Men’s 155lb Roster:
- Reese LaFever, purple belt, first out of One Nation Jiu Jitsu in Smyrna Tennessee, but at 19 made the move this last March to New Wave Jiu Jitsu in Austin. Yes, this frequent competitor took his shot and has been training under the best for the last six months. He was already a force, but one has to think he’s leveled up since training with New Wave.
- Matthew Boiles, blue belt, Scramble Jiu Jitsu. Boiles doesn’t weather the storm, HE IS THE STORM! Boiles is a veteran of PGF season 3 and the PGF Battlerama runner-up. Boiles earned an at-large invitation after the initial Decatur Qualifier for this season based on his “coming at you,” 100% all-in, style. But Boiles wanted to earn his spot on his own, so he traveled down to Jacksonville and won that qualifier. Boiles always brings a high tempo with a wrestling background, but has added leg attacks which he used to win his second qualifier. Don’t sleep on Boiles. He wears down opponents. One match everyone should be looking forward to is Boiles versus Jacob Arp (see below) – both have called each other out. It should be a great match between old training partners.
- Maximus “Rock Troll” Jolly, purple belt, 10th Planet Cookeville. One of the mysterious Ronin who came upon a qualifier and wrecked everyone. Trust me, after the Chattanooga Qualifier, everyone is paying attention to the Rock Troll. Jolly came into the qualifier and subbed every opponent, including fellow competitors Alex Hall, Sam Acord, and Nick Sahf. Jolly is very dynamic and exciting, finishing his matches quickly. He also holds a grudge, calling out everyone that’s wronged him since the fourth grade when asked who he wanted to face. But seriously, Jolly is exactly the type of competitor who makes the PGF exciting.
- Anthony Molina Valdes, brown belt, 10th Planet Miami. Matt Elkins called Molina a sniper about 20 times during the Fort Myers Qualifier. Molina Valdes was another unknown competitor who told the staff he was the “leglock guy” down at 10th Planet Miami. Molina Valdes showed that skill in spades as he leglocked all his opponents at the qualifier. Recently, Molina Valdes went 3-0, earning the “money in the bank” title at Finishers Kombat 3. At Finishers, he’s shown other skill sets including a buggy choke and the ability to counter leglock attacks and take his opponents’ backs for eventual rear naked chokes. Molina Valdes is smoooooth and doesn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
- Isaac Cordova, brown belt, 10th Planet Fullerton. A fairly high profile competitor on the national scene (seriously, Google him). Isaac should be the odds-makers’ favorite or at least in the top 3 preseason picks. There’s no way he goes beyond the first round.
- Dane Leak, black belt, Clinch Martial Arts Academy (Owasso, OK). Leak has multiple wins at ADCC trials and won the PGF Season 3 Austin qualifier. He missed out on making the season finale tournament, but now at what’s probably his true weight class Leak should be a force this season. Leak has a ridiculous reverse triangle he calls “the bolt cutter” as well as a phenomenal quarter guard game. Give him some time and Leak is going to take your back, muffle you, then sink in that rear-naked choke. Leak should be a consensus first round pick and a pick to make the post-season if not win it.
- David Garcia, brown belt, 10th Planet Lombard. The winner of the Atlanta Qualifier also known as the qualifier with the mysteriously missing footage (hmmmm).
- Manning Leverett, purple belt, 10th Planet Jacksonville. 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. He’s recently entered the mixed martial arts realm and has met it with great success. Rumor has it he has a recent win over Anthony Molina Valdes in some 10P on 10P crime. The Manaconda should be in the mix for the title this season for sure.
- Jacob Arp, purple belt, Gracie Jiu Jitsu Savannah (formerly trained at 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.
- Charles Muxo, blue belt, Black tie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Cape Coral, FL). 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.
- Noah Randolph, purple belt, 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. He’s now out of high school and we’re looking to see an evolution in his competitive performance. The Commish says if the Noah that shows up in practice is the same Noah that shows up for the PGF – Noah is a dark horse to win it all.
- TJ Steinebach, brown belt, Gemini Fitness and Combat (Englewood, CO). TJ was your runner-up at the second Decatur Qualifier. He used to train at 10P Denver with Conor Heun, then he opened up his own gym. He could give the old Knee Barrista (Jeremy Geiger from Season 1) a run for his money on the old knee bar submission.
- Jacob Mashburn, blue belt, Renaissance Academy of Martial Arts. A student of Caleb McAlister’s, Mashburn competed in both Decatur Qualifiers this year. In the first qualifier, he secured a win, but then got knocked out by Stephen Dana of 10th Planet Atlanta. Mashburn kept working and showed a great improvement in skill in the second Decatur qualifier, securing multiple wins, only losing to the eventual winner and runner-up. Add on a submission in a match during PGF Season 3’s finale and you have a talented, hungry grappler who has shown some serious dedication to the PGF. For a more detailed look, you can check out this post.
- Wesley Carter, brown belt, Queen City Grappling Club (Middleton, OH). Carter is a brown belt who was the PGF Season 3 Austin qualifier runner-up. In that qualifier, he took out PGF alumni Louis Collins and Matt “Scarecrow of Doom (SOD)” Harrison. At the second Decatur PGF Season 4 qualifier, Carter showed everyone he still had his warrior spirit. He split his two matches with PGF alumn Joe Kai, but won the second one to advance in the wrestle back tournament. Carter also took out Alex Hall who was a runner up at the Chattanooga qualifier.
- Sampson “the Hustler” Phommabout, brown belt, Sierra MMA (Sandy, UT). Samson is the traveling samurai of the Nashville qualifer. Sampson is a pro mma fighter that also owns a barbershop and has lots of business interests. Samson stalks his prey and with determination and economy of motion. His stature, athleticism, and experience competing at high levels will all help him climb the rankings this season. He’s going to be dangerous.
- Nick Sahf, blue belt, Rogue Combat Club (Asheville, NC) and 10th Planet Decatur. Having only been training 18 months, Sahf has made quite an impression during multiple PGF Qualifiers. Another grappler with relentless pressure and motor, every match he has is exciting. Sahf put in work, hitting three qualifiers for this season. At Chattanooga, he racked up multiple wins, but fell to eventual runner-up Alex Hall and winner Maximus “the Rock Troll” Jolly. After having only one win in the second Decatur qualifier (losing to fellow competitors TJ Steinebach and Jacob Mashburn), Sahf really stepped up at the Asheville qualifier (held on his home turf at the time). In Asheville, Sahf took out fellow competitor Billy Baxter and Sam Acord as well as PGF multi-season veteran Keahi Makekau. Sahf showed great improvement in only a couple of months and has shown this blue belt might just suprise people.
- Eric Longar, black belt, 10th Planet Crystal City. Head of 10th Planet Crystal City, Longar is a vet of PGF 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 couple of guys – PGF vets who showed great skill and grit, but were just a little too undersized in the previous seasons. It will be great to see Longar’s jiu jitsu now that he’s at or at least nearer his weight class.
- Evan Dewitt, black belt, Queen City Grappling and Derby City MMA. Dewitt was the PGF Season 3 Louisville qualifier runner up. He earned an at-large spot for PGF Season 3. It was a real shock when the black belt was picked in the last spot for the active roster of a team (before the reserves). He quickly cut a promo/gave a soliloquy where he called out just about everyone picked ahead of him. It was a great moment. He started off well, but got a season-ending injury the first night when David “Quadzilla” Evers (the eventual post-season tournament champ) popped his ankle. Dewitt showed off some great jiu jitsu and great commentary at the Nashville Qualifier. I think we all want to see what Dewitt will do with a full season. Coaches would be foolish to sleep on Dewitt two seasons in a row.
- Mario Gaor, brown belt, 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. Mario has had some real success in both seasons in which he’s participated. Despite being a fifth round pick last season, Mario made the post-season. Competitors have to really look out for Mario’s double outside ashi (DOA) straight ankle lock. DOAs are usually a no no unless you have a heel hook locked in, but somehow Mario gets the submission. As I said with Eric Longar, this season was made for these guys.
- Juan Martinez V, brown belt, Childress BJJ (Pueblo, CO). Juan V is the head instructor for Childress BJJ. Juan V showed a lot of dedication showing up to multiple qualifiers despite the distance. Each time he showed exciting jiu jitsu, but he says the best is yet to come. Juan says he likes wild stuff and we might see the second flying triangle of the PGF or the first flying arm bar. Despite dedicating his life to jiu jitsu, he has recently realized he wants to redouble his efforts to attain his goals. We should see a very hungry, exciting grappler when Juan hits the mat.
- Stephen Dana, purple belt, 10th Planet Atlanta. Dana was the runner up in the first Decatur qualifier. He had a great showing at the Austin qualifier in season 3. I’ve said it before, Sean Applegate at 10th Planet Atlanta just puts out killers. Dana actually had an at large bid invitation from the Commissioner after his showing at the Atlanta Qualifier. Dana eschewed the invite, choosing to enter the Asheville Qualifier and win his way into the PGF. Dana’s actions spoke louder than words in the Asheville Qualifier. Other than going 2-1 against the runner-up, Dana submitted everyone. It should be interesting to see where Dana shakes out in this season. He has some great wins, but also has losses to Billy Baxter and Dane Leak. Like Noah Randolph above, it will depend on which Stephen Dana shows up.
- Alex Hall. purple belt, Ironclad HQ. He was the runner up at the Chattanooga qualifier. He had some great matches and showed an exciting style. He came back for the second Decatur Qualifier but under the weather, leading to a surprising performance. Even though he’s an Ironclad guy (a team known for its wrestling), he has no problems keeping his competitors on their toes by pulling guard. Hall helps coach at Ironclad and has fully devoted himself to jiu jitsu. He feels like this last full year of being a purple belt has helped him find his way in jiu jitsu. Hall has a lot of motivation to do well. He might get dunked on by some of the upper belts, but he could catch some as well.
- Sam Acord, purple belt, 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. Sam came back for the Atlanta Qualifier and unfortunately had some tough losses. Undeterred, Sam signed up for the Asheville Qualifier. He had some good matches with lots of action, enough to earn him a spot in the PGF.
- Billy Baxter, purple belt, Inside Control Academy (St. Petersburg, FL). Baxter has been training for four years and works as an instructor at his gym. Baxter was nearly a punchline in the PGF. He had a great showing at the Fort Myers Qualifier, the Commissioner was going to extend Baxter an at large decision, but Baxter had already left. Billy must have received the message because he quickly signed up for the Atlanta Qualifier and Asheville Qualifier. His aggressive, interesting style kept showing through as he even secured a win against Stephen Dana (the Asheville Qualifier winner). Baxter is going to come after everyone with triangles and berimbolos. He especially has a target on Anthony Molina Vades’ back – Billy says Anthony took advantage of folks not knowing his game. Given the opportunity, Billy believes he can take out Molina Valdes. Eventually, you will notice Billy’s eye. He lost it as a kid due to cancer. He got a glass eye to prove his Sharingan is real and no one is safe from him. He hopes to show everyone that even when starting jiu jitsu late, you can achieve if you have the discipline and focus.
Female 135lb Roster:
Tara Larosa, purple belt (and has been for a minute), Royce Gracie Jiu Jitsu. She’s also a black belt in judo. Tara is a pioneer of female MMA with a 22-5 record. ADCC silver medalist (twice). She won the Decatur Qualifier with a 100% submission rate. Tara isn’t impressed by anyone and she’s likely going to have a chip on her shoulder when she finds out she’s the betting folks’ choice to finish third this season (after being the consensus number one for months). But with her experience and pedigree, any competitor would be making a serious mistake if they do not take her deadly seriously.
Claire Mitchell, purple belt, 10th Planet Huntsville and Florence BJJ. This 19yo trains five days a week and has for the last six years. She’s a computer science major which nests nicely within jiu jitsu. I’m willing to bet Claire has set up orders of operations and flow plans for her jiu jitsu. Feel free to doubt her, but then go back to the first Decatur qualifier and listen to that sick toe hold she hit.
Brianna Parocha, blue belt, 10th Planet Jacksonville. She won the PGF Jacksonville qualifier. She’s an active competitor who has tons of cardio. She’s an Orange Theory fitness coach so she should be able to push the pace against every competitor.
Emily “Cyanide” Hauser, blue belt, Combat Performance (Hendersonville, NC) and Glory Martial Arts and Fitness (Sylva, NC). She was promoted under UFC Veteran Spencer Fisher. She’s your winner of the PGF Chattanooga qualifier. Hauser switched over to jiu jitsu after earning her black belt and spending 12 years studying karate. Her nickname, Cyanide, comes from her stone-cold serial killer face while grappling (reminds me of Noah Randolph). She teaches a 8-13 year old female only bjj class who call themselves the lil Cyanides – so she has a lot of support out there. Watch out for her armbar, she’s caught experience black belts in competition with it.
Anna Cononge, brown belt, 10th Planet Atlanta. Anna and the next competitor (Kaida) likely saved the ladies’ season. They, along with a handful of other lady competitors, put on an impressive show at the Nashville Qualifier. At the qualifier, Anna submitted every opponent. That said, Anna had to settle for a decision win in her first match against Kaida Davis, when in their finals match, it took more than one hour to secure a submission. Anna came from a gi background, deciding to switch to no-gi after she had earned her brown belt. Besides her win at the qualifier, she’s won matches at distant kumites and at High Rollerz. She should secure wins against at least half the league, with a shot at upsetting the frontrunners. But honestly, I think anyone who watched that Nashville qualifier wants to see her rematch against Kaida.
Kaida Davis, brown belt, Category Five Jiujitsu and Derby City MMA. Coming into the Nashville Qualifier, the word on the street was Kaida was known as the toughest lady and one of the toughest competitors in general on the mat at Derby City MMA. She’s been training seven years with stops from West Virginia to Ireland and finally to Derby City MMA. Along with her current coach Nick “Chewy” Albin, Kaida gives a lot of credit for her development to Category Five Jiu Jitsu coaches Shannon Newhouse and Teddie Malone. Also, black belts Evan Dewitt and Jeff Alexander from Derby City have taken her under their wing and helped guide her. Besides being an excellent jiu jitsu competitor, Kaida is currently in a doctoral program in clinical psychology (meaning she’s wicked smaht – intentionally mispelled to be read in Good Will Hunting style Boston accent).
Joanie Chamberland, black belt, 10th Planet Atlanta and Rise Up BJJ. Coach JoJo is the odds on favorite to win this thing. She’s a gym owner (Rise Up BJJ) but seeks out no gi training under the tutelage of Sean Applegate at 10th Planet Atlanta. She’s a black belt competitor. She won the most recent 10th Planet Qualifier at 135. In the qualifier, she subbed all her competition within regulation. While she will be competing at the next Medusa event on 22 October, she should have no problem turning around for the PGF on the 26th – she’s currently hovering around 125 pounds so she won’t have to do two back-to-back weight cuts.
Nekiaya Jackson, brown belt, 10th Planet Decatur. She’s rising star in the jiu jitsu community. She won the 10th Planet Qualifier for Medusa 2 and subsequently earned second place in the competition. She recently competed in the 10th Planet Qualifier for the Medusa CJJ edition. She made it to the finals, but although she dominated her opponent in the finals match (molly-wop worthy); she lost by ride time in EBI overtime. Even though she normally competes at 125, Nekiaya is likely the strongest and best conditioned female competitor – to go along with her super high jiu jitsu IQ.