Great Event so Far, but so far away…
Some really great moments on the mats today. The chinese crowd despite not being very BJJ aware showed up to fill about a third of the venue which was a pleasant surprise. Most chinese don’t get much access to social media like FB, youtube, twitter etc so many had no idea who probably 90% of the players were on the mats but watching them show appreciation when some good moves were hit was pretty encouraging for the sport in the country. Not many draggy matches and the event finished 3hrs ahead of the budgeted time.
Winning both his qualifiers easily, Rafa Mendes looked really sharp and won his openers easily. He took every single opening he had to advance position and looks a strong favorite over Joao. Joao had a good match with Rico Vieira and it was nice to see Rico hold his own till the double guard leg lock exchange where he seemed to tweak his knee (or maybe it was called wrong, not too clear). Joao’s only chance will be to somehow get a toe hold/heel hook off some kind of inversion and given that Rafa has not been foot locked in 4(?) years I’m really not seeing that happen. Rader did really well I think, especially his war with Augusto Mendes. Marcio Andre’s (Nova Uniao’s sole representative) did really well vs Cobrinha but maybe nerves got to him and he lost a lot of scrambles. Marcio Andre has a pretty interesting style for a light weight, he has some good passing for his division but just got edged out in the small positional battles this time. Cobrinha looks another strong favorite in the semi vs Rader. Rafa looks physically strong this time as compared to that shadow of himself during the Worlds (really? taken down from a loose body lock by Tanquino?? Him getting out muscled like that never happens typically) and if Cobrinha can’t get an early tap and this goes into overtimes Rafa could grind this out.
Kron did what I can best call a WWE choke slam on Andy Wang, right into a RNC choking him out cold, making a statement. But Gary Tonon was SO close to winning their match. I think it was something like 3 seconds before time till Kron got the RNC on. I think in ADCC they don’t stop the fight unless you tap – so Tonon was up 6 points…so maybe if he had risked the nap….that was easily one of the best matches of the day. Tonon’s escapes and scrambles are simply amazing, first a Ryan Hall inspired back take (vs Hermes Franca) and then getting out of tight armbar with his arm extended after Kron had 3-5 re-tries cranking on it rolling around. His opening fight vs Satoru Kitoaka was also impressive, taking the back to RNC the leg lock veteran. Leo Vieira again was a big surprise. His last ADCC 2011 semi win vs Calasans seemed almost fluke-ish to me but the way he played today, you really get a sense of how great a player he is. In his first match he basically only had one opening to pass and he took it, and vs AJ Agazam where I expected him to get manhandled wrestling style like how he was vs Calasans, it didn’t happen. Seeing (for the last time?) one of the greats show both his wrestling and passing was amazing. JT Torres did well, looking sharp as well, winning against Lucas Lepri to make the semis with Otavio Sousa with a last minute take down. Otavio breezed through his opener and omaplata-ed (i think) Ben Henderson (who looked pretty good in his opening match). Ben Henderson’s opening match was also one of the best fights of the day. He got out of two super tight guillotines against a very game Eduardo Rios. I think Kron’s a bad match up for JT though, JT’s pressure/side switching style seems to walk right into Kron’s head grabbing tactics for a guillotine and wrestling wise Kron looks too quick to get singled/doubled. I’m pulling for Leo Vieira to take it vs Otavio, Otavio is going to want to play sitting guard and I think Leo finds that one opening, like how he does against all odds. Leo will also have the cardio edge. Looks like Kron’s championship to lose though.
Lovato and Popovitch are the semis and both did pretty well to get there, unfortunately I missed most of the action so I only caught snippets. Popovitch seemed to struggle quite a bit in both his matches. Honestly can’t call that one. Barral looked pretty good vs DHK winning by heel hook after getting under from his guard. He showed his ability to grind and win a wrestling war with Lucas Leite though. Keenan was a big eye opener during this tournament though and his first match with Clark was also one of the best matches of the day. Keenan’s guarding and passing have really evolved. If you could sum it up, he’s like a Weapon X or something. His passing has elements of Lo (knee slides/face cranks, use of step overs and active posting, step and push toreando) and drag styles, his guarding is a mix of Braulio/Lo/berimbolo AND he’s not a passive guarder plus his take down defence and offence is up big. He is using combinations to setup take downs (foot sweep to shooting a takedown on Clark) and he’s using a lot of kimura counters to opponents who try to single him. His ability to assimilate best of breed moves and pull them off well makes it hard to see who stops him from winning the title this year. He first has to get past Barral though but given I think the Lo vs Barral super fight goes to Lo (just a bad style match up), Keenan who has so many elements of Lo’s game will probably be long stepping over like crazy over Barral who likes to just stay back on the floor and take passing pressure (one of the worst things to do vs Lo, ie not sitting up and driving into him).
Dean Lister looks a strong favorite here but struggled a bit in the opening round. Heel hooks are just the best attack in ADCC and he does them well. Watched Leo Nog quite a bit, he has a pretty nice pressure passing style (I might make a video on it) but I think vs Joao Asis who will probably try 50/50 him right away and put him into deep water quick, Leo Nog is going to struggle. I’m thinking/hoping for a Lister/Asis final where we can see two heel hookers battle it out. Problem is I’m not sure Lister is heel hookable even if you can get it, so I think Lister gets it.
Vinny losing in the quarters to Jared Dopp was quite a shocker. Not sure what happened there, it really looked like he was badly gassed playing guard and soaking up passing pressure. Buchecha pretty much cruised through so it’s not easy to see what kind of shape he’ll be in vs Cyborg tomorrow. I actually watched the entire Cyborg v Orlando Sanchez match, quite fascinating, like something out of Pacific Rim. I actually think Buchecha will have some problems passing Cyborg’s guard. Cyborg’s guard took a lot of blunt trauma from Sanchez and held up with a mix of knee shielding and inversions. Buchecha’s passing is still mainly smashing but he will jump for the drag so that might be the move that gets past Cyborg. Joao Rocha Gabriel looked pretty solid but either of the 2 who make that final spot vs the winner of Buchecha/Cyborg look like they have their work cut out. I can’t really call Buchecha/Cyborg, though I think the winner of that takes it all in the absoluts.
It looked like a major injustice was going to take place with Estima leading on points+ advantages towards the end. Galvao’s ability to change gameplan and execute a variety of passing styles really showed the advantages of having a versatile game though. Braulio didn’t seem to want to make this an ugly war preferring to stay on his back the entire time (coming up briefly once), not really trying to sweep. Seeing Galvao first try drags, then punching for knee slides, to trying to get the crossface and smash, to trying to double guard pull,to going for leg weaves was an amazing display of his passing versatility. The only thing he didn’t do was stack (btw I think he’s one of the best stackers in BJJ, watch the many ways he can get the stack in his matches if you’re interested). Being able to stay calm and keep cycling through your passing arsenal till your opponent cracks is the hallmark of an experienced competitor. Both players have changed quite a bit over the last few years, Braulio’s guard has evolved a bit and has gotten even better but Galvao additions in terms of new avenues of attack really made a difference. His leg dragging was an important component of his victory today.
Thanks for reading. Will post more tomorrow. Sorry, no video this time. But check out some snippets of today’s action below.