EBI 11: Blood, Sweat and Cheers
On the night of March 5th the Eddie Bravo Invitational held its 11th and most exciting event to date. EBI 11 showcased both a 16 man submission-only grappling tournament and, for the first time in EBI history, a four man Combat Jiu Jitsu Tournament. Combat Jiu Jitsu is essentially submission grappling with open-hand strikes allowed while at least one competitor is grounded, whereas submission-only grappling has no striking, the goal being to make your opponent submit via joint-lock, choke, or just good old fashion pain. The 16 man tournament featured some the worlds best 170 lb competitors, including Danaher Death Squad member, as well as Middleweight and Open Weight EBI Champion, Gordon “The King” Ryan. Standing in “The Kings” way were 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu standouts under Eddie Bravo, Nathan Orchard and Ritchie “Boogyman” Martinez, former UFC, Strikeforce, and Bellator fighter, Vagner Rocha, and 12 other high level Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitors.
The event took place at the Florentine Gardens in El Monte, California, which seated close to 300 people and had standing room for a couple hundred more. Athletes competed on a raised matted platform which was surrounded on three sides by audience seating; this provided a surprisingly good vantage point from most areas of the room. In total there were about 400 people in attendance, however based on the way everyone interacted you might have thought it was an office Christmas party. Not to mention almost everyone in the room was sporting some article of clothing that represented their gym.
In the opening round of the submission-only tournament, Gordon Ryan utilized guillotine attempts and kimura holds in order to sweep his opponent and take his back. About 60 seconds later Ryan received the tap tap tap of submission from his defeated antagonist. The rest of the round saw both Ritchie Martinez and Nathan Orchard submitted via leg locks, while Vagner Rocha submitted his opponent via Rear Naked Choke in the overtime rounds. As the first round drew to a close, the audience buzzed in excitement anticipating the debut of Combat Jiu Jitsu.
The energy in the room rose as MMA referee Mike Beltran, and his unforgettable beard, took the stage. Former WEC and Bellator MMA fighter, Chad “Savage” George, strove to be the first EBI Combat Jiu-Jitsu champion, however standing in his way were 10th planet student JM Holland, Australian MMA fighter Nick Honstein, and Sambo specialist Sheridan Moran. In the first match Chad George defeated JM Holland in a violent exchange, in which Holland threatened with a tight rubber guard, however George was able to escape and, following an explosive combo of palm strikes, submit Holland with a D’arce choke. The second match showed Sheridan Moran display positional dominance over Nick Honstein, aggressively looking for submissions throughout regulation time, however Honstein was able to submit Moran with a rear naked choke in the overtime rounds.
In the final showdown Chad George rushed to meet Nick Honstein in the centre of the mat. After a short feeling out process including some battles for wrist control, Honstein began controlling George with a Muay Thai plum from which he exploded into a power double-leg takedown, drilling George to the mat. Once on the mat Honstein rained down some heavy palm strikes, causing George to scramble and allowing Honstein to take Chad’s back. A beautiful display of martial art’s technique and strategy thus far. Right away Nick started to advance position and it quickly became evident to everyone in the room that he was going for ‘The Twister‘, a submission which basically spins the upper body and lower body in different directions; it was also popularized by Eddie Bravo and is actually the symbol for the Eddie Bravo Invitational. As Honstein inched closer and closer to victory, the crowds cheers grew louder. Chad fought hard but was unable to prevent the bulldozing onslaught brought by Honstein and tapped with a cry of pain as Nick secured the submission. The crowd let loose a wild roar that was impressive for the amount of people present. As cliche as it sounds, electricity was in the air as the first Combat Jiu Jitsu tournament drew to a successful close.
The quarter finals started off with a quick guillotine submission applied by Gordon Ryan. This match showed “The King” using his lazy blitzkrieg style to pressure Chris Mckarski into scrambles which would always see Ryan come out on the winning end, however Ryan would then give up the position and continue the roll. Gordon allowed his opponent to both mount him and escape a deep triangle choke before finally submitting him. In the following match ups Marcel Goncalves defeated Dan Borovic in overtime rounds and Craig Jones defeated Darragh O’Conaill using an arm-bar. Vagner Rocha won an exciting bout against Sergio Ardila, in which Rocha was able to take Ardila’s back off of Ardila’s failed heel hook attempt. One minute later Ardila was tapping in submission to Rocha’s claustrophobic rear-naked choke.
Four welterweight competitors were left out of the original 16. First Gordon Ryan would battle against Marcel Goncalves for a spot in the finals and a chance for gold. Ryan moved with more urgency than the previous matches, first attacking with a series of Kimura arm locks, then, systematically proceeding to use an ankle trip in order to secure the mount position. From the mount Gordon utilized the ‘gift wrap’ arm control to take Marcel’s back. Shortly thereafter “The King” released a victorious yell as he enjoyed his third choke of the night. Next up, Vagner Rocha squared up against Craig Jones.This head to head showdown saw aggressive guard pass attempts from Rocha, however it seemed that both opponents seemed content in taking the fight to the overtime rounds, where Rocha was ultimately victorious. The final stage was now set. The undefeated 21 year old prodigy on his way to his third championship title in as many weight classes vs the grizzled veteran who has fought the world’s best for years, and is here to show the young buck that he still knows a thing or two.
As the match began, Gordon immediately dropped to his butt and proceeded to scoot over to Rocha. It was evident that Rocha was trying to keep and create space, as opposed to previous matches where he had seemed desperate to pass his opponents guard. Despite Vagner’s best efforts Ryan was able to isolate a leg and began aggressively attacking Rocha’s legs, looking for a submission. Vagner evaded all of Ryan’s leg-lock attempts and escaped the position, scrambling into the standing position. With an exciting display of technique, showing a perfection only achievable through hours upon hours of practice, ‘The King‘ dove onto Rocha’s back and simultaneously swept his leg so that both competitors tumbled to the mat in a controlled roll which left Ryan attacking Rocha’s throat. Urgently Vagner defended his neck but he was not able to cope with Ryan’s systematic attack, and less than two minutes later Gordon Ryan received his fourth tap via choke, along with the EBI welterweight championship belt. Not to mention $20 000 dollars for his efforts.
EBI 11 produced inspiring victories and dramatic defeats, showcasing the highest level of submission-only grappling on the planet. It will be exciting to see how long Gordon Ryan and the Danaher Death Squad reign, and how exactly, if at all they are defeated. Right now the young King has a ton of momentum heading into the Abu Dhabi Combat Club World championship tournament, arguably the most prestigious submission grappling tournament, which will take place in September of this year. If he can earn a gold medal at ADCC 2017 he will be on his way to achieving his goal of becoming the greatest submission grappler to walk the Earth. An inspiring goal to say the least. I left the Florentine Gardens, as I’m sure many others did, with one thought on my mind; I gotta hit the mats!