There are four divisions, which are absolutely stacked with talent. Competitors will be going for their share of $4000 in prize money as well as the prestige of being the GQ US Trials champion.
On Saturday, April 14th Grappler’s Quest will once again be taking place in Las Vegas. In addition to being among the larger tournaments on the West Coast (in fact, in the world), this particular edition will be hosting the US Pro Trials. There are four divisions, which are absolutely stacked with talent. Competitors will be going for their share of $4000 in prize money as well as the prestige of being the GQ US Trials champion.
Men’s Flyweight (139.9 and below) Preview
The addition of a Flyweight Division is great for nearly all of the competitors in this division, most of whom tend to have to compete up a weight class and tend to have to match guys who are coming down in weight to meet them. Expect all of the action you’ve come to expect from the little guys and then some, as they guys have skill and speed to burn.
Wellington “Megaton” Diaz (Gracie Humatia)
Sonny Nohara (CKJJ)
Megaton is coming off a third place in the Pan Americans in one of the most stacked Pena divisions in history, pulling off a major upset again Fredson Paxaio. Megaton also took second at the European Championships, losing a tough match in the finals. Megaton has always been an extremely active competitor over the years, who will have good streaks and not so good streaks, but as of right now he looks to be red hot. Sonny Nohara is a tough competitor himself, and although I believe this is his first competition of 2007, he also has some excellent sparring partners in his camp in ADCC competitors Jeff Glover and Sim Go as well as Ulysses Gomez who is on the other side of this bracket, to work out with on a daily basis (no doubt the four of the them are pushing each other for their competitions) and has always been impressive in GQ outings. Right now I think Megaton is so red hot that he is the man to beat right now, so I would place him as the favorite in this match up.
Wilson Reis (Godio)
Darren Uyenoyama (Ralph Gracie)
Wilson Reis recently lost a hotly contested match to Marcio Feitosa at the CBJJ Pan American Submission Grappling matches. Darren Uyenoyama recently received his brown belt in jiu jitsu, and is undefeated in MMA (having won his return match to the cage a few weeks ago by RNC). Darren has solid wrestling to compliment his submission skills. Tough match up for him however in the first round in Wilson, who I would mark as a favorite here, but don’t be surprised by an upset.
Leonardo “Tatu” Escobar (ATT)
Ricky Lundell (Pedro Sauer)
Tatu is a black belt from American Top Team which has a seemingly endless supply of talent at all levels at their disposal. Receiving his black belt at age 19, Ricky Lundell is truly a prodigy on the mat. He was upset at the ADCC trials by Sim Go (who was having the performance of a lifetime that day), but I would call Ricky the favorite in this match up.
Robson “Robinho” Moura (Nova Uniao)
Ulysses Gomez (CKJJ)
In the lightest division of the day, Robson will have the distinction of being the lightest competitor on the mat. He may also be the most talented, and despite the size he gives up I would rank him as the favorite to walk away with the division. Ulysses comes to fight however, and cares as much about entertaining with his performances as with the outcome. Robson is a huge favorite in this match, but it will be fun to watch.
This gives us a likely semi-final of Megaton vs Wilson Reis and Ricky Lundell vs Robson Moura. I’m leaning towards Megaton over Wilson Reis, both were in the Pena division at the Pan Ams two weeks ago and Megaton advanced further. On the other side, I think the overwhelming experience of Robson makes him a favorite over Lundell, but I’m reluctant to call this one, as Lundell is extremely talented himself. My pick for the finals then comes to Megaton and Robson, and with all of his experience and riding his current streak, I pick Megaton to triumph in the finals.
Men’s Lightweight (159.9 and below) Preview
There were so many possibilities for the Lighweight division, that it couldn’t be contained to just 8 competitors, it’s actually expanded to 12! This makes the bracketing somewhat more confusing than
Reynaldo Duarte (Xyience)
Scott Bieri (CKJJ)
I haven’t been able to find out too much about Reynaldo Duarte, other than a few losses to his record in MMA and grappling. I know a lot about Scott Bieri however (he runs the OTM Fight Shop out of Las Vegas) and is one of the most talented grapplers I know. For this reason I’m picking him.
Ryan Hall (Lloyd Irvin)
And the winner of Duarte vs Bieri gets Ryan Hall. If anything is motivating Bieri in his first match, is that he wants a rematch with Ryan Hall badly, who submitted him a few weeks ago at NeverTap (The score is 1-1 between the two). Ryan came out with a very definite gameplan to defeat Scott that time, will he be able to pull it off again or will Bieri have wised up to his tricks. Maybe the most telling thing here is that neither man competed at the Pan Americans, but for different reasons: Bieri because he missed the registration, Ryan because he was injured. Because of this I would have to lean toward Bieri in the rematch.
Jay Hayes (Performace RGDA)
Steven Rosenberg (Gustavo Dantes)
Bill Cooper (Paragon)
I don’t really know a whole lot about either Jay Hayes or Steven Rosenberg, so I can’t really comment too much in this match up. I do know that the winner will get the “privledge” of facing a white hot Bill Cooper, who looked damn near invincible in taking the gold at brown lighweight at the Pan Americans. I think Bill is the favorite no matter who he matches up against, and among the most dangerous competitors in the division.
Paulo Guillobel (Saulo Ribeiro)
Lucas Leite Gomes (Brasa)
Two things intrigue me here about Paulo Guillobel. First, how did he manage to get down to 159 (he’s competed mediao most of his career and two, his training with Saulo Ribeiro). Lucas Gomes managed to wina very stacked Leve division at the Pan Americans, and took second to Feitosa in the no gi portion. Lucas has to be the favorite in this match up as well.
Rany Yahya (OC BJJ)
Joe ”Daddy” Stevenson (CKJJ)
Wow. I cannot WAIT for this match. It has fireworks written all over it. Rany Yahya is of course the runner up in ADCC 2005. Joe Stevenson is a TUF winner and recently submitted Melvin Guilard by guillotine in under a minute at the the last Ultimate Fight Night. However Rany is also an accomplished mixed martial artist, where as Joe Stevenson has an impressive resume in submission grappling as well. This is the first round match up of the day, mark my words. So how does it go? Almost too tough to make a call here. On paper, it would have to favor Rany, as he is more accomplished in grappling. Joe is no slouch either, and more importantly, he has the ability to dictate how and when this match goes to the ground through his wrestling ability. I’m going to say upset here, and go with Stevenson.
Leo Leite (Gracie Barra)
Jack McVicker (Megaton)
Leo Leite may be a common name in Brazil, as the one I’m familiar with would not likely be in a lightweight competition. Jack McVicker I’m familiar with as one of the more active American competitors. I’ll take McVicker in this match up by virtue of his experience.
So on one side of the bracket (if my predictions are correct) we are looking at Scott Bieri vs Bill Cooper and Lucas Gomes vs the winner of Stevenson vs McVicker. In Bieri vs Cooper, I think the difference in this match is the bye Cooper receives, and he has endurance to go for a long, long time, so I will say Cooper in the finals. On the other hand, I’ll take Stevenson over McVicker to face Gomes in a war. I think the strength and control of Joe Daddy takes control and he advances to the finals. This we have Cooper vs Stevenson, a dream match up to cap off a series of dream match ups. Two guys who will go at it for hours if given the opportunity. I think the wiry Cooper finds the angle to get the advantage and the win here, taking a very tough division.
Men’ s Middleweight (179.9 and under) Preview
Good Lord this division is STACKED. There are three participants in the 2007 ADCC Championship (76K division) competing in Saulo Ribeiro, Andre Galvao and Pablo Popovitch here, no doubt looking for a final tune up before the “superbowl” of grappling. On the other hand, there are five competitors who would love to get their invite who must be thinking that maybe by emerging from this field they will have built a strong case for themselves.
Marcel Louzaba (Leo Viera)
Saulo Ribeiro (Gracie Humatai)
I know less about Marcel Louzaba than I should, and he’s facing a living legend in Saulo Ribeiro here, so I’m going to have to say that Saulo is the favorite here.
Andre Galvao (Brasa)
Don Ortega (Santa Fe BJJ)
Andre Galvao is not only one of the top BJJ competitors in the world, he also won a very stacked division to be the Brazilian ADCC qualifier. He’s got a lot of weapons, but has a very dangerous Oma Plata. Don Ortega has participated in a few pro divisions of his own and may be the most physically powerful competitor in the division. He’s got a nickname based on his favorite move, I can’t remember exactly but it was either “Death Roll” or “Death Lock” I believe that is capable of finishing anyone, including Galvao if he gets caught in it. If Galvao manages to avoid this however he will likely advance to the next round.
Pablo Popovitch (BJJ Center)
Gary Grate (Charles Gracie)
Pablo Popovitch wants to be known as the top grappler in his weight division. As a matter of fact, he pretty much competes exclusively in no-gi events. This will be his first competition however, since being in the finals of ADCC 2005 and his opportunity to shake off the mat rust. He has a dangerous opponent in the first round in Gary Grate, who recently earned his black belt to compliment his solid wrestling background. On paper the favorite would seem to be Popovitch, but given the circumstances we could have an upset on our hands here (Gary has pulled off a few of those). This will definitely be a first round match up to watch closely.
Sean Spangler (CKJJ)
Robin Geisler (Relson Gracie)
It seems like Sean Spangler has been on the competition scene forever, he participated in the very first Grappler’s Quest West and had a big win over future ADCC Absolute Champion Dean Lister there. As a native of Las Vegas he may have the home court advantage. Robin Geisler has been around at least as long, but as of late has been very active on both the gi and no gi circuit. While both are high level American competitors I would say this could also be construed as a battle of the old school (Geisler is a black belt under Relson Gracie) vs new school (Spangler trains under Marc Laimon). In the end I think it’s going to be experience which counts, and Spangler competes a lot more without the gi, so I would rank him as the favorite here.
My predicitions for the semi-finals then would be Saulo, Galvao, Popovitch and Spangler. Saulo vs Galvao could be the match of the day, and a very good preview of things to come. Saulo just won the CBJJ Pan American Submission Grappling division, where as Galvao curiosly sat out of the entire competition. Was he resting up, or was there another reason he was out? I’m going to have to say Saulo advances to the final. On the other side of the bracke, if Popovitch makes it past Grate he will likely be stronger for the next match, having gotten his first match in nearly two years under his belt. Will Spangler be able to come stronger in his second match?I’d say it’s Popovitch who moves on. My guess for a finale would be Saulo vs Popovitch then. Two years is a long lay off to come back and defeat a very active Saulo, so I’m going to predict Saulo takes the division.
Men’s Cruiser Weight (199.9 and under) Preview
There are more unknown factors in this division than any of the others as there are some established names here and a few looking to make a name for themselves here.
Rick Macauley (Balance)
Tim Bond (Renato Magno)
Rick Macauley is no stranger to the grappling scene, and will be competing in his second ADCC championship in a little less than month. Rick has an unorthodox style for some and is noted for his half guard and sick leg locks. Tim Bond is a GQ West division champion and should prove a stiff test for Rick, but in the end Macauley will be the favorite here.
Roberto Alencar (NewMexico BJJ)
Jason Ebarb (Royce Gracie)
I really don’t know anything about either competitor here. Roberto Alencar took third at the Pan Americans in the heavy division. Jason Ebarb recently received his black belt from Royce Gracie and trains with the Texas Punishment Crew. I’ll say Alencar based on the Pan Americans, but I have this match less scouted out than I would like.
David Branch (Renzo Gracie)
Nathan Ducharme (Dave Terrell)
This could be the match of the divison in my opinion. Both have solid wrestling abilities combined with dangerous Jiu Jitsu. I’m going to pick “Nasty” Nate Ducharme here however, he always seems to have wars in Las Vegas. .
Ricardo Felacio (Brasa)
Chris Downsum (Camarillo JJ)
I haven’t seen Ricardo Felacio in action yet, and can’t find his biography. I know that Chirs is a protégé of Dan Camarillo, but is relatively inexperienced at this level so far. So I’m not sure who to go with here.
Eduardo Telles (Valente)
However wins Felacio vs Downsum will be a heavy underdog against Eduardo Telles however. The master of the Turtle Guard has a solid game all around and has been utilizing it more lately, and he managed to win the heavy division of the Pan Americans this year.
This gives us a predicted semi-fianls of Rick Macauley vs Roberto Alencar and Nathan Ducharme vs Eduardo Telles. I know Rick Macauley, I’m unsure or Roberto’s game so I’ll put Rick in the finals. Ducharme vs Telles will be a study in contrasts, I don’t exactly want to say a case of brute force vs finesse, because obviously both competitors are more than that, but in the end, that may be what we are looking at. The likely finals of Rick Macauley vs Eduardo Telles may way be the strangest finals in GQ history, as both competitors have very distinctive styles. It may be a question of who imposes who’s game first. I think stylisitically this may favor Telles here if it comes down to that, so I’m going to pick Telles in the finals.
So there are my picks for the Grappler’s Quest Pro Trials. Who are yours? See you in Las Vegas!