MATOLOGY: WHO WILL BE THE AT-LARGE BIDS FOR PGF SEASON 3?*

The Professional Grappling Federation (PGF) Season 3 has 16 spots for regular season competitors. These 170lb or under grapplers will spend a week in Decatur, AL, competing in three matches a day on a live streamed YouTube channel, with multiple sets of commentators breaking down the matches beforehand, during the matches, and after the action.  These competitors will be housed in a lakehouse and gain exposure which can open doors to many other opportunities in the combat sports community. The Commish, 10th Planet Black Belt and 10th Planet Decatur owner Brandon Mccaghren, has setup a pre-season for PGF Season 3 where interested parties under 170lbs can compete in six qualifier tournaments spread throughout the country to earn a bid to the regular season. Seven spots will go to the winners of the qualifiers and a special invitation to PGF legend Elijah “the Bad Guy” Carlton, leaving nine “At-Large” bids to the PGF. In this article, we’ll explore the status of the bids thus far and finally, I’ll break down who I think should get the At-Large bids out of the competitors we’ve seen to date.

The Automatic Invite: Elijah “the Bad Guy” Carlton will be the first person elected to the PGF Hall of Fame. In the first season of the PGF, Elijah was undefeated in both the regular season and finale tournament. In the second season, the Bad Guy only lost twice – once in the regular season and once in the finale of the post-season tournament – both to Hunter “the Professional” Colvin who was recently on the United States Polaris team. Elijah has embraced the PGF, going for kills whenever possible but always having his leg locks in his back pocket. More importantly, Elijah represents the PGF well including wearing his PGF season 1 orange rash guard during a Submission Underground match. The Commish gave Elijah an automatic bid; it makes sense.

The Qualifier Winners: we’re four qualifiers in with two qualifiers to go. Out of a bracket of 34 competitors, Jiu Jitsu Nation black belt Jeovany Ortiz rose victorioius.  He has some history with the Bad Guy so it could be interesting to see them face off in the regular season.  PGF season 1 alumnus Mario Gaor, a brown belt out of 10th Planet O’Fallon, won a small, but very competitive bracket at the Louisville qualifier. Even though they were rained out of competing on the beach, Tyler Woolsey, a many-year blue belt out of 10th Planet West Palm Beach, won a mini-PGF tournament at the Fort Myers qualifier. Kevin Sherrell, a five-year blue belt from 10th Planet Atlanta, used the home-field advantage as well as some superior submissions to win the Atlanta Qualifier. These four represent 2/3 of the qualifier winners. The Jacksonville, FL qualifier will take place on September 11th and the Austin, TX qualifier will take place on 9 October. Each of these remaining qualifiers will lead to a bid.

The At-Large Bids:

Tendered Bid(s): as of the writing of this blog, only one official At-Large bid has been offered by the Commish. David “Quadzilla” Evers, a purple belt out of 10th Planet Hunstville, was the runner-up at the Decatur qualifier and impressed the Commish enough for a bid on the spot. Evers showed some ridiculous grips along with his leg locks, taking out many competitors including Jonathon “the Elbow Genie” Roberts. Evers trained under a Renzo Gracie black belt before moving to 10th Planet Huntsville. Evers credits lots of positional sparring with developing his sticky leg locks. While we have one tendered at-large bid, we have eight remaining at-large spots for the regular season. Let’s discuss who should receive the remaining golden tickets.

The First Three In: As discussed on the PGF Insider Podcast, myself along with Chris and Walo agree the first three in are very solid. First, we have Isaac “the Wandering Grappler” Stackhouse. Stackhouse has competed IN EVERY QUALIFIER thus far and plans on continuing until he wins or earns a roster spot through another means. At this point, Stackhouse is the Rudy of the PGF. He’s always game, giving solid grappling matches. Even his draws in qualifiers have been entertaining. The second competitor in should be Matthew Boiles, a blue belt out of Scramble BJJ. I must not the PGF Insiders sponsored his entry into the Atlanta Qualifer, but Boiles earned this call based solely off his jiu jitsu.  Boiles is a young buck, only a year or two depending on your math, out from high school.  He brings a wrestler’s pace, but with some solid jiu jitsu fundamentals. Boiles may not win every match, but as Conscious Keelan said – Boiles will either get a highlight on someone or be the highlight for someone in every match.  Boiles is just a good kid, who puts his heart out there and says “sir” more than a private in the service, which is why I’m strongly leaning towards nicknaming him Peter Parker. The third competitor in needs no introduction to PGF fans. Jonathan “the Elbow Genie” Roberts had an epic run in PGF Season 1. Roberts earned his moniker by destroying the competition with his powerful joint-lock game, usually within seconds of the match starting.  The Commish actually instituted the Elbow Genie Rule where competitors get one extra point if they earn a submission in less than one minute in response to the Elbow Genie almost not making the playoffs despite submitting almost all of his opponents. The Elbow Genie lost to Quadzilla Evers at the Decatur Qualifier, but Roberts was hurt during that qualifier (I’ve seen the pics of his knee). Regardless, the Genie’s work in PGF Season 1 should easily secure him a spot in this season where he’ll be close to his natural weight.

The Next Three In: Call it “The Three Wrestlers” but I’m saying my next three in will likely be Carlos Andres, Randy Roden, and Marcus Elkins. Carlos Andres, I believe, is a white or blue belt out of Ironclad Wrestling (the gym owned by Jake and Matt Elkins in Birmingham, AL). Carlos brought a wrestler’s scrambling along with solid leg locks to the qualifier for a deep run. As Walo said on the PGF Insider, we’ve been talking about Carlos Andres as an exciting competitor for more than one month. Next is Randy Roden. Roden is a PGF Season 2 veteran who has shown the ability to shrink himself down to 170 lbs.  He wrestled around 170 for years, so he is used to the cut.  Talking about Roden’s wrestling, he was undefeated his junior and senior seasons in high school which helped him become a D1 wrestler at Duke. Roden is a blue belt from Scramble BJJ in Rome, GA with only about 18 months of jiu jitsu in his pocket. Still, all the fans saw Roden’s athleticism and smooth flowing movements in the PGF. Roden has said he’s working on adding leg locks to his game as well. Roden largely ended up with draws in season 2, but that makes sense as he is a blue belt.  But now, if Roden has added some submissions to his tool kit, he could be really dangerous. Finally, the PGF needs an Elkins competitor. Matt “the Mane and later Maneless” Elkins competed in Seasons 1 and 2 of the PGF, making both post-season tournaments. Jake “Papa Bear” Elkins competed in Season 2 and earned a spot in the post-season tournament, but was unable to participate due to work. The swagger and banter provided by the elder Elkins boys have become a mainstay in the PGF. The Commish will be hard pressed to not include another Elkins in the PGF bunch. BTW, all the Elkins are state-champion wrestlers and there’s talk Marcus may have to sit at the kiddie table during Thanksgiving if he doesn’t show out at the PGF.

The Final Countdown! (or really just the Final Two): I think we first have to nominate Evan Dewitt from the Louisville Qualifier. He was listed as S&G BJJ but I think he may also train at Chewjitsu’s Derby City MMA and is a black belt. Dewitt was the runner up at the Louisville Qualifier and showed great leg locks and other jiu jitsu. He asked the Commish if he should plan on heading to Decatur and the Commish said he should keep it in mind, or words to that effect. Dewitt gives the PGF some differentiation in teams and another black belt to try to challenge Elijah. Okay, I was going with someone else, but I feel Walo Jay compelling me to make Kevin “the Liquid Terminator/ the Pete Rose of the PGF” Primeau my final competitor in to the tournament. Primeau showed outstanding jiu jitsu in PGF Season 1, including a finale match which lasted more than 72 minutes. Primeau feel prey to the Rona before Season 2, but still showed up and competed. Due to his diminished cardio, we didn’t see the smash/Sao Paolo passes, but saw some crafty, prison-rules submission from Primeau. At the Decatur qualifier, we saw a lot of long smash passing by Primeau but not much else as his passing usually took around four minutes of the match. After he passed, Primeau didn’t have enough time to get the submission. I’ll agree with Walo that Primeau is one of the fan favorites and I’m sure he’ll deliver an entertaining PGF season.

Who did I forget? Who else could have a compelling argument? Well, with only eight at-large bids, we’re going to have a number of unhappy qualifier competitors and fans. Folks who I thought of but didn’t include are Noah Randolph, Eric Longar, Matthew “Scarecrow of Doom” Harrison, Raymond Paige, Louis Collins, and Kevin Beuhring. Noah Randolph is a Season 1 competitor who almost won me the fantasy challenge. He’s a deadly ninja-choke specialist, who refuses to breathe through his mouth or make facial expressions while grappling. He’s a good kid, a great grappler, and would be a good addition to our roster. But the Commish picked Primeau when Primeau and Noah went at it in the Decatur qualifier. It was a tough pick with at least one commentator saying he would have advanced Noah. Eric Longar looked much more comfortable in a competition near his normal weight when we saw him in the Louisville qualifier. Longar was actually winning his match against Gaor until the last minute when Gaor pulled off the ankle lock from double outside ashi. As a season 1 veteran, Longar should be comfortable with the format. Longar is a crafty black belt and has great side-to-side passing. He would be a good addition to the PGF. Matt “Scarecrow of Doom” Harrison received his black belt since Season 1 of the PGF and he has a ridiculously deadly triangle from guard. The SOD has a great fan following, including some folks who dressed up in scarecrow outfits for the Louisville qualifier. Still, the competitors seemed to be on to the SOD’s tactics – so much so that Josh Gibbs and the SOD both jumped guard at the same time. As I said on the PGF Insider Podcast, I didn’t really see anything different or new about the SOD, so he’s not making my list. Raymond Paige is interesting – he had good matches at the Fort Myers qualifier and he was a mma fighter. Paige should give us a better idea of what he’s about when he shows up to the Jacksonville qualifier in a couple of weeks. Louis Collins is a PGF Season 1 veteran and a tough out, who made me eat my fantasy words. Collins showed some moves at the Atlanta qualifier, but not enough to earn a bid. Finally, we have Kevin Beuhring, a white belt out of 10th Planet Atlanta whose been only training a year.  Beuhring looks like a leg lock specialist which doesn’t bode well for his chances to make the playoffs unless he can take full advantage of the Elbow Genie rule mentioned above. Still, Beuhring provides a compelling story if he’s in the PGF – he could be that white belt that comes out of nowhere and makes a real mark on the season.

We also need to remember we have two qualifiers left – Jacksonville and Austin. Jacksonville should bring in a lot of talent from Florida and the Southeast. Austin should bring a lot of talent from Texas, but also could bring in some folks from California. It would be foolish to think we won’t see one or two competitors make a real case for at-large bids in these qualifiers.

For the last few in/on the bubble, they may want to think about attending another qualifier or finding some other way to make their case to be on the roster. For us fans, trouble picking the roster is a great problem to have. As the Commish keeps tweaking the PGF, adopting more lessons learned from prior seasons and adopting proven strategies from other sports, we’re just going to keep seeing a better product.  For those who want to get lots of great competition experience and exposure, they need to get in those qualifiers and show the Commish something.

*an homage to Lunardi’s Bracketology pieces.

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