Every Friday they hold an in-class grappling tournament at the Tiger Muay Thai MMA class. My goal this trip was to win at least one match – today, shockingly, I won my entire bracket. I am like a god pushing mortals from my path, no one can stop me!
Okay, I did win, but I’m definitely not a god. On my last visit I was only able to participate in one tournament due to injuries and I was arm-barred and guillotined (my two greatest weaknesses) in quick succession. I worked hard on those weaknesses and while they’re still there, I felt a lot more confident.
Today, class started as usual with the warmups and drilling. I could tell very fast that I was not in the same condition I was when I left three weeks ago, but that was expected – I was surprised to find that I was still in very good condition overall and the heat means nothing to me. A definite advantage, considering most guys (no matter how well trained) usually look like they are dying on their first day out here.
After the first hour, Ray split us up into two brackets – the “experienced” bracket full of guys who are most certainly not beginners and the “less experienced” bracket with guys who have well, less experience. Oh, wait, that’s not fair – there were two girls in our bracket who were quite good actually. About half the people in my bracket clearly knew what they were doing and had trained a lot, while the other half was more new to it. So yes, even though I won the bracket, it doesn’t have quite the same feeling of accomplishment that it would have if I had managed to beat one of those guys who have trained for 3+ years or the like – we’ll see next week.
My first match was against a skinny but powerful guy named Uwe who had really good technique. I immediately took him down with a strong double into half guard, but as usual he caught me in a guillotine on the way in. Knowing it would be nearly impossible for him to choke me from half guard unless he was much bigger, I calmly passed to mount while he was distracted then broke his grip when he couldn’t put the pressure on me anymore. I started working for an amerikana (what I now consider my “bread and butter” from mount since it’s the only attack I’m really good at) and he made the mistake of trying to sweep me while I had good wrist control. I immediately took his back and sunk in a vicious power rear naked choke, but didn’t squeeze too tight because I didn’t want to hurt him. He didn’t tap at first so I went ahead and cranked on it and he really had no option but to tap – no one is going to survive a power choke that is fully sunk in.
My second match was against a very tall and well built guy named Michael who clearly knew what he was doing and had viciously guillotined his previous opponent after a sloppy double leg. I knew I needed to be careful, so I decided to feint the takedown and go for a judo throw, which I figured would be easy since he was a good six inches taller. It worked perfectly, as he started to drop I threw him back up, got a strong underhook with my right arm and nailed him with a hip toss that dropped me into side control. He was very active but his long legs turned out to be a slight disadvantage as I was able to power them open and pass to mount, where I again started to work for an amerikana. One thing that I have from growing up wrestling (thanks Dad!) and my more recent parkour training is fantastic balance and a great base. I spent at least a minute working that amerikana without using my arms to base as everyone screamed at him to sweep and he bucked and moved like crazy to get me off, but I was able to easily maintain my base with my knees and balance – it was a great feeling, actually more rewarding than the win. He finally made a mistake of trying to get his arm over my head to free my two-on-one wrist control and I was able to pin it and nail in the amerikana for the tap.
The third match was a completely different story – both of the first guys had more experience than I did and at least somewhat similar power. In the finals I had to go up against this little teeny kid named Olley who must’ve weighed all of 120lbs and was probably six inches shorter than me. He had worked his way up through the losers bracket, which makes sense considering most of the bigger tough guys took each other out in the winners. I didn’t take him lightly though, because I saw that he had really good legs and a very active guard (I was shocked to find out afterwards that he had only been training grappling for a week, but he did have a longer muay thai background).
I shot in for a double and literally on accident picked him over my head and practically threw him through the air. I completely miscalculated how small he was, heh. I tried to soften it up at the end and apologized but he said it was okay – I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if I had maintained that force and then landed on top of him, probably squashed him flat. I tried to focus on technique rather than power because it was just unfair in that department (my arms were clearly stronger than his legs even) but it was very very hard to pass to mount. He was quite slippery and those short limbs made it easy for him to hip escape back to side guard. He kept throwing up triangles and armbars but again I sorta felt bad because he didn’t have nearly enough power. On the other hand, I was getting quite gassed (this match was back to back with the previous one) and Ray started yelling “it’s his first day here! He’s running out!” and everyone was cheering for the little guy. Instead of continuing to fight to mount I decided to go us my strength unfairly and gave him just enough space to try a sweep – then I sucked him into a triangle from the side, rolled onto my back and locked it in tight. He tapped before I even started squeezing, which I guess is a good thing.
So, there you go. Three wins, two of them against good challenges and one a tough if unfair match. I know it’s totally different from winning against someone who is an expert, but hopefully I’ll get a shot at that next week.
The highlight of the day, however, was watching the women fight in our bracket. They were both fairly big and powerful and had good technique. They both lost their first fights but put up very tough fights – one of them spent nearly four minutes with a very strong guy on her back with hooks in and he was unable to finish it because she never gave up. After their first matches, they ended up matched up against each other in the loser’s bracket and wow… what a fight. They were throwing each other around, hip tosses, takedowns, some fairly serious submission attempts, and a lot of generally not being a “girl fight.” Incredible to watch. The winner was then submitted by the little guy Olley with a rear naked in about a minute, hilarious to watch since he was literally half the size of the amazon he was fighting (hell, she was bigger than I am).