Every sport has a breeding ground for its future stars. In the case of mixed martial arts, the worlds of grappling, kickboxing and amateur wrestling are most likely to spawn the next Demian Maia, Mirko CroCop or Brock Lesnar. Collectively, these sports fall under the umbrella of “combat sports.” Every Wednesday, MMA DieHards reports on the biggest happenings in each of these realms of combat.
Grappling & Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
by Gianni Grippo, four-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion
The first of many big competitions has taken place in 2011, and the tournament was the Abu Dhabi World Pro Trials installment in Lisbon, Portugal, where the champions were awarded with their pass to the main event in Abu Dhabi, this coming April.
The list of talent that will be in Abu Dhabi has grown deeper after this past weekend and is shaping the April event to be one to remember. In the under 65 kg (143.3 lb) division, the ultra-popular, battle-tested veteran Wellington “Megaton” Dias secured his place amongst the list of top competitors taking their talents to the Middle East with an impressive performance and another piece of hardware to show off to his fellow teammates and students.
If there was a debate to who was the big standout in this competition, it would most likely end with everyone agreeing that the standout was Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes. Recently coming off his double gold performance at the South American Open with two wins over former world champion Mario Reis, Mendes did not slow down. Tanquinho owned his under 74 kg (163.1 lb) division by getting the submission in his first two contests and winning the finals by an 18 to 0 score. So, it is safe to say that in Abu Dhabi he will be a formidable foe for anyone that steps opposite him on the mats.
In the under 83 kg (183 lb) division, Alan “Finfou” Nascimento was the main man and took gold, cleaning out his division while also being vice-champion on the absolute podium. With the big boys, Yan Cabral was the tournament’s under 92 kg (202.8 lb) champion, beating the eventual absolute champion Lucio “Lagarto” in the final. Lastly, in the over 92 kg weight class, Jose Junior took home the gold, cleaning out his bracket.
On the ladies side, Michelle Nicolini was triumphant in the under 63 kg (139 lb) division, beating a tough up-and-comer in Mackenzie Dern. Also, in the over 63 kg division Monica Silva was crowned champion and awarded the trip to Abu Dhabi.
Back to the United States, another popular and increasingly growing competition, the 6th Arizona Open, will be held on Feb. 26 and 27, which will include the super-match between two perennial black belt world champions in Jonathan “JT” Torres and Kron Gracie. So mark your calendar for those days and be ready for an awesome black belt matchup!
by Staff, The Open Mat
Indiana redshirt freshman Ryan Leblanc may have a record of 7-6, but if you look a little deeper you will see four of those loses came to top twenty wrestlers Zack Toal (2-1), Kyle Blevins (3-1), Luvsandori Turtogtokh (6-3) and most recently Cody Yohn (2-0). This makes LeBlanc one of those diamond in the rough types you don’t want to face coming down the stretch run or come tournament time. He is also just one piece to the Hoosier line up that has gone 10-3 and seems to be a program with the cup half full. With wrestlers such as Kirk Kinser, Paul Young, Matt Powless and Rick Alcala all ranked nationally and guys like Matt Ortega and Leblanc wrestling well, the future look’s bright in Indiana. (in-depth coverage)
Earlier in the month we saw our share of upsets at the Virginia Duals and National Duals, the upsets have kept coming! Most recently, Navy knocked off perennial powerhouse Lehigh 19-15. Navy rattled off four wins in a row from 157 to 184. I don’t think Lehigh expected to drop matches at three of those weights with nationally-ranked Austin Meys and Rob Hamlin
dropping matches to Matt Demiceil and Luke Rebertus respectfully. The upset bug also hit California this week when Wyoming dropped a dual to Cal Poly 18-16. The Mustangs won in spite of Filip Novachkov dropping a 6-5 decision to Tyler Cox and having a fourth stringer in the line up because of injuries. We are now into the meat of the season and I expect plenty of fireworks between now and March. (in-depth coverage)
After a sluggish start to the season, Rutgers Mario Mason solidified his name to be amongst the title contenders with a 3-1 OT win over Bucknell’s previously unbeaten Kevin LeValley. The match was controlled by Mason the entire time as he came close on several takedown attempts and flustered LeValley, who never really got his offense going. Mason, a former No. 1 recruit out of Blair Academy, N.J., has produced 13 wins in a row since losing to Columbia’s Steve Santos. Among his wins in that stretch are two top five ranked wrestlers in Frank Molinaro and LeValley. This Friday should be real interesting as No. 8 Brian Stevens heads into Jersey with Virginia Tech in what will not only be another big test for Mason, but might just be the biggest college match to date in N.J. As great as Iowa vs. Oklahoma State was, this season continues to be special because of the performances of teams like Wyoming, Cal Poly, Virginia Tech and Rutgers. Also with the emergence of Cornell and Penn State as National front runners, I am definitely enjoying this new era of parity. (in-depth coverage)
Top 10 Teams in DI Wrestling
2. Penn State
7. Oklahoma State
9. Virginia Tech
A complete listing of individual and team rankings can be found on The Open Mat website.
Kickboxing & Muay Thai
by Rob Tatum
Despite a quiet week of action, the kickboxing world has a number of significant bouts in the coming month.
The most notable fight of the last week took place in Bangkok, Thailand, at Isuzu Thai Fight 2011: Thailand Qualifier on Saturday, Jan. 15, as Sudsakorn Sor. Klinmee defeated Kem Sitsongpeenong by decision.
Fighting Jan. 22 is “The Contender Asia” participant Dzhabar Askerov. He will face Italian Riccardo Lecca in Rome at KnocKOut. Also on the card is Bruno Franchi taking on Marco Pique.
Back to back K-1 Max 70kg (154 lb) champion Giorgio Petrosyan will now face the aforementioned Thai standout Sudsakorn Sor. Klinmee at Thai Boxe Mania 2011 on Jan. 29. It was recently announced that Petrosyan’s original opponent, WBC MT middleweight champion Yohan Lidon, will not be returning to 70kg.
A 72kg (158.4 lb) tournament featuring Jeremy Marin, Sebastien Billard, Aydin Tuncay, and Karim Ghaiji has been added to the previously announced La Nuit des Titans VI event on Feb. 12.
Mix Fight Promotions head Sefer Goktepe recently stated that he is in talks with Dutch promotion It’s Showtime to bring an event to Germany in the middle of June. Rumored participants include Gago Drago, Tyrong Spong, and Mosab Amrani.