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Polaris 27 Card, Spectacular Welterweight GP And Ffion Vs Brianna To Boot!

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Nicholas Meregali Instructionals

The time is near! The 27th edition of the Polaris Invitational is taking place this SATURDAY, MARCH 23, 2024, at the International Convention Centre (ICC) Wales in Newport, Wales, UK. An event that promises to deliver one of the most action-packed professional jiu-jitsu shows of the year thanks to its star-studded welterweight (77 kg/170 lb) Grand Prix line-up and a fun super fight card, particularly with regards to the Ffion Davies vs Brianna Ste-Marie, a much-anticipated rematch of the 2022 ADCC final.

Let us start with the GP.

POLARIS 27 WW GRAND PRIX

Challengers:

Luiz Paulo (Alliance)

Max Hanson (Adamas)

– Harrison Woods (On Guard)

PJ Barch (10th Planet/Legion)

– Davis Asare (New Wave)

Jozef Chen (B-Team)

Espen Mathiesen (Mavs)

Levi Jones-Leary (Absolute MMA)

In a list with many top-tier challengers, picking a front-runner is a difficult endeavor, nevertheless, in this very tight race, we expect Jozef Chen to be the man to beat, if only by a razor-thin margin. Although he is still a brown belt, B-Team’s Chen hasn’t lost in this weight class since 2022, a time when he was 17. His last 3 wins were against the very top of the grappling food chain, namely Mateusz Szczecinski, Tommy Langaker, and Oliver Taza. Chen is hard to take down, has a never-ending gas tank, outstanding guard passing, and a killer instinct to boot. If you don’t know this young man by now, you will likely remember him after this event.

Experience and style-wise, veteran PJ Barch has all the ingredients to be the top pick, although, despite his outstanding talent ticking all the right boxes, he has failed to break out in a big way over his 8-year-long career in the pro circuit and his chances of winning a major title are diminishing by the year. Expect a motivated Barch coming into Wales this weekend to face a plethora of younger contestants with his forward-moving style, with outstanding wrestling, as scrambly as they come, and very savvy in the leg-locking department.

Another formidable challenger is Canada’s Max Hanson of Adamas/Pedigo SF. Max was a force in the submission-grappling circuit in the USA last year and despite being one of the smallest athletes on the GP, he is a dangerous contestant with his aggressive and submission-oriented style. Another fun athlete to follow is Norway’s Davis Asare, a rising star of the New Wave workgroup and one of John Danaher’s most active pupils. He made a big impression at the ADCC European Trials this year and the Polaris stage should be a great setting for this young man to cement his contention for the best new talent in Europe at this weight.

Two challengers that are outside of the no-gi’sfere of jiu-jitsu are Espen Mathiesen and Luiz Paulo Medeiros, seasoned competitors that made their names in the gi and are now venturing into the more profitable submission-grappling world. Luiz Paulo may very well be the dark horse in this race given how he made it to the podium of the IBJJF No-Gi Worlds last year, losing by an advantage in the semis, and won the 2024 ADCC Brazil Trials in this weight class, submitting Fabyury Khrysthyan and beating Magid Hage in the process. Despite currently representing Team Alliance, Luiz was assembled in Melqui Galvao‘s school, alongside Mica Galvao, Fabricio Andrey, Diogo Reis, Kaua Gabriel, Brenda Larissa, and so many other world-class athletes. He comes in with a cerebral approach to the game, the flair commonly seen in Brazilian players, and very few holes (if any) in his game.

As for Espen Mathiesen, we have only seen this young man compete without the gi once since reaching the black belt level in 2017, that first dip in no-gi waters was an unsuccessful run at the IBJJF London Open last year, where he lost in the first round. Given the type of talent available on this GP, this could prove to be a bad omen for Mathiesen’s chances, nevertheless, the talent is there and he is still one of the slickest guard players of his generation who – if he dedicated enough time to prepare for this – may very well surprise us all this weekend.

Although there are no easy matches at Polaris 27, one could say that in terms of favoritism, Levi Jones-Leary and Harrison Woods would be on the opposite end of the line in relation to Jozef Chen. The Aussie, Jones-Leary is a young man of undenying talent who has not quite found his stride in the post-pandemic era with his past 10 matches being split between 5 wins and 5 losses. Granted, Jones-Leary was never outclassed in any of his losses as they were all close matches against world-class opponents, but an indicator nonetheless, which makes P27 a good chance for him to rebound from a bad period or sink further in the rankings.

Canada’s Harrison Woods is coming in as the least-known competitor on the roster. He won the Polaris Qualifier to make the show and did so emphatically, submitting everyone in his path. That said, none of the opponents he faced there had the level of experience and talent of this group, therefore, Mr. Woods chances remain a mystery to be revealed this Saturday. One thing is for sure, Harrison is a dangerous back-taker, so be sure to protect your neck against this Canadian grappler.

POLARIS 27 SUPERFIGHTS

Ffion Davies vs Brianna Ste-Marie (title match)

Two athletes who never put on a boring match in their lives, Davies & Ste-Marie will be revisiting their 2022 ADCC finals clash, a bout that was a one-sided affair for Welsh grappler Ffion, when it happened. The P27 time and location are not spectacular fits for Canada’s Brianna Ste-Marie as Ffiona will have the hometown advantage and is coming in with a 12-match winning streak against Brianna’s 0-3 in her last 3 matches (6-4 in her last 10).

Although Davies is coming in with clear favoritism, Brianna has been training in California in preparation for this match, with the jiu-jitsu aces at AOJ and appears to be working on her stand-up with judo wizard Justin Flores. This aspect (the stand-up) may play a big factor in this clash as whoever ends up in the top position will likely come out with her hand raised in the end. As such, if Ste-Marie manages to edge out Davies in the stand-up, this might become a far more balanced affair than their last contest.

Keith Krikorian vs Cammy Donnelly (title match)

Another title is on the line in this match-up between two athletes known to push the pace and put on fun performances. Krikorian is coming in as the veteran with over 60 matches at the pro level against the UK’s rookie black belt, Donnelly, himself an ADCC European Trials silver medalist. This should be a fun, high-paced clash and an opportunity for Mr. Cammy to show his skills to many grappling fans outside of Europe’s no-gi grappling circuit, despite the favoritism of Krikorian.

– Nathaniel Wood vs Alex Caceres

We don’t follow MMA closely enough to have a solid knowledge of Wood & Caceres’ grappling skills, but cage fighters seldom disappoint in aggression and athleticism. Count us in the category of “excited to watch this match”.

The 27th edition of the Polaris Jiu-Jitsu Invitational will be streamed on UFC Fight Pass.

Bernardo Faria BJJ Foundations

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