On September 18 1 man in each of the five categories would advance from a field of eight of the top grapplers in North America to be the North American Representative into Abu Dhabi.
When I finally got to the weigh ins, held in a restaurant in downtown Vernon, British Columbia (which is several hours away from Vancouver, everyone seemed to have their own crazy story as to how they finally arrived there. Remote location, logistical problems, and miniscule audience aside, the competitors (all of whom had traveled hundreds of miles out of their own pockets and many who came alone) were to a man focused and ready. This was the start on the road to a dream and the destination was Abu Dhabi, the most prestigious (and highest paying) submission grappling tournament in the world. If you compete in submission grappling, to be invited to the Abu Dhabi competition is the goal which everyone aspires to. On September 18 1 man in each of the five categories would advance from a field of eight of the top grapplers in North America to be the North American Representative into Abu Dhabi. In the cold air of Vernon there was no buzz about the air about what happened. Very few spectators would be there to witness what will surely go down as one of the best grappling tournaments to happen in North America ever. What elevated this tournament to greatness came from deep within each and everyone of the competitors who saw this as the culmination of years of hard work, determination and sweat. Every single one of them brought out a new level of emotion to the competition, and nothing was going to be held back. At the same time, the camaraderie among the grapplers was very high. Because so many of these warriors had to travel alone without any support they relied on each other for support and when not competing were often cheering and coaching who at one time were rivals. 66 KG and under Opening Round Alberto Crane defeats Steve Granieri The match hits the mat and Alberto hits the heel hook for the submission almost faster than it took me type this. We`ve definitely set a pace that will last the rest of the day for this event. Rami Bouki defeats Matt Yee Not sure how this one happened, but Rami advances over Matt Yee. Jeff Glover beats David Yi Jeff "The Pipelayer" Glover begins the match with his characteristic shuffle along the mat before pulling guard. Glover jockeys for position before nearly pulling out a triangle, but Yi escapes and goes back to the feet. Glover scoots along trying to engange Yi and it`s back to the closed guard. This jockeying continue into the points section, when Glover transitions from triangle attempt, to sweep to taking the back, then secures the choke for the tapout with less than a minute to go. Javier Vazquez beats Rob Dicenso Javier Vazques utilities good position and body control to dictate the pace of this match. Discenso is slippery however and the two exchange top and bottome positions several times before Vazquez locks up a triangle choke for the submission. Semi Finals Alberto Crane defeats Rami Bouki Close match, as to start Alberto pull guard and looks for a sweep, however Rami goes for a toe hold. Alberto defends and comes on top and lands in Rami`s half guard. Rami excutes a beautiful sweep and continues along to Alberto`s back. Rami threatens the entire time and rides the back until the scoring section takes place, but Crane is defending and never lets Rami get the second hook in. Rami looks to get the crucifix but Alberto finally escapes and comes on top. Alberto breates hard once then immediately begins working a guard pass. A scramble happens and Alberto takes Rami`s back, looking for the choke until time expires. Javier Vazquez defeats Jeff Glover To start with this was a competitive match with both competitors all over the mat and exchanging tons of positions. Hover Vazquez was eventually able to establish control and ground the lightening fast Glover, then slowly advance position until he pulled off the triangle choke. Glover fought valiantly but was eventually forced to tap. However both competitors later described the match as a lot of fun. Final Javier Vazquez defeats Alberto Crane The tension on this match was thick. Everyone had predicted that these two would be the ones to meet in the finals and furthermore this was a rematch from their King of the Cage title match in which Crane took Javier`s belt in a decision war after Javier tore his ACL again. Once again this was for all the proverbial marbles as the winner would advance to the ADCC championships, and the loser would go home empty handed. The match started with a the two very cautiously tying up and they circled wearily for a minute until Javier exploded with a beautiful duck under straight to Alberto`s back! Javier quickly took the back with full hooks and eventually worked his way to the body triangle, although alberto was defending well and managed to defend to the mount (which is basically moving from totally screwed to just screwed). Crane is a wily grappler however and he never panics, and he patiently defended and refused to giver Javier any more openings. Alberto attempted to get Javier dismounted but Javier again went straight for Crane`s back and the two nearly went out of bounds. Javier wasn`t letting go for anything and the officials had to carry them back to the center. Alberto quickly got back to underneath the mount position and continued to defend. Javier continued to look for the back however Alberto finally found daylight and managed to get Javier back into his guard! Javier kept a great base and again the competitors moved with a lot of caution and respect for the other`s abilities. All of this had happened in the non scoring portion of the match and would not count for points! When points were called both competitors began to move a bit more frantically as the score was officially 0-0. Crane reached up an tried several guillotine attempts on Javier, which were defended. Then the pair exchanged footlock attempts briefly but quickly abandoned that. Javier continuingly looked to pass and Crane tried a few more head control options, nothing really working. Javier explodes into a footlock attempt again and the two exchange ankle locks! Neither works and the match continues from Alberto`s guard, where he tries yet another guillotine attempt. Javier continues to try to pass, and Crane is getting more desperate for a submission, firing off leg attacks and choke attempts in succession. The match eventually moves back up to the feet with little time to spare and Javier get the takedown attempt again, bringing Alberto down and unbelievably scoring the only points in this match. Time expires and Javier cries out for joy. As his hand he is declared the victor he and Alberto embrace and leave the mat arm in arm, the tension gone, just two warriors with the utmost of respect for each other. For Javier, his advancement into Abu Dhabi is the continuation of a tremendous comeback following two knee surgeries and a retirement from MMA (where he was on track for a brilliant career). Javier is now concentrating exclusively on grappling (submission and jiu jitsu) and focusing on his school Showtime Jiu Jitsu. After having trained so hard for this tournament afterwards he let himself have a break to eat pizza and drink beer, but soon he will begin training for the toughest test of his career, seven months down the road at the Abu Dhabi championships. 76 KG and under Opening Round Mark Bocek defeats Marty Armendarez This was largely a wrestling match with the Bocek and Armendarez looking for the perfect takedown. Both were very aggressive but Bocek`s takedown defenses proved to be very slick, and he was able to counter with his takedowns to score points. Bocek tended to dictate the pace a little bit better on the ground to secure his points and the victory. Cameron Earle beats Eric Koble Eric Koble was a former wrestler at Iowa under the legendary Dan Gable and was rumored to have some devastating takedowns. Cameron pulls guard almost immediately and brings his legs up to a high guard. While pulling Koble in for a triangle choke, Cameron senses the opportunity and locks in a nasty chicken wing type submission from the closed guard. Koble has no choice but to tap and is obviously very disappointed. Kurt Pellingro beats Scott Schilling Scott Schilling took second in the Canadian Trails, but got the invite anyways as Canadian Champion Mark Bocek was invited to compete anyway. Kurt Pellingro was selected as the team Renzo Gracie representative. The competitors circled each other cautiously for a few minutes before Kurt shot in with a nice single leg. Schilling worked from the bottom, but Pellingro backed off and the match went back to the feet. Again the competitors circled for a few minutes before Kurt got a nice double leg takedown, winding up in Schilling`s guard. Kurt eventually passed and secured the armbar from side control with second left to get the submission victory. Tyrone Glover defeats Tyson Griffin This was a standup battle for the majority of the match, with both grapplers tying up and vying for position. Glover was perhaps slightly more aggressive with some front hadlock attempts but both were pushing the action. Suddenly, Tyson shot in for a double leg and Tyrone grabbed the right arm from a standing position and spun around for a kimura (a la Sakuraba). As Tyson looked to defend his hand came around in such a way that the referee saw it as a tap and the match was halted. (From my vantage point I originally didn`t think it was a tap). At this point the referee discussed with the judges and actually reviewed the camera angle I shot. From the camera view (notice this was through a view finder and hard to make details out) it did indeed look like a tap. Reviewing the video later on at home it looked like it might not have been a tap but an adjustment as Tyson looked to adjust himself. Tough call, and a tough break for Tyson, but as competitor safety is of the first importance (and the move was lightening quick) perhaps a good call. Tyrone Glover has explosive ability and had the match continued at this point would have been very capable of finishing the submission. Semi Finals Cameron Earle defeats Mark Bocek Earle and Bocek had met before, several years earlier in purple belt competition (Earle won via armlock in a thriller) and obviously had a lot of respect for each other as they cautiously approached each other. Cameron didn`t want to play the takedown game for too long and fell back into guard. Bocek actively worked for a pass and eventually just stood up out of guard. Another wrestling tie up with Bocek trying some nice snap downs. Just before points are called Cameron pulls guard again. Bocek gets to half guard and attempts to lock Earle down, but Cameron was baiting him as he executes a lightening fast sweep. Both fighters are back to their feet again. Bocek shoots a nice single leg but Cameron defends and in the scrambling for position Cameron grabs a nice toe hold. Bocek holds on as long as can, but is forced to tap out. Kurt Pellingo defeats Tyrone Glover Kurt works his pattened takedown game and forces Tyrone to his guard numerous occasions. Tyrone looks for the submissions but is unable to put Kurt in any sort of danger, who is controlling the pace of the match well. As time was winding down Tyrone got more and more desperate with his submission attempts but Kurt was having none of it, and he goes on to win on points. Final Cameron Earle defeats Kurt Pellingro Cameron Earle was the Ralph Gracie representative and Kurt Pellingro was the Renzo Gracie rep. As the two Gracies are brothers there is a definite bond between the students of the school as well and before the match the two exchanged pleasantries and complimented each other on their tattoos. Once time was called these guys were all business however. Cameron stalked and attempted to pull guard, but Kurt got out of the way in a hurry. Cameron shot in then which Kurt sprawled on and Cameron went to guard. From here Cameron threw everything but the proverbial kitchen sink in, showcasing his flexibility (a trait not often seen from him) by pulling in his left leg for an Omaplata attempt. Kurt showed an excellent base and defense for his part. The match goes on like this, Cameron attacking and playing high guard, Kurt playing defense. At one point Cameron is able to sink turn Kurt over on an Omaplata attempt, but Kurt defends well and back to Cameron`s guard the match went. Cameron eventually opens up and tries to sweep. Kurt stands up to get away from it and Cameron gets the takedown for two points. Kurt plays in his guard briefly but the match goes back to the feet. The two stalk each other again before Kurt gets a thunderous takedown on Cameron and winds back up in guard and time expires. Kurt and his side felt Cameron should have had a negative point in the beginning, but later on reviewing the video I feel the judges made the correct decision in not awarding the points, so the match went to a five minute overtime. In overtime the Kurt and Cameron were very cautious with each other, stalking each other really not engaging with each other. Kurt tried a double leg about a minute in but Cameron wizard` whim and the two went back to the feet. Kurt got in a deep double leg again but Cameron adjusted his hips and got in a guillotine choke. Kurt was forced to tap and Cameron immediately let go, but Kurt went unconscious briefly. Kurt was fine however, and Cameron Earle is your ADCC North American Trials Champion. Cameron has earned himself a reputation as one of the most dangerous grapplers on the planet and his fellow competitors give him a lot of respect. His always get the tap style should make for some exciting match up in the Abu Dhabi, and Cameron actually has a submission victory over the current ADCC Champ Marcelo Garcia (in the brown belt division of the Mundials in 2001). Cameron has been busy this summer and will compete some more and plans to continue to work even harder to enter the championships in peak form. 87Kg and Under Opening Round Justin "Chim Chim" Garcia defeats Ryan Harvey If there was an award for game faces, Justin "Chim Chim" Garcia would take home top honors as his entire demeanor for the day was tough and focused. Justin gets a thundering takedown to begin the match, then pulls off a knee bar very quickly for the victory. Corey MacDonald defeats Craig Sloan This was a war of attrition between the two as the exchanged several near submission through the match, including a triangle choke by Sloan which was held on for several minutes. MacDonald was able to pass and Sloan popped a rib in the process, thus rendering him unable to continue. Rick Macauley defeats Amal Easton This was a back and forth battleas both competitors really went for it. First Macauley would dominate position and threaten submission, the Easton would recover and gain the superior position. The two continued like this for the duration of their match, exchanging positions, swapping submissions, but where the scoring counted Macauley was dominant overall and he moves on to the next round, Marcos Avellan defeats Nick Ring I used to consider Marcos the smaller of the infamous Avellan brothers, but now moving up to this weight class (nearly 20 pounds heavier than he normally competes at), I`ll just have to identify Marcos as the gregarious one. Nick Ring is a tough kickboxer turned into a grappler. Marcos moved well at this weight (although his wind was a little suspect). Ring was game and worked the entire match as well, even trying a oma plata from the bottom. Avellan eventually escape the guard and secures the back with hooks. Ring escapes and attempts to take Avellans back, this time with out hooks. Finally from the kneesRind looks for a front head lock, but Avellan turns into a guard pass. Avellan wins on points. Semi Finals Justin "Chim Chim" Garcia defeats Corey MacDonald Chim Chim once again begins with a great single leg takedown. MacDonald hangs on for a guillotine attempt but Garcia merely escapes, passes guard and secures a head and arm choke for the submission and to advance to the championship round. Marcos Avellan defeats Rick Macauley So much for caution, after a brief tie up Macauley really begins this match by attempting a flying triangle, however Avellan holds his stance and Maculey lands with a thud. Macauley then goes to work half guard but Marcos shows excellent positioning himseseld. Macauley is slippery however, he get out the back door and almost takes Marcos` back, but Marcos will not allow the hooks to go in and eventually Maccauley is forced back to guard. Avellan passes and actually establishes sidecontrol, but MacCauley regains and the threatens a half guard sweep. From here Macauley nearly has a kneebar but Marcos nearly rolls off of the mat to escape (the hold was broken before they went off however. The match is restarted again in the center of the match from Avellan`s guard. While the officials confer as to how to score this Rick and Marcos exchange pleasantries. Time is called and you winner by points is Marcos Avellan. Finals Marcos Avellan defeats Justin "Chim Chim" Garcia Determination and focus. Both Justin Garcia and Marcos Avellan brought EVERYTHING they had to the mat this day, knowing full well that the other was going to bring a war. And this was a war, full of tie up and exchanges and this really resembled a fast pace wrestling match for the entire 20 minute duration of the match. It was a takedown by Marcos however that would determine the outcome of this match and give him the victory this day in the most emotional match. Marcos Avellan, in moving more than twenty pounds for his regular fighting weight and given everything he has been through in the last few months really was the inspirational story of this tournament. Aside from his obviously tremendous abilities he has shown he his greatest attribute is his heart. Furthermore he has weathered the storm (figuratively and literally) with good grace and humor and his absolute joy in advancing to the Abu Dhabi championships was clear and infectious. Younger brother David Avellan should have already earned his invite to Abu Dhabi as well, but today the spotlight is clearly on Marcos. 99KG and under Opening Round Elliot Marshall defeats Asa Fuller After some circling, Marshall pulls guard on Fuller. Fuller looks to pass and gets Marshall`s half guard, however Marshall reconstitutes and then immediately goes for an armlock from the bottom. Fuller stands up and Marshall extends securing the tapout. Brandon Vera defeats Rick Migliarese Once again the two circle each other and were very cautious to engage for the entire no scoring period. Late in the match Vera began with a nice double leg attempt but Migliarese countered nicely. As the competitors came up Migliarese had a great flying triangle attempt that had Vera briefly in trouble. When Vera got out he threw on a quick heel hook which caused Migliarese to cry out and Vera immediately let go. Migliarese hadn`t actually tapped out, but being the sportsman he is conceded the match and Vera moved on. Jamal Patterson defeats Rob Vanderbeuken No mat space large enough when my man Jamal Patterson is involved and despite the huge 45 foot mat space he and Vanderbeuken were called back to the center of the mat on numerous occasions. After numerous scrambles and exchanges Jamal secures the back and gets the Mata Leon (rear naked choke) for the victory. Brandon Ruiz defeats Jason MacDonald Brandon Ruiz advances, although to be honest I didn`t see much of this match. Semi Finals Brandon Vera defeats Elliot Marshall Vera and Marshall were having a good match, playing from each others guards when Vera sees Elliot`s exposed foot and fall back into a straight ankle lock. Before he even applies pressure however there is a loud popping cracking noise coming from Marshall`s ankle that sounds event more dramatic as it reverberates within the gym and both competitors stop and look at each other in stunned disbelief. Elliot concedes defeat as Vera was really looking out for his health, but in a bizarre set of events Vera gets two submission victories by leg lock before the opponent actually taps! (Look like the training with Dean Lister is definitely paying off for Brandon). Elliot was icing his ankle later but as he is still relatively new to the game he will definitely come back stronger than before. Jamal Patterson over Brandon Ruiz Surprise! Jamal Patterson pulls guard in this match, respecting Brandon`s considerable wrestling talents (and I breathe a sigh of relief as I have no chance of getting flattened this match). For awhile the two process cautiously, Jamal trying to pull Ruiz in but Ruiz never really committing. Suddenly as Brandon tries to disengage Jamal senses his opportunity and grabs a leg, putting Ruiz to his back! Ruiz quickly goes to all fours, which proves to be a mistake as it gives Jamal the opportunity to ride his back where he proceeds to threaten the the choke. He manages to get a guillotine from a half guard position that twists Ruiz up who is forced to tap. Finals Jamal Patterson over Brandon Vera A war was expected here, as these two have met twice before (and are 1-1 against each other) and have probably given each other the toughest matches of their respective careers. The two competitors circles, and paced and stalked and were very cautious with each other for the entire duration of the 10 minute non scoring period. When points were called out for the competitors slapped hands and the intensity level picked up. Vera shot in for the takedown and Jamal went for a guillotine which Brandon defended. Jamal then rolled Vera on top and managed to keep Brandon on his side by pushing down on the head and controlling the near leg. When Jamal saw his chance his reached for Brandon`s neck. Vera rolled and tried to defend but Jamal had it locked on tight, forcing Vera to tap out. Jamal came very close to getting the invite last time, putting eventual Absolute Champ (and 03 Trials winner) Dean Lister all he could handle. Since then Jamal has been on an absolute roll, tapping out his last six opponents in a row (winning the Grappler`s Quest US Nationals in similarly spectacular fashion). Jamal is constantly trying to balance his professional life with his passion for grappling and has been doing an excellent job thus far, and really seems to have emerged unto superstar status on the grappling circuit. 99KG and Over This category was turned into a round robin tournament as after the field of 8 dwindled to three competitors stepping up. Karim Byron over Shawn Geris Geris begins the match by trying to lateral the 380 pound Karim Byron and gets flattened for his trouble. Byron controls his position well and wins the match. Karim Byron over Rob Constance This was a war that went into double overtime! The majority of the match was spent on the feet, with Rob pressing onward and Byron defending the takedown. One takedown attempt covered the length of both of the mats! (Luckily there was a break in the action at this point). After a few of the takedown attempts Rob would be forced to turtle as Byron moved around him, but the fight would always get back to the feet. After the second overtime, (at which point both of the competitors looked extremely tired) the officials declared Byron the winner. Rob Constance would go on to beat Shawn Geris in the last round robin match, but Karim Byron is your ADCC North American Trials champ. Afterwards Karim was all smiles, as if he couldn`t believe he was heading to Abu Dhabi (and the only Canadian representative to advance). When I asked him what his plans were he informed he planned to sleep, eat, and sit in the hot tub to recuperate. Sounds like a great idea Karim, and congratulations! So we are left with five Trials champions who will be competing in the Abu Dhabi championships next year: Javier Vazquez, Cameron Earle, Marcos Avellan, Jamal Patterson and Karim Byron. These five should prove to be very dangerous in May when the full competition comes around but that is seven months away, for right now they were all elated to survive this test. Once again the camradarie between competitors and grapplers ran high, rivalries were put aside, tensions melted and everyone was very congratulatory and friendly with each other. See everyone in Long Beach in May of 2005! If these Trials were any indicator we`ll be seeing something that will be unrivaled not only in the annuls of grappling, but in the halls of sport!