If you haven’t heard, the most exciting submission grappling league is coming back for a fourth season. This season 155lb and under grapplers get their turn to shine.
But why is it the most exciting submission grappling league? To quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “let me count the ways”…
- A scoring/points system biased towards action. Competitors have 12 matches in the regular season to accumulate as many points as possible. A “Kill” or choke gets a competitor 6 points; a “break” or joint lock earns a competitor 3 points. Per the “Elbow Genie” rule, if a competitor scores any submission within the first minute of the round, they get an extra point. There are no ref decisions. To be clear, if you don’t score a submission in your match- it’s a loss. There are no ties – if neither person gets a submission it’s the same result as each of them losing. This scoring scheme encourages competitors to pass the guard (weighting kills twice as much as breaks), but with the Elbow Genie rule it also incentivizes quick submissions. The competitors have reacted to this scoring scheme by showing us great, exciting, high-paced jiu jitsu.
- Innovative camera work. Conscious Keelan and Isaac Stackhouse bring us unmatched camera work. We’ve all been frustrated watching a grappling competition online with only one stationary camera – it’s the worst. So often the competitors will be on the edge of the screen and have their backs to the camera. With Keelan rig, the viewers constantly have the best seat in the house. With talented grapplers behind the camera, they can anticipate how and where to move to maintain connection with the action.
- Inspired competitors. The PGF has all kinds of styles and belt levels. We’ve had white belts versus black belts; a purple belt champion is season 3; and consistently have a standout lower belt. Last season it was Kevin “Beurick” Beuhring who was the standout blue belt, taking folks’ legs home with him. In season 2, it was Evan Stapler taking down upper belts. In season 1, we had a bunch of blue belts show up and show out as they say. #bluebeltsarepeopletoo. For season 3 and the current season, competitors were required to participate in qualifiers (more on that later) which are the PGF’s preseason. To get an invite to the season, competitors had to win a qualifier or impress the Commish (Brandon Mccaghren) enough to earn an at-large bid. In season 3, Isaac Stackhouse was so motivated, he attended every qualifier (competing in all but the last where he had to run the equipment) before getting his invite. Put mildly, these competitors have to want to get into the PGF and their drive shows in their matches.
- Passionate staff. I’ll steal this point from “Handsome” Kevin Sherrill from season 3. As a lifelong grappler (collegiate wrestler then added jiu jitsu), Handsome Kevin has been around just a few competitions. He remarked in multiple interviews that the passion the staff had translated to a great experience. Everyone “wants” to be at the PGF and are excited to make it a great success. The standout staff member from season 3 had to be Stephen “Bobby Boffofum” Eakin, the head of 10th Planet Perry. Serving as emcee, announcer, and post-match interviewer, Stephen added a lot of flair and fun to the PGF. Whether he was getting the crowd excited for a match or pulling out nuggets of gold from the competitors after matches (“What’s up Kara!?!”), Stephen put his everything into every aspect of his job. Of course, we have to mention the commentators. Lindsay Mccaghren and Matt Skaff, both 10th Planet black belts, have been calling the matches since the inaugural season. They’ve always had great chemistry and provide outstanding details explaining the action to the viewers. This last season, they had some weird guy named Egghead next to them – he did ok (hahaha, it was so much fun sitting next to them and calling the action with them – very much a “through the looking glass” experience for a guy who used to just be in the chat).
Okay, I could go on for a long time about all the elements that make the PGF so amazing, but we need to move on. I’ll write more in depth posts later, but I want to give a quick recap of where we are with the current season.
The Commish (Brandon Mccaghren) has to fill out the field of 24 competitors. The roster will include the 9 Qualifier winners and 15 at-large bids. At the beginning of season 4, there will be a combine and draft where the four coaches will select their teams. Currently, the Commish has confirmed Eli Knight and Kemoy Anderson (season 2 alumn) will serve as two of the four coaches. Every competitor will be paid, but the pay will be based in part on their draft round with first rounders earning more than the rest. The final four selected will serve as reserves who will be available if anyone on their team’s main roster is injured or cannot roll for any reason.
So far we’ve had 5 of the 9 qualifiers. For the rest of the post, I’m going to run down the roster as far as we know now, noting qualifier winners, at-large bid owners, and some possible at-large folks based on their performances so far.
- Decatur, AL back on March 5 – Reese LaFever, One Nation JJ (currently at New Wave JJ in Austin, TX) – busy, legit competitor who recently moved to Austin to learn from the best.
- Jacksonville, FL back on April 16 – Matthew Boiles, Scramble BJJ – What’s up Kara!?! Matty B wasn’t satisfied with an at-large bid from the Decatur qualifier so he went into 10P JAX and won. He’s added leg attacks to his heavy wrestling game. Matty B is the storm, serving a whirlwind of attacks on every competitor he faces. Very pumped to see how much Boiles improves even from the JAX qualifier to the season.
- Cincinnati, OH back on May 7 – Brandt Basaran, Indy Boxing and Grappling. This guy is an assassin. I don’t know much about his story, but he straight murdered the competition in Cincinnati. The Commish thinks Basaran has a real shot at winning this season.
- Chattanooga, TN back on May 28 – Maximus “Rock Troll” Jolly, Upper Cumberland MMA. The Rock Troll is also a killer. I’m pretty sure he took everyone’s legs home with him, then got on the microphone and called out everyone who’s ever wronged him…ever. He should be a lot of fun AND he’s a blue belt. So he could be the standout blue belt for the season.
- Fort Myers, FL on June 25 – Anthony Molina, 10P Miami. Molina is super confident and smooth. His movements on the feet make me think he’s done some boxing in the past. He said he wanted to secure some chokes to get into the PGF scoring strategy, but he’s known as the leg lock guy down at 10th Planet Miami. Molina is definitely going to be a problem for people this season.
- Decatur, AL #2 coming up on July 16 – tbd.
- Nashville, TN coming up on July 30 – tbd.
- Atlanta, GA coming up on August 20 – tbd.
- Asheville, NC coming up on September 10 – tbd.
At-large Bid Owners (folks who have received an at-large bid from the Commish):
- Manning Leverett, 10P JAX. Manning came in second during the regular season of season 3. He’s a super well-rounded competitor, having a great standing game, top game, and leg locks. The Manaconda should be in the mix for the title this season for sure.
- Jacob Arp, Gracie JJ Savannah, a Pedro Sauer school/ formerly Scramble BJJ. We’ve seen him in multiple qualifiers. He always gives that high pace/energy performance that’s become the hallmark of Scramble BJJ and Wrestling. He called out his old teammate Matthew Boiles, so that should be a match to watch for sure.
- Raymond Paige, Rogue Wave Martial Arts. The third time at a qualifier was the charm. Raymond’s a purple belt and competes in MMA as well as jiu jitsu. It’ll be good to see him and Tyler Woolsey compete this year.
- Tyler Woolsey, Rogue Wave Martial Arts. Speaking of Tyler Woolsey, my tag for him has always been that he’s the truest expression of old school 10th Planet jiu jitsu (is that an oxymoron?). But seriously, looking forward to Woolsey showing his game. He was a lot of fun in season 3, but he was heavily outweighed by most competitors, limiting his game.
- Charles Muxo, Black Tie BJJ. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog. Muxo should be a great story. He has that Keahi character arc where we saw Muxo, who is undersized even at 155, in the qualifier last season and he’s made great strides in his jiu jitsu this season. Muxo could quickly become a fan favorite this season.
- I know there are some at-larges that weren’t explicitly announced on screen, I’m only listing ones I know from seeing it on YouTube.
Possible At-large folks:
- Stephen Dana, 10th Planet Atlanta – runner up in the first Decatur qualifier. He had a great showing at the Austin qualifier in season 3. Sean Applegate at 10th Planet Atlanta just puts out killers.
- Noah Randolph, 10th Planet Decatur. Noah’s a veteran of seasons 1 and 3. He’s the ninja choke master. The man who won’t breathe through his mouth or make facial expressions. The kid is dang good. I’d be willing to bet a lot he’s in.
- Eric Longar, 10th Planet Crystal City. Head of 10th Planet Crystal City, Longar is a vet of seasons 1 and 3. He nailed a sick peruvian necktie at the Decatur qualifier and is known for his excellent side-to-side passing. Season 4 was made for competitors like Longar, and the next few guys – PGF vets who showed great skill and grit, but were just a little too undersized in the previous seasons. I’d definitely like to see Eric get an invite.
- Josh Diaddario, 10th Planet Decatur. A vet of season 1 and a part of the 10th Planet production team (Josh is the best fog machine guy in the biz). I think he may be on the outside looking in on this one – my guess is the Commish might hold Josh in reserves in case anyone flakes or gets injured last minute. Since Josh is on staff at 10P Decatur, he would be an easy last minute filler.
- Mario Gaor, 10th Planet O’Fallon. Mario is a technician. The technique vids that Mario puts out (with Keahi behind the camera) are top notch. Mario and Keahi are both vets of season 1 and season 3. As I said with Eric Longar, this season was made for these guys. As a PGF super fan, I really want to see them back for season 4.
- Keahi Makekau, 10th Planet O’Fallon. See above. Keahi made a lot of improvements from season 1 to season 3. I imagine season 3 gave him a big boost. As someone who is plugged into the PGF, I’m sure he’s been working even harder since finding out this season was going to be at 155. I should note we haven’t seen Mario or Keahi at a qualifier yet. The qualifier at St Louis (their school) had to be moved to this upcoming Decatur one. They’ve definitely made the drive to Decatur before, but it’s a haul. Regardless, they need to make it to one of the qualifiers.
- Louis Collins, 10th Planet Muscle Shoals. Louis had some great matches in the Cincinnati qualifier, showing the grit for which he’s known. He’s a vet of seasons 1 and 3 and puts on great matches. I’d really like to see him in this season.
- Alex Hall, Ironclad Wrestling. He was the runner up at the Chattanooga qualifier. He had some great matches and showed an exciting style. He could be a great addition to the PGF. If he goes to either the Nashville or Atlanta qualifier, he’s got a good shot at a bid.
- Sam Acord, 10th Planet Atlanta. Sam was having a great event at the Chattanooga qualifier until he ran into the buzz saw in the form of the Rock Troll. The Rock Troll gave Sam a good pop to his leg. Acord showed he was a warrior, continuing to compete, but with the injury he didn’t have enough to win. Mark Acord, Sam’s father, has been in the chat assuring us his son will be at the upcoming qualifiers to make sure he gets a spot. Given that Mark is a black belt and competitor himself, I’m going to believe him.
- Sleepy Billy Baxter, Inside Control Academy. Sleepy Billy put on a great display of jiu jistsu at the Fort Myers qualifiers. Ironically, if he had stayed after the show, he probably would’ve received an at-large bid. But to his credit, Sleepy Billy is already signed up for the Atlanta qualifier. Yes, Sleepy Billy is going into Sean Applegate’s lion’s den. If Sleepy Billy can put on a show there, he will definitely get an invite.
Ok, so there’s 25 either confirmed or possible competitors for the season (counting the unknown remaining qualifier winners). The way it’s been going, we’ve had these roaming samurai come into the qualifiers as unknowns and wreck the competition. I wouldn’t be surprised if that trend continues.
Thanks for staying with me through the whole post. I might break this up into different posts or recycle content from it for more developed posts/articles. It was just time to break the seal on writing about season 4. As I’ve said on the PGF Insider podcast, my change in jobs reduced my ability to push out content as I had to learn/relearn a lot of things for work on my own time. Now we have a lull in rhythm at work, so I should be able to go back and recap the qualifiers and start working on more in depth research and writeups about the competitors.
Also, yes, there was scheduled to be a ladies’ league at 135lb as well. The plain truth is not enough ladies are signing up. We’ve had multiple qualifiers where no lady signed up – seriously, all someone had to do was pay the registration fee and they would’ve made it onto the PGF. There’s a not insignificant chance the ladies’ league morphs into either a tournament or gets deferred until a later date to allow for more competitors. To keep up to date with news on that issue, I’d check out Brandon and Lindsay have a podcast now on Brandon’s YouTube channel.
As always, feel free to let me know what I got wrong or need to update. I’ll be going back through the article and adding links to content for competitors, qualifiers, etc. If you want to do it live, check out the PGF Insiders podcast, Friday nights at 7:30pm Eastern time on Brandon’s YouTube channel.