Monday, September 17, 2012

Canadian No-Gi Trials wrap-up (with videos)

After a week of weight cutting, I ended up with only one opponent in my 60kg division. Seems to be a resonant theme of the last month that I go to the effort in participating in some form of 1-on-1 competition and almost no one else shows up.

My opponent was wearing a SFU wrestling hoodie in the warmup so I figured he would be stronger than me in that department. But for this tournament, you get down one point regardless of whether you pull guard or get taken down by your opponent, so I figured even if I expected to play on the bottom, I should make him work for it and hope to at least tire him out or make him overcommit and catch him. That's exactly what happened in the first match as he took me down but as he tried to establish position I snatched up a triangle. I knew I had it locked up tight as soon as I slapped it on. It was confirmed by his gurgling and laboured breathing and I thought he was going to sleep, but he tapped at the last second before stumbling to his feet. I looked at the clock and I'd won in 26 seconds, which is a personal record for me.

My favourite shape in all of geometry.

Since it felt silly to do all that prep and fight for 26 seconds, I decided at the last minute to enter the Absolute division. (Absolute means open-weight, so guys my size potentially fight against super-heavyweights.) I usually don't like to enter Absolute just because there's so much chance of injury; I have been injured before by guys twice my size torquing on my arms. But there were no super-heavyweights around so I figured I'd give it a shot.

My first match was against a guy I have seen fight MMA locally named Saeid Mirzaei. I knew he was good and he had a lot of size on me (he competes at 170 lbs), so I went over to one of my coaches, Chris Ross, who told me that I should wait him to pick me up with his double leg and snatch up his neck for a guillotine. As you can see in the poor, grainy iPhone video below, the game plan nearly works to perfection.

Once he slipped out of the guillotine he pretty much dominated. The neck crank at the end was very painful and I didn't want to be sidelined for a week, so I tapped. (Two days later, my neck is still pretty jacked up.) He then admitted that I almost put him to sleep with the guillotine, which bummed me out. If my grip had only been slightly better I would have pulled out the upset.

Holding on for the ride.

This pretty much feels how it looks. Pretty sure my neck is not designed to be at that angle relative to my body.

I ended up in the losers bracket of the double elimination format so I got to fight another wrestler, this time from UBC.

Not a whole not to see here as he shoots right into the guillotine, leaving his neck out there even more so than the other guy.

His world...

And mine.

That set up the bronze medal match against another successful local MMA guy. This was a match I was fully expecting to win. He competed against my teammate in the 90kg class, pulled guard, was unable to do anything with it, and ended up losing 1-0. I wasn't sure whether he would adopt the same guard-pulling strategy even against a much smaller opponent, but Chris thought he would. Chris expected him to pull guard on me but said that if he doesn't, to guillotine him the same way I beat the UBC wrestler and almost beat Saeid.

Unfortunately I didn't follow the game plan in any way. There was a lengthy feeling out process on the feet (which isn't on the video), and he threw a few half-hearted fake attempts to make me think he was going to try to take me down. It worked because I got impatient, shot a lousy single, he defended with a nice whizzer/hip turn and I ended up getting down on points very early. Despite coming back and using my cardio advantage to dominate the latter portion of the match, I just wasn't able to submit him or score enough points; the combination of his skill and superior strength just made it too difficult to recover.

I'm annoyed because this was a very winnable match which I lost because of a blunder. I'm very annoyed when this happens. If I lose because the other guy simply has better technical ability or physical attributes, that's one thing. But as a person who has made a living competing in a game, this type of loss is the unacceptable kind. I'm supposed to have an advantage in the strategy and decision-making arena. But I decided to go against the game plan, freeballed it, and it cost me. In the standard sporting lexicon, we have a name for this act: "choking".

It's a frustrating thing, and it's not something I really understand. This is the third grappling match I've lost in the last few months due to a mental error. All of these matches were ones I should have won, but failed to do so. The rational poker player side of me tells me that I also probably won matches I wasn't supposed to win because my opponent made some (unknown to me) error. And another way to look at the results is that I could have won against two skilled opponents who each outweighed me by 40-50 pounds. That should at least give me some confidence about my technical ability.

So in the end, a mixed bag of results. I won my division easily and am okay with how I performed technically, but not with my overall strategy in the open-weight matches. But if nothing else, I learned that I need to continue to compete more so that I can gain more experience and minimize the possibility of such errors going forward. That is the whole purpose, after all.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Back to competition: grappling qualifier in downtown Vancouver this weekend

I'm doing the no-gi portion of the 2012 World Grappling Team Trials for Canada this weekend here in downtown Vancouver. I'm competing at 60kg (132 lbs) which is pretty standard for me. What's not standard for me is that there are no skill divisions in this competition. Because it's a qualifier to represent Canada on the international stage in Moscow, there is only one division, meaning anyone regardless of skill level can enter. In fact, this is the first open tournament I've seen where novices are specifically discouraged from entering.

The last couple of years I have typically competed in the "intermediate" division of tournaments; I've lost in the first round (in Manila in March) but I've medalled a couple of times (including the most recent Grappler's Quest in Las Vegas where I notably suffered a concussion during my bronze medal match). But I feel like I'm starting to shake off the post-WSOP rust/lethargy/poor fitness and am getting back into a decent groove. Modulo a few minor niggling injuries, I feel like I should perform well on Saturday.

My weight this morning was 62.9 kg (138.4 lb) so my last meal until weigh-ins on Friday will be tonight (Wednesday), and I'll continue drinking water until Thursday around sundown. I'll shed the last few pounds in the sauna. It sounds difficult to the layperson but a teammate of mine is making the cut from >150 lbs to compete in the same division as me, so I can hardly complain.

I don't expect to actually win, but I hopefully I get a favourable draw and win a match or even two. Either way it'll be pretty good experience competing full bore against elite-level grapplers. The event is 1pm on Saturday right in the midst of downtown Vancouver at UBC Robson Square, so if you are local I hope you'll consider coming out to watch!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The correlation of KOs suffered and age amongst UFC fighters

Cage Potato has an article up entitled The Price of Wisdom: Age and Knockouts in MMA. I'm actually off to the gym myself shortly and I haven't had a chance to go through this entire article carefully, but it seems fascinating so far. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the author finds that the older fighters get, the more likely they are to lose by knockout.

But is this because older fighters actually have worse chins, or simply because they get outstruck more frequently as they age and slow down? After compiling some data, the author writes:
[T]he basic trend is clear that it takes fewer and fewer head strikes to knock down older fighters. When it comes to standup striking, it takes half as many landed strikes to knock down a fighter approaching 40, than it did when he was in his early 20?s.
Here is the link again. Some food for thought as this 31-year-old prepares to leave the house to get hit by a bunch of dudes wearing small gloves. :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I won a tournament no one showed up for!

I wish this were a story about winning my first big buy-in poker tournament since the 2009 WCOOP. And, for those who missed it, I did in fact win the "$4600+400" (the scare quotes a result of an irksome hidden juice) buy-in Canadian Open Poker Championships Heads-up Event, which had just 12 players and a first prize of C$34,000 (US$34,437). I did not receive a first round bye and thus beat four opponents, so from a certain standpoint I do feel like I actually accomplished something. Playing heads-up is always a grind because of the sheer number of decisions, and something about live heads-up NL is particularly fun and challenging because there is so much information to constantly process. I had a lot of fun playing the tournament (which had an excellent best-of-3 structure) and was very happy with the win.

@muckingaces tweeted: "Wtg, Terrence. But next time ask them to colour down the chips for the victory photo."

But sadly, this is not in fact a post about me winning a 5k buy-in poker tournament. It's mostly a post about how disappointing this particular tournament series turned out to be.

I was quite excited to come to Calgary for this tournament, as I did in 2009 and 2010. In 2009 I finished 3rd/4th in a 63-player field. In 2010, I lost in the 2nd round in a 64-player field. In 2011, they dropped the buy-in to $2000 but still saw their field halved to 32 players. This year, in an attempt to increase the field size (and in an apparent attempt to defy economic theory) they brought the buy-in back to $5000 using the logic that it would draw more out-of-town players, thereby increasing the field. Well, it didn't work. Unless you are running a 6-figure buy-in tournament and hope to attract a lot of hype, a 12-player field is horrendous.

The ambiance of the my semifinal match stood out in particular. After the other semifinal match finished, the only people in the sizeable tournament poker room (which is usually a room for shows and musical acts) were me, my opponent, the dealer, the relief dealer, and the tournament director. Due to some sort of technical issue, there wasn't even background music. Hell, there wasn't even the slot machine white noise, or the usual ubiquitous chip-riffling sounds (since we held the only chips in the room in our hands). It was pin-drop quiet, and incredibly eerie. The setting was made even more surreal by the fact that we were playing in this empty room on an elevated stage, for the benefit of an audience of absolutely no one. As weird as that was, the 6-max the next day was the true disappointment. This was a $2000 buy-in re-entry tournament which got 17 entries, a simply appalling turnout. I can kind of understand when the locals aren't interested in playing a $5000 heads-up tournament because many casual players are often intimidated by heads-up, but to get this kind of a field for a $2000 6-max NL is beyond fathomable.

There's a lot of speculation as to why this tournament turned out to be such a failure, from staff to marketing, a lack of satellites, and of course conflicts with Legends of Poker in LA, WPT Barcelona, and another more well-established tournament series in Edmonton. I'll leave the public speculation to those better informed, but the numbers are obviously disappointing for a tournament that had a very fun looking schedule on paper and that has done well in the past. What I know wasn't at fault was a poor poker economy, because many big cash games (10-25 up to 25-50-100) were going with regularity. Calgary boasts one of the strongest economies in the country, poker is still big in Canada, and clearly there was already lots of money in the building. But none of it was going into the tournaments.

It's certainly a strange feeling to walk away with a tournament win and $24,800 profit over three days and still feel a bit blasé about the experience, but in previous years I enjoyed this tournament because many fellow Canadian pros and other individuals from the poker industry would turn up for it, and it was fun times. And the Deerfoot Hotel, while a nice enough facility, is in the total middle of nowhere 20 minutes outside of downtown Calgary, and I didn't have a car. Even if I did, I didn't really have anyone to hang out with anyway.

I resolved long ago not to travel to poker tournaments where there wasn't some compelling reason to go other than the poker. In the end, this experience solidified the idea that my heart is no longer into playing poker for a living.  Money and the stuff it buys is great, but at this point I'm really looking to place more importance on having fun and improve my quality of life rather than just making the bank account bigger.

So in the end, I burned a few more Air Canada miles and $100 in change fees to come back home Thursday morning instead of Saturday night, bypassing the $1000 PLO event and the $2000 main, both of which I had originally intended to play. I'll be curious to see the numbers for both, but it seems likely they'll be as underwhelming as everything else this week. In any case, I'm looking forward to home, seeing friendly faces, getting on the mats and in the ring, and catching what remains of the Vancouver summer. And if I really do feel an overwhelming urge to try to win some more money at poker, I hear there's a little series on the Internet starting up this weekend.