From Dan “Micro” Faggella.
I showed up to the event at around 11:45am with a teammate of mine. We went to meet up with the rest of the competitors of the Omoplata BJJ Team. We were going to have 8 competitors, but we only had 4. Two people out due to injury, two people out due to illness. I was one of those who had the illness (the plaaaague!). So be it, it gave me more time to watch the absolute division, coach students, and do this write up.
The venue at Twin Rivers was rather nice. Large ceilings and lots of seating. Tim Burrill (a black belt under Carlos Machado out of Providence, RI) commented: “They seemed to regulate the air in there very well.” Not too hot, cold, or humid. In addition, like some kind of Christmas Miracle, people stayed seated around the mats. Anyone who’s been to more than one grappling event knows that around the border of the mat there is nearly always a forrest of bodies standing and watching. Kipp Kollar, the President of NAGA, must have done something right this time around – although his instructions for people to sit didn’t sound very different from usual.
A super-fight between Gabriel Gonzaga and ATT black belt Luigi Mondelli was intended to take place, but it was replaced by a super-fight between Danny Lauzon and a local MMA fighter named Will Kerr from Strikezone. I was excited to watch Gonzaga but I understand his concern not to grapple – he’s going to be fighting in the UFC again soon.
The super-fight was quite exciting. Both men were clearly confident on their feet. Kerr seemed more aggressive at first, attempting a few shots and keeping his level low. Danny defended a shot with a standing guillotine, and as Kerr’s head popped out of it, Danny took him down swiftly, moving right into a pass. Some crazy reversals happened and Kerr got another takedown, bringing the score to 6-8 when Danny drove him into the crowd in the last seconds and it was called a takedown, 8-8. Overtime began immediately and Danny won on points.
The other divisions seemed to run pretty smoothly, no mats went empty for too long. I caught up with Kipp Kollar himself to talk about the event. “I like this venue” he said, “but it cost a lot of money to rent this place out, thats why we only did it for one day and didn’t split up the kid’s and adult’s divisions.” I asked him how many competitors there were at the event, I myself was surprised to see this many people on a Valentine’s Day. “We have over 1000 competitors today, usually here in New England we don’t get this many. I think Valentines Day might have actually done some good for us, maybe people showed up with their girlfriends to go gambling afterwards, I don’t know.” [Kipp Kollar emailed and said that the event’s official competitor total was 1,067. – Caleb] Kipp confirmed that there was in fact another NAGA event for June that is booked at the Twin Rivers casino as well.
I also caught up with Mat Santos, who was one of a great number of competitors in the absolute division. The absolute division was completely stacked, with a lot of highlights – such as Santos tapping another black belt in 15 seconds with a guillotine, and Dan Simmler unfortunately being carried off the mat due to an apparent rib injury. Santos won his first two matched and lost his third. “I lost to Harris from the Brick House, he trains elite level wrestlers over there. I think I’m going to have him down for a seminar.” I went on to ask him how he liked the tournament “Good tournament, I had fun. I wish I had won but that’s life sometimes.” The winner of the absolute division was Peter Kerantzas, a massive judoka who I’d never seen before.
Overall the tournament seemed to go well, and after 8 hours in a casino fresh air was pretty nice. I’m definitely looking forward to the next NAGA here in Rhode Island. Next time I’ll surely compete unless another bird flu rolls in.
This is the eighth in our new column, Tournament Review Tuesdays, 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. – Caleb