Metamoris Pro’s Submission Only Format Examined

Metamoris Pro
Metamoris Pro athletes Rafael Lovato Jr. (left) and Kayron Gracie. Lovato submitted Gracie in under eleven minutes. After the match, Lovato explained, “I believed in my conditioning and my jiu-jitsu. I knew once I got my rhythm I knew it was a matter of time. The kimura’s been one of my best submissions since I was 15 years old.”

Time will tell, but last weekend’s debut event by Metamoris may have been a watershed moment in the professionalization of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The promoters brought twelve of jiu-jitsu’s best athletes together for six submission only matches with twenty-minute time limits. The format differs from traditional jiu-jitsu competition, where points and advantages (“near points”) are counted in matches no longer than ten minutes.

Judging by the reactions of bloggers and message board comments since last Sunday, Metamoris’ 20 minute submission only format was a success. US Grappling has been organizing submission only events for several years now, and we were curious about their evaluation. We turned to US Grappling promoter Andrew Smith for his thoughts.

The FightWorks Podcast: US Grappling has put on over 24 submission only tournaments over the years and another is scheduled to happen in December. Indeed, you guys own the domain submissiononly.com. Can you give the readers a basic introduction to what US Grappling sub only events are like?

Andrew Smith: What can I say? This is the real deal. A few years ago, the three of us (my partners and I) were talking about what it would be like if we could run a tournament with no time limits. Imagine the possibilities: every single match would end in a submission, truly the most definitive outcome possible. I mean, if the other guy says you have won, there can’t really be any argument! Excitement started to build when we realized we really could make this happen. Fantasy and speculation became reality and planning.

These events don’t have any time limits whatsoever to matches, so you might have a really quick match, or you might have a really long match. Of course, we have data to show that the average match length is around 8 minutes, but the psychological aspect changes a lot when you know you have to finish the other person. I’m speaking as a guy who runs tournaments, but also as a guy who has competed in at least a dozen Submission Only events. The vibe is completely different at our Sub Only events. It’s so much more relaxed than at a points event, where everything is “hurry! hurry! don’t let the guy score! hold on! stay on top!” Submission Only allows you to be able to relax and truly enjoy the competition experience.

There’s some data up on our site right now from past events, and we’re adding to it all the time. One good event with a relatively large data pool was back in 2009 is posted here. In short: it’s SO much fun.

The FightWorks Podcast: What were your initial thoughts when you heard that Metamoris was going to put together a submission only event?

Andrew Smith: I was really excited! It’s a great concept, and I was especially excited for the excellent matchmaking. Of course, I would have loved it if there were no time limits, and whenever people talked about their predictions for the event, I was pretty sure half the matches would end in a draw. Nevertheless, I thought it represented a nice step forward for high level grappling.

The FightWorks Podcast: What were your impressions of the matches you saw during the event as a fan?

Andrew Smith: I definitely enjoyed them. It was really fun watching the guys go after the submission, and these matches would have been fantastic under any rule set.

The FightWorks Podcast: What were your impressions of the matches you saw as someone who puts on submission only tournaments?

Andrew Smith: The only thing that kept going through my mind as the matches were ticking down: there should be no time limits. The fans wanted to see submissions, and they did get three fantastic ones, and lots of close calls (and amazing grappling), but the resolution was the only thing missing. No time limits would fix that, just as we have seen come to fruition countless times.

The FightWorks Podcast: Of the six matches at Metamoris, three ended in submission and three lasted the full twenty minutes and were declared a draw. Caio Terra submited Jeff Glover in around 14 minutes, Rafael Lovato Jr submitted Kayron Gracie in under 11 minutes with a kimura, and Kron Gracie armlocked Otavio Sousa at the 17 minute mark. US Grappling has posted data that suggests that the average submission only match is over in eight minutes. If we agree that in a commercial setting where an audience’s attention span is not infinite and some time limit is necessary, do you think that these numbers show that at this skill level, 20 minutes is an appropriate length of time for a match? Or is there not enough data yet to know?

Andrew Smith: “If we can agree” is definitely putting the cart before the horse. I believe firmly that no time limits can work, even televised. I believe that with two matted areas, the action could pan back and forth between two matches, if necessary. The camera could easily focus on only one match for the first 20 minutes (if that’s what they decide works best), and then after that mark, just start the next match. Pan back and forth, just like with the ADCC live feed.

Honestly, though- the 20 minute time limit changes the dynamic of the contest. It changes it completely and utterly. With a time limit, even as long as 30 minutes, you’re definitely going to have guys hanging on in order to save face. I’m not saying this necessarily happened at this particular event, but I will definitely suggest that every match would have begun (and continued) differently if there was no time limit. This format can- and does- work in an extremely predictable manner when averaged out over the grand scheme.

Would 30 minutes be enough time, if there was a time limit? It’s impossible to say for the reasons I’ve cited above. Would 20 minutes, on average, be enough if there was no time limit? I think so.

The FightWorks Podcast: Any other thoughts Andrew?

Andrew Smith: It is refreshing to see a change in the perception about Submission Only events, but we have a long way to go before they are as widespread as points events. Support no time limits matches when you see them, and check out how laid back they are! And thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts. I am obviously passionate about this subject, but it’s only because I’ve personally seen it work (as a promoter, competitor, and coach) many times. I look forward to the future of grappling, and hope to play some small part in influencing it myself.

4 thoughts on “Metamoris Pro’s Submission Only Format Examined”

  1. I love the idea of a submission only no time limit event, but while it clearly works in a standard tournament format when it comes to fights at the level we got at Metamoris I don’t believe it’s realistic.

    It’s one thing when you take all competitors, white belt to black, and end up with an average of 8 minutes. I can imagine a lot of that has to do with the skill inequality present in many of those matchups leading to very short matches balancing out much longer ones. When you take two highly skilled opponents though, you don’t get the benefit of those quick one sided matches. Instead, while most matches would probably fall in the 20 minute range, you could have matches that last hours. To give an example, Ryron Gracie and Crosley Gracie had a match go over 90 minutes in the past, and theres the famous nearly 4 hour fight between Helio Gracie and Valdemar Santana.

    While I doubt we would get many 4 hour matches, I feel specifically for superfights this is unrealistic for the format Metamoris wishes to provide. Superfights are specifically designed to match up two opponents that are close in skill (or at least believed to be close in skill), I just don’t see that going well with no time limits.

    Perhaps longer time limits would work, but the longer you go the less fights you can guarentee, especially for an iPPV event where you have to pay for bandwidth, storage and support.

    Switching between two mats as fights go long seems like a very poor way to handle it as well, since for superfights you are going to have fans specifically wanting to watch certain fighters. I don’t think anyone would be happy with a camera switching between two matches, and that would put quite a strain on the announcers (Caleb, I’m sure you can personally attest to the difficulty this provides).

  2. Those are valid arguments, Benjamin. However, they are based on conjecture: could, maybe, might. There is hard evidence that no time limits sub only does work at US Grappling events, with over 20 tournaments running smoothly.

    So, although the format hasn’t yet been tested with high level black belts in a superfight format, I think that given the success and reliability of the US Grappling events, it is at least worth attempting no time limits at a higher level. It may not work, but I think 20+ successful tournaments is enough of a test to at least give it a try.

  3. You are right, it’s all conjecture. Unforunately that is all we have to work with since there is no data. This is why I quoted the Ryron match, as well as the famous Helio one, those are the only superfight no time limit sub only matches I’m aware of.

    Using data from tournaments featuring mostly lower level competitors run is interesting, but I do not feel useful when looking into a tournament like this. It would be like looking at a high school track and field event to determine results at the Olympics.

    I know Alliance hosts no time limit submission only events internally, do their high level black belts participate? Does anyone have any data on how those matches usually go?

    Don’t get me wrong, I would much prefer a submission only event, but when it comes to streaming and a large venue there is only so much you could do.

    Until Rose Gracie or US Grappling can get multiple decent level black belts to compete, we really have nothing to work with.

  4. I think drawing an analogy with high school vs Olympics is a bit extreme: the gap between US Grappling and the Mundials is not as large as that, though I agree there is a difference.

    You’re forgetting one other sub only no time limit superfight: Royce Gracie vs Wallid Ismail. That one took less than 6 minutes, IIRC. But yeah, we don’t have a lot of data yet (the Alliance tournaments you mentioned sound interesting). Hopefully US Grappling will be able to change that in the future, or other competition organisers interested in moving to no time limits sub only. ;)

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