On Sunday April 23, 2006 the second “Best of the West” no-gi submission grappling championships took place.On Sunday April 23, 2006 the second “Best of the West” no-gi submission grappling championships took place. Thousands of spectators, consumers, competitors, exhibitors, industry experts, talent scouts, and celebrities from across the United States and several foreign countries alike, gathered at the “Hall of Champions” at Long Beach City College in Long Beach, California. The event was extremely well organized and ran very smoothly by the joint efforts of OnTheMat.com and GrapplingTournaments.com.
The unique, multi-faceted extravaganza encompassed all aspects of submission grappling and jiu-jitsu, attracted some of the biggest names in the sport, and received tremendous support from some of the best sponsors and supporters of the game, which included the OTM Fight Shop (www.otmfightshop.com), On The Mat (www.onthemat.com), TapouT (www.inyaface.com), Sinister (www.sinisterbrand.com), Gameness (www.gameness.net), Bad Boy (www.badboymma.com), Da Hui (www.dahui.com), Rockstar (www.rockstar69.com), and RATED (www.grapplingratings.com).
The twelve referees on hand for the event were all jiu-jitsu experts with years of experience within the sport, they were all certified through the World Grappling Games, and were extremely well versed in the rules of both jiu-jitsu and submission grappling. There were over 600 men, women, and children from all over the world competing at every level from beginner to advanced. The lightweight pro four-man tournament featured Eben Keneshiro (BJJ Revolution), Sonny Nohara (Cobra Kai), Shane Rice, and Jeff Glover (Paragon). Also on hand competing were jiu-jitsu stand outs Pedro Elias, Sean Spangler, Simpson Go, Ralek Gracie, and Shawn Williams, as well as Sean Patrick Flannery (who’s starred in the Hollywood classics “Boondock Saints” and “Suicide Kings”). Then to top things off, the super fight headlining the main event featured Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt Ryron Gracie (Torrance, CA) and Migliarese black belt Rick Macauley (Philadelphia, PA).
The competition itself began around 10 a.m. with the children’s divisions and wrapped up around 7 p.m. with the only stop in action coming around 1 p.m. due to Gracie and Macauley’s super fight.
The lightweight (149.9 and under) pro division was filled with action and did not fail to impress throughout every match. Shane Rice and Eben Keneshiro got things started with a fast paced battle that allowed Eben to demonstrate his flexibility and Shane displayed his superior strength and wrestling skills for this weight class. After it was all said and done, Shane got the better of Eben and earned a slot in the finals by racking up a significant points win. In the second semi-final Sonny Nohara and Jeff Glover battled. These two friends and current training partners have seen a lot of each other lately and have competed against each other quite a bit, including as recently as Grappler’s Quest West on March 25th. Jeff was able to utilize his trademark technique and familiarity of Sonny’s game to stymie Sonny’s blazing speed and power to earn the last berth in the finals against Shane Rice.
This was by far one of the most exciting finals matches in recent memory with both fighters leaving everything they had on the mat. Shane started things off by scoring early and often to gain a quick 4-0 lead. That is when Jeff shocked the crowd with a takedown of his own, which grappling fans aren’t typically accustomed to seeing him do. Down 4-2, Jeff decided that the fight was going too long and he need to do something fast and that is when he set the bait to his trap. From half-guard Jeff began setting up a Darce choke and quickly baited Shane into passing his half-guard. As Shane took Jeff’s side, Jeff scooted around and secured the choke which gave Shane no choice but to tap. It’s fighters like Jeff Glover, whom continuously throw caution to the wind, searching for the tap instead of points, that makes tournaments like these so exciting and worth attending.
The competition was punctuated nicely, however, around 2 p.m. with the highly anticipated Rick Macauley vs. Ryron Gracie super fight. Both fighters are young, well-liked, jiu-jitsu studs that I expect will be seeing a lot of each other in the years to come. Okay so leading into the Best of the West, everyone was anticipating the Rick Macauley vs. Ryron Gracie showdown.
In one corner, there was Rick Macauley. Over the last few years one would be hard pressed to find a more active, exciting, and innovative fighter in the grappling game. In 2005 alone, Rick had over 75 fights, competed at the ADCC trials, and has beaten some of the world’s most elite submission experts. It’s great to see how fast and dangerous his game has progressed in the past few years.
In the other corner, there was Ryron Gracie. Son of Rorion, grandson of Helio, and the current torchbearer of the legendary Gracie family. If you couldn’t get excited for this fight you probably don’t have a pulse. The fight started at 3 p.m. and the thousands of spectators in attendance were so silent and attentive, you probably could have heard a pin drop over at the Long Beach airport.
Rick started things off in his typical, flashy Vanilla Gorilla fashion with a lightning fast single-leg takedown into side control to get an immediate 2×0 lead. Ryron, much like his uncle Royce, played it cool and escaped to guard in a way that looked almost effortless and started looking for Rick’s arm. Rick easily defended, but Ryron used it to set up a slick sweep to side control to even the score at 2×2. As Ryron was trying to advance from Rick’s side to a full mount, Rick trapped one of Ryron’s feet and got out. Ryron quickly established a full guard and Rick starts trying to break Ryron’s long, wiry, and powerful closed guard. Suddenly, Ryron appeared to raise his legs into a high rubber guard, a la Eddie Bravo, which goes to show how innovative the younger Gracie’s have become as the sport continues to evolve. From this position, he began looking for a guillotine choke. Though Rick never looked worried or in danger. Ryron’s multi-dimensional guard then shifted into an open guard, as Rick continued looking for the pass. Rick has Ryron’s leg up on his shoulder trying to pass at this point.
Ryron still looking relaxed transitioned into possibly his 93rd different guard formation of the day, choosing this time to play the butterfly guard. As Rick continued trying to pass one of the most diverse guard games in the sport, Ryron reversed him. As Ryron gained the top position, he again almost mounts, but Rick’s fail-proof half-guard game traps his foot to defend. This time Ryron is very high up on Rick’s chest and begins looking for a choke. Rick never looks worried and sweeps Ryron. Since the gymnasium was dead silent up until this point, you could hear the Gracie train in Ryron’s corner shouting advice in Portuguese as Marc Laimon unofficially coached his friend Rick, since Rick had flown into L.A. (Ryron’s backyard) solo.
At this point, Ryron had a full butterfly guard and caught Rick with an omoplata. Rick smartly let him apply some pressure on his shoulder to prevent the sweep, got to his knees, and defended in very technical and ballsy fashion. As Rick started to roll out, Ryron’s omoplata began to sickeningly look more and more like a potential crucifix. From there Ryron opted to try and take Rick’s back and applies an omoplata on Rick’s arm, but like the soldier he is Rick escaped with textbook timing and precision, but somehow Ryron gained 2 points on the same reversal Rick was awarded nothing for, taking his first lead over Rick 4×2 at about the 12 minute mark. Ryron begins playing the open guard and Rick, not wanting anything to do with Ryron’s arsenal of guard attacks, gets both of his arms under Ryron’s legs. So Ryron calmly introduced his spider guard and switched quickly back into another butterfly guard, while trying to attack Rick’s left arm. Rick seemed to be in a little trouble at this point, but nothing serious. Ryron then seemed to increase his pressure and intensity and almost took Rick’s back. Ryron begins a rear naked choke attempt with one hook in, but Rick quickly defends. Ryron then uses an under grip on Rick. Rick gets out and is now on top. Rick stands up as Ryron continues to sit, before joining Rick on his feet. They both established grips in a wrestler style tie-up, as Rick suddenly drops down and scooped up Ryron’s left leg for another single leg takedown to even the match at 4×4. As they hit the mat, Ryron falls back into a butterfly guard. Rick tries to jump to pass, but Ryron recovers. With time winding down at the 18-minute mark, Ryron swept Rick to regain a two-point advantage at 6×4. Rick is now turtled and Ryron has one hook in. Rick began trying to escape the same way he had earlier, by bridging out while defending the other hook. Ryron seemed to smell blood at this point and sunk the other hook, going up 10×4, while flattening Rick down to his stomach to prevent any more escapes. Ryron began grapevining Rick’s legs as he steadily sunk the mata leão tighter and tighter like a boa constrictor. After defending the choke longer than what seemed humanly possible, Rick finally tapped out at about the 18:30 mark, and Ryron won one of the most technical and exciting super fights anyone’s witnessed in quite some time.
Simply stated, the fight was off the hook, and I’d definitely love to see a rematch between them at the Pan Americans on June 3rd. This is mostly because Rick is one of the fastest learners in the sport. Case in point, he lost a very close match to Marcos Avellan at the ADCC trials in September and then came back to beat him at the GQ West in November. I know Rick vs. Ryron II would be just as exciting with an end result that no one could truly predict from just one match!
In a nutshell, Ryan Gregg, Scotty and Gumby from OTM, the World Grappling Games, and the crew from the OTM Fight Shop in Hermosa Beach made the second annual Best of the West a resounding success that will indelibly find its place in grappling history. Their weeks of work and preparation that lasted into the wee hours of the night before the tournament paid dividends and helped ensure the old age adage that one must lay in the bed they make. In the case of the Best of the West, it appears they will be sleeping in a California King sized bed, with plush pillows from Indonesia, and an automated masseur!