Some Quick Thoughts on the Matchups this Weekend
Phew. Lucky I waited a few days. Now that Kevin Casey is out that’s one less match to think deeply about in order to come up with a realistic prediction.
1) Renzo Gracie v Kazushi Sakuraba
I’ve said it all here in the video:
(Now with Portuguese subtitles, thank you Pedro)
but I did leave out my actual prediction so to speak. This is a style vs style match up yes, but the bigger factor really is how much of the athlete that we know is left in these legends. ie I do think this comes down to how good Saku’s wrestling still is. If he can stay out of guard I see this going to a draw but if he is put down I see him getting passed, mounted and his back taken. His turtling only works if he gets to “scramble” but if he has lost this quickness and gets crossed faced even once I don’t think he is going to get out of the whole sequence of crossface/knee on belly/mount once it gets going from Renzo. One of Renzo’s main finishes is the guillotine and if Saku takes too many unsuccessful shots and gasses, that could be another way it ends too. One thing I left out in the video is that in more recent fights, Saku has become more of a “jiujitsu type” grappler looking to pass and get side control/mount to get the submission rather than scrambling for it (turtling in modern MMA is dangerous with GnP so highly evolved now). I’m not confident he will be able to get past Renzo with that approach though, given Renzo’s longer experience in playing the BJJ game.
2) Yuri Simoes vs Keenan Cornelius
Late replacement Keenan in the gi and motivated by a recent no gi loss to Yuri is not something to be underestimated. I am thinking this goes to a draw unless Keenan can take Yuri’s back but both guys have a lot to lose (given they are both blue chip “touted” prospects) so I’m not sure how much risk they will be taking to win, rather than “not losing”. There is no way Yuri is passing Keenan’s guard but then I’m not sure if Keenan will leave it till too late to start going for broke once on top.
3) Rory MacDonald vs JT Torres
This was actually my personal wish for a breakdown if Renzo/Saku didn’t happen. First off, Rory is huge. He must be walking around at 200-210 lbs and he’s much taller. He’s also extremely strong based on what I see in MMA. I don’t really believe in MMA math, but one thing I do use it for is to see who is a stronger wrestler. And for that I look at who gets reversed in the cage from the clinch. So for example Woodley, he looks physically dominating but he gets reversed by a lot of people, even “non-wrestlers”. These direct core strength match ups are quite objective I find in terms of evaluating raw power and ranking strength within a division. As for Rory’s case, he has reversed almost everyone he has fought against and that indicates some serious core strength. As a side point, I am quite interested in seeing how he matches up vs Hendricks who is at the top of the “math chain” having reversed GSP, who had reversed everyone prior. Given that core strength, I don’t see Rory getting gassed in a 20 min long match and I don’t see him getting taken down. Rory’s main guard is closed which will be very handy in this fight in stopping the faster JT but I don’t see him getting to JT’s back from there, the only way I see JT losing (back choke). JT is obviously faster, more technical and is a no-gi gold and Worlds BB silver medalist (outstanding achievements for an American grappler). The problem is he doesn’t specialize in the moves that would be most helpful in this sub only format (ie catch type holds like guillotine, heelhooks/reaps) so it looks like he will be trying to get dominant position first against Rory and I’m not sure that is going to happen. If he can get Rory’s back I can see the choke coming fast but given Rory/Firas are gamers and know this, they will probably be crafting a strategy to not risk exposing his back (in other words, don’t get taken down or play guard). I’m looking at a draw for this one.
4) Garry Tonon vs Zak Maxwell
You pretty much know as much about Tonon as I do, so not much more to add. As for Zak, I’ve watched him quite a bit since he is active in the circuit and has faced some of the guys I have made videos on before. He is one of the new gen sport BJJ players with the full set of tools to do well in the the IBJJF – DLR, Spider, good distance management. But he won’t have the wrestling/scrambling edge on the feet in this and he does certain things which I feel are going to expose him to a reap (like clinging on to closed) if he tries to guard camp. This looks like it’s Garry’s fight to lose and I’m thinking either a guillotine or heelhook finish.
Copa Podio is on this Weekend too Btw
Hey, do you all still remember that there’s another big BJJ event this weekend? Copa Podio has one of the biggest blue chip names left in BJJ in Leandro Lo (esp with Buchecha/Rodolfo “leaving” for MMA) and he will be facing Burns in a gi no time limit match to settle their epic rivalry. That was supposed to be the plan in the last Copa, but Gregor Gracie messed it up by eliminating Burns on the other side of the bracket enroute to the finals.
Leandro Lo v Gilbert Burns
I am thinking the main event is going to go to Burns’ way again. He just has Lo’s number and his style of wrestling/BJJ is kryptonite to Lo’s floating style which is optimized for “sport players” trying to guard camp but not someone aggressively sitting up into space. You can watch my Scouting Leandro Lo video for more details on the issues with active posting.
Middle Weight GP
Of the pack I like Calasans to face off against incumbent champ Felipe “Preguiça” Pena and I see Felipe winning that contest by some kind of sweep. I don’t think I will be doing a vid on Pena soon but I have watched him a lot given his history with Lo and he is kryptonite to Calasan’s style (you can watch my Lo v Calasan’s previews to see what Calasans does). He is a 50/50 specialist like Calasans but more explosive/faster. If he can break free I do see him passing/taking the back of Calasans though I’m not too sure about the finish within the time limit. Side note, of the GP pack, brown belt Erbeth Santos is one of the still unheard prospects which I do see eventually ascending the ranks of the BB elites when he gets promoted. I don’t think his aggression will be able to get past the veterans in this group this time but it will be interesting how he does in the round robins.
No real strong opinions on the other matches so don’t really have a prediction. Sorry.
One last thought – Copa Podio seems to be slipping a bit in terms of PR but then they have a TV deal in Brazil so perhaps they feel there isn’t such a need to hit social media. You would think they would have done a better job hyping such a strong card (hint hint) but it seems kind of late now with M5 clearly winning the PR war leading into this weekend. I feel they should be doing a better job in engaging the American market rather than just hoping inviting some big US names is going to draw an audience (and even then I think they slipped up there), but that’s just me.
Looking forward to the weekend! Any predictions?