OKAY, SOME BIG UPDATES TO THE BRACKET:
CHANGE 1: EASTERN CONFERENCE (ON THE LEFT) – JOSH DIADDARIO HAS REPLACED JEREMY GEIGER.
CHANGE 2: WESTERN CONFERENCE (ON THE RIGHT) – MOISES CARRASCO IS OUT, LEADING TO A CASCADE OF CHANGES. I’LL UPDATE IN THE TEXT BELOW.
Here it is, the night we’ve all been anticipating. Now, we see what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real…oops, wrong series (but you might have chuckled if you’re of a certain age). But seriously, we have the top 16 Professional Grappling Federation contestants (or at least top eight scorers from each bracket e.g. Blake “Boy Wonder” Randall took down Clay Malone in a match, but missed the tourney). Still, it should be an exciting night.
But oh man, better brew some extra strong coffee for this one, especially if you’re joining from the East Coast, or worse yet, from across the pond (looking at you Kai Johnson and Irish Keet). This tournament is straight submission only, NO TIME LIMIT! One of my favorite tournaments to use this format was Nathan Orchard’s Shugyo Invitational. As awesome as that tournament was, they edited matches to make the action sharper. In one Shugyou Invitational matchup, we saw Keith Krikorian (10P for life) v Josh Bacallao go for 71 minutes! At 59:38, they took a quick break for the support staff to mop up the sweat pools left by the combatants. As Matt Skaff said in his Grappling Discourse podcast episode where he discussed training for a no time limit sub only tournament, there’s bound to be one if not more matches going for a LONG time. Much like the last week of the regular season, I’m balancing anticipation with the bittersweet sensation of the end of something a lot of us loved. The first season of the PGF was awesome. We saw folks grow. We got to know more about a lot of competitors who would’ve just been names at a random tournament. Now, we get to know who is the top dog when it’s just about submissions. With it all being in one night, cardio and recovery could be very big factors in this tournament. Let’s take a deeper look at the bracket:
EASTERN CONFERENCE (the left side of the bracket):
1 Elijah Carlton (brown) v 8 Jeremy “Knee Barrista” Geiger. Okay, Geiger was a collegiate wrestler. He’s had some sweet knee bar victories and exhibited great wrestling, but….unless he knows some sneaky wrestler moves to take advantage of an opponent’s injured shoulder, he’s not going to win. Elijah is two levels above everyone else according to PGF commentator and 10P Decatur blackbelt Matt Skaff (later revised to one level in his interview with Elijah). Elijah got 20 for 20 submissions. Occasionally, he had to settle for a break (e.g. Mike “Manscape” Richey – one of two competitors to submit the Manscape; Nilo Bergener who is #3 in the East, etc.). Now, Elijah isn’t going to just fall back on the break as time gets close to expiring. No, he’s going to highlight his leg game as well as anything else someone gives him. In his interview with Matt Skaff in the Grappling Discourse Podcast, Elijah said he would win the tournament with a combined grappling time of less than 10 minutes – that’s less than 2.5 minutes per match! I bet against Elijah in the final week of the season and paid the price (DANG YOU MCWHORTER!). I’d suggest you think twice before betting against him. He has the swagger and the skill to make his estimation a reality.
UPDATE: JOSH DIADDARIO (BLUE) HAS REPLACED JEREMY GEIGER. JOSH HAS A GOOD LEG LOCK GAME, BUT NOT AS GOOD AS ELIJAH’S LEG LOCK GAME. ELIJAH WILL LIKELY QUICKLY TAKE OUT DIADDARIO, HELPING HIS OVERALL CHANCES (LESS CARDIO INVOLVED).
4 Seth Tatum (blue) v 5 Mario Gaor (purple). This matchup is the first of multiple rematches. In their first match, the two ended in a draw. In their first match (PGF Week 8 ~3:05 into the video), Seth Tatum got stuck in Mario’s full guard. Mario trapped Tatum’s left hand, looking to a back take, but then moving into a sweep. Mario passed Tatum’s guard, but Mario passed Tatum’s guard again. Unfortunately for Mario, I’m going to give this match to Tatum. Tatum has a lot of size on Mario. Also, given this match is likely the only winnable match for Tatum, the 10P black belt mafia will likely have broken down some tape and prepared Seth for this match. In the first match, you could see Mario was a more experienced grappler, but Seth’s has the physical advantage and will gain the knowledge of his instructors to win this match.
3 Nilo “the Mop” Burgener (brown) v 6 Noah Randolph (blue). Noah really turned it on in week six of the PGF regular season. He secured 21 points (three kills) vaulting him from not in consideration for the playoffs to pretty much a sure thing. Noah has been a fan favorite since week 1, after he showed insane grit for a high schooler. He’s going to make Nilo work for the submission, but he will fall. Nilo “the Mop” Bergener (who is apparently DaNilo Bergener?) is a stud. From day 1, we’ve seen him doing cardio on the side of the mats constantly. We’ve had reports he’s doing burpees in the parking lot outside the gym before matches. In a no-time-limit grappling event, Nilo’s cardio is a HUGE advantage. Besides his skill/experience advantage, there’s no tiring Nilo. He’ll win for sure. Heck, if he didn’t have multiple no-shows in the last couple of weeks in the regular season, there’s a very good chance he would’ve won the regular season.
7 Eric Longar (brown) v 2 Matt “the Mane” Elkins (brown). Longar has shown great side to side passing after his big time “throw by’s” in the standing arena. Unfortunately, he’s facing one of the best wrestlers in the PGF and someone who has him beat by a few dozen pounds. Longar has struggled against larger opponents and the Mane (pretty cool that nickname stuck) has him both in size and skill in my opinion. After earning 0 points in his first four matches (only one loss to Elijah Carlton), the Mane rattled off 14 kills. Elkins is one of only two opponents to submit the Elbow Genie. He’s a bad man and has a real shot to win this tournament.
WESTERN CONFERENCE (the right side of the bracket):
1 Caleb McAllister (black) v 8 Clay Malone (blue). Clay Malone made the most of his schedule. He went after the blue belts and below to secure a spot in the tournament. He played the scoring system well, working to get the chokes when possible. His best submission against game opponents was the straight ankle lock, but I doubt Caleb McAllister is going to tap to a straight ankle. Caleb is a monster. I highly recommend you listen to his interview on Matt Skaff’s Grappling Discourse podcast. Caleb’s cerebral and inspirational. Heck, I know I need to follow him on Instagram. Caleb has super cardio as well as true black belt skill. And, if you listened to his interview during the series of interviews before the last regular season week of the PGF, he’s been hinting most folks have been hiding their “A games” for the tournament. Does this mean he has a wicked leg lock or other breaking game or did he not use his best setups during the season (like a NFL team uses limited playbooks during the preseason)? I’m not sure, but I have reasonable certainty Caleb will win.
UPDATE: CALEB V BLAKE “BOY WONDER” RANDALL (BLUE). My biggest question of this match is whether the Boy Wonder will be rocking the sweet head gear. It makes me nostalgic for high school days gone by. The Boy Wonder has that young wrestler explosiveness, cardio, and overall grit. Still, Caleb is the real deal. He has great cardio (check his interview with Matt Skaff on the Grappling Discourse podcast to hear the endurance challenge he did when the whole Covid thing broke out). He has great skill (black belt who competes regularly including winning this last weekend). Regardless, this match should have some fun moments. While it would be good to see Moises, it feels right to have Randall in the tournament. I was hoping the Commish would find a way to get him in an exhibition match for the tournament, but this option is much better.
4 Moises Carrasco (purple) v 5 Jonathon “Elbow Genie” Roberts (brown). Their first match was during the last week of the PGF regular season (~9 minutes into video). The Elbow Genie continually put Moises in breaking peril. Roberts has a great ability to pull guard and either throw some Marcelo Garcia style armlocks or elevate his opponents and go for their legs. Moises looked to free the knee line by sitting back hard, but Roberts was able to recapture the knee line and get the heel hook. Moises is a proven MMA killer, but in submission grappling, I have to give it to “the Accountant.” I know he already has a nickname and is in finance vs accounting. Still, he fits the “I’m a mild-mannered number juggler who can kill you” vibe. #nerdsrule
UPDATE: 5 Jonathon “Elbow Genie” Roberts (brown) v Matt “Scarecrow of Doom” Harrison (brown). The SOD has shown great resilience in the PGF. He’s not the guy where you take his back and easily get the RNC (ask Nilo). However, one competitor took the Scarecrow of Doom out in less than 20 seconds…that man is Tyler Durden…er, I mean the Jonathan Roberts aka the Elbow Genie (back in Week 2). While I think the Elbow Genie has what it takes to get a quick tap, we need to remember the SOD has only been tapped by three others. Elkins got the SOD with a mounted guillotine; Dallas Sharp got him with a RNC, but he did it off a slick cartwheel pass and sunk it in with great speed; and the Knee Barrista finished him with…wait for it…a knee bar, but that was after a questionable tap situation so the SOD’s guard may have been down. Roberts will sit, so it’s unlikely he’ll end up in the SOD’s guard. The SOD will be forced into top position where the Elbow Genie will work some magic and get the submission while preserving his cardio.
3 Joe Kai v 6 Matt “Scarecrow of Doom” Harrison. Two fan favorites of the PGF collide in this match. I said the same thing a handful of weeks ago. I also said: “The Scarecrow of Doom (SOD) can pull people in his closed guard where he has a phenomenal triangle. The SOD has also shown some unexpected wrestling, given his guard-pulling game. Kai’s speed and elusiveness will be difficult for the SOD. Last week Kai showed know rust from his multiple-week hiatus, getting some great Marce chokes and calling his shot with a flying triangle finish. I think Kai takes the win, but it should be a great match.” Perhaps the real question we should be asking is what is Joe Kai listening to before each match? He always has to take out the wireless earbuds before each match. But seriously, Joe’s ability pass and cardio should put him in a great situation as he was last time. In their first match, the SOD made it very hard to submit him, leading to a draw. While he has super solid defense, given an unlimited time period, I have to think Joe Kai will get this win. But at what cost? Did you submit the SOD? Yes. What did it cost? Everything. (i.e. will submitting the SOD leave Kai spent for the next round?). If you don’t get this reference, please Google “what did it cost meme”.
UPDATE: 3 Joe Kai (brown) v 7 Matt “Manderson” Anderson (brown). Here we have an interesting match. Kai is a skilled brown belt with crazy cardio and innovative attacks. Matt Anderson is the MANDERSON. The Manderson has shown his kryptonite to be leg locks generally, but to get there, Kai may risk Manderson getting on top. Manderson has to have Kai by 30-40 lbs of straight beef. While I whole heartedly believe Kai will use his tempo/pace and skill to earn a break against Manderson, I think an upset where Manderson gets a chest compressor from the scarf hold, or kesa gatame as a judo brown belt like Manderson would call it, is not out of the realm of possibilities. Still, I’ll go with Kai.
7 Matt “Manderson” Anderson v 2 Kevin “Liquid Terminator/Pete Rose” Primeau. So, is this the immovable object vs the unstoppable force? Manderson is in the top 2 of the strongest PGF competitors. We never got a solid answer from his match vs Mike “Manscape” Richey to see who was the strongest (hint Commish: maybe just a feat of strength competition for 2 October?). Regardless, the Liquid Terminator’s passing is the unstoppable force in this equation. The Pete Rose of the PGF will find a way to take Manderson down and pass his guard. From that point, Primeau will find a way to submit the Manderson. Regardless, the Manderson has put on such a show we’d all love to see him in the next season (and like to hear he started training BJJ again).
UPDATE: 2 Kevin “Liquid Terminator/Pete Rose” Primeau (purple) v Clay Malone (
blue purple). Clay Malone was able to choke some white and blue belts; otherwise, he relied on his straight ankle lock for his other wins. He’s facing the Liquid Terminator. Primeau’s pressure and passing as well as his leg lock defense will get him the victory in this match. On a happy note, Clay Malone just earned his purple belt; however, this information may be the extra motivation Primeau needs to show he can crush another purple belt, pointing out he’s ready for brown belt. Ok, I’m kidding a little here, but it gave me the chance to congratulate Malone.
EASTERN CONFERENCE (the left side of the bracket):
1 Elijah Carlton (brown) v 4 Seth Tatum (blue). Seth, I’ve actively advocated for your promotion to purple belt based on your performance in the PGF. I’ve also been actively rebuffed by your black belts. I think you need to work on your leg lock defense. Speaking of leg locks, Elijah has a wicked leg lock game he garnered after calling out one of Sean Applegate’s students (10P Atlanta) and becoming good friends with them. Elijah’s shown the ability to turn nothing into a leglock in less than 90 seconds (see Mike “Manscape” Richey match). I’m hoping Seth shows “purple-belt quality” leg lock defense in this match, but even though I believe Blue Belts Are People Too, I can’t endorse Tatum in this match.
3 Nilo “the Mop” Bergener (brown) v 2 Matt “the Mane” Elkins. This match should be one of the matches of the night! Two opponents who have not met each other before (at least in the PGF). Elkins has the size on Nilo, with Elkins a true 195 lber and Nilo coming in at 182. Nilo has cardio for days, but Elkins is a wrestler (co-owner of Ironclad Wrestling) and wrestlers are known for their freakish cardio. Nilo is very slick, garnering the submission of the year, but I feel Elkins is going to win this match. Plus he’s a Voltron fan, which was one of my favorite cartoons when I was in the first grade.
WESTERN CONFERENCE (the right side of the bracket):
1 Caleb McAllister (black) v 5 Jonathon “Elbow Genie” Roberts (brown). The rematch everyone wants to see is here! Their first match (look at around 1:28:00) ended with the Elbow Genie putting Caleb to sleep with a wicked darce. Caleb said Roberts’ style is the kryptonite to his game, as well as Caleb’s style is the kryptonite to the Elbow Genie’s game. I just watched their last match for the third or fourth time (probably a few more times in the future). Time was running out and Caleb went for the estima/sock lock break and Roberts counters with a bottom Darce choke. If there wasn’t a time limit and $1k wasn’t on the line, would Caleb have gone for that sock lock? Who know? Still, Roberts is confident he can submit anyone some of the time and I’m going to go with my nerdy brother and say he takes this one. I’ll admit, it’s an emotional #nerdsarepeopletoo call, but I’m making it. I’m sure McWhorter will make the smart call and have Caleb going forward in his bracket (dang McWhorter!).
3 Joe Kai (brown) v 2 Kevin “Liquid Terminator/Pete Rose” Primeau (purple). We have a couple of teammates who have faced each other an unknown amount of times (safe money is on a lot). BMAC has decided one has earned a brown belt, which should weigh in his favor. At the same time, the other one weighs 40 pounds more than the brown belt, weighing in Primeaus’s favor (pun intended). I’m a huge fan of both. Skaff gives the matchup (via his discussion of the tournament with Elijah Calrton) to Kai. I think he gave it to Kai based off the leg locks. However, I think/hope Primeau plays a game like Marcelo Garcia who said he doesn’t let others get his legs, meaning I think Primeau’s forward pressure should help keep Kai from getting under him. Primeau’s passing is awesome and he’s got the serious weight advantage, so I think the Pete Rose of the PGF will get to the next round, but not to the PGF hall of fame since he gambled on the PGF.
EASTERN CONFERENCE (the left side of the bracket):
1 Elijah Carlton (brown) v 2 Matt “the Mane” Elkins. This Matt “the Mane” Elkins is not the same one who lost via kill to Elijah in the first week of the PGF. The Mane has rattled off 14 kills in a row and got his swagger back after those first four matches. Elijah is also not the same as he was in the first week. Elijah got sick, then had a shoulder injury. In his week of sickness, he shed 12 pounds, likely of muscle. Elijah’s game is at least a level above everyone else’s in the PGF. Still, Elkins is coming in healthy (as far as we know), motivated, and on a roll. In their first match, Elkins was hesitant of the leg lock so he left his head forward and fell to the “soon to be patented” half guard to triangle setup Elijah got so many competitors in this season. Elijah thinks the Mane could be more concerned about the triangle now, so the leg lock may be there. Elkins is a beast and could make magic happen, but the smart money is on Elijah.
WESTERN CONFERENCE (the right side of the bracket):
5 Jonathon “Elbow Genie” Roberts (brown) v 2 Kevin “Liquid Terminator/Pete Rose” Primeau (purple). I’m a fan of both competitors in this matchup. In their last matchup, which I picked as a match of the night, we saw a draw with Primeau getting two passes and Roberts putting Primeau into two close submission attempts. Of the two skill sets, I think you have to go with the Elbow Genie. Primeau can put you in a bad situation, but Roberts can tear a limb off at any time. I’m going with our mild-mannered financial bubba on this match. #nerdsrule
Elijah Carlton (brown) v Jonathan “Elbow Genie” Roberts (brown). At this point, >65% of ya’ll (yeah, I’m half Southern so I can use that expression) are not with me anymore. But, I plan on winning this bracket challenge, so I must dare greatly. This match is a rematch (~26 minutes into video). As Skaff said in his interview with Elijah, I think Elijah pulled a Connor McGregor on his opponents including the Elbow Genie. The Elbow Genie liked the video of Elijah’s greatest submissions a few days before their match. This video included the same half-guard to triangle setup used against Matt “the Mane” Elkins and Nilo Bergener. Even having seen the video, the Elbow Genie fell prey to the same setup. Having already faced Elijah, I think Roberts will be more at ease. If given an inch, we could see Roberts wrap himself around Elijah and get the submission. I know the smart money is on Elijah, but I’m going with the Cinderalla story. A normal, office-job joe (who has been training for a decade or so) who studies bjj in anonymity can show up to a submission only grappling tournament and win. Roberts has a great mindset. He knows he can’t beat everyone all the time, but he knows he can best anyone some of the time. It might not be the swagger Elijah owns, but the honest assessment of his skills and what it would take for him to win should give Roberts some extra strength/gumption to win the tournament.
I don’t know all the 225 players to say anything about their four-person tourney. I’m sure it’s going to be great.
Okay, I’m spent. I have to get ready for some Saints football (WHODAT!) and do some chores before the beginning of the new week. I wish I could make it to the tournament this year, but I had to take a couple of weeks recently and travel for family stuff and will likely have to do the same in the next month, making a just for fun 11 hour drive trip too much to ask the family to support. Don’t worry, I’m going to make it out to Decatur before I move back to the West Coast (or wherever I’m sent next). Besides, I have to collect on a six pack of double IPAs Canaan Brooks owes me. Until the chat or otherwise, hope you enjoyed the analysis.