Set for the Cabot Street Cinema Theatre in Beverly – Massachusetts is one of the top submission-only tournaments of the year, the BJJ Fanatics Grand Prix, a tournament put together by Michael Zenga and Bernardo Faria, the two black belt creators of the BJJ Fanatics website and brand.
The tournament will follow a submission-only ruleset, followed by EBI overtime rules (if the 10-minute regulation), under an open-weight class, gathering some of the very top grapplers on the planet today who will be competing for a 10.000 dollar prize and the chance to feature on a Fanatics Instructional. Below is a description of each of the competitors set to feature on the event.
Bracket (full description of each athlete below)
Location: Cabot Street Cinema Theatre (Beverly, MA)
Date: November 15, 2019
Renzo Gracie Academy NYC
Nicky Rod was a late replacement for Gordon Ryan, who was the heavy favorite to win the show. Quite big boots to fill, but it just so happens, Rodriguez has pretty big feet.
One of the most recognizable faces in grappling right now, particularly after his runner-up medal at the ADCC World Championship. His submission defense and size will pose a lot of problems to anyone who is not accustomed to playing from the guard and using the bottom game to submit. During the overtime rounds, Nick’s tremendous RNC killer instinct will also serve him well. A very strong candidate for the podium.
Alongside Kyle Boehm, Lucas Barbosa is one of the few men on this roster whom we believed had the glimmer of a chance of beating heavy favorite Gordon Ryan, as he was 0-2 in direct confrontations with John Danaher’s star pupil, both very close matches.
Lucas’s athletic prowess is likely only second to Nicky Rod’s on this card and his list of accomplishments is just as impressive as Gordon Ryan’s was. Barbosa, however, is a smaller athlete whose skill set is more suited for points-based tournaments, nonetheless, he will be an interesting competitor to follow in the tournament and a likely podium placer.
10th Planet Phoenix
This will be Boehm’s second tournament at black belt after a stellar career debut at the King Of The Mats a couple of weeks ago in which he amassed wins over big, big names of the sport such as, Tex Johnson, Dan Borovic and Dante Leon.
Boehm thrives under the submission-only ruleset, and even more so when you add EBI overtime to the equation. Kyle is also the current BJJ Fanatics tournament champion, so this event could also be seen as his first title defense.
Strong, flexible, very well versed in the footlock game, Boehm’s only weakness would be his guard retention, something that the prime guard passers in the tournament could take advantage of. Nonetheless, that will be a non-issue if they cannot tap Boehm, and Boehm’s submission defense is truly on point. We see Kyle as a very serious podium contender.
Brazilian Fight Factory – Checkmat
Under the guidance of Rodrigo Cabral, brown belt Kody Steele has climbed the ladder of grappling success, being today one of the most recognizable names in the sport, particularly since his 2019 list of accolades, which include a win at the EBI Combat tournament and a decisive win over BJJ veteran DJ Jackson.
Steele is not a particularly submission oriented competitor and relies on top-notch positioning and great submission defense to maul his opponents. Although not part of the favorites on the roster, Kody is likely to create a few upsets.
Formerly with Unity, Aaron Johnson has been training at different gyms since leaving New York, more recently joining the Fight Sports workgroup.
A formidable leg-locker, with tons of killer instinct, and submission-only tournament experience, Johnson is one of the most dangerous competitors on this list. He is coming off two great performances over the past couple of weekends, both at King Of The Mats and Sub-Stars, where he placed second and first respectively.
GF Team Toledo
On paper it could look as though 2019 was not one of the best years in Leon’s career, if relying solely on his medal tally, but one look at the names the young Canadian has beaten this year and we might class this as one of his finest: Mateus Lutes, Edwin Najmi, Quentin Roszensweig, Jonathan Satava, Lucas Lepri, Isaque Bahiense, all men who have fallen to Dante Leon’s might.
Leon brings a versatile game, good from passing and from the guard, great killer instinct and fantastic awareness. If there is one kink in Leon’s armor at the BJJ Fanatics tournament, that would be his size disadvantage, as he is much smaller than quite a few of the competitors on the race. Nevertheless, he is a pleasure to watch, and, depending on the brackets, could be a contender.
Another 10th Planet representative, though substantially smaller than teammate Kyle Boehm (aforementioned). Kirkorian is very exciting to watch, super motivated and submission oriented, with fantastic EBI overtime skills, making him a very tough man to beat at the Grand Prix.
Although exciting, Keith is one of the smallest men on the card and also one of the least experienced. How far he can take his BJJ Fanatics run is impossible to say, what we can almost guarantee is that he will do his best to keep it entertaining – a characteristic of Kirkorian.
10th Planet Jacksonville
Rosenzweig is a heel hooking machine. Part of the 10th Planet affiliation, Quentin is very experienced under the submission only setting, with wins over plenty of big names in the sport.
Mostly known for his quick finishes, do not expect to see Rosenzweig doing takedowns, passing guards or even attempting sweeps. He has a very one-dimensional game, but he is second to none in that dimension.
One of the latest black belts out of the Atos training camp in San Diego is Jonnatas Gracie. With a stellar career in the colored belt divisions, where he conquered numerous IBJJF World titles, Jonnatas (who is not a member of the famous Gracie family, solely shares their surname) has not been particularly active as a black belt, making his future performance at this event somewhat of a riddle, as we have not seen the young athlete compete under this ruleset, though his talent is unquestionable.
With less experience than many of the upper echelon competitors on this roster, and also less name recognition, Jonnatas could be a dark horse in this race if taken lightly. Durability and strategy are two of Jonnatas most prized weapons when competing, however, he is not particularly submission oriented, a factor that may hinder his chances under this format.
A very powerful lightweight/middleweight, a few years ago Valle was regarded as one of the top prospects for jiu-jitsu in Brazil. He has since moved to the United States where his competitive career has run both hot and cold.
More of a traditional grappler with very solid fundamentals, Valle is in the lightweight to middleweight range and a solid, solid black belt. On a good day Lucas can be a real challenge to anyone on this roster, however, we have not seen Valle’s heel-hooking defense as of yet, much of his chances on the mat this weekend will depend on how well he will do on this aspect of the game.
Bernardo Faria JJ / Alliance
We do not have a lot of information on Rodrigo Alonso. We do know he is a black belt and trains with Bernardo Faria, so we can assume Alonso will work well from half-guard and passing with pressure. We have seen Alonso featured on BJJ Fanatics’ YouTube channel, where he has shown a few clever footlock set-ups. During our research, we also saw that Alonso has conquered a NoGi Pan American title as a purple belt, and they don’t just hand those out. Expect Rodrigo to be a solid athlete.
10th Planet Montreal
One of four 10th Planet representatives on the card, Corey is a student of Louis Ho (who is himself a blackbelt under Eddie Bravo). We do not have a lot of information on Guitard, though he has plenty of wins on the nogi circuit, mainly in events such as Grappling Industries and Grapplers Quest, being also a veteran of sub-only invitationals including Victory Submission, Sub-X, Montreal Invitational, and Finishers.
Ocean County Jiu-Jitsu
Garret began his journey on the mats when he was 6 years old, being a part of the Berkley Mat Rats wrestling program. He wrestled all the way through high school at Central Regional and was a 3-year varsity wrestler.
Although we have seen him compete in the past at Fight 2 Win, we do not have too much information on Professor Garret’s jiu-jitsu game. What we do know is that he is a black Belt under Tom DeBlass, the same person who had a big hand in the development of Gordon Ryan and Garry Tonon, so expect Lavaggi to be a very solid grappler both on defense and offense.
A well-respected member of the submission-only circuit, Fadlallah is also a representative of the Detroit Jiu-Jitsu Academy. We do not follow the sub-only circuit as tightly as we do the Gi and NoGi tournaments, but we do remember Khalil from his match with Gordon Ryan at the NoGi Worlds last year. We also saw him with Dan Borovic last month at KOTM. Unfortunately, neither was a good showcase of Khalil’s skillset. We hope to see a better version of Mr. Fadlallah this weekend.
Joe Baize BJJ
We remember watching Joe Baize as one of the pioneers of the leg locking game in nogi grappling many moons ago and are happy to see him still competing at the highest level.
Battle-tested in a number of rulesets, Joe has the tools to cause a few upsets, though we haven’t seen much of this grappling veteran for quite some time. Looking forward to watching one of Kentucky’s jiu-jitsu OG’s in action.
Gracie Barra Northridge
Highly rated in the IBJJF circuit, Silvério has ventured out of his comfort zone quite a few times in the last year, including a run at the EBI Combat tournament, Fight 2 Win and World Series Of Grappling.
Good judo, solid positional and submission defense have made Silverio’s style perfectly suited for a points-based environment, but for it to work under the submission-only – EBI Overtime structure, at this level, Silverio would likely have to run a few adjustments.
Nevertheless, Silverio is one of the most accomplished competitors on this roster, a list of accolades that should also be taken into account when assessing Victor’s chances of doing well at the BJJ Fanatics Grand Prix.
Nice Guy Submissions
Childrey has been one of the scariest men in submission-only for a while now. A massive athlete with tons of power and a love for the straight ankle lock, always expect Jesseray to do well under these rulesets.
We are unsure if he should be labeled a “Dark Horse” at this point, considering he is an ADCC and EBI veteran with a long list of accomplishments, but he definitely has all the toolsets to be a big player in this event.
Brazilian Fight Factory / Checkmat
Arguably the hottest prospect in the purple belt division right now is the older of the Tacket brothers, an athlete who, like Kody Steele, is also a student of the aforementioned Rodrigo Cabral, from Checkmat’s Austin – Texas gym.
Tacket is a natural-born scrambler, with tons of gas in his tank as well as all-rounded skills. If this was a lightweight tournament we would have William as one of the front runners, even so, considering the gigantic size of a few of the challengers, we expect Tacket to be a real pleasure to watch.
Protect your feet when around Rau! A student of the former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra, Jason has been revered as one of the East Coast finest leg-lockers for a while. Although he’s shown plenty of potential in events such as the ADCC Trials and Kasai Pro’s tournament, he is yet to make that big final statement that can bring him closer to jiu-jitsu’s spotlight. That moment could be this BJJ Fanatics Grand Prix.
VALDIR BB MONSTER
A powerful grappler with fantastic scrambles in his tool-kit as well as 2 black belts, one in judo and another in jiu-jitsu, you can always expect Valdir to bring excitement to the table.
Extremely hard to hold down or submit, unfortunately for Valdir, 2019 has not been a good year competitively, considering his current 12 matches and 5 wins record. That could all change with a solid performance at the BJJ Fanatics Grand Prix.
Paladin Martial arts
39-year-old Mr. King is a massive human with plenty of mixed martial arts experience. We have not seen much of Tyler in grappling, and his game is an absolute riddle as we stand, but judging by his frame alone, we can imagine he will be a tough man to battle against.
One of the main figures of the ADCC East Coast Trials, Vincent is a tested black belt with plenty of experience in jiu-jitsu and combat sambo as well as mixed martial arts.
Vincent is traditionally a Masters 1 competitor, where he conquered a NoGi Pan American title. We haven’t seen him fight in submission only, but expect him to be equally competent.
Another athlete who traditionally competes in the Masters division, Lutsky has tons of grappling competition experience including Fight 2 Win, Grappling Industries, etc, having in his IBJJF No-Gi Pan American title his most prestigious gold medal.
Gracie Barra Montreal
A black belt under one of the best guard players of all times (Bruno Fernandes), we can likely expect Wilhan’s butterfly guard to be a strong suit of his.
Lucas has had some success during his brown belt career, particularly with the gi and we have no doubt Wilhan is a proficient grappler, however, looking at the names on the list, it is unlikely that he will be a challenge for the podium steps at this moment in time.
Easton Training Centre
Another “ginormous” competitor is Huddleston of Colorado, also known as the Shaved Gorilla, Alex is surprisingly technical for a very large individual, though mostly known for his gi work. An interesting addition to this roster.
Easton Training Centre
Most grappling fans will know John Combs as one of the most exciting grapplers on the planet. Fantastic wrestling, killer guillotines and a vastly improved leglock game make Combs a fantastic member of this group of athletes.
Regardless of how far Mr. Combs can take his BJJ Fanatics campaign, we would strongly advise you to keep your eyes well peeled when John is on deck. He is a fantastic player to watch in competition, particularly without the gi.
Team Shawn Hammonds
A member of Kentucky’s grappling elite, Chad Hardy, also known as “Beast” is a black belt under Nick Albin (Chewy) as well as one of the top middleweight competitors of his generation.
Hardy has in his guard his strong suit, a position he has used countless times to submit his opponents. Much like John Combs, whom we referenced above, Hardy will be a super exciting athlete to follow in this tournament.
Renzo Gracie Academy
Another battle-tested competitor in smaller shows, Nick has been through a lot of rulesets and a lot of matches, mainly in the Grappling Industries and Kasai circuits.
Lucas Lepri Corvallis / Alliance
Not a lot of information available on Wanly. We know he runs a Lucas Lepri affiliate gym in Oregon, USA and is a black belt under the same legendary lightweight.
Tai-Kai Martial Arts
Last but not least is “Crazy” Mike Mucitelli a former MMA fighter and recently promoted black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Michael competed in Bellator and other big shows and is now making the best of his love for grappling.