The Snowman reigns in the UK: 10K Challenge Report

32 top Grapplers, 1000 spectators, one night, one winner, with the biggest grappling prize outside of the ADCC World Championships… £10,000 Winner Takes All.The Hackney Empire theatre in London’s East End is no stranger to hosting the leading lights of the stage and screen, Charlie Chaplin, WC Fields, Stan Laurel and Marie Lloyd have all performed there and although the venue is now more accustomed to hosting stand-up comedy and touring orchestras and operas, on Sunday March 11th, the Empire was once again host to the World’s leading exponents of their particular art.

The 10K Ground Clash is the sister event to the 10K Karate Clash, an established part of the Martial Arts Calendar. The Karate Clash was dreamt up by the promoter Joe Long in 2002, his intention, to host a karate competition that was accessible to the general public at large, combining top competitors with quality surroundings, and boxing style razzmatazz and coverage. Looking for an opportunity to diversify, in 2007, the promoters of the Seni Show; Fighters Inc; Masters of the Mat and 3on3, in association with European Fight Network (the promoters of the Urban Gorillaz Grappling Challenge and Gracie Invitational) decided to create a grappling tournament with the same goal. 32 top Grapplers, 1000 spectators, one night, one winner, with the biggest grappling prize outside of the ADCC World Championships… £10,000 Winner Takes All.

The 10K Challenge rules had a twist on more familiar rules such as those used by the CBJJ and ADCC. In order to promote maximum activity and submission attempts, positional points were only awarded for the first half of the 6 minute matches, with points for submissions attempts awarded for the duration of the match. Rather than the slower paced bouts one often sees at tournaments, 16 of the 31 matches ended with a spectacular submission. Another innovation introduced by European Fight Network supremo Jude Samuels was the use of yellow and red cards for warning competitors of stalling and other rules infractions, rather than the more commonly used hand signals which can prove confusing to some spectators.

The list of competitors included World, Pan-American and European Champions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Submission Wrestling, Mixed Martial Arts Champions and fighters amongst the cast of experienced British, Brazilian, American and European grapplers. The favourites coming into the tournament were Jeff ‘The Snowman’ Monson, the 2 time over 99kg ADCC Submission Wrestling World Champion and UFC veteran; Braulio ‘Carcara’ Estima, the 2 time BJJ World Champion and 6 time BJJ Pan-American Champion and Rafael Lovato Jr, and one of the most decorated American BJJ Exponents and a Black Belt under the legendary Saulo Ribiero.

Accomplished competitors deserve accomplished officials and so Andy Roberts a BJJ purple belt with enormous competition experience both as a competitor and as a referee and Felipe Souza, a World Championship medallist and BJJ Black Belt instructor at Roger Gracie Academy in Ladbroke Grove were drafted in to oversee proceedings. The scoring and judging table was manned by Jon Shotter, partnered by William Koplitz, Luciano Cristovam and Vitor Estima

The Group Matches

Group 1

Group 1 saw Braulio drawn against 3 other UK based BJJ Instructors, former World Champion ‘Ze’ Marcello, Pedro Bessa and Paul Bridges as well as the UK’s top ranked BJJ Purple belt Michael Russell; the ADCC veteran and one of Spain’s most decorated grapplers, Tito Beltran; Renzo Gracie Black Belt; ADCC veteran Haim Gozali and the Belgian submission wizard, Tarec Saffiedine.

Saffiedine and Russell put on a great, fast paced show of grappling for the audience, showing why they are two up and coming stars on the European circuit. Saffiedine managed to secure a heel-hook submission shortly before the end of their enthralling display. Pedro Bessa, winner of his Black Belt challenge match against fellow Bristol based BJJ Black Belt Carlos Lemos Jr last year, took another UK instructor’s scalp, beating the BTT black belt Ze Marcello 5-3. The veteran Spanish grappler Tito Beltran, a BJJ Black Belt under the famous Carlson Gracie team coach ‘Manimal’ impressed with submission victories against Bridges and Saffiedine, but it was Braulio who made the clearest statement of intent by submitting Gozali by Triangle Choke in his first match, arm-barring Bessa in his second and choking Beltran in the Group final.

Group 2

Group 2 saw the former BJJ Masters World Champion, UFC Veteran and Wolfslair MMA team head coach Mario ‘Sukata’ Neto drawn with Rafael Lovato Jr; the UFC Veteran, London Shoot member James Zikic; Swansea based BJJ Purple Belt Chris Rees; the South African MMA fighter Chris Bright; the French footlock king Anthony Rode, and BJJ players Dean Jones and Stephen Dawson.

The first match up saw two UFC veterans, the Widnes based MMA fighter and coach Mario ‘Sukata’ and the veteran London Shoot fighter James Zikic. Sukata’s experience and strength and size advantage proved key here as he controlled Zikic, scoring a takedown and guard pass to win 4-0. Sukata won his next match against Chris Bright by the same margin, again taking down and passing the guard. Bright had impressed in his first match, snapping on a lightning fast triangle 3 minutes in against the well supported welsh grappler Chris Rees, but was unable to deal with the weight of experience and sheer mass of his opponent. Although the French grappler Anthony Rode dominated London Pancrase Dean Jones winning 10-3 in his first round match up, the crowd were impressed by Jones’ astonishing kimura escape and arm-bar escape switch to knee bar. Rode proved no match however for the more experienced Rafael Lovato Jr, who had ‘anaconda choked’ Stephen Dawson quickly in his first match, before controlling Anthony from the turtle position and then acrobatically rolling to secure a rear-naked choke at just over 1 minute into the bout.

As expected, Sukata and Lovato were to face off in the Group 2 final and Rafael was unable to control the 105kg black belt as he had his previous opponents. Sukata scored first with a takedown, but conceded 2 yellow cards for stalling, giving Lovato 2 points and the nod from the judges after the match ended in a draw.

Group 3

Group 3 saw the joint favourite Jeff Monson paired with the MMA fighter Tom Blackledge; the former World and European traditional Jiu Jitsu Champion Vincent Parisi, son of the legendary Judo Olympian Angelo Parisi; BJJ Brown Belt Neil Owen; former BJJ World Champion Octavio Souza; the multiple European BJJ Champion and ADCC Europe finalist Helio Perdigao; Nick Gregoriades, an ADCC Europe finalist and BJJ Brown Belt under the legendary Roger Gracie; and the popular UK MMA fighter Sami Berik, renowned for always challenging himself by competing with the best the MMA and grappling world has to offer.

Vincent Parisi, son of the most decorated Judo Olympian of all time, the legendary Angelo Parisi clearly had inherited his father’s grappling gene’s, dominating the heavyweight BJJ Brown Belt from Doncaster Neil Owen. Parisi secured the fastest submission of the evening, with a Figure 4 footlock in 43 seconds. Such was the speed and determination he applied the choke with, some people wondered if he wanted to take the foot home with him as a trophy! Monson won his first match over Sukata’s student Tom Blackledge by North/South choke at 3mins 33 seconds and then controlled Parisi, securing a rear-naked choke just before the end of time.

Other matches saw Nic Gregoriades continually looking for submissions against the UK MMA fighter Sami Berik, positionally controlling him before securing a triangle choke after 3 minutes. Sami is contracted to fight ‘Mach’ Sakurai in Pride in May and we wish him well. Braulio’s student Octavio Souza, a former BJJ world champion at blue and purple belt took on the multiple times BJJ European Champion Helio Perdigao. Octavio did not manage to submit Helio, but controlled the pace of the match winning 4-0 by way of two guard passes.Octavio upped the tempo in his next match and after some pretty open exchanges of submission attempts; Nic was forced to tap to a tight Kneebar.

Despite giving away somewhere north of 30kg, Octavio gamely faced Monson in the group final, but despite actively looking for openings for submissions, was unable to prevent Jeff getting the takedown which won him the match 2-0.

Group 4

Group 4 pitted the Yorkshire based BJJ Black Belt Lucio ‘Lagarto’ Rodrigues against a number of top heavyweight competitors, including the biggest competitor of the night, 115kg Black Belt from Sao Paolo, Thiago ‘Monstro’ Borges; former world BJJ and Submission Wrestling world champion, the MMA fighter Leo Negao; BJJ black belt Gabriel Kitobar, the Cagewarrior’s Lightweight World Champion and BJJ Black Belt Alexandre ‘Xandinho’ Izidro; Hull based BJJ Brown Belt Marcus Silva; the Carlson Gracie Team Brown Belt and Judo Black Belt Simon Hayes and the BJJ Purple Belt Lee Catling.

Cagewarrior’s champion ‘Xandinho’ secured the only submission of his group, with an acrobatic display and a fast armbar ending Catling’s evening. The main surprise of the evening was ‘Monstro’ beating the more experienced ‘Lagarto’ by 3-2. He kept his momentum going to beat Simon Hayes 4-3, Hayes having secured an impressive victory over the very game Marcus Silva. Similarly the veteran grappler Leo Negao ground out victories over Gabriel Kitobar by judges’ decision and over Izidro 4-0 after two takedowns.

Negao and ‘Monstro’ were wary of each others takedown ability and spent much of the match preventing openings for takedowns rather than throwing caution to the wind and themselves at their opponents. Negao did score with a takedown, but a clash of heads opened up a nasty cut over Borges’ eye, which was very swiftly dealt with by the onsite medics. The match restarted, but with neither fighter wanting to give his opponent an opening, time ran out and Negao had done enough to do take the match 2-0.

The Semi-Finals

The first semi-final saw Braulio take on Rafael in a repeat of their match up at the BJJ European Championships in Lisbon this past January. Unfortunately for Rafael, the script was the same, with Braulio dominating the proceedings before arm-barring his opponent from his guard after a little over 3 minutes. Although defeated, Rafael continues to impress as one of the very best grapplers from America and hopefully he will be invited to the ADCC Worlds in New Jersey this May.

The second semi final was to be another rematch, Negao and Monson had fought at the Urban Gorillaz challenge at the 2006 Seni Show, a contest that saw Monson win an exceptionally close match up by referee’s decision. A notable difference in this meeting was that Negao seemed to be 10 to 15kg lighter than their previous encounter due to his preparation for an upcoming MMA contest. Would the loss of muscle mass and strength prove decisive? This semi-final proved to be a slower paced affair than Braulio/Rafael and both grapplers were warned for stalling. This inspired Monson to up his work rate considerably and he almost took Negao down on several occasions. This was the 3rd and final match to go to the Judge’s and they ruled that Monson had done enough to secure his spot in the final.

The Grand Final

Few people can have been surprised that the final would pit Braulio against Jeff, but having seen Braulio quickly dispatch his opponents and Jeff go the distance in 2 of his 4 previous matches, observers wondered if Monson would be able to gut out a victory against a fresher, faster competitor known for his aggressive submission hunting in the 8 minute final.

In the end, Monson’s methodical game-plan saw him stifle the ambitions of the grappler from Recife, Brazil. Braulio’s initial attempt to pull guard and work for submission saw him go 1-0 down and Monson was able to capitalize on this with a big takedown shortly afterwards to go 3-0 ahead. Braulio frantically looked for openings to submissions but Jeff was able to control him from the top position and almost passed Braulio’s guard on 3 or 4 occasions. Braulio suffered a cut requiring attention with only 2 seconds left on the clock, and although the wound was patched up promptly by the medical staff onsite, there was nothing he could do before the horn sounded, ending a remarkable evening of submission fighting.

There are few grapplers active today with more experience than Estima, but Monson is one of them and whilst this may have been one of his toughervictories, he has another title to add to his collection, the Inaugural 10K Ground Challenge champion, along with a cheque for £10,000 from sponsors For more information go to and

10 K Challenge – Full Results

10K Challenge – Full Results

Group 1Tito Beltran, Paul Bridges, Braulio Estima, Haim Gozali, Taric Saffiedine, Pedro Bessa, Ze Marcello, Michael Russell

Group 2Mario ‘Sukata’ Neto, James Zikic, Chris Rees, Chris Bright, Anthony Rode, Dean Jones, Rafael Lovato Jr, Stephen Dawson

Group 3Jeff Monson, Tom Blackledge, Vincent Parisi, Neil Owen, Octavio Souza, Helio Perdigao, Nick Gregoriades, Sami Berik

Group 4Lucio ‘Lagarto’ Rodrigues, Thiago ‘Monstro’ Borges, Marcus Silva, Simon Hayes, Alexandre ‘Xandinho’ Izidro, Lee Catling, Leo Negao, Gabriel Kitobar

Group 1 MatchesTito Beltran x Paul Bridges – Tito Beltran wins by Choke 3.23Braulio Estima x Haim Gozali – Braulio Estima wins by Triangle Choke 2.19Tarec Saffiedine x Michael Russell – Tarec Saffiedine wins by footlock 5.34Pedro Bessa x Ze Marcello – Pedro Bessa wins 5-3

Group 1 Semi-FinalsTito Beltran x Taric Saffiedine – Tito Beltran wins by Figure 4 ToeholdBraulio Estima x Pedro Bessa – Braulio Estima wins by Armbar 1.36

Group 1 FinalTito Beltran x Braulio Estima – Braulio Estima wins by Rear Naked Choke

Group 2 MatchesMario ‘Sukata’ Neto x James Zikic – Mario ‘Sukata’ Neto wins 4-0Chris Rees x Chris Bright – Chris Bright wins by Triangle Choke 3.23Angthony Rode x Dean Jones – Anthony Rode wins 10-3Rafael Lovato Jr x Stephen Dawson – Rafael Lovato Jr wins by Arm Triangle 1.57

Group 2 Semi-FinalsMario ‘Sukata’ Neto x Chris Bright – Mario ‘Sukata’ Neto wins 4-0Rafael Lovato Jr x Anthony Rode – Rafael Lovato Jr wins by Rear Naked Choke 1.02

Group 2 Final Mario ‘Sukata’ Neto x Rafael Lovato Jr – Rafael Lovato Jr wins 2 – 2 by Judges Decision

Group 3 MatchesJeff Monson x Tom Blackledge – Jeff Monson wins by North/South Choke 3.33Vincent Parisi x Neil Owen – Vincent Parisi wins by Figure 4 Toehold 0.43 (Fastest Sub of the evening)Octavio Souza x Helio Perdigao – Octavio Souza wins 4-0Nicolas Gregoriades x Sami Berik – Nicolas Gregoriades wins by Triangle Choke 3.17

Group 3 Semi-FinalsVincent Parisi x Jeff Monson – Jeff Monson wins by Rear Naked Choke 5.45Nick Gregoriades x Octavio Souza – Octavio Souza wins by Kneebar 3.53

Group 3 FinalJeff Monson x Octavio Souza – Jeff Monson wins 2-0

Group 4 MatchesLucio ‘Lagarto’ Rodrigues x Thiago ‘Monstro’ Borges – Thiago ‘Monstro’ Borges wins 3-2Marcus Silva x Simon Hayes – Simon Hayes wins 4-0Alexandre ‘Xandinho’ Izidro x Lee Catling – Alexandre ‘Xandinho’ Izidro wins by ArmbarLeo Negao x Gabriel Kitobar – Leo Negao wins by Judges Decision

Group 4 Semi-FinalsThiago ‘Monstro’ Borges x Simon Hayes – Thiago ‘Monstro’ Borges wins 4-3Leo Negao x Alexandre ‘Xandinho’ Izidro – Leo Negao wins 4-0

Group 4 FinalThiago ‘Monstro’ Borges x Leo Negao – Leo Negao wins 2-0

Semi Final 1Braulio Estima x Rafael Lovato Jr – Braulio Estima wins by Armbar 3.21

Semi Final 2Jeff Monson x Leo Negao – Jeff Monson wins 0-0 by Judges Decision

FinalBraulio Estima x Jeff Monson – Jeff Monson wins 3-0

Total: 31 MatchesSubmissions Victories: 16Points Victories: 11Judges Decisions: 3

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Jonathan Faulkner-Shotter