DECEMBER 16, 2022, and another outstanding night for submission grappling fans last night as we witnessed another edition of the Fight Pass Invitational, an event produced with the backing of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), the biggest combat sports brand in the world. The event was largely put together to celebrate Gordon Ryan’s signing with the Fight Pass streaming platform, though the card had many more exciting features, including superfights and an open-weight tournament with a USD 25,000 prize cash.
One of the breakthrough stars of the event was New Wave’s “Big Dan” Manasoiou, a purple belt who definitely made himself noticed over the past 6-8 months. The Romanian-American athlete was the favorite ahead of the clash against veteran Ricardo Evangelista – a former IBJJF world champion – but few would have expected such a dominant performance. A quick guard pass, an even quicker mount and to top it off, a submission from the mount via neck crank/smother.
The female super fight between Miesha Tate and Bia Mesquita was also a one-sided affair, with the former IBJJF world champion, Mesquita, winning most of the positional exchanges, conquering a nice butterfly sweep, the back and the mount for the majority of the match. Despite the many attacks, the match went to overtime, which Bia won.
GORDON VS NICKY ROD
The most anticipated clash of the event, sadly, ended up being the least entertaining of the evening. For the most part, this was nobody’s fault per se. Both competitors applied the strategies that were required to win, and it would be hard to envision them applying anything too dissimilar from what we saw last night, anytime in the future, with Nick Rodriguez assuming the top position, on his knees with low posture, forcing Gordon Ryan to play half-guard or butterfly with his back on the floor. This was mostly what transpired in the match, where both athletes were unable to break through each other’s defenses (though, in fairness, Gordon certainly worked harder to advance position). The match went to EBI overtime, where Ryan did a great job at sticking to Nick’s back to take the victory on ride-time.
The tournament had solid matches but no big upsets. Most expected to see a clash between Nick Rodriguez and Mason Fowler in the final, but as Nicky Rod was called in to replace Vinny Magalhães (out for medical reasons) for the main event against Ryan, New Wave’s Nick Griffith came in to replace the big man from B-Team. Although relatively young, Nick has a wealth of talent and was substantially larger than the opponents he faced on his side of the bracket, two assets he used impeccably to reach the final.
On the other side of the bracket, Mason Fowler of the Caio Terra Association went through his challengers like a hot knife through butter, submitting both on his way to a finals match against the aforementioned Griffith. Once facing John Danaher‘s pupil, Fowler played mostly from the top, passing Luke Griffith’s guard and dominating most of the exchanges, though unable to secure the submission. The match ended up going to overtime but the winning dynamics remained with Fowler who took home the 25k prize via EBI-OT.
Despite the great success of the event, which most certainly boosted the sport to a higher stage than before, the Fight Pass Invitational was not all sunshine and rainbows. The matches were held under one of the least-liked submission grappling rulesets in the sport (EBI), one that diminishes/funnels the dynamics of a grappling match by stifling standing interactions and limiting the gains of advancing positioning by rewarding defensive/cagy players with the overtime round. That allied to the fact that the 8 man tournament had three athletes from 10th Planet, a team linked with the promoters of the show, appears to be – from the outside – a little short-sighted for an event intended to raise the bar of the sport, given how many fun athletes are out there looking for opportunities like this. We hope these are seen as constructive critiques of a very solid event with amazing production and high-level entertainment, which we hope to see more of in the future.
– Mason Fowler (CTA) DEF. Pat Shahgholi (10th Planet) via armbar
– Nick Griffith (New Wave) DEF. Andy Varela (10th Planet) via EBI overtime
– Mason Fowler DEF. Patrick Gaudio via triangle
– Luke Griffith DEF. Oliver Taza via RNC
– Mason Fowler DEF. Luke Griffith via EBI overtime
– Dan Manasoiou DEF. Ricardo Evangelista via neck crank / smother tap
– Beatriz Mesquita DEF. Misha Tate via EBI overtime