What's the best part of Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Kick-ass submissions, of course!
The organizers behind Metamoris 2, including legendary Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pioneer, Royce Gracie, among others, know it all too well, putting together a six-fight card this upcoming Sunday (June 9, 2013) at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, Calif., where the only way to win is via submission.
That's right, no points nor advantages -- just two supremely talented grapplers looking to wreak havoc on each others' skeletal, muscular and respiratory systems.
In addition to several premiere players on the professional jiu-jitsu circuit, the event will be headlined by notable mixed martial arts (MMA) figure Shinya Aoki, who will tangle with Kron Gracie, son of Rickson Gracie, in a bout that has been billed as the continuation of a long-standing rivalry between Japan and Brazil.
Aside from generally knowing who the cream of the crop are on the international (and regional) jiu-jitsu circuit, the finer points and goings-on of the discipline unfortunately elude me. The good news is that I have enlisted the help of Cole Eppstein, who taught me everything I know about jiu-jitsu and has an X-guard game that could sweep a hippo. He wrote these Metamoris 2 predictions that follow pro-bono, so do him a favor and check out some of his work from last year ... he's gotten even better since.
Kron Gracie vs Shinya Aoki (no gi)
While last year's main event featured arguably the greatest jiu-jitsu competitor of all time and current world No. 1 grappling machine (Roger Gracie and Marcus "Buchecha" Almeida), this year's final contains the most creative submission fighter in MMA and a Gracie who is less known for his grappling accolades (although his rise at brown belt was meteoric) and more for being the son of Rickson, jiu-jitsu's mythical "Greatest of All Time."
One must wonder if this match up was chosen by the Gracies to prove some point, but it should be fun all the same.
The match-up is intriguing and difficult to predict, but Aoki is a large underdog on paper. While Kron has competed at high levels of the jiu-jitsu scene, Aoki came from a Judo background. He developed his explosive flying armbar and triangle submission game to counter Judo players who were better with throws. His MMA fights and ADCC bouts have shown his very Japanese affinity for foot attacks, and this area may be his bet to get a submission.
Aoki has shown he is willing to take risks in a submission fight, but this might open him up for a counter attack. Kron's game is known as being aggressive and traditional -- last year, he broke a very good world champion in Otavio Souza with pressure and submitted him in the final moments of the match.
Anything can happen without the gi, but I predict Kron will take this via rear-naked choke after wearing down Aoki with pressure.
Braulio Estima vs Rodolfo Viera (gi)
Perhaps the true main event, most would list Viera as the favorite because of his recent domination of the heavyweight division and also due to Estima's recent exodus from gi competition to focus on MMA. However, Estima was the surprise of this year's Mundials, closing out his division with one of his teammates.
Despite having a decent open guard when he needs it, Viera has a nasty top game. He passes with a ton of pressure and submits everyone (who isn't Buchecha). Estima, meanwhile, has an excellent closed- and spider-guard and most expect him to negate Viera's judo advantage by pulling guard often.
With freakishly long limbs and strength, Estima has a very unique and tricky game. I hope he can set up some traps to work his legendary triangles and inverted triangles, but I predict Viera will finish from mount with a choke.
Andre Galvao vs Rafael Lovato Jr. (gi)
This fight is another great match-up! One of only two Americans to win a jiu-jitsu world championship, Lovato is a veteran competitor. Despite having very long limbs, he seems to use his open guard mostly for sweeping to get on top where he passes with pressure. His favorite submission was on full display during last year's event when he kimura'd Kayron Gracie and let out a primal scream in celebration.
Galvao's jiu-jitsu game is a joy to watch because he can do it all. He can wrestle, play judo, pass with speed, pass with pressure, play open guard and play close guard. I imagine much of this match will involve Galvao attempting passes on Lovato's guard.
At the Mundials, Galvao favored a double-unders pass, and I think he might change strategies to torreando or leg drag since Lovato will have a weight advantage. I predict that Lovato will have his moments, but Galvao will eventually pass, get the back and finish.
Roberto "Cyborg" Abreu vs Brendan Schaub (no-gi)
This fight appears to be historic mismatch. You have a guard-centric ADCC champion black belt against a brown belt with relatively no competition experience and MMA jiu-jitsu. In MMA, it is said you can turn a black belt into a brown or purple belt by punching him the face, but when you can't punch him in the face, a good black belt stays a good black belt.
Cyborg (not the MMA one) is a nightmare match up for Schaub, whose takedown game won't matter because Cyborg prefers to pull guard. He is crazy flexible for his weight and I expect to see some of his signature tornado sweeps. This one will be fun to watch because Cyborg is flashy and Schaub might get taken for a ride.
I predict Cyborg by whatever he wants whenever he wants it.
Victor Estima vs JT Torres
Although both athletes in this bout are replacements (Keenan Cornelius out via injury, Ryan Hall out via injury and Bill Cooper out via retweet), the match up is intriguing because there is no clear favorite. Neither competitor has won a world championship with the gi, but both have done well in gi and no-gi competitions.
Estima has an excellent guard and a legendary footlock, while Torres has a solid top game and back attack. And I really like the way he can threaten to stand with a single leg from a variety of positions from the bottom. It will be interesting to see which fights go the distance and which ones will finish.
Since these two guys seem like an even match up, it's likely that they will not stall and a finish will happen. And since Torres will have no time to prepare, I think Estima might catch him with a footlock.
Michelle Nicolini vs MacKenzie Dern (gi)
Nicolini is one of the most decorated female blackbelts, and Dern is a rising star. Both of these women have aggressive games, good guards and they're both extremely attractive. Dern has a more famous jiu-jitsu dad, a more famous jiu-jitsu boyfriend and more jiu-jitsu cleavage, but I think Nicolini will take this.
That's a wrap for now.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver live Metamoris 2: "Gracie vs Aoki" results this upcoming Sunday, beginning at 4 p.m. ET with the online pay-per-view (PPV) broadcast, including blow-by-blow, choke-by-choke coverage from start to finish.
See you then!