This particular Onthemat.com road trip had us heading out a bit further East than we're used to, but when you're worldwide big playas like ourselves you go the extra distance.
This particular Onthemat.com road trip had us heading out a bit further East than we're used to, but when you're worldwide big playas like ourselves you go the extra distance. Time for the East Coast to show us what they've got, and we definitely weren't disappointed. Before the tournament itself we just had to take the opportunity to play in the city that never sleeps and while I ordinarily wouldn't bore you with details (or make your jealous with our exploits) I do have to say we were very stoked to be hanging with the "only" celebrity DJ Paul Sevigny and Troy Denning, official Tatoo Artist of many Jiu-Jitsu players, meet Jack Osbourne (Ozzy's son, from the MTV hit the Osbournes) and spot a nekkid beautiful girl walking through Times Square at 4:00 AM. Well, she wasn't completely completely nekkid, she was actually wearing a body painted suit and modeling for Marie Claire magazine as they interviewed passer-bys for their reaction. My response was something like (and keep in mind I was both lit and I used to work for the online portion of the magazine) was "Hey, I'm all for more nekkid chicks walking around." Look for us on the newsstands soon, I guess. If we had thought we had seen it all, when we got to New Jersey and our hotel we found that many of the fighters were sharing the hotel with the Superstars of the WWF! More than a few professional â€˜wrasslers' were walking through the lobby including Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Big Show, Scott Hall, Triple H and more. Now, ordinarily I'm the biggest mark for professional wrestling as it is, and I would have/should have gotten some footage, but hey! I had a tournament to cover after all. And what a tournament it was as I got nearly five hours worth of footage! (Much of which will be included in the video release, and plenty of it which is available right now on this website!) 531 competitors from 61 teams came out on April 21st and 22nd for what is definitely evolving into one of the largest grappling circuits in the world. The day began with consummate entertainer Todd Margolis (more on that later) singing the National Anthem. This was followed by a stick fighting demonstration put on by the Kombat Martial Arts Academy. Ouch! Let's just say I hope that no one ever comes at me in a dark alley with a stick, because while this was definitely entertaining for the crowd, it also looked like it hurt a lot. Day one also featured quite a bit of exciting action in the children's, women's (which was one of the largest women's divisions I've seen so far), executive, masters, novice and beginners' division. The whole gym was a buzz with the featured event of the day, the Superfights and Absolute Tournament. First match was a "grudge" match between Wade Rome and Ze Mario Esfiha (I only say grudge in the sense that there was some controversy the last time these two matched up at the Pro Ams, not because there was any hostility between the two. Quite the contrary the two were quite the sportsmen and quite cordial to the each other outside the event). Where as Esfiha had the win from their previous encounter, today was to be Wade Rome's day. Esfiha tried frantically to lure Wade into his guard, however Wade would have none of that as he made Esfiha work to take things to the ground, and then Wade was largely able to neutralize Esfiha's game from the top. The match ended with the score tied 2-2, however Wade was ruled the aggressor by referee Steve Maxwell and awarded the match, The Alternate bout featured Justin Ellison taking on Eddy Rolon. Justin scored the take down and wored patiently from Eddy's half guard for a key lock, however when Eddy reversed positions and landed in Justin's full guard he was quickly forced to tap from an arm bar. Thus began the main event draw, the absolute tournament. In the first round, Boston Brown Belt sensation Kenny Florian gave up nearly fifty pounds to former Abu Dhabi Champion Jeff Munson and never backed down for a second. Ultimately however Jeff's size, strength and experience was too much and he won on points. Next up, in what might have been the biggest war of the tournament Ricardo "Chachorrao" Almedia versus Dean Lister. Dean Lister tried several nasty leg submissions by Almedia amazingly enough escaped each one, then proceeded to control Dean to secure a victory on points. Then Todd Margolis came out singling to Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On" to take on Rodolfo Amaro. Margolis is as entertaining on the mat as he is off it, and displayed a veritable take down clinic as he beat Rodolfo Amaro on points. Finally up was Pablo Popovitch versus Xandre Riberio. Xandre entered the tournament when older brother Saulo Riberio withdrew as a result of burst appendix. As anyone who has seen him before (Xandre is a two time Arnold-Gracie champion) talent runs deep in the Riberio family and Xandre is every bit as impressive as his brother. A very shredded Popovitch showed signs of passing Xandre's guard early in the match, however quick a lightening Xandre secured a triangle choke and earned the tapout victory. Thus Day 1 came to a close. Day 2 had more exciting action in the Intermediate and Advanced tournaments. Of particular interest in the Advanced Tournaments were the Middleweight divisions which featured standouts such as Mark "Kid Red" Bocek, Shawn Williams (brand new Renzo Gracie black-belt!) and the Light Heavyweights which featured Dean Lister, Justin Ellison and Rodolfo Amaro, Nakapan Phungephorn and absolute tournament entrant Pablo Popovitch. Nakapan defeated Pablo Popovitch, but then in turn was defeated by Shawn Williams. On the other side of the bracket Bocek ran roughshod over his competition securing tapouts in quick fashion. This set up "Kid Red" versus Shawn for the finals. Shawn tried some nasty submissions, which Bocek was able to escape, however as the match was relatively even Bocek secured a takedown for the victory. Meanwhile, in the heavyweights Dean Lister took first placeby defeating both Rodolfo Amaro and Justin Ellison among his three matches for that day. Dean secured nasty leg locks on both, Rodolfo fought out of submission attempts but was quite possibly injured that day. Justin tapped out in the finals, but will return to fight another day. In the semi-finals of the Absolute Tournament Jeff Munson defeated Ricardo Almedia on points following after a take down that caused some controversy. (However, after reviewing the tape later the call looked good). Todd Margolis came out singing once again, but this didn't even phase Xandre as he completely dominated the match on the way to a points victory. Afterwards, Todd Margolis and Ricardo were a little two beat up for a third place match, so the ever gracious Renzo Gracie offered it to Todd, following a somewhat controversial win for Ricardo when the two matched up a week prior at the USGA. This set-up a final of Xandre Riberio versus Jeff Munson. This might also be considered a bit of a grudge match as Jeff had defeated Xandre's brother Saulo in the finals of the Abu Dhabi Championships in 1999. Furthermore since that time Jeff has moved to Florida to train with the Silveria brothers and the Brazilian Top Team. This time however it would be advantage Riberio as Xandre secures the tapout via a beautiful triangle armlock combination. Xandre wins the $2,500 first prize in dramatic fashion. Look for the video to come out soon! I was definitely very impressed by the level of competition on the East Coast and plan on making it out to more events soon. Once again props to Brian Cimins for putting on a great tournament. Thanks to Tim Ferris of the remarkable BrainQuick supplement for not only helping man the Onthemat booth, but by providing us a product that really kept us going through the weekend despite the total lack of sleep and prior abuse to ourselves. And thanks to all the sponsors of the event who make it possible, but mainly to Tribe Fightwear and Kaos Gear because they both gave me free swag (hint to everyone, give Gumby free stuff and he will mention you on the website). See you all soon!