The Grappler’s Quest U.S. Nationals Event on May 22, 2004 in Bayonne, New Jersey featured some of the best submission grapplers in the United States. The Grapplers Quest U.S. Nationals Event on May 22, 2004 in Bayonne, New Jersey featured some of the best submission grapplers in the United States. The divisions were competitive from top to bottom and the five professional divisions consisted of 8-man tournaments battling out to unify grappling in America on an Official Team U.S.A.
The Lightweight Pro Division was arguably the most exciting in my opinion. I’ve honestly never seen a more stacked Lightweight tournament and Dave “Monkey Man” Jacobs and Mike “Flower Power” Fowler started the festivities off in dramatic fashion! To Fowler’s credit, he showed guts by not only trying to stand with Dave Jacobs, but he tried several times to take him down as well. Seeing someone stand with Jacobs was a first for many of us to see and had the crowd on their collective feet. In the end Dave Jacobs’ showed a tremendous amount of heart by passing into a full mount as time was about to expire and the crowd erupted in a mixture of disbelief and jubilation. In my book, this was the most exciting fight of the day!
Renato Tavares and Jordan Damon had a tough act to follow, but both managed to showcase a lot of skills and explosiveness, but in the end, the chiseled Tavares won on points. Alan Teo vs. Jeff Glover was maybe the most interesting match-up of the lightweight division, but after a quick flurry it suddenly ended with Teo’s trademark achilles-lock. Personally, I definitely want to see these two go at it again, as they are two of the most talented lightweights in America. The final first round pairing featured ADCC veteran Mike Mrkulic vs. “The Mexican Bowtie” himself, Ulysses Gomez. Uly’s high octane ninja-like game seemed to confuse Mrkulic as he opted to continuously sit to guard, as if he wanted nothing to do with Uly’s takedowns or aerial assaults. After possibly the fastest sequence of technical transitions of the day, Mrkulic’s patented heel hook-to-toe hold transition won out.
The finals pitted Alan Teo and Renato Tavares, after Tavares gritted out a hard fought point war with Jacobs and Teo finished Mrkulic with a rear-naked choke. The size difference of these two men in terms of physique was obvious, but after Teo almost landed an omoplata, Tavares went back to his point game, as he seemed to be very comfortable sitting and passing Teo’s guard almost at will for a convincing win on points.
The Welterweight Pro Division had a ton of great matches in its own right, but one of the highlight submissions, in my opinion, belonged to Rob Kahn. In his first round match against Lloyd Irvin protégé, Ken Parham, he more than lived up to his nickname “Guardian” with some slick guard work before transitioning into one of the prettiest arm-bars I’ve seen in awhile. The only thing more entertaining than the fight was the flying chest-butt Groundhog landed on him after he won. He must have landed it from a good 10 feet away!
In the second round Rob “Guardian” Kahn had to face ATT’s very game Pablo Popovitch, who had won with one of the faster submissions of the day (kimura) against Tony Torres-Aponte in the first round. Pablo seemed very content on playing a steady point game instead of engaging Kahn in a submission war. After Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez finished Anthony Tolone via arm-bar and Shawn Williams via points it set the tone for possibly the most technical final of the day. The undefeated MMA veteran, Sanchez, was fearless against the heavily favored Popovitch and gutted out a remarkable win via an advantage!
The Middleweight Pro Division had a nice mix of feisty newcomers and wily GQ veterans. Nakapan Phungephorn defeated both Brad Pearce and Amal Easton with some of the most technical grappling in the show. Joe D’Arce and Chris Moriarty engaged in a very close battle, which consisted mostly of Moriarty working guard and D’Arce trying to pass. Joe ended up winning 2-0 and then went on to guillotine ATT’s, Thiago Jambo in the second round, who had just defeated James Brasco on points. That set up a complete war in the finals between Nakapan and Joe D’Arce. This battle would go into overtime with D’Arce gritting out one of the hardest fought victories of the day.
The Light-Heavyweight Pro Division was highlighted by last second replacement Rick McCauley, from Balance Studios, who filled in for an injured Todd Margolis. In his first match against NYMAG Brown-Belt, Marco Delima, Rick almost landed a jaw dropping flying-triangle that energized the crowd. He quickly transitioned into an all out assault on Delima’s legs, which pretty much put Delima on the run the entire fight and left the crowd knowing it was only a matter of time before Rick put an end to it. Rick went from a straight achilles-lock to a toe-hold that was about to end the fight, until Delima kicked his way out at the last second. Pissed about the unwarranted chin music, Rick calmly transitioned into a flawless rolling knee-bar which but an abrupt end to a very samboesque match.
Rick’s heart and tenacity was on full display, however, in the second round as he had to face the monstrous ChimChim Garcia who had just put on a takedown clinic against Ken Kronenberg. Rick was easily the smallest guy in the division, but showed the heart of a lion. Down by points and almost completely out of gas, he continued to attack the much larger Garcia with tenaciousness that would have made the most rabid pit bull jealous. Without about 2 minutes to go, he nearly caught ChimChim with a Kimura from half-guard that had everyone on their toes. With time winding down McCauley dug deep and exploded with a few more acrobatic aerial attempts, before ChimChim finally sealed the deal with a Goldbergesque human-spear takedown that made the entire crowd gasp. In the finals, ChimChim squared off against ATT Black-Belt Marcel Ferreira in a battle that pitted two guys that will both be appearing the next KOTC on June 12th. In the end, Ferreira, who defeated both Rick Migliarese and Eliot Marshall by points, was able to do the same to ChimChim, but the match left everyone wondering and hoping if these two beasts will soon meet each other inside a cage!
The Heavyweight Pro Division featured a lot of close matches and gutsy performances. Jorge Oliveira and Tim Carpenter started things off with Jorge winning by points. The division’s other Oliveira, Marcos (no relation), had similar success against Pat Stano in the first round, also winning by points. However, the stand out performer of the division was easily ADCC veteran Jamal Patterson. He was the only guy in the division to submit anyone, but more impressively, he submitted all three of his opponents (Lamont Tyler, Marcos Oliveira, and Glen Sandull) en route to winning both the Heavyweight division and the “TapOut” fighter of the day. An honorable mention also has to go to Glen Sandull, who defeated Tom Muller by points and Jorge Oliveira by advantage, before being submitted by Patterson in the finals.
The Children’s Division’s stand out performance came from Jayson Moon of Marc Laimon’s Cobra Kai Academy. He was coached by both Gazzy and Ulysses and exhibited much of their grappling attributes. He submitted nearly everyone he faced, while displaying a half-guard that would have made Laimon proud. He stayed calm under pressure, executed everything his coaches asked, while easily defending his Grapplers Quest West 5 championship belt. The pace that this kid is going, we should all expect to see him competing in Super-Fights in about 5 years. After all, he’s got the perfect formula working for him: Gazzy’s spunk, Uly’s ninja stealth, and Marc’s jiu-jitsu!
The stand out in the Women’s Division, came in the form of Ground Zero’s Kizma Button. Even though I get to see Kizma train every night in practice, she continues to impress me with her mindset come game time. By coaching many of her matches over the last few months, it’s great to see what a consummate competitor she’s developed into. She listens perfectly to instructions and makes everyone she fights, fight her fight, whether they are larger or smaller. I told her on the drive up to Bayonne that I wanted two belts, I wanted her to submit everyone she faced, and I didn’t want her to give up any points. I figured this would be a good way for her to try to shoot the moon and she’d still be pretty successful if she came close. She ended up having six fights total (3 in the Women’s Class D and 3 in the Women’s Absolute) on Saturday. She submitted the first two women in her division after establishing a dominant lead, and nearly tapped a former world champion Caryn May in the closing seconds of the finals, while never surrendering a point.
In the Women’s Absolute Division she was even hungrier. She tapped everyone she faced, including Marissa Talley in the finals via keylock in about 30 seconds, while again never surrendering a point. When it was all said and done, she had 6 fights, 6 wins, 5 submissions, 2 titles, 0 points surrendered, and a partridge in a pear tree. Furthermore, these two titles marked a very significant achievement in this sport. At the tender age of 16, Kizma has won every major woman’s grappling title in the U.S. in the last 6 months. NAGA, Budweiser Cup, Arnold Classic, Pan Ams, Kumite Classic, and the Grapplers Quest, as well as the West Virginia State championship last summer and many AKJU titles. Congratulations Kiz!
In closing, I’d have to give all the credit in the world to promoter Brian Cimins, who was able to put together yet another smoothly run tournament with top of the line sponsors in OnTheMat.com, TapOut, and RATED. He was also able to find last-minute replacement fighters in the pro divisions with grappling studs that were just as talented as the injured fighters they were replacing. All in all, Saturday’s show was top-notch with a ton of very exciting and competitive matches at every level, all throughout the day!