their second show, was to be a bigger tournament, featuring 15 fighters, each to fight up to fifteen minutes with a win decided by submission only. If there was no submission after the duration, then the match was to be considered a draw. I drove up from London to photograph the event and support my team mates, five of whom were competing...
Redcar is not an insignificant journey (4-5 hours of non stop driving) but I was keen to both support my team mates and report on how the grappling and BJJ scene is developing outside of the bias that naturally exists where bigger academies are located - notably in London (Roger Gracie Academy and Carlson Gracie being two of the biggest) and the Midlands (Braulio Estima and Victor Estima's academies). This tournament attracted fighters from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Early on, I was impressed with the branding and designs used to advertise the event. SUBF15TEEN is an awkward word to type, but it is unique and easily searchable. The posters too are beautifully crafted, so the signs pointed to an event that was well organised and supported:
There was a full house at the Redcar Bowl and spectators were seated at dining tables around the perimeter of the mat. The mat coverage was more than ample given that only one fight would be on at a time. The very low unidirectional lighting from the ceiling did worry me as a photographer. It meant I had to shoot at the very extreme of what my camera and lens could handle. Any movement between the fighters would end up blurry, so I had to be very picky about when to take my shots. But I have to admit, as a spectator, the low lighting did add to the theatrical atmosphere.
Another observation I wanted to make was how appreciative and knowledgeable the spectators were. Not everyone in the audience would have been grapplers but there was huge electricity whenever local and known fighters were competing. Likewise, lots of appreciative gasps and applause would go to unknown faces whenever a good move was executed.
The fight card included a mixture of gi and no-gi pairings from a variety of belt levels from blue, purple and brown. A couple of fighters may have been pure MMA or non-BJJ grappling but overall, the skill level was pretty damn good and I enjoyed many of the fights. Special mention to the kids demonstration fights before the main event which I thought was a great idea and showcased the future of the sport.
The photo leading this report (and above) was the no-gi fight between Jamie Taylor (Middlesborough Fight Academy) and Joey Breslin (SBG-Dublin). Joey was on his second fight having already competed against Liam Corrigan (Leicester Shootfighters/MMA) and took this fight on to replace someone who dropped out at the last minute. Both were grappling with full intensity but mid-way through the fight, Jamie spotted someone in the audience and gave a wink. Joey's reaction was to laugh and then both giggled. It was a fleeting moment of magic before they continued their epic battle, Joey dominating the back towards the latter stages but Jamie's defences thwarted any submissions. It was a superb fight and deserved of the match of the day trophy.
Another winner of the night was young Ben Royal from Factory BJJ. He zipped onto the mat at such lightning pace I didn't get a single clean photo of him. He won submission of the night with a quite clinical and speedy triangle on his opponent.
Team Mill Hill
I'm always very excited whenever I watch my academy team mates compete. I find it actually hard to take pictures as I get so emotionally drawn into the match and find myself shouting and yelling in support.
When both Andrew Modell (above) and Luke Dalmedo won their fights by triangle choke, I half wondered if it was a pre-prepared team tactic to only go for the one submission technique.
Guard sensation Michael Hawkins (top) had a tough match against a very good purple belt (Jamie Hughes) which ended in a draw. Ed Ingamells avenged a previous defeat to Phil Clegg via ankle lock in a superb battle of the super heavies.
Finally, the headline fight featuring European nogi champion Dan Strauss arrived and it was to be a fight against Liam Corrigan. Due to a last minute dropout, Liam valiantly stepped up to volunteer to fight Daniel and gave a good account of himself before succumbing to a rear naked choke.
Overall I was very impressed with the professional running of the event and the superb production and support behind it. With last minute drop outs and injuries I witnessed how tough it can be to run such an event but they handled it superbly. More than that, I felt the immense spirit and energy from both the fighters and the audience who helped make this into a very watchable and enjoyable spectacle.
I wish the SUBF15TEEN team luck as they build up their event and hopefully, if my team mates make another mass appearance, I'll come up for the ride again.
More photographs on my Facebook page -----> clicking here.