Travis Tooke won the OTM sponsored Absolute Tournament
You can view all the videos shot at the NAGA on it’s own channel in the OTM Video section! www.onthemat.com/video/channels/nagalv0208
Oddly enough, after having attending 100 plus events in my career, I had yet to attend a NAGA tournament. NAGA (short for North American Grappling Association) is one of the largest grappling circuits in the world and regularly attracts hundreds, if not thousands of competitors to each of their events. While NAGA’s largest tournaments tend to be East of the Mississippi, the Las Vegas event marked the first time OTM was to officially sponsor an event (specifically, we sponsored the Absolute Tournament) so it seemed as good as ever to make my first appearance.
It’s naturally not an OTM road trip unless some kind of disaster needs to be averted along the way. The day before my flight, I was sick in bed with a fever praying for either a cure or a quick death and was contemplating attending my first NAGA at another time. A quick chat with Scotty and I found out he was sick as well and we realized that if we both showed up we might equal an entire person for the day.
As grumpy as I was in the morning, being in a tournament always seems to make me feel better, particularly when I see the kids on the mat. I defy anyone to be in a bad mood when you see children who barely come up to your knee, fearlessly competing and executing techniques it admitted took you awhile to get at a much later stage in life. One of the referees looked even more excited than I was, and I quickly realized it was none other than the famous Kirik Jenness, esteemed owner of www.MMA.tv, who was enthusiastically calling out matches and would be completely hoarse by the end of the day.
Now, being my first time at a NAGA tournament, I was pretty eager to see how it would compare to any and every other tournament I’ve ever attended. The most immediate thing I noticed was that there were a lot of matches going on, and in the mat space they had allocated they had ten separate rings going. As a journalist this might have made things a little hard to follow, but what divisions were running and what were coming up was clearly marked by each table, in a sort of “duh, why hasn’t anyone else ever done this before type moment”. The referees, table crews and staff seemed extremely competent and worked very well together, from the top down the NAGA organization seemed to be (to use a well worn cliché) a well oiled machine. If I have a criticism, I would prefer the mat sizes to be larger as without well defined borders, competitors tended to invade each other’s areas (though thankfully, I didn’t witness anyone landing on top of anyone else and ironically enough, the week previous in a much larger setting I was hit while refereeing by competitors from the far mat).
The rules for submission grappling were also different than I was used to. While this may have been a bigger concern for me in the past, honestly, virtually every tournament these days seems to have their own rules and regulations and NAGA has been running under theirs quite successfully for some time now. The biggest difference in the scoring system is the awarding of points for submission attempts. Points are awarded on either a one point or two point basis (so a mount which in BJJ comps would be worth 4 is worth two under NAGA). There didn’t seem to be any confusion about the rules from the competitors, a large percentage I would guess were participating in a NAGA for the first time and I didn’t really see an instance where a competitor was awarded a decision under the NAGA scoring system that he wouldn’t have been awarded under any other system.
The highlight of the day would have to have been the Absolute division, which came with a belt sponsored by OTM. 14 competitors stepped up to enter the division, which after bracketing and bye were handling played out as follows (Courtesy of Bevois):
-Carlos Fletes over Jaime Kelleher via points.
-Ray Casias over Timothy Pratt via points.
-Rodrigo Uzeda over Ahmed Orozco via kimura.
-Sean Spangler over Nolan Dutcher via rear naked choke.
-Wyatt Shepard over Chris Cichy via kimura.
Round 1 Notes: Travis Tooke, Matt Pedro, and Ivan Kanzaki had a first round bye.
-Carlos Fletes over Ray Casias via points.
-Rodrigo Uzeda over Sean Spangler via points.
-Travis Tooke over Wyatt Shepard via D'Arce choke.
-Matt Pedro over Ivan Kanzaki via heel hook.
-Rodrigo Uzeda over Carlos Fletes via armbar.
Match Notes: Carlos Fletes competing for Team Mica and weighing 236 pounds had a substantial size advantage over Rodrigo Uzeda from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil who weighed in at 199 pounds. However, Uzeda's guard proved to be more than an adequate equalizer as he quickly submitted the larger Fletes with an armbar immediately after pulling guard.
-Travis Tooke over Matt Pedro via DQ.
Match Notes: Matt Pedro dropped out of the tournament after his first round win over Ivan Kanzaki, giving Travis Tooke the Semi-Finals win by default.
Travis Tooke over Rodrigo Uzeda via points.
Match Notes: Travis Tooke is a Gracie Barra black belt hailing from his Definitive Martial Arts academy in Houston, Texas. He was one of the smallest competitors in this no-gi absolute tournament, as he weighed in at 169 pounds. He faced off against a fellow jiu-jitsu black belt in Rodrigo Uzeda who teaches his Uzeda BJJ Team in the Copacabana area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As mentioned before, Uzeda weighed in at 199 pounds. The match started out as a seesaw battle, which saw Tooke mostly working to pass. Tooke used his speed to counter Uzeda's strength and then strategically took advantage of the NAGA rule, which awards 1 point for a significant submission attempt. Tooke locked on a straight ankle lock, which Uzeda was able to defend. Tooke used nice fluid transitions to stay out of danger and eventually made his way to Uzeda's back with one hook in as time expired. The win earned Tooke the OTM No-Gi Absolute Championship Belt!
Also participating in the regular divisions was one of America's youngest black-belts in Ricky Lundell, who submitted his opponent in the gi and no gi division, and the legendary black-belt Fredson Paixaio, who made quick work of Dan Turner, the lone sole brave enough to remain in the division to face him.
The tournament was wrapped up and the NAGA crew was packed up to go home just after 6:00 PM; a clean up that goes that smoothly is a sure sign of a crew that’s been around. It was a good day of grappling and I look forward to attending my next NAGA event.
You can find out more about NAGA, and all the official results at www.NAGAFighter.com
You can view all the videos shot at the NAGA on it’s own channel in the OTM Video section! http://onthemat.com/video/channels/nagalv0208