This weekend, the eleventh installation of the highly-popular Polaris Professional Jiu-Jitsu Invitational goes down in Manchester, England. It features a who’s who from the world of submission grappling, boasting a wealth of world champions and even an Olympic gold medalist. The event is streaming live on UFC Fight Pass on Saturday, August 31.
Submission grappling’s popularity and this card features a couple of fighters that might well become superstars in the coming years. If you are an MMA fan that hasn’t tuned into grappling before then have no fear, this preview is especially for you. BJJ statician Louis Martin and I will give you the lowdown on what to look out for at Polaris 11.
The biggest tournament in BJJ is fast approaching, the biannual ADCC World Championships go down next month and some of the hottest prospects in the sport are getting matches in this weekend. Nick Rodriguez looks like he’s a Greek god carved straight out of marble and with only a year’s training, he has taken BJJ by storm. Rodriguez is only a blue belt but he is beating black belts on a regular basis and he will be looking to build upon his stunning victory against Ash Amos at Polaris 10. Interestingly enough, Nicky Rod is set to face off with a fellow ADCC prospect, Britain’s own Ben Dyson.
Dyson has been grappling professionally since he was a purple belt. He has quite a few professional accolades including some MMA fights. On paper, it shouldn’t even be close. A seasoned pro against a blue belt. But as crazy as this sounds, Dyson might be an underdog on Saturday night. His biggest strengths are his size and his methodical style. He’s not a fast mover, he prefers to play a more wrestling heavy game. Nick Rodriguez already has a reputation for pure aggression. At Kinektic last month, he tore through black belts by simply outworking them. He’ll be bigger, faster, and a better wrestler. And oh by the way, he knows how to heel hook now.
Again, as crazy as it sounds, Dyson has more to gain here. Stopping a surging star like Nicky will be great for his career.
One of the most polarising figures in UK MMA is set to feature on this card and he can be expected to bring in a lot of fans from nearby Liverpool. Paddy Pimblett is a former Cage Warriors champ who is known for his ground game and he holds 6 submission victories inside the cage. At just 24, Pimblett is still relatively young and while he’s already turned down a UFC contract previously, he is definitely UFC-caliber. Pimblett gets to test his skills against UFC fighter Stevie Ray in what should be an interesting match. While Ray is set to fight Michael Johnson in October, he has shown that he’s game for a scrap by taking on what is bound to be a difficult match in Paddy Pimblett.
I’m a little worried about Satoshi Ishii here. Ishii has fought (and mostly lost) to some of the big names in MMA such as Fedor, Rampage, and Cro Cop. In 2018, he made a run in full time submission grappling, and it was honestly a disaster. His only “win” coming via a DQ to Frank Mir.
In his defense, he was grappling outstanding fighters like Tex Johnson, Daniel Strass, Geo Martinez, and Marcos De Souza. While his credentials as an Olympian Judoka are no joke, it’s fair to say Satoshi Ishii is a gatekeeper to the top guys.
The question is really whether Arya Esfandmaz will be one of those guys. Esfandmaz is a black belt under BJJ legend Roger Gracie. He has been well known in the European IBJJF circuit for awhile. He’s not a stranger to the nogi scene, but Saturday could be his breakout moment on a big stage against a big name.
Esfandmaz has a very modern nogi game, meaning lots of leglocks. Look for him to play open guard to negate Ishii’s judo.
Main Event Madness
The main event of this card is about as good as it gets for Women’s BJJ. Ffion Davies is a gi and nogi world champion, the reigning Polaris champion and the biggest name in female BJJ, but there is one woman who has conquered her on the big stage in nogi and that woman is Talita Alencar. Alencar tapped Ffion out at EBI 12 and like Davies, she too is a gi and nogi world champ. On paper this one seems close, but the momentum seems to be with Ffion and she will be hard to beat on Saturday night.
Watching the first fight between these two at EBI 12, I can’t help but notice how Ffion absolutely ran through Talita for most of it. Within minutes, Talita had her back taken and was fighting for her life. Her saving grace was arguably a reset when the two rolled out of bounds. After that, Ffion lost some of her offensive momentum and was forced to play from the bottom.
If Ffion can stay on top and work her excellent guard passing game, she has a shot here. Likewise, Talita might do well to attack legs to shut down the passing game of Davies.
Polaris 11: Davies vs. Alencar airs live from Manchester, England this Saturday, August 31. The main card airs on exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.