Tournament Review Tuesday: US Grappling Submission Only VI

US Grappling
Elyse Goldberg (standing) and Melissa Lopes (ground) in the women’s purple belt absolute. Image courtesy Leslie Dove.

This is a two part review of Saturday’s US Grappling Submission Only event. The first review is by Jimmy Cerra and the second comes to us from Leslie Dove.

by Jimmy Cerra

US Grappling is becoming a more popular tournament circuit on the east coast lately. Just this past Saturday (Dec 5 2009), they held another submission-only tournament near Richmond, VA. “Submission Only VI” was one of their largest to date with 8 rings and around 230-250 competitors participating.

The day started with a 4-man black belt bracket. Dennis Hayes, a Pedro Sauer black belt, won it with two 20+ minute matches. It was also his 38th birthday! The nogi divisions started right afterward, then finally the gi divisions started later in the day. The tournament was well run with very little downtime on the mats. However, it still lasted until late at night due to the sheer number of competitors.

Overall BJJ Revolution Team won the most team points for first place. Lloyd Irvin Martial Arts Academy and Leo Dalla captured second and third places respectively. There were no kid or teen divisions, but they could opt to enter the adult divisions. Some of them did very well, including a diminutive 15 yo who beat a much heavier white belt in their absolute division!

Notably Josh Gaffney won men’s absolute advanced no-gi, Wahsei Miran captured the men’s absolute brown belt title, and Gordon Emery won the men’s purple belt absolute. Melissa Lopes won both the women’s advanced no-gi and purple belt divisions. The winners of all the men’s absolute gi divisions won a Ouano gi, while the women won VJJ BJJ prize packs.

I personally participated in the 149 pound advanced division and helped out refereeing for the rest of the day. This time we got a nice little trophy instead of a medal for winning a bracket. The tables were manned by the local wrestling team. They did a good job supporting us during the matches.

From what I experienced and observed, the submission-only format is very fun. It can be much more relaxing than point-sparring competitions. Competing feels much more like rolling. Most matches were around 7-10 minutes too. However, this time there seemed to be more long matches than usual. Some competitors played defensive games, which drew out the mat lengths. Other times, both competitors tired themselves out to exhaustion. They could not muster the strength to submit each other. The best competitors seemed to conserve their energy and stalk their opponents, waiting for the opportune time to attack.


by Leslie Dove

US Grappling’s Submission Only VI was this weekend at Patrick Henry High School in Ashland, VA, just north of Richmond. As the tournament name implies, the only way to win is by submission. There are no points and no time limits.

Absolute Divisions were offered within all skill and belt levels. All men’s gi absolute winners received an Ouano gi; all women’s nogi and gi absolute winners received a VJJBJJ prize pack. Divisions were called top-down, starting with black belts/advanced and working down to white belt/novice.

The last event at this location, Sub Only IV, in July, was a 2-day event, while this weekend’s was a 1-day. The biggest immediate difference was the greater number of people, both competitors and spectators. Also, this Sub Only featured a 149.9 Black Belt division to lead off the day.

Eric Burdo (BJJ Revolution/Richmond BJJ) and Rudy Fischmann (Wander Braga) took the mat first after the referee and Rules meetings. Eric finally won, and Dennis Hayes (Pedro Sauer/Hybrid Martial Arts Academy) and Steve Bowers (Lloyd Irvin/BJJ United) started next. Dennis eventually won this match. During both black belt matches, matside was crowded and quiet except for an eruption of cheers and clapping after a sweep or escape. It was a great treat for all in attendance to see this level of jiu-jitsu on the mat.

Some time during the second black belt match, a loudspeaker announcement proclaimed the start of regular divisions at 11:20, or the end of the black belt match, whichever came first. 11:20 came first, and brackets started around the black belt match until all 8 mats were running. Later in the day, when longer matches had put the projected schedule behind, a 9th mat was started on the short side between mats 1 and 8.

The loudspeaker called competitors to bracketing or sent them to their mat if they were running late; it was also used to make the very important “Pizza is here” announcements. Large signs behind the bracketing table listed which mat a division was assigned to, and Chrissy Linzy and company kept those signs up-to-date.  They also churned out brackets as mat space became available or as exhausted competitors withdrew, and they kept the action going even when the longer matches threatened to keep us there through the night.

At Sub Only IV in July, the longest match was just over 30 minutes; this weekend, everyone seemed to have gotten into the spirit of No Time Limits — there were several 30-min+ and even 1-hr+ matches, and one in nogi Intermediate absolute that went 1 hr 53 minutes! These longer matches stretched the day out, and a few matches were still going on after 9 p.m.

Somewhere during the day, Steve Bowers and Rudy Fischmann met for the 3rd-place black belt match, which Steve won. Eric and Dennis met for the 1st- and 2nd-place match, which ended in 26.5 minutes via armbar, with the win going to Dennis.

Even though there were more people than at the last event, the event was still close-knit. I had a 50-minute match early in the day; by the time we finally finished, there was a crowd around our mat cheering, and most of them weren’t from our schools and didn’t know us. And throughout the rest of the day, even people who hadn’t seen the match were coming up to us and congratulating us on such a long and hard-fought match.

There were 21 girls competing, from white to purple belt. The atmosphere around the women’s mat was friendly all day, with girls offering advice and encouragement to each other. I noticed a similar feeling around the rest of the mats, too, as competitors hung out on the sidelines before stepping on the mats.

A special congrats goes out to Lo Menzies who won the women’s nogi intermediate (115 – 144.5), nogi intermediate absolute, white belt beginner (115 – 129.9), and white belt absolute. After at least 10 matches to win all 4 divisions, she was awarded her blue belt on the mat.

After my matches, I relieved some of the table workers. We were kept well-supplied with brackets so that we never had an idle mat. The Patrick Henry High School wrestlers helped out at the tables, too, and seemed excited by the action. The kid at my table admitted that he freaked out every time someone pulled guard and deliberately put their back on the mat, but he was also proud of himself for picking up jiu-jitsu terminology during the day.

With US Grappling’s submission only format, there’s no worry about points, holding a position for 3 seconds, stalling, time limits, or advantages. It’s just jiu-jitsu until someone taps. And it makes for a fun and rewarding tournament experience.


Jimmy “Frodo” Cerra is a purple belt under Phil Miglarese. He teaches BJJ at Team Balance Pittsburgh. Leslie Dove is a blue belt and trains under Tim Mannon in Christiansburg, VA. She writes the blog bjjgrrl.wordpress.com.

This is an installment in our Tournament Review Tuesdays column, where FightWorks Podcast listeners submit reports about Brazilian jiu-jitsu and grappling competitions that happened the weekend prior. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of The FightWorks Podcast. Through the rest of 2009, if you submit a Tournament Review Tuesday piece, you might win an Isami gi!

– Caleb

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