July 18, 2004
Once per year Brian Cimins of Grappler's Quest bring the Copa Atlantica tournament to the East Coast, a prestigious Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (Gi!) tournament. Conveniently enough, this year the Copa Pacifica occurred the day after the Grappler's Quest in Mechanicsville, Virginia and many of the competitors opted to compete in both (and making it easy for me to attend wink, wink). The quality of the competition was probably the highest level of gi based action the area has ever seen.
The Purple Belt Division
The purple belts saw some great divisional action. Jeff Glover won both the Superfeather and Featherweifht weight classes. After having a rough day at the GQ Fowler came back to win the lightweight division. Andrew Smith of www.NHBFights.com took gold in the middleweight and Jacob Young took the medium heavy. Opting to enter different divisions this time around, teammates Josh Griffiths and Chris Moriarty took the Heavy and Super Heavy divisions respectively. Finally, in the over 214 category Lamont Tyler took first place. In the lone women's division purple belt match (an absolute match) Caryn May defeated Sharon Bonewicz. Many competitors also opted to enter the open division and these brackets were dominated by the two lightest competitors, Jeff Glover and Mike Fowler who outpointed and submitted everyone in their way. The set the stage for a showdown in the finals between two of the top up and coming grapplers in the country.
Jeff and Mike began their match with a warm exchange, but when time was called they stalked each other very wearily. Fowler initiates the action by pulling half guard. And while he works to one side of Jeff, Jeff counters by locking down Mike and driving his head underneath his chin. Fowler continues to look for an opening as Jeff remain patient and in control. The match continues on for some minutes like this As Fowler looks for a sweep Glover manages to free himself from the guard! Then when Jeff looking to secure an arm Mike manages to reverse and dumps Glover over! No points as it wasn't from a guard position and we get to see Jeff work his open guard against Fowler. Fowler sits down into Glover's half guard and as Mike looks to stablize Glover comes out the back door and very nearly takes Mikes back! 2 Points to Glover Glover can't establish hooks however and Fowler rolls back into the guard. Fowler manages to sweep Glover and tie the score and back to Jeff's open guard. With thirty seconds to go and up an advantage Glover pulls half guard and hangs on tightly, Fowler looks to pass but time expires. Jeff Glover wins the absolute title, but in a magnanimous gesture shares the cash prize with his worthy competitor Mike Fowler.
The Brown Belt Division
With few opportunities for the brown belts to showcase their gi skills on the East Coast, many competitors relished the opportunity to compete in not only their divisions, but in the absolute divisions as well. The featherweight title was shared between teammates Noah Booth and Dave Jacobs. Ahmed Gahandor moved up to middleweight to take on Brad Court, who went on to win the division. Noah Spear looked very impressive in taking the medium heavy division. Mark Jones didn't have any competition in his division so he moved up to a very stacked Super Heavy division, which was won by Rick Migliarese.
The open division came down to a showdown between Noah Smith of Balance Studios/High Level Jiu Jitsu, who appeared to absolutely take apart his competition, and Petrus Walker of the American Top Team, who defeated a few of Noah's teammates (including Rick Migliarese) along the way to the finals. The two began with a grip.tie up battle from the feet before Petrus pulled guard. Noah showed great compusure and pressure and Petrus was soon forced to half guard. This didn't last as Petrus eventually regained full guard. As Petrus opened up to look for a sweep, Noah fell back into a straight ankle lock and a foot battle was on. Neither committed too deeply for a submission at this point however, and Noah came on top into Petrus's guard soon. Noah began to aggressively look for the pass, and Petrus would open and close his guard looking for a sweep or submission. Petrus went to the well once too often however, and when he had his chance Noah passed guard. Petrus went to turtle up, but Noah took the choke. Petrus tried to defend but was forced to tap out and Noah's ecstatic teammates rushed the mat to hoist him in celebration.
The Black Belt Division
The tournament was originally scheduled to include an over and under 180 pound divisions for $1000 (with a minimum of four competitors. However, the only two contestants for the over division were teammates Todd Margolis and Leo Dalla who just as soon would not have fought each other with no prize money on the table. From the original line up of the under 180 division Nakaphan Pungeporn was forced to withdrawl because of injury, however Keith Florian surprised everyone by stepping up to the competition. In addition to the Keith, the bracket also featured Also Nishkam, who has many years of jiu jitsu experience, Jared Weiner, Lloyd Irivin's black belt who has been very actively competing in the gi as of late, Edson Diniz of the American Top Team, who had a second place finish in the Mundials to none other than BJ Penn and who has also been very active on the MMA circuit and Cameron Earle, Ralph Gracie black belt who has a rather notorious career on the West Coast, but who had been inactive from competition for nearly 18 months.
Jared Weiner vs. Aldo Nishkam
The match begins with Aldo dropping to guard, but Jared quickly passes. Jared establishes control and waits sometime before bringing his knee to stomach for two points. Also escapes and attempts to work an open guard, but Jared passes to mount rather easily. Jared maneuvers back to knee on stomach and secures a collar choke, forcing Aldo to tap out.
Cameron Earle vs. Edson Diniz
Not much feeling out to start the match, as Edson pulls guard on Cameron right away. Edson is not able to close his legs, and for a minute the two have a battle of hooks and grips. As Cameron tried to come around to the side, Edson very smartly sits up and grabs Cameron's right leg, initiating a takedown and getting two points for it! Cameron closes his guard and as Edson reaches under Cameron's arms to stabilize position Cameron leans back with his hands behind his head. This pause is only brief as soon the two are playing the battle of hooks and grips again, only this time with the positions reversed. As Edson looks to come around the size Cameron kicks kicks out out the knee for the sweep! Edson quickly recovers however and looks for a sweep of his own, picking up Cameron's leg as they stand up but the two fall quickly out of bounds with neither having the advantage. Referee Rolles Gracie Jr. restarts the match on the feet in the center of the match and Edson quickly pulls guard again. Edson works a De la Riva type guard as Cameron keeps his base and looks for the pass, although outwardly there is not a lot of motion both fighters are working extremely hard at this point. Edson tries for an Omaplata that Cameron shrugs off quickly, but Cameron spends more care killing the hooks. Cameron very nearly gets past the guard again however Edson quickly turns to his knees, initiating another single leg, putting Cameron on his back again for 2 points! After a brief pause where the fighters adjusted their uniforms Edson is again in Cameron's closed guard. The fighters move at a very deliberate pace with each other, as they are very wary of each others skills. Cameron climbs his guard up and attempts to attack and arm, but Edson pushes his shoulders through and hunkers down. With four minutes to go in the match Cameron opens up his guard in attempt to make something happen. Cameron is able to stand up and then simply pushes Edson to his his back, getting two points in the process and tying the score up. Once again it is a battle of hooks and grips and the two attempt to impose their games on each other. Time expires with Cameron looking pass and Edson with his hooks set, the score completely tied. After some discussion referee Rolles Gracie Jr. awards the match to Cameron Earle in part because of Cameron's aggressiveness throughout the match (particularly in the end), however Edson definitely showed why he is one of the best in the world in the match up and the decision could have easily gone the other way.
Keith Florian vs. Cameron Earle
By this point the confident Cameron I was used to seeing was back after having gotten rid of much of his mat rust in the previous battle. Keith Florian is always a game competitor and he has the look before each match that he'd fight his own mother if he had to. As Cameron kneeled on the mat Keith paced around like a tiger waiting to be unleashed. The match begins with Keith pulling open guard almost right away and Cameron verynearly walking right around it. Keith reconstituted his guard quickly however and as Cameron stood up in posture Keith spun around into a knee bar attempt! Cameron quickly spun out of it and before Keith could launch another leg attack Cameron came up and passed guard, tying up Keith's leg in such a position that it was nearly a submission in itself. Cameron went to side control however then tried an armbar without throwing his legs over. Keith capitialized on the mistake to escape but Cameron continued with relentless pressure to regain side control. From here Cameron grabbed the far arm and spun around into a armbar, forcing Keith to tap out.
Keith Florian vs. Aldo Nishkam-
Just as he was a last second entry into this field, so too did Keith agree to fight for third place at the last second despite a sore knee, and it was apparent he was in no mood to mess around this time. Aldo drops to guard to begin the match, but Keith very quickly establishes his game, powers through the left hook and passes guard to side control. Keith continues to crush and control, and reaches across to grab the opposite collar before dropping his weight for the fore arm choke, thus forcing Aldo to tap out.
Jared Weiner vs. Cameron Earle.
The two competitors sit on their knees on the mat across from each other, both looking confident and respectful of their opponent. After the two shake hands the match begins with Jared jumping to guard. Jared looks to sweep but Cameron is able to break the match is lowered to the mat. Jared does a nice job with his right foot on Cameron's hip and pulls in the right arm looking for the triangle! Jared isn't able to lock his legs in the right position and Cameron simply postures out of the hold with a "whoops!" and a grin. Jared continues to play half guard but Cameron pins the leg and walks around it, but rather than get to side control Jared goes to all fours briefly before rolling back to guard. Jared nearly sweeps Cameron, but Cameron recovers to his feet and Jared is forced to pull guard again. Cameron again initiates a guard pass and rather than give up side control Jared again rolls to all fours before reestablishing guard. For a third time Cameron looks to pass and for a third time Jared rolls to his knees, this time however Cameron comes much higher up and is to the side of Jared. The match is restarted in the same position in the center of the mat, and Cameron quickly pulls Jared over and gets to side control. Jared attempts to spin away, but this allows Cameron to sink the hooks in. Cameron briefly threatens with a choke, before spinning around and locking the armbar. Jared taps but Cameron was releasing before the arm was full extended. Cameron Earle mark his return to competition in a big way by winning the Copa Atlatica under 180 black belt title and the $1000 prize money!
The Copa Atlantica wrapped up a stellar two days of grappling and an event filled weekend. The overall team title went to Team Lloyd Irvin. Team Odyssey Martial Arts takes their fourth consecutive children's and teens title, and it was the volunteers from their team that made the event possible to bring to the area.
Afterwards most of the competitors either had to head home or were simply exhausted, so not much partying went on afterwards (although a very unusual gathering occurred in Sav's hotel room). Heading home Whakball and I were lucky enough to sample a what's surely a southern delicacy that deserves mention here: Deep Fried Cheese Cake. What began as simply a novelty purchase turned into an eating orgy as we ordered deep fried cheesecake after deep fried cheesecake. If Brian Cimins elects to hold another event in the area (highly recommended to do so) we would suggest giving away deep fried cheesecakes instead of medals or belts as awards.
For full results please visit http://www.grapplingratings.com/
For Eric "Neon Crusher" Zippe's beautiful photo gallery, (from where we swipe the accompanying photo) please visit http://grapplers.com/ and click on photos in the top navigation.