Copa Podio returns this Sunday at 3:30 pm ET (12:30 pm PT, 8:30 pm GMT) with a Middleweight Grand Prix. Due to other commitments (UFC, ADCC) and injuries, the line-up has been shuffled some and new, hungry competitors slotted into the empty spaces.
The stream can be purchased for $21.95 at http://www.copapodio.com/index.php.
The event line-up is going to look like this:
CITY CHALLENGE (No time limit, submission only)
Diego Borges (Manaus) vs Clark Gracie (San Diego)
Diego Borges was a finalist against Leandro Lo in the Lightweight Grand Prix last time out and looked phenomenal doing it. Clark Gracie is Mr. Omoplata and was on a bunch of talk shows because he looks really handsome. Clark's a great grappler as well, but Diego has been on fire and probably gets the win here - unless Clark pulls another sub out of his butt like he did at the 2013 Pans.
The Grand Prix is split into two groups for the initial round robin stages. After that, the top two in each group move on to the semi-finals and then the finals are held. The format is conducive to high energy, entertaining matches, so watching the whole thing is actually kind of fun for the observer - at least the last few events were so.
GREEN GROUP (six minute matches, standard scoring, no heel hooks or spine locks, 3 pts for win, 1 for tie)
Manuel "Manny" Diaz
Felipe "Preguiça" Pena
Diogo "Moreno" Araujo
SuperFight (10 minutes, no-gi)
Leandro Lo vs Cláudio Calasans
Lo is the top dog at the moment, but his best results are in the gi. He also has a strong preference for exhausting opponents by repeatedly passing guard and shifting position. Calasans is a top five competitor in or out of the gi and loves to patiently work for wristlocks and armbars. This is a terrific match and the pace could be very up and down as both competitors go to work.
For a helpful guide to who the competitors in the group stage are visually, look at this image:
via Davi Ramos's Fbook.
From left to right:
Davi Ramos is a very late replacement for Yan Cabral (who signed with the UFC and thus had to drop out) and just had an MMA fight himself last Saturday. He won that one by a guillotine in about a minute and despite the lack of preparation, he could be the second most picked to win. Davi is that good (usually in no gi, though). The other guys are very good as well, so it's not automatic. A good totting up of Davi's previous wins can be found here: http://www.bjjheroes.com/bjj-fighters/davi-ramos
Paolo Miyao is silly good at grappling. He and his brother Joao have been at the forefront of the berimbolo/DLR/RDLR movement for years and gained quite a bit of fame/infamy for their visually odd games. However, the brothers have successfully turned into these fierce combat ants that roll people up and choke opponents out - unless their opponent is top of the line themself. Then it usually becomes a points and advantages game in which not much happens because these combat ants have ridiculous grips and insane flexibility. Paolo is at a significant weight disadvantage to everybody here, but that has usually meant little in the brown belt brackets and probably won't count for that much in this pool of competitors either. He likely is going to be one of the toughest outs in the Green Group.
Kit Dale is an Aussie competitor who rocketed up the ranks and has competed successfully at just about every belt level all over the world. His humorous take on the sport has gained him many fans (http://www.youtube.com/user/kitwarchilddale/videos) and his grappling acumen has gotten him a considerable reputation. At the Worlds this year, he gave Keenan Cornelius one of the closest and most difficult matches of Cornelius's career in the first round. Now a black belt, he'll probably be one of the most pleasing competitors to watch with his liking for throws and remaining on top.
However, Travis Stevens is going to be the best thrower of people in this tournament. He's most famous for his judo achievements at the 2012 London Olympics, where he was one of the most entertaining grapplers to watch. His battles to fifth place in the tourney left him bloodied and bandaged up - so much so that he looked sorta like Darkman. He's a BJJ brown belt under Renzo/Danaher and rolls all around the world when he's not training/lifting/running or recovering from injuries. He might not have the technical game to deal with the insectile Miyao attacks, but he'll be able to toss anybody around and out-athlete most of the others.
Jaime Canuto is a recent promotion to black belt at the GFTeam (home of Rodolfo Vieira, Denilson Pimenta, Vitor Henrique, Italo Lins, Vinicius Marinho, Theodoro Canal and more). He is probably most known for beating Benson Henderson in the Pan Ams 2013 in their brown belt division, but Canuto also won the Worlds in 2013.
Renato Cardoso is the tournament favorite. He's good, real good. Likes to go for footlocks, but since this in the gi, that may be more difficult. He's also in the toughest group and nobody there is going to give him anything. http://www.bjjheroes.com/bjj-fighters/renato-cardoso
Diego "Moreno" Araujo is inside the top 50 in the IBJJF black belt rankings (#49). The Soul Fighters product definitely deserves that with his very good tournament results, but hasn't quite made a streak of wins at the biggest tourneys. He is likely to make the semi-finals in this group and if he can break through here to the finals, that'd be a sign he's ready to take on legends like Romulo and Andre and beat them. A second place finish at the 2012 Worlds shows that he has the talent to put together a nice run.
Alexandre Ceconi is #30 in the world thanks to some brilliant results at heavyweight and in the open. He's come in third at the worlds a couple times and was actually in the Copa Podio Heavyweight edition earlier, where he looked a bit outsized. This drop down should be interesting and if he can keep up with the speed the others bring, it'll be a tough battle for the others to score on him. I think he's not going to get out of the group stage, but he could be in the running the entire way.
Manny Diaz is a brown belt under Caio Terra and has been around the podium many times in his young career. Erin Herle has a brief talk with him over at Gracie Mag. Probably not going to win the tournament, but since his group is easier on paper, he could look very good in matches with the new black belts.
Felipe "Preguica" Pena is the brother of Augusto "Tio Chico" Pena and a recent black belt. He won the 2013 Rio medium heavy division and came in third in the open, so he's got skills for sure. Back when he was a brown belt, he grappled with Leandro Lo at the first Copa Podio and looked pretty okay in defeat. A favorable draw would allow a considerable run here, but he's in the tough half and is going to have his work cut out for him in getting out of the group. http://www.bjjheroes.com/bjj-fighters/felipe-pena-preguica
Diogo Araujo first for Yellow Group and Davi Ramos seizes second by out-muscling everybody else's feet.
Renato Cardoso tops Green Group and Paolo Miyao slithers his way to second.
Renato and Davi go to absolute war and Renato barely edges out.
Diogo uses his size to eke out a win over Paolo and takes on Renato.
Diego Borges subs Clark with a choke.
Calasans slides into side control after a wild scramble and seizes a 2-0 victory over Leandro Lo, who'd looked rather on the way to victory by advantages before that.
Due to previous commitments, neither Tom Grant nor I can be there for the full time period needed to make the strong, rollicking live play by play effort that this event deserves. So on Sunday, there'll be a Live Discussion post and a Results post. Have fun in the comments of both posts and enjoy the elite grappling Copa Podio is bringing us once more.