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.