The NE Grappling Challenge III being held this Saturday, February 12th presented by Ryan Ciotoli and Joseph Cunliffe is hosting one of the better professional divisions seen anywhere in quite some time. There are two 8 man divisions, a lightweight and a heavyweight and furthermore, each of these divisions will be divided into two 4 man round robin tournaments, with the winners of each bracket fighting the other for the $1000 grand prize. With each competitor guaranteed at least three matches, and the champions getting four, there are definitely set to be plenty of highlights on the mat.
The Lightweight Division (under 175) has attracted not only some of the top talent in the area, but some big names are traveling from quite far away to compete. Under the split round robin format, anything can happen, and as anyone who has watched an absolute division will realize, it usually does.
Pablo Popovich of the American Top Team has to be listed among the favorites in the division as he is certainly in contention to be called the top grappler at the 170 pond class competing in the United States. Pablo has numerous victories in both super fights and professional divisions across the country and victories within the last 12 months include the likes of Tyrone Glover, Marcos Avellan, and splitting a pair with Diego Sanchez. Aside from Pablo`s comic hero physique, he has skills to match and has proven himself among the most wily competitors out there and he has numerous tools and methods to gain victory.
Fabio Holanda of the Brazilian Top Team currently teaches out of Ottawa and has racked up a series of impressive victories in some local tournaments and advanced NAGA divisions and can definitely be considered the sleeper of this division. This will most likely be his toughest grapping challenge to date however.
Ryan Ellison is representing Alliance by way of Jacare`s Atlanta academy. He largely competes in the southeast region and notably has a third place finish in a very tough middleweight division at the 2004 Budweiser Cup and combines toughness and a solid jiu jitsu game.
Andrew "Judo Goat" Smith is the owner and chief report for www.bjjnews.com  and has a purple belt from Richmond, VA BJJ. He`s also among the more active competitors on the east coast and was recently awarded most technical fighter at the 2005 Budweiser Cup. Andrew complements his traditional jiu jitsu skills with a wide array of leg locks he uses to advantage, his favorite seeming to be the heel hook.
Coming all the way from Arizona Combat sports is Santino DeFranco. Although he hasn`t made much of a name for himself in Submission grappling, he is better known in MMA with a 13-5 record with 11 of those victories coming by way of submission. It seems pretty safe to say that he won`t be intimidated by the opposition at this tournament.
In addition to the established names, several newcomers are looking to make their marks in the professional ranks. Andrew Calandrelli trains out of Renzo Gracie`s school, Len Sonia comes to us out Tai-Kai and Jason Tabor is out of Royler Gracie / David Adiv. Coming all the way from Arizona The hungry guys with everything to prove and nothing to lose are often the most dangerous.
The heavyweight division is among the most intriguing in recent years (getting this many big guys of quality is definitely a difficult feat. Just ask any grappling promoter), however Ciotoli and Cunliffe have done an admirable job of attracting top talent. The round robin format makes this division extremely interesting as well as the fact as the competitors range in size from about 190 to 380 pounds!
OntheMat Submission Grappler of 2004 Jeff Monson is the likely favorite in ANY tournament he decides to participate in. So far Jeff is staying as busy in 2005 as he was previously, first suffering a rare loss in the finals of the Budweiser Cup to Roy Nelson, then rebounding and submitting his opponent in quick fashion at his superfight at GrappleMania Seattle.
Karim Byron trains with Brazilian Top Team and is the North American ADCC representative in the over 99 kilo class. Karim has showed marked improvement between his two ADCC trials appearance, and given he weighs somewhere slightly south of 400 pounds, is going to be extremely difficult for anyone to deal with.
Jason White is a purple belt representative of Renzo Gracie and has numerous grappling and jiu jitsu titles to his credit, as well as a growing MMA resume. Weighing about 240, what makes him very dangerous is his expressed desire to get noticed and fight in larger and lager shows, and winning over this field would be the perfect way to get the world to take notice of him.
Ken Kronenberg out of Tai Kai is also a veteran of a number of superfights and professional divisions. He is something of a gatekeeper for the heavyweight grapplers, get past Kronenberg and prove you belong in the ranks of the elite grapplers. In some ways this gives Ken more incentive to do well here, and if he comes in focused and prepared and does well he will justify his inclusion into the ranks of the elite grapplers.
Chris Moriarty out of Alliance/Jacare Atlanta is both the youngest and the lightest of the competitors in the division. At one point he was chiefly known for his stellar guard work and dangerous triangle, but Chris has been working hard at rounding out his abilities and now has improved his wrestling and top game with every appearance. He`s definitely an underdog here, but always makes for an exciting match and is one of our favorites to watch.
Rick Macauley out of Balance Studios has in recent month being bulking up, however this has not slowed him down in the slightest and any match Rick is involved in is sure to be frantic. He recently gave Monson all he could handle at the Budweiser Cup and I`m certain Rick is itching for a rematch. Rick has a lot of weapons, but especially look for his transitions, sweeps and leglocks.
Glover Texeira out of Best Way JJ in Connecticut isn`t as well known in Submission Grappling circles, but has been fighting in MMA. With a solid background in jiujitsu, he could make for a dangerous opponent however.
Edson Carvalho has an impressive resume in both judo and jiu jitsu and brings perhaps the longest resume in terms of experience to the tournament.
In addition to the professional tournament, an amateur tournament open to all will be going on a well.
Registration begins at 8:00AM and will go through 12:30PM. Only cash will be accepted at the door. The cost is just $40.00.
Weigh-Ins begin at 8:00AM and will go through 12:30PM. All competitors must weigh-in to compete and will have until 12:30PM to make their appropriate weight division.
Four mats will run throughout the day to assure a smooth, quick tournament. Quality referees are confirmed, but are always in need.
The 2 8-Man Absolute Tournaments will begin at 12:30PM. This will enable the main tournament to move along without down time.
The Main Tournament will begin immediately following the Absolute Tournament Finals with Children, Teen, Women and Masters divisions first, followed by Advanced, Intermediate and Beginner divisions. To assure fairness, competitors will only be allowed to compete at their skill level.
The Econo Lodge in downtown Ithaca will host competitors for just $55.00 plus tax per night. Contact the Econo Lodge at 607-277-0370 and mention discounted rate code "E277" when making your reservation.
See everyone there!