Recent happenings in the worlds of sambo, judo, Brazilian jiu jitsu, submission grappling and/or collegiate/freestyle wrestling. If it takes place on the ground and it's interesting, it should be here.
Yes, I said Baku twice up in that title. Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Not Aku. Or Aku Aku. The Azerbaijanis have been putting together extremely solid teams of grapplers in wrestling and judo for years. Their facilities for such competitions are world class and the fans are very enthusiastic for their national team representatives. Odd for us, but eminently worth learning about and covering here.
First, we get into perhaps the best event recap I have ever seen out of any source on the Internets from Cupcake Armbar, the nom de guerre of a Brazilian jiu jitsu competitor/writer from Malaysia. She gives us seven posts on the 2012 Abu Dhabi World Pro competition complete with cute-as-heck pictures with awesome competitors, her own outlook on things and a very valuable look into the internal workings of grappling tournaments.
Michelle Nicolini (second from right) with Cupcake Armbar (pink gi) and two other competitors.
I strongly urge you to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7 of Cupcake Armbar's week in Abu Dhabi. This is not at all a simple listing of who won what, but rather the photo-essay story of the backstage happenings, the whirlwind pace, what it's like to be in Abu Dhabi with all these insanely talented and/or rich grapplers and more.
Also in this issue are the results of the Brazilian Nationals for Brazilian jiu jitsu, some solid reviews of jiu jitsu gear by Sally Arsenault, Adam Saitiev's return to freestyle wrestling, Jason High's decision to compete at the Mundials and more. Also, badminton match fixing and Floyd Mayweather's connection to TRT, as well as the new trend of testosterone pellets being stuck in armpits to get that T waaaaay up.
If you have any links of your own, questions or comments, leave them below or get word to me at DefGrappler on Twitter. Please let me know if I missed anything major and I will fix this, that and the other thing.
After Shawn Bunch placed third in the Olympic Qualifiers in Taiyuan, China, the 96 kg Greco-Roman division was the sole division the U.S. hadn't qualified to send an athlete to the 2012 London games. There was one last shot at qualifying the category in Helsinki, Finland on May 6. Justin Ruiz, a world medalist, was sent to the competition and unfortunately ran into the 2009 world champion in his first match and lost a close one. Ruiz blogged about it on his site and it is a good read to see how he describes losing his Olympic dreams and the match, as well as the joy of having his wife unexpectedly visit him in Finland as the tournament opened.
When that Helsinki tournament ended, the Olympic qualifications were over. All of the spots for competitors to head to the 2012 London games have been determined. As Gary Abbott over on The Mat lays out, the U.S. of A. has qualified the most wrestlers of any nation on Earth (17 out of 18 divisions) and 65 nations in total qualified at least one wrestler for the London games. The Russians qualified in 16 categories, Kazakhstan has 15, Egypt has 14 and six countries tied with 13 (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Japan, Turkey and Ukraine).
In other news, there will be world class wrestling in the open air of Times Square, New York City on June 7th, thanks to Beat The Streets, a non-profit organization that brings wrestling to schools all over NYC. A good chunk of the USA freestyle team will compete against similarly high level international wrestlers in a event that will be live-streamed, broadcast on the giant screen in Times Square and open to live viewers. Last year's event was held on an aircraft carrier temporarily docked in Manhattan and this year's promises to be as good, as well as boosting middle school Beat The Street wrestlers who will do a cotemporaneous event in Duffy Square.
Adam Saitiev, the brother of Buivasar Saitiev (perhaps the greatest wrestler ever to walk the planet) and an Olympic gold medalist in his own right, came out of retirement to make a run at the 74 kg Olympic spot. He won an international qualifying tournament for the 74 kg spot. Last fall he lost a tough match to Denis Tsargush, a ridiculously talented wrestler who is perhaps the best threat to beat Jordan Burroughs in London this summer. Over on the Sherdog forums, wrestling devotees compiled a nice list of videos documenting Adam's run. The Russian Nationals will be held soon and the final decision between Adam and Tsargush will be made then.
The 100 kg semi-final of the Grand Prix Baku 2012 competition might be the shortest judo match I've seen in a long while. Luchyn tried an outside leg trip right away and got countered with a gorgeous lateral drop by Berdzenishivli.
The 60 kg men's final was also a great judo match - but much longer at roughly five minutes long. Ilgar Mushkiyev had a hometown crowd supporting him as he won by sweet o-uchi gari over George Mesabhlishvili of Georgia.
The 57 kg women's final had perhaps the nicest throw I have seen in the past year. The technique is called sasae tsurikomi-ashi, but looks an awful lot like the wrestling-style footsweep Martin Kampmann hit on Rick Story in their bout - but smoother. Kifayet Gasimova of Azerbaijan (white gi) beat Joliane Melancon of Canada (blue gi) with this piece of magic:
First off, Alliance did not win this competition. This is kind of surprising and not surprising at the same time, as the collective schools that make up the Alliance team are enormous - yet most of the tip-top competitors are in the United States and preparing for the Mundials. Alliance did win the New York Open with several strong performances by the competitors there. Nova Uniao won the Brazilian Nationals this year and have been on the rise, particularly with the associations that MMA fighters like Jose Aldo, Renan Barao, Marlon Sandro, Eduardo Dantas and others bring to the Andre Pederneiras and Wendell Alexander-run school.
Some of the biggest names in the Brazilian scene came out for this and several international competitors also came as well. Almost every division is chock full of familiar names and elite competitors on a world scale. Romulo Barral, a multiple world champion, pulled two third place medals this year. That is how good the competition level was in this tournament.
Alexander Trans, coming in from Denmark, was a very, very good brown belt competitor who won a ton of titles in that super-super-heavyweight division. He recently moved up to black belt and had a bit of an initial struggle there, losing several close matches in the first or second rounds of big tournaments. Here, he topped the lists in his division. Leandro Lo of PSLPB Cicero Costha won his division and several other Cicero Costha products placed in theirs. Ary Farias, an Atos competitor and title threat in every tourney, actually lost in the roosterweight finals to Jose Barros of Cicero Costha. Leo Nogueira won his division and Michael Langhi came in second behind Leandro Lo - showing that Alliance was still present at the black belt levels.
At purple belt, Keenan Cornelius is really good and won double gold at the Brazilian Nationals in his middleweight and Absolute divisions. The Miyao brothers also closed out their pluma division and Joao Miyao came in second to Keenan in the Absolute. The link in the Cornelius sentence has several videos of Keenan wrecking shop on the other purple belts in the division.
The Texas Open Sambo and Catch Wrestling tournament will take place on August 18 in the Austin Sports Complex in Cedar Park, Texas. The tourney is open to all submission grapplers regardless of organizational affiliation or martial art of origin. Hopefully, someone can get Matt Roth to show up and give out dollops of craft beer to the winners or to whoever yells at him the most about his terrible tattoos. The matches in the tournament will look an awful lot like the 2012 Throwdown event held recently:
If the Earth were the size of a Honda Odyssey minivan," he clarifies, "the amount of water on the planet would be in a single, half-liter bottle of Poland Spring in one of the van's thirteen cup holders."
An interview with Steve Coll, author of the new book Private Empire, who talks about how ExxonMobil has gotten to the top of the heap for oil companies by launching operations in "unstable" areas of the world and making those work better than their competitors.
Gabriel Montoya, maybe the best boxing newsbreaker in the business right now, writes about Floyd Mayweather and the new drug testing regimens available. There are some shady people connected to Mayweather, but zero evidence of anything untowards. Also, did you know that people can now put testosterone pellets in their armpits and soak up the testosterone that way?
And HypnoToad strikes again:
People, I always need more awesome Odds & Ends. Videos, gifs, links, whatever. Do not hesitate to send them my way in the comments or on Twitter. I particularly love animals grappling and other goofy things like that.