And that’s a wrap!!! PGF Austin Qualifier is in the books. No more qualifiers. No more chances for a Golden Ticket to the PGF Season 3 Regular Season. In Austin, we received our final Qualifier winner AND an at-large bid we’d all been expecting. BTW, if we’re going to announce at-large bids as almost an aside on a qualifier, I know some “Insiders” who would be more than happy to make a big deal about revealing these things. Some of these “Insiders” were about to start calling each other Soda Pop and Ponyboy (*that’s an Outsiders reference, son – I hope you all enjoyed that novel as much as Egghead did – or you could always enjoy the 80s movie version which was a star-studded affair…but I digress, a lot). Anyway, let’s talk a little PGF Austin Qualifier and where that leaves us with potential bids for those guys who threw their hats into the ring at the qualifiers.
As a quick recap, PGF Season 3 will run from 9-15 January. On 9 January, the players will arrive and weigh in immediately. That evening, they will compete in a combine. In season 1’s combine, there were events such as deadhang, broadjump, a cone drill, etc. Allegedly, some of the Season 1 competitors tweaked themselves in the combine, so this season’s participants would be smart to put out but not max out for fear of risking their matches. The next day, in the morning, there will be a draft where the four Coaches/Managers will pick their teams. As I covered in Matology 2.0, those coaches will be Jake Elkins (season 2 alumn and Ironclad Wrestling owner), Drew Weatherhead (Because Jiu Jitsu owner, BJJ black belt, regular on the Around the Mat show), Johnny Buck (Catch Wrestler, MMA veteran, Rogue Combat Club instructor, 10th Planet brown belt, he also “wears the wring” if you’re a Conroy fan), and Eli Knight (seriously, if you’re reading this article and don’t know Elij Knight from his YouTube Channel, Instagram, or otherwise, I’m surprised). The PGF Season 3 participants will be PAID based on their draft position, with $750 for first rounders, $500 for second rounders, and $100 for those last rounders. These numbers could be adjusted based on any future sponsorships they receive (AHEM, to you business types, you might want to sponsor these guys). Each team will have five players, leaving us with 20 participants. From Monday to Thursday, each participant will have three matches a night for a total of 12 matches. Teammates will not go against teammates, meaning less chances of COLLUSION to ruin Egghead’s fantasy hopes. The players will get Friday off, then the post-season tournament will commence on Saturday, 15 January. It’s going to be a gauntlet for these guys, but it’ll be “The Shark Week of Submission Grappling” for us fans. Okay, with the preamble aside, let’s get where we stand with bids, the qualifier, and the possible at-large bids.
THOSE WITH GOLDEN TICKETS:
1. Elijah “the Bad Guy” Carlton – the Bad Guy who will be the first in the future PGF Hall of Fame received the first at-large/invitational bid. The Bad Guy will have competed in all three seasons suffering only two losses, both to Hunter “the Professional” Colvin last season.
2. Caleb McAllister – PGF Season 1 runner up now gets to compete at his natural weight. McAllister is such a motivating person. Follow him at @calebmcallisterofficial on Instagram. He has a win over Elijah previously. He’s a former MMA fighter, solid black belt, who trains and competes relentlessly. Caleb will push anyone to their breaking point. Could we see the rubber match between Elijah and Caleb in PGF Season 3?
3. Jeovany Ortiz (black belt and Decatur qualifier winner) – Jeo brought smooth skill to the Decatur qualifier. His technique was very nice to watch. Jeo weathered a lot of aggression from other players, only to wear them out and submit them. Jeo has competed againt Elijah and Caleb previously and should not be surprised when he faces them in Season 3.
4. Mario Gaor (10P O’Fallon brown belt) – Mario came in and won a small but very competitive Louisville qualifier. A very undersized Mario entered PGF season 1 and found a lot of success against larger opponents. In the Louisville qualifier, we saw some of those slick moves we’ve been seeing on that @neckstepbjj Instagram page. Mario took down two black belts with a double outside ashi ankle lock which shouldn’t work, but he dedicated an Instagram post to the PGF Insiders, showing how he made it work. Mario will likely be underestimated this season, giving a chance to pull off some real upsets.
5. Tyler Woolsey (brand new purple belt, 10P West Palm Beach). Woolsey has a great story. He started off as a teenager learning the 10P system, but had to focus on work and school at college. After setting himself up as a professional, he came back to jiu jitsu and has been killing it. As a fun aside, the Commish set Walo and I footage of Woolsey being coached/cornered by the Commish and Coach Applegate. Even as a brand new purple belt, I think Woolsey is sandbagging it a bit and will catch folks by surprise. He won the Fort Myers qualifier which was the smallest qualifier, but ended up being ran like a mini-PGF season, so Woolsey has had a bit of a taste of what the PGF has in store for him and his fellow competitors. This little experience might help him even more going into those first few rounds.
6. Kevin Sherrill (10P Atlanta brand new purple belt). Kevin (@kevingrapples) has been grappling since he was 13 (we really saw the old wrestler come out when he face Matthew Boiles in the semifinals of the Atlanta qualifier). I think he’s only been in jiu jitsu for a few years, but he can really grapple. He handily won the Atlanta qualifier. Of course all his opponents will want to check out the MidSouth Classic match of his against Matt “Maneless” Elkins to see how Matt used his patented guillotine to get a submission over Kevin…but then they’d have to match the quality of the Matt Elkin front headlock which will be hard to match. Regardless, Kevin is a VERY dangerous purple belt. BTW, sorry for not being on the live stream and being able to help refresh folks’ memory on the winners. I appreciate Isaac trying to phone a friend by asking me on the stream, but I was taking my eldest on a college football recruit visit and couldn’t watch live.
7. Kevin “Beurk” Beuhring (10P Atlanta blue belt) – Coach Applegate in Atlanta seems like he’s in teh beginning stages of taking over the grappling world. He put the two Kevins out there to take down two qualifiers, then he sent his padawan to win the CJJ Wolds, then he sent another student to take down the PGF Austin qualifier – and he came close. 10P Atlanta is making a real case for folks to emigrate to their fine city (also, if you love burgers, hit up that Bocado Burger in Alpharetta, it’s one of the best in the country). But back to the second Kevin (I hear he prefers not to be called 10P Atlanta Kevin #2 – that’s a Mallrats callback to you youngins). Anyway, Beurk has been training a little over ONE YEAR. He’s shown himself to be deadly with those 10P Atlanta leg locks, but more importantly, he showed the ability to use the threat of the leglocks to takes game opponents’ backs and get other submissions. Beurk faced some great competition at the PGF Jacksonville qualifier, really showing his abilities. Beurk is a great story to watch for in Season 3. My feeling is he’s going to have to hope to hit submissions in time to gain the advantage of the Elbow Genie rule if he wants to get to the post-season. We’ve seen him use other submisisons, but he still feels like a bit of a leglock specialist. Maybe I’m wrong. From all accounts, Beurk is making bjj his life and is hitting his stride in competition. We’ll see how far he gets.
8. Dane Leak (black belt, Clinch Martial Arts Academy, a Jean Jacques Machado affiliate academy) – Owasso, Oklahoma? You couldn’t have even been from Broken Arrow? Just kidding, I have family in Okie land, so I make fun occasionally. Anyway, Dane made his presence FELT with a series of back takes and rear naked chokes to win the Austin qualifier. Dane let us know he used to train with Hunter “the Professional” Colvin (season 2 winner) often. Dane just celebrated 10 years in jiu jitsu. Dane’s just a bad man. He showed take downs, top game, bottom game, leglocks, as well as his favorite mount, to gift wrap, to backtake, to RNC finish. Dane had some really great matches and should be a real contender in the season.
9. David “Quadzilla” Evers (10P Huntsville purple belt). Evers is a beast, a little spark plug of grappling. Once he gets his grips on you, good luck getting free. Evers has a split lineage, first studying under a Renzo Gracie black belt in Kansas, then in 10P Huntsville. He said a lot of positional sparring has really helped him compete well. Of note, Quadzilla took out the Elbow Genie at the Decatur qualifier on his way to earning second place. If you can take out the Elbow Genie, you might do ok in the PGF. Evers is one of those guys who could be really interesting to watch. We saw he had a comfort zone in his leg locks but will he be able to go for the kills in the season to earn a bid to the post-season?
10. Isaac “the Wandering Grappler” Stackhouse – The Rudy of the PGF, Isaac has made it to all the qualifiers. As the Commish let slip with 18 minutes left in the feed, Isaac was present and ready to enter the Austin qualifier; however, due to Conscious Keelan being unable to attend, they needed a cameraman. We all know Isaac is an outstanding cameraman. The Commish offered the second at-large bid (which we all knew was coming) and asked Isaac to help out. Isaac is an old school MMA fighter. He came up rough in that scene and has no quit in him. Isaac trains with many instructors throughout the Southeast (as he wanders…get it?). In the long run, this mixing of instruction should make Isaac a more well-rounded grappler, but is it stunting immediate growth? Regardless, if you want to have a match where fans know anything can happen and it will be a battle, put Rudy in there.
PGF Austin Qualifier: Short shrift on this one today as it’s starting to get late and I still have hopes to make it to the 0600 class. They had 15 players sign up. These competitors included multiple Season 1 alumni. We have Keahi Makekau whose sole season 1 win was over Mike Johnson (season 1 Mike Johnson, not season 2 Mike Johnson, btw we’re looking for a season 3 Mike Johnson if you know a guy). Keahi was a fun part of season 1 as a true white belt who kept getting smashed but remained up beat and kept fighting. He represented a big part of what made Season 1 work – the scrappers who got dunked on but kept fighting every time with a smile on their faces. Keahi didn’t make it out of the first round, but I think he showed good progress on his defense and even got close to sinking in a kimura finish. 10P Atlanta sent Stephen Dana to try the three-peat. Stephen made it all the way to the semifinals before falling to the eventual winner in the semifinals. Matt “Scarecrow of Doom” Harrison was a fan favorite in PGF Season 1. He underperformed at the Louisville qualifier but performed very well at the Austin qualifier. He showed us his patented triangle and a leg lock on the way to eventually losing in the semifinals to the eventual runner up. Louis Collins showed his normal grit but fell in his first match to a very tough toe hold. I could talk a lot more about the qualifier, but it was less than two hours long and is worth everyone watching. If you want to check it out, look here.
So now I need to turn to my attempt at guessing what the Commish will decide when it comes to the remaining 10 spots for PGF Season 3. I’ve been wildly wrong before, but I’m still going to take a shot.
Best Bets (in no certain order):
1. Jonathan “the Elbow Genie” Roberts (black belt)- The Elbow Genie was masterful, showing some beautiful jiu jitsu in Season 1. We need to see more, especially since this season will be closer to his true weight class. C’mon, Roberts has one of the best nicknames in the game and has a rule made/named after him. He’s in there.
2. Evan Dewitt – the runner-up from the Louisville qualifier. He’s a black belt from Chewjitsu’s gym (Derby City MMA). As we saw with the Scarecrow of Doom from PGF Season 1, they have a great set of fans. More importantly, Dewitt has some great jiu jitsu and was fun to watch. He was almost guaranteed a spot when they were in Louisville. The Commish mentioned him when he was on the PGF Insider podcast and the Commish mentioned Dewitt again during the Austin Qualifier – chances are, he’s making it in.
3. Randy “Dumptruck” Roden (blue belt, Scramble BJJ)- Roden brings a story of seeing a great wrestler (D1 at Duke) who had just been training jiu jitsu for one year at the beginning of PGF Season 2 where he competed. The fact that Roden made the big cut to 170lb and has the ability to be exciting on the mats and show progress to the fans…well, that’s a run-on sentence but still a compelling argument for his admission to the regular season. With his athleticism and overall grappling ability, Roden will only get deadlier with time. I think the Commish likes the idea of helping launch Roden’s jiu jitsu career.
4. Matthew Boiles (blue belt, Scramble BJJ) – He’s a young blue belt and a real go-getter. Okay, I’m biased. The PGF Insiders picked him for a sponsored entry in the Atlanta qualifier, AND HE PROVED US RIGHT! He performed very well, pushing the pace in his matches, going for submissions. He lost in the semifinals to the eventual winner. The Commish said he wanted to see more out of him. So we tried to get him to the Jacksonville qualifier, but he couldn’t get off work. He’s going to the No-Gi Worlds with teammates so he should have a chance to make more of a case for admission to the regular season. He’s the type of competitor who will either make a highlight or be someone elses highlight and he’s just a great kid from every interaction I’ve had with him. I really tried to get him to the Jacksonville qualifier but his work and working towards the no-gi worlds kept him from attending. If there’s a kid that needs a shot at the PGF, I think it’s Matthew Boiles. I believe I can guarantee he would be a great competitor for the PGF.
5. Marcus Elkins – The Elkins are like Cowbell, and we need more cowbell. The baby Elkins brother has something to prove after his two elder brothers have had such great showing in the PGF. Just like he had to win a state championship in wrestling to leave the little kids table at Thanksgiving dinner; he will feel the pressure to show up and perform for the PGF. He’s been at multiple qualifiers. He’s shown some great darce submissions and great wrestling. And he brings a great story with his and his family’s ongoing connection to the PGF.
6. Noah Randolph or Kevin “the Pete Rose of the PGF” Primeau. They were both fan favorites in season 1. Kevin showed his cagey side in Season 2 after being diminished by the Rona. I’m a huge fan of both these guys and would love to see both make it, but I’m not sure it’s possible. Last time, I selected Noah because Kevin had too many irons in the fire and it’s a rough weight cut. Well, Kevin reached out and reminded me the #1 rule of PGF Fantasy is not to bet against Primeau. So, I guess there’s a real chance he’s in here. Plus, it might be hard for Noah to miss school for the week (he’s still in high school…and could whup most our butts).
7. Cameron Woodfell – He’s a blue belt out of 10th Plane Jacksonville and the runner-up for the Jacksonville qualifier. He’s been training more than a decade but is only a blue belt due to serving in the Navy and moving around so much. I’ve known a number of guys who’s careers have made them move all over and had it stunt their ranking. I think his performance (including taking out the 10th Planet West Palm Beach head coach and Raymond Paige who was the runner-up in the Fort Myers qualifier) as well as his story make him a great choice for an at-large bid. At this point, we also really need a 10P Jacksonville representative. They have a good fanbase and it would be good who carries the banner for Sam Barbosa.
8. Matt “Scarecrow of Doom” Harrison (black belt, Derby City MMA) – The SOD has a scary triangle. As mentioned above, he somewhat underperformed on his home turf in the Louisville qualifier – but that might have been the extra pressure from being in front of a little scarecrow. Harrison really showed up in Austin with a triangle and leglock submission. He lost in the semifinals, but is an alumnus and has been to two qualifiers. The Commish says that loyalty matters to him, so the SOD may have just punched his ticket.
9. Wesley Carter (brown belt, Queen City Grappling Club, Cincinnati, OH). This guy has aggression for days. He’s a fighter for sure and will push the pace. He was the runner up at the Austin Qualifier and should bring in another demographic from the OH area.
10. You pick from Manning Leverett (was in season 2 finale and won a match against a very game opponent); Eric Longar (black belt and season 1 alumnus with great side-to-side passing); Josh Gibbs (season 2 alumn and multiple qualifier participant), or Raymond Paige (Fort Myers qualifier runner up and came back for 10P Jacksonville), or Keahi Makekau (season 1 alumnus and Austin qualifier participant). They have all shown dedication/loyalty either as alumni of the PGF or making it to multiple qualifiers, or both. Honestly, I’m a fan of all of them. But going off what I’ve seen of their jiu jitsu and competition footage, I think Longar and Paige are the more exciting grapplers. But it’s really hard not to go with Gibbs. Gibbs would be at his natural weight class (went up for Season 2). He’s a great guy and definitely a company man.
Okay, as Austin Powers would say, “I’m spent.” I need to hit the rack for class in the morning. Hopefully, this blather helps tide you over until we can talk on Thursday during the PGF Insider podcast.