(Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu discusses his disappointing draw against Brendan Schaub, backstage after the event. Video via YouTube.com/CagePotato)
By Elias Cepeda
The six-match Metamoris II Pro Jiu Jitsu Invitational card from two weekends ago produced some good action in a number of matches and not great action in others.
The main event, however, left everyone but Shinya Aoki satisfied. The Japanese MMA lightweight and submission ace went up against one of the top submission grappling competitors in the world, Kron Gracie.
The match produced the event’s only submission, with Shinya losing fast to Kron via guillotine choke. With how effective Aoki has been with submissions in MMA, it is fascinating to see him lose to Kron in a similar way to how he lost to all-time great Marcelo Garcia a few years ago at ADCC.
Shinya knows he can make his submissions work against guys who punch and kick him, whereas Kron and Marcelo have less assurance of that right now given their limited MMA experience. However, with strikes removed, Aoki is no match for the likes of Gracie and Garcia, likely because they are able to spend all of their training time on grappling, instead of having to split their time between that and the many other things you need to do in MMA.
The main event finished furiously and in exciting fashion but Kron and Aoki did spend the opening few minutes on their feet, hand fighting with not much happening. Apparently Kron wanted it to go to the ground, however, because eventually he chose to jump full guard in order to get it there.
Once Kron forced it to the ground, he made short work of the MMA fighter Aoki.
Stalling – The Controversy
Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu could have done the same against the vilified Brendan Schaub, but did not. I’m not saying that Schaub was going for the win in his match and one could criticize him for that, but he certainly isn’t the only one to blame for he and Abreu’s uneventful match.
“Cyborg” told us after the match that he was angry. Hell, he told everyone as much while still on the mat, criticizing Schaub for not engaging with him enough.
I asked “Cyborg” why, though — once he realized Schaub didn’t want to engage on the ground with him — he didn’t go for more take downs? He also could have tried to pull a tight guard, as Kron did.
In his answer, Abreu did bring up a good point about Schaub not engaging much on the feet either and backing up to the edge of the mat constantly. If he kept pressing for take downs at the edge of the mat, he said, they’d surely fall a good four or five feet down straight onto the concrete that surrounded the mat. He’s kind of right. We’ll get back to that point in a bit.
First, though, in a recently posted video, Metamoris boss Ralek Gracie seemed to continue the criticism of Schaub — who studies with Ralek’s brother. Listen, Schaub has a UFC fight in July. That’s how he makes a living. His UFC name and record is why you were even interested in including him at Metamoris II.
You want to bring Schaub in to increase the visibility of your event because he’s a UFC fighter? Fine. But don’t be naïve about what type of match he’d put on against a guy like Abreu, especially so close to a fight of his.
Schaub told us that Dana White gave him permission to compete in Metamoris on one condition — that he not get hurt. How else could you even begin to try and ensure that you didn’t get hurt against a guy who is trained to strangle and maim you other than to not go very hard against him and be very conservative?
Schaub says he loves Jiu Jitsu and did Metamoris to give back and to see how a top Jiu Jitsu player felt. He accomplished both things.
Ticket sales and energy around and at the event were no doubt increased by Schaub taking part, as a foil, a villain even. Schaub went in there simply to see if he could survive for twenty minutes. Most of us thought he’d be submitted in just a few, including this writer.
Post-match, we also asked “Cyborg”, considering how angry he told us he was at Schaub, if he’d consider going into MMA to fight Schaub as Schaub had gone into grappling to face him. Obviously, Abreu would be a long way away from getting to the point where he’d earn such a fight, but it was a question of principle.
“Cyborg” claimed he was enraged but was he actually “fighting mad?”
The black belt was kind of tepid with his response, though ultimately he said that he was.
“I’m a Jiu Jitsu fighter,” Abreu said, meaning he competes in matches where no strikes are allowed, exclusively. “MMA is not my passion. ..but if I did go into it, you can be sure I’d go after him.”
Cyborg is a beast of a dude — jacked to all heck, spends all day trying to choke people and snap limbs, yet he kind of ruled out MMA when we asked him about it. We can criticize Schaub all day long for not being so great at Jiu Jitsu and for supposedly making a mockery of this pro Jiu Jitsu event. But if we do, we ignore the fact that he makes he spends his days doing what Jiu Jitsu was made for: fighting.
I respect “Cyborg” and also wish he’d had a more engaging opponent or that he himself engaged more (laying on your back in an open guard isn’t really being active), but I also miss the days when being a “Jiu jitsu fighter,” as Cyborg called himself, meant that you, well, fought.
Metamoris either needs a wall, cage, or crash mats bordering its elevated matted ring, plain and simple. If they ever book someone on their cards who wrestles, it will be a nightmare.
They will either feel stymied, as “Cyborg” says he was, by the edge of the mat because they don’t want their opponent or themselves to fall four feet off the ground onto steel steps or concrete flooring, or they will keep driving for take downs as they should and someone will get hurt uncessarily.
This almost happened with the main event. Kron kept on rolling to catch Aoki in his mounted guillotine and they were about to fall off the mat when Kron wouldn’t let go (Reminiscent of his father lifting an opponent over and through ropes in a ring and then stomping him until he fell to the ground. It was awesome. Go watch old fight footage from Choke and enjoy.) And luckily for them, especially Kron, a big old Affliction-wearing type dude from the audience propped them up, prevented them from falling and Gracie got the tap. That’s like an assist from a fan in the outfield knocking a home run ball back into the field for a fielder to catch and make a game winning out.
There is no indication that Metamoris brass are reconsidering the elevated, un-walled ring concept. In his recent video, however, Metamoris founder Ralek Gracie did vaguely outline some changes that will be coming in the next Metamoris edition.
Metamoris Pro touts itself as a submission-only event. Accordingly, the first event was held without points and judges.
The only way to win was with a submission. If no one got one, the match was a draw.
Metamoris II matches did not have points scored, either, but there were judges. Sure, Ralek says that he believes the presence of judges contributed to tentative fighting at Metamoris II but the idea was a disaster philosophically even before the event took place.
Who the judges were was not widely known. Where they sat wasn’t either, and without points being scored, only the most vague judging criteria was given. The competency and potential conflicts of interest for judges was impossible for the public to evaluate with this way of doing things. And, at the end of matches it was anyone’s guess whether a decision would be rendered and why.
Ralek also pointed out that match-making was also to blame for less than thrilling bouts. Yup. You’ve got to bring people like Kron Gracie, Shinya Aoki, Mackenzie Dern, and Michelle Nicolini — competitors who always fight aggressively — in and pair them up if you want exciting fights.
Those are two legitimate and possibly impactful areas for Metamoris to change/improve upon. Ralek’s other ideas for improvement, however, seem reactionary and as misguided as the idea of including judges for Metamoris II was.
Ralek says that he wants to bring in yellow cards to future Metamoris matches which referees can issue for stalling. He doesn’t say what the penalty would be or what specific criteria might be used for determining “stalling.”
Yellow cards in fight sports have always been a bad idea. Referees should focus on keeping fighters safe and ensuring that rules are followed and that time is kept. That’s it.
You start giving refs the additional responsibility of ensuring a certain pace of competition and you make the fighters less safe and compromise the integrity of the competition itself.
One thing that Metamoris fighters could be given yellow cards is for holding on to grips for too long. A grip-holding shot clock of sorts is another one of Ralek’s ideas.
We agree with our friend Renato Laranja that some matches at Metamoris II looked like two guys fighting for grips on the sheets, but this type of restriction on what is allowed during matches would also compromise the integrity of the competition.
When we spoke with Ralek in advance of Metamoris II, he told us that the beauty of Metamoris is that it would allow grapplers complete freedom, short of striking, to use whatever techniques and tactics they wanted to ensure victory. What all grappling competitions, including Metamoris, need are less restrictions, not more.
You want to eliminate the ridiculous death-grip tactics that are infecting gi Jiu Jitsu matches? Take the gi off at Metamoris events. Speaking of action, the gi only slows down matches.
Or, if Metamoris is to keep gi matches, at least be bold enough to jettison the silly IBJJF rules that prohibit even expert practitioners from using very effective submission techniques. Heel hooks and neck cranks, for example.
It’s one thing to grab a gi grip and sit flat on your back with a De La Riva guard for three minutes, or pull 50/50 guard and stall when your opponent can’t twist your heel and submit you as they should be allowed to. Try that nonsense when your opponent can go for any hold that works and you’ll soon see competitors scrambling more and stalling less.
Taking away judges, making good matches and liberalizing the rules to actually include the full repertoire of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques is all Metamoris really needs to be even better. The event is a good concept and has been pretty well executed thus far.
If it stays true to its mission, Metamoris has the potential to help prevent Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from becoming the Tae Kwon Do of grappling fight styles. If not, it will just become part of the problem.
Paying elite grapplers like the professionals they are and matching them up is a great thing and we support it. Hopefully the next Metamoris event will learn from the right lessons and not overreact to made-up ones.