The PGF Season 4 draft is upon us! It’s tomorrow, 9 October at noon Eastern time on Brandon Mccaghren’s YouTube Channel. I’ve provided details in a previous post, so I’ll just give a quick recap of the mechanics here before moving onto my rankings.
The PGF Season 4 coaches will be picking two bantamweight ladies and six super lightweight men for their teams. Coach Kemoy Anderson, a PGF Season 2 alumn, will pick first, followed by PGF Seasons 1 and 3 alumn Caleb McCallister. PGF newcomer, Nick “Chewy” Albin gets the third pick and PGF Season 4 winning coach Sean Applegate gets the fourth pick. It’s a snake draft, so Coach Applegate will also get the fifth pick with the order reversing every round.
Before we get to the board, we have some items we need to discuss:
- DISCLAIMER: A la Bernardo Faria, it is a huge honor for me to write about all the competitors of the PGF. I’m a huge fan, arguably one of the first super fans of the PGF. I want everyone to have a great time and I’d be happy if any of the competitors won the whole thing. However, I am trying to give as objective an opinion as possibly as to how to rack and stack folks for the draft. If you look back to my board last year, I did pretty well. If any competitor doesn’t like their ranking, then they have every right to prove me wrong during the season and call me out when they do so. That’s only fair. Okay, the disclaimer provided on the advice of counsel is now over.
- LADIES = GUARANTEED MATCHES. In the team match format, the ladies on each team will face each other, guaranteeing two matches for each lady a night. For the men, the Quintet format means it’s all up in the air. One of the gentlemen might get up to 11 matches a night (highly unlikely) or might get zero. With guaranteed matches, the top tier of ladies becomes highly attractive (dad pun intended) for top picks.
- QUICK KILLS. Quintet is a king of the hill format. Submit one opponent, then another one steps up. In the old PGF format, folks would often try for a kill (choke) to garner the full six points, then settle for a break (joint lock) as time went down. Now, time truly is an old gypsy man (don’t cancel me, it’s old school English folks). Essentially, every second a competitor spends on the mat against one opponent is less energy they have to spend against the rest. Here, someone like Maximus “Rock Troll” Jolly might shine as he submitted everyone quickly within regulation in his qualifier. Likewise, Anthony Molina Valdes who submitted all his opponents quickly and was called a sniper should get a bump.
- DEFENSE. Again, looking at the quintet format, a draw eliminates both players. So, a wily coach might just look at the defensive capability of a potential draft pick when weighing when to select them. Basically, it’s like putting a guy on your basketball team who doesn’t score but can shut down the other team’s best scorer. A good example might be Noah Randolph – I know he’s taken great strides even since his last qualifier, but the thing that made him fans even when he was in high school for Season 1 was his grit. Noah might be someone who has great upside for submissions, but you know might just be able to stall out the other team’s best player and eliminate them.
- ANCHOR. All these things said, the coaches should want one of those top gentlemen to anchor their team. They need the guy who can straight “slay some fools” as the kids say (or was that a decade ago, hmmm). The anchor can motivate, lead, and ultimately win for the team if necessary.
- BEHIND THE SCENESE INFO. Okay, this point is a shameless plug. If you’re reading this blog, you are probably a PGF fan. Well, there’s a ton of extra content available to you if you join Brandon Mccaghren’s YouTube channel. The PGF Insider Show and Brandon and Lindsay Have a Podcast Now are both chock full of PGF information and available to you if you spend the miniscule amount of money to become a member (Breadeater is only $1 a month, but seriously, let’s be homies for something like $4). All right, all right, no more schilling.
Okay, with those considerations in mind, it’s time for Egghead to make some folks grumpy:
TIER 1: Okay, I almost made somewhat of a cop out. I wanted to just do tiers because there’s a lot of folks that are interchangeable. So, I’m going to acknowledge the tiers, but will still make the tough choices and rack and stack everyone. Without more preamble, here’s my first tier. Any of these five competitors would be a solid #1 pick or first round pick.
|1||Isaac Cordova||Brown belt, 10th Planet Fullerton||Somewhat obligated here since I’m on record saying he’ll win the season. Regardless, Cordova is a tried and true competitor on major scenes. He won a very strong second Decatur Qualifier. Plus, he’s Recon and I hear they kick butt (if you know, you know).|
|2||Joanie Chamberland||Black belt, 10th Planet Atlanta and Rise Up BJJ.||Joannie recently finished all of her opponents in regulation at the 10th Planet Qualifier. As noted above, with her two guaranteed matches a night, I think there’s a high probability she earns 12 points a night for her team. Plus, if you pick her before Applegate gets a shot, you can throw a wrench in the evil mastermind’s plans.|
|3||Nekiaya Jackson||Brown belt, 10th Planet Decatur||Much like Joanie, I think Nekiaya’s guaranteed four matches a night and her likely high submission rate (I’m guessing about 100%) makes her a very good first round pick. She’s had great success on the highest levels of competition. Even though she would normally compete at 115 pounds, her strength and athleticism should be able to match or outmatch her opponents in the PGF this season.|
|4||Dane Leak||Black belt, Clinch Martial Arts Academy||Leak has multiple wins in ADCC qualifiers. He won last season’s Austin Qualifier (170lb division) and won the stacked Nashville Qualifier. Leak is now at his true weight class and has one PGF season under his belt to know the pace required for six-minute matches. His submissions are mostly kills and his defense against even the best opponents is very strong. He has a serious chance to win this season if he gets enough matches.|
|5||David Garcia||Brown belt, 10th Planet Lombard||Garcia may very well rate a higher pick. Unfortunately, the powers that be declined to provide any footage of the stacked Atlanta Qualifier Garcia won. From what the editorial staff at EggheadWarrior.com has found, Garcia has defeated legitimate top-level talent on the national scene. Let’s face it, anyone who chooses to drive from Chicago to Atlanta and face folks in the lion’s den that is 10th Planet Atlanta deserves some serious respect.|
TIER 2: I can feel the saltiness surging. Yes, there’s some folks from the second tier who could arguably be in the first tier depending on how you value the factors above and how you evaluate the competitors’ skills. That said, I had to make a cutoff. This next tier could already be steals if coaches get them at these places.
|6||Tara Larosa||Purple belt, Royce Gracie Jiu Jitsu||Just as Joanie and Nekiaya above, Tara is going to get at least two matches a night. Against anyone other than the other top ladies above, I’m betting she gets a kill. Even against the two ladies above, I think Tara has a real shot to get the win. No one in the PGF this season can match the experience or toughness that Tara brings to the mats.|
|7||Reese LaFever||Purple belt, One Nation Jiu Jitsu and New Wave Jiu Jitsu (yes, that one)||The last time we saw Reese, he was winning the first Decatur Qualifier. That was seven months ago. Almost immediately after, he headed down to Austin to dedicate his life fully to jiu jitsu and train at New Wave Jiu Jitsu. In John Danaher’s last Instagram post, I happened to notice a familiar face as the uke…so you know Reese is getting some great knowledge there. He was already dangerous. Now, Reese very well could have bumped up a lot in the last six months, making him a steal here.|
|8||Anthony Molina Valdes||Brown belt, 10th Planet Miami||I can hear the Commisioner’s disgust with this ranking already. I agree, Molina Valdes is SUPER SMOOTH. He’s dangerous. He’s a sniper as Matt Elkins said. I could be very undervaluing him here. Molina Valdes has the capability to end matches quickly – he has no hesitation to pull the trigger on a submission. Honestly, if he snuck up to the first round, I wouldn’t be surprised.|
|9||Samson “the Hustler” Phommabout||Brown belt, Sierra MMA (Sandy, UT)||I call him the hustler because it seems like Samson doesn’t sleep. He has business pursuits all over and has been all over training and filming with high-level camps. He’s a legit mma fighter so you know he’s tough. He also has the stature, athleticism, and stone-cold jiu jitsu to make him a problem for the rest of the field.|
Tier 3: Here’s where a team could really win the season. Make the right choices in the next two tiers and you could build a TOUGH team. We have a mix of technicians, grinders, defensive stallwarts, etc. Who they choose will be based on their strategy for building their team and how they plan on setting their lineups.
|10||Mario Gaor||Brown belt, 10th Planet O’Fallon||In good conscience, I couldn’t let Mario go any further down this list. He’s a PGF 1 and 3 veteran and one a match in the PGF Seasons 3 post-season tournament. He underperformed in the Nashville Qualifier, but I know he was seriously under the weather. It’s going to be great seeing Mario against opponents closer to his size.|
|11||Maximus “Rock Troll” Jolly||Purple belt, 10th Planet Cookeville||Honestly, if I wasn’t trying to be all analytical and objective, I would’ve picked the Rock Troll earlier than this spot. The Rock Troll is exactly that guy I would choose to start off my Quintet match. Jolly could be the buzz saw that rips off three quick breaks against the other team. Jolly submitted everyone in his qualifier quickly, even when they should have been in safe positions. The only reason Jolly is this far down is questions about the quality of competition at his qualifier and overall lack of sample size for evaluating him. Still, the Rock Troll will likely be a fan favorite as well as a coach favorite this season.|
|12||Noah Randolph||Purple belt, 10th Planet Decatur||More than two years ago, Noah became a fan favorite in PGF Season 1 for being super tough to put away (that was at a season about 40 lbs heavier). Noah’s improved so much since then and, if we are to believe the 10th Planet Decatur peeps, he’s even better than we’ve seen in the previous seasons of the PGF and the qualifiers. Noah’s a good pick here. You know you likely get a defensive stopper here (e.g. he took Dane Leak to a draw in Season 3), but you have great upside for ninja chokes and other submissions.|
|13||Matthew Boiles||Blue belt, Scramble Jiu Jitsu||The motor on this young man is ASTOUNDING! He’s going to put his head down and ram right through his opponent’s defenses. As of late, he’s shown the ability to throw successive submissions in flurries, wearing down opponents until he can sink one. Boiles had an at-large invitation after the first qualifier but decided to head to the second and win his way in the show. That should tell you all you need to know about Matthew Boiles.|
|14||Manning Leverett||BROWN belt, 10th Planet Jacksonville||The Manaconda. At Season 2 Finale of the PGF, he won a super fight. In Season 3, he was a fourth round pick and ended up with the second most points in the season. He’s great in every aspect of the game. I’m probably dumb for putting him this far down. Seriously, if Manning was the second total points scorer of PGF Season 3 (170lbs), how much better is he going to do at 155lbs? This ranking might be a mistake after all, he beat Anthony Molina Valdes in a match recently. However, he lost to Boiles in the Jacksonville Qualifier so it would seem wrong to rank him above Boiles here.|
|15||TJ Steinebach||Brown belt, Gemini Fitness and Combat (Englewood, CO)||Runner-up at a very stacked second Decatur Qualifier, TJ’s big problem is a lack of PGF exposure. Looking at his stats on his gym’s webpage, TJ is very impressive. Still, it’s his lack of sample size in the PGF that’s hurting his stock in this draft. That said, he looks to be a very tough competitor. I’m very excited to see him match up against the other competitors.|
|16||Jacob Arp||Purple belt, Gracie Jiu Jitsu Savannah (formerly trained at Scramble BJJ)||Arp is a veteran of multiple qualifiers over multiple seasons. He’s always involved in great matches. He has that Scramble Jiu Jitsu, coming at you, mentality. He’s a solid pick at the end of the fourth round.|
|17||Anna Cononge||Brown belt, 10th Planet Atlanta||She’s a tough customer. Per this ranking, she’s the last in the top half of the ladies’ bracket. Her years as a gi jiu jitsu player show in her position dominance and top pressure. There’s a real good shot for her to get a number of submissions this season.|
|18||Kaida Davis||Brown belt, Category Five Jiujitsu and Derby City MMA||First, Kaida is an outstanding in jiu jitsu and one tough lady. She did phenomenally in Nashville and I look forward to seeing her this season. Her inversions are sick. Her ability to attack from everywhere is great. She’s going to be a handful for all of her competitors.|
|19||Evan Dewitt||Black belt, Queen City Grappling and Derby City MMA||Honestly, I had to put Evan here. After his Mr. Irrelevant pick last season and subsequent rant, I had to give him a reason to be salty this season. If being picked 19th isn’t enough, I figure picking his significant other just in front of him should get a most fun reaction. But seriously, I’m a big fan of Evan, his jiu jitsu, his commentary, and his personality. As I’ve said, I’m looking forward to seeing what he’ll do with a full season.|
|20||Eric Longar||Black belt, 10th Planet Crystal City||Maybe I still have a little resentment from picking for my fantasy team in Season 1 (where he was very undersized). But seriously, it’s still probably a crime to put him this low. Longar is a multi-season vet and a gym-owning black belt. He’s got great side-to-side passing and solid submissions (when’s the last time you saw a peruvian neck tie?).|
|21||Wesley Carter||Brown belt, Queen City Grappling Club (Middletown, OH)||Wesley is a beast, but secretive beast. Every time he’s participated in a PGF qualifier he’s done great (e.g. runner up at PGF Season 3 Qualifier in Austin). Still, his sample size is small (at least at cursory review), so he’s here.|
|22||Stephen Dana||Purple belt, 10th Planet Atlanta||Like Matthew Boiles above, Dana had an at-large bid but turned it down and chose to prove himself by winning the last qualifier…and he did. Dana would be much higher, but he’s on and off. He’s given tough matches to folks in the top tiers, but he’s lost matches to folks ranked below. He’s probably a great value pick here but his inconsistency makes this the spot for him on my board.|
Tier 5: The rest of the pack. The remainder almost one-third of the overall competitors. There’s just too much interplay here for me to separate them out. But again, here’s where some masterful picks by a coach might just make their team’s season. Which of these picks will make their team the points that push them over the edge for the championship?
|23||Jacob Mashburn||Blue belt, Renaissance Academy of Martial Arts||Winner of the most improved award (not a real award but see this post), Masburn has shown serious heart in the PGF qualifiers. He’s beaten folks he shouldn’t have beat. He could be a great pickup in later rounds.|
|24||Emily “Cyanide” Hauser||Blue belt, Combat Performance (Hendersonville, NC) and Glory Martial Arts and Fitness (Sylva, NC)||To be fair, she might have received a bump in my rankings for having the courage to call me out early in the season for my lack of coverage of the female competitors. Morale courage can be a harder thing to come by than physical courage. Regardless, she’s a tough competitor who has proven herself against opponents ranked well above her. She could pull off a few upsets in the ladies’ division.|
|25||Nick Sahf||Blue belt, Rogue Combat Club (Asheville, NC) and 10th Planet Decatur||Every year we have a blue belt come out of nowhere and make a name for himself. Nick Sahf might be this year’s edition. He has a gritty, pressure, attached style. He pulled off a number of wins against others on this list and other PGF alumni. He should be fun to watch.|
|26||Billy Baxter||Purple belt, Inside Control Academy (St. Petersburg, FL)||If you want to see a guy with a different style, pick Billy Baxter. He has some great wins at qualifiers and has consistently shown great jiu jitsu. How he matches up against those in the top of the ranks remains to be seen, but he will secure some wins for your team.|
|27||Alex Hall||Purple belt, Ironclad HQ||If positivity and enthusiasm could be wrapped into human form, it might just be Alex Hall. He has some great matches in PGF qualifiers. And belying his Ironclad roots, he does not rely heavily on his wrestling (but he has that in spades as well). He’s super motivated and could might just surprise a couple of those folks ranked above him.|
|28||Sam Acord||Purple belt, 10th Planet Atlanta||Sam is a good news story. He’s a relentless competitor trying to make his way in the sport. He has viral videos out there. But what impressed me was even when the Rock Troll popped his ankle (in a serious way), Sam still got back out on the mat trying to make his way to the PGF. You can’t teach grit, toughness, courage. That’s the type of guy you want on your team. His mixed record against a number of folks on this list puts him at this number, but Sam will be a great teammate and might just sneak in some unexpected points for his team.|
|29||Juan Martinez V||Brown belt, Childress BJJ (Pueblo, CO)||I love his style. I love his story. But he has a tough road ahead against a lot of this competition. As a fan, I’m cheering for him like crazy, but if I’m a pragmatic coach, I’m not picking him early.|
|30||Claire Mitchell||Purple belt, 10th Planet Huntsville and Florence BJJ||The final at-large bid for the ladies. She’s a purple belt and jiu jitsu is a large part of her life. Still, she’s fairly young and inexperienced compared to most of the pack so here she is.|
|31||Brianna Parocha||Blue belt, 10th Planet Jacksonville||Brianna could really surprise some folks. She’s a fitness instructor so she should be able to push the pace against all of her opponents. That said, she’s the most inexperienced of all the competitors.|
|32||Charles Muxo||Blue belt, Black tie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Cape Coral, FL)||Chaz has a big upside, that’s why he’s here. The Commissioner likes the idea of the undersized guy (yeah, he’s like 120) coming in here and bringing it to the bigger guys. I hope he surprises folks, but I have to put him here.|
Okay, there you have it. I’ve let you into the 20lb Egghead brain. Feel free to take issue and comment in Brandon Mccaghren’s Facebook Group or just troll me in the comments during the live PGF broadcasts…or if you’re a competitor, I’ll be on the mats in Decatur, so feel free smash me, choke met out, etc. After all, I’m an a subhuman blue belt.
Now, tune in to Brandon Mccaghren’s YouTube Channel tomorrow at noon Eastern to see if the coaches agree with me.