The highly-anticipated 6th installation of the Eddie Bravo Invitational goes down on Sunday night, at the Orpheum Theatre, Los Angeles. While traditionally the EBI is streamed exclusively on pay-per-view this event is different, for the first time ever, the Eddie Bravo Invitational will also be shown on UFC Fight Pass.
To celebrate their new UFC berth, the good people behind the EBI have put together a stellar selection of the grappling world's elite for an exciting open weight tournament. With EBI being on Fight Pass, this show will likely be the first grappling show a lot of casual fans will watch in full and all these new names may seem daunting, but we have got you covered. In this edition of the casual fan preview, spoken word savant Scroobius Pip and I will be giving you the low down on what to look out for at the Eddie Bravo Invitational.
The Gateway to Grappling
Roy Billington: Polaris and the Eddie Bravo Invitational have captivated the hearts and minds of grappling fans over the last few years and this is no fluke. While traditional tournaments will always have their place, the allure of the submission only rule-set is something special. There is no better way to display dominance over an adversary than to make him tap out. The emphasis on getting the submission finish at the Eddie Bravo Invitational is refreshing, it removes the benefit of stalling, it pushes athletes to try their hardest to finish and this makes for great viewing. If you have never watched an event before I implore you to watch this one, the EBI is the perfect gateway event, once you watch this show you will be hooked on submission grappling.
Scroobius Pip: I couldn't agree more. EBI really is the perfect gateway to the world of grappling and, along with the emphasis on finishing, it's the added excitement of their unique "over time" system. One of the most painful experiences as a BJJ fan trying to win friends over to this wonderful world of high risk, physical chess is excitedly putting on Metamoris or The Gracies or whatever else and getting a slow draw. Even an exciting draw (as we saw in both the main fights of the amazing recent Polaris card) can leave the casual fan, used to the conclusive nature of MMA, a little cold.
In EBI, there are no draws and, for me, the thought of over time has become as exciting as a finish when a contest is hotly contended. In brief, if the time limit is reached without a submission, three rounds of overtime begin.
Fighter A get to go first and chose his start position which, basically, is either attacking a rear naked choke, or an armbar (probably the two subs most familiar to MMA fans). If they get the tap, they effectively "score". If fighter B escapes, they don't.Then Fighter B gets to choose their position. Like a sudden death penalty shoot out in football/soccer, if one gets a sub and the other doesn't, we have a winner.If both or neither get subs, we have another round. This goes on for three rounds and, if there are still no winners we have the nail biting wait for the announcement of "ride time" (basically, the length of time the managed to survive when fighting off a submission). On paper that MAY sound complex, but as soon as you've watched one, it becomes as exciting as a submission with a second to go.
Wrestling Against the Odds
RB: When you think of the stereotypical submission grappler there is an inclination to imagine a gi clad Brazilian. After all jiu jitsu has been the dominant art in submission grappling for a long time, but the tides are changing. In the Eddie Bravo Invitational line up you will see a list of athletes with non-traditional backgrounds. When Mark Kerr dominated the field at ADCC in 1999 and 2000, we were shown how an elite wrestler could stifle a jiu jitsu players game and in 2016 we are seeing the next generation of wrestlers impress in jiu-jitsu. Athletes like AJ Agazarm and DJ Jackson are amalgamating their strong wrestling pedigrees with jiu jitsu fundamentals and having great success. At EBI we will see 4 strong wrestlers compete. Rustam Chsiev, DJ Jackson, Amir Allam and Marcello Nergo have all had successful wrestling careers and will be looking to grind out the field at EBI 6.
As far as EBI's wrestlers go, Rustam Chsiev is probably the best and he has proven to be devastating in his submission grappling career thus far. Chsiev took home bronze at ADCC in 2015 and has defeated a who's who in the world of grappling as well as UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. Chsiev is a beast and could really go far in this tournament.
SP: This right here is what makes the open weight nature of EBI 6 so exciting and, thus, so hard to predict.
People like Rustam Chsiev are BEASTS. They have the size, power and wrestling ability to stifle anyone on the mats, as we saw at ADCC BUT... we haven't seen how that will play out in the EBI system. Even if it can be used to dominate the initial bout, how will it fare in OT, when already in a submissive position against a world class submission grappler?
It's worth mentioning as well that AJ Agazarm has just come off one of the most heated contests you'll ever see at Polaris 3 against Jake Shields. If you have time to catch up on that before EBI 6 then I highly recommend you do so, if only to witness the first Stockton slap in the history of submission grappling. AJ is making a habit of coming in and going up against bigger names and "spoiling the show" as such, but in the most entertaining and engaging manner.
The Boys from Brazil
RB: This card is so damn jam-packed with grappling greats. The field is honestly phenomenal and while we have seen some injury dropouts, we will still get to see some of the best grapplers of this generation. One man that I am really excited to see is Yuri Simoes, Simoes took home gold at ADCC 2015 and has had an amazing past 18 months, but there have been some questions about his finishing ability. Simoes has displayed great positional skills throughout his career and he has been almost impossible to submit. While Simoes has struggled to get submissions in big matches, he has constantly been impressive. The EBI ruleset will give Simoes the freedom to pursue submissions without having to worry about dropping points if he ends up losing position or getting swept.
In addition to Simoes, we have a team of Brazilian killer competing at EBI 6. Bruno Bastos is probably one of the most exciting grapplers I have ever watched and Matheus Diniz is one of my favourites to take home gold in this tournament.
SP: Diniz really seems to be the ignored treasure here and I completely agree he is one to watch for stealing the show. In the next section we will talk/fawn about probable tournament favourite Garry Tonon, who Matheus beat not long ago. In general we are no longer in a place where the Brazilian competators will destroy all comers when in a Gi but suddenly be very beatable if they choose to compete No Gi. Whilst for a long time Eddie Bravo, the first American to defeat a Gracie in competition, and his system was reviled by the traditional brazilian jiu jitsu community, but that time has past and the Brazilians are coming to EBI 6 in force.
RB: I strongly contend that Garry Tonon is the best thing that has happened to submission grappling in the last decade. Tonon is the most exciting grappler in the world and the Eddie Bravo Invitational has been his playground over the last few years. The New Jersey native has already won 3 EBI titles and he is coming off a big performance against Rousimar Palhares at Polaris 3, so all eyes will be on him to see if he can keep his unbeaten EBI run intact. The interesting thing about this EBI is that a lot of the field have already defeated Tonon, DJ Jackson played it safe and took home the W against Tonon a few years back and Matheus Diniz submitted him not to long ago. For Tonon's meteoric rise to continue he is going to have to set the record straight and beat some of his past foes in this openweight tournament.
Tonon isn't the only American star appearing on this show, his pupil, Gordon Ryan is hopping in as a late replacement for Eddie Cummings. There is a good chance that you have never seen Gordon Ryan compete, but I assure you that this guy is the real deal. Ryan is in his early 20's, a newly minted black belt and a well-rounded grappler. Ryan made a name for himself as a purple belt when he submitted 3 black belts at one tournament and since then he has been on a tear, going from purple belt to black belt in 18 months and submitting the elite of the elite. In Ryan's last outing he submitted Nathan Orchard who is a well-established black belt under Eddie Bravo.
SP: After such praise it would seem over the top for me to add to the Garry Tonon worship... but I'm still going to because he's just had that much of an impact. When he stepped in for team mate Eddie Cummings at the last EBI and took the title he cemented himself as the ultimate EBI contestant. Already a multi time champion, he switched weight classes and took the spoils once again.For Polaris 3 he requested a match up with Rousimar Palhares. HE requested it. Going up against a competitor that, in MMA, many refuse to go up against due to his history of holding on too submissions a little longer than is required. Garry went into that contest with zero fear and zero caution, chasing submission after submission. What makes him so exciting for casual fans is the variation in his entries. He will attack from any angle at any time. And when he gets there he will choke you out or, as both he and Eddie Cummings, under the masterful tutelage of John Danaher have now become known, wrench a knee or ankle till you're tapping quicker than an 80's kid playing Track & Field.
Speaking of Mr Cummings... the big bit of late news has been his withdrawal, once again, due to injury. But as one door closes another opens, and it has potential upset sat behind it in the shape of 20 year old Gordon Ryan. Ryan has been making huge waves in his short career and EBI has a history of serving up upsets. Whether it's Joe Soto maneuvering his way to the final of EBI 4 or Lachlan Gilles pushing past likes of Rany Yahya to get to the semis in EBI 5, EBI seems to be the perfect setting to make a name for yourself.
And it's worth noting... the last person to step in for Cummings on a weeks notice walked away with the the title and the cheque that comes with it.
The Eddie Bravo Invitational 6 goes down at the Orpheum Theatre, in Los Angeles, CA on April 24 and will be available on pay-per-view on Dish and InDemand, as well as being live on UFC Fight Pass.