The inaugural RAW Grappling Championships took place on Sunday November 14th at the O2 Arena in London, England. Despite not being known as a grappling hotbed, England is home to some of the best jiu-jitsu academies in the world, including Roger Gracie Academy, Gracie Barra, and Carlson Gracie Academy. The event featured a prelim card with some of the best local blue and purple belts, leading into a black belt grand prix and two super fights, with Rafael Lovato Jr. taking on Adam Wardzinski and Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa competing against Gerard Labinski.
Two time ADCC champion Yuri Simoes takes grand prix title
The main card of the event was kicked off by the eight man black belt grand prix. Competitors included Patrick Gaudio, Josh Hinger, Yuri Simoes, Thomas Bracher, Bradley Hill, Steven Hill, Taylor Pearman, and Jed Hue. Gaudio, Hinger, and Simoes came in with the best credentials, and it was Simoes who best utilized his passing skills and strategy to come out on top. In his first match, he took on Jed Hue of Elite Jiu-Jitsu, winning via points in the overtime period. Yuri beat Taylor Pearman in the semi-finals, again needing the overtime period to secure his points and the victory. In the final, Yuri would face Patrick Gaudio, a Dream Art representative who bested Thomas Bracher and Josh Hinger in the earlier rounds, both by referee decision. Gaudio pulled guard early in the match and Yuri used a combination of side to side movement and body lock passing to nearly get around Gaudio’s guard. Gaudio countered with a kimura attempt from bottom, forcing a scramble where both athletes got back to their feet. After several minutes on the feet, Gaudio again elected to pull guard with about 4 minutes left in regulation. From there, Simoes used a combination of side to side movement and pressure to stifle Gaudio’s attacks. The match ended 0-0 in regulation and went to overtime, where Yuri dictated the pace of the match on the feet, getting the better of the hand fighting exchanges. Yuri’s pace, pressure, and near guard pass were enough to earn him the decision victory and the grand prix title.
Old school jiu-jitsu gets Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa arm bar finish
In the first featured super fight of the event, Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa of Atos took on Gerard Labinski of New School Brotherhood. Labinski came into the match looking to showcase his guard playing skills, getting to his closed guard shortly into the match. Barbosa dropped back for a heel hook early on, which forced Labinski to roll out of bounds. After the reset, Lucas again took the top position and started to work his highly refined passing game, forcing Labinski to the half guard position on multiple occasions. The strategy proved fruitful for the Hulk, eventually finding the under hook and passing straight to the mount. From there the Hulk trapped Labinski’s arm and finished with an arm bar, roughly seven minutes into the match.
Lovato’s defense and pressure earn him the victory against Adam Wardzinski
Former Bellator Middleweight Champion Rafael Lovato Jr. has continued to test his jiu-jitsu skills on some of sport’s biggest stages since his forced retirement from mixed martial arts. Lovato took on Checkmat’s Adam Wardzinski in the main super fight attraction of the event. Lovato is known for his excellent use of pressure from the top while Wardzinski often invites that pressure as he heavily favors the butterfly guard position from bottom. At the start of the match, Wardzinski immediately sat to guard and looked to entangle Lovato’s legs. Lovato stayed safe for the beginning part of the match, carefully deciding when to engage Wardzinski’s guard. About two minutes in, he jumped into a knee cut pass, nearly securing the side control before Wardzinski recovered. The remainder of the match saw Wardzinski attempt to enter into Lovato’s legs from the butterfly guard with Lovato successfully defending all of his entries. After a 0-0 score in regulation, the athletes went to a two minute overtime period, where Wardzinski received a penalty for pulling guard. This was the only score of the match, giving Lovato the win in an interesting clash of styles.