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by Jan Louis Gaetjens

Metamoris V puts submission grappling back into the limelight this weekend. Jan Gaetjens breaks down what should be an exciting afternoon of elite level Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Gracie vs. Sakuraba

In the evening’s main event, Renzo Gracie will take to the Metamoris mat, looking to avenge his MMA loss to Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba. Although history would heavily favor Sakuraba over anyone with the last name Gracie, this match should be Renzo’s to lose this time around. Although Josh Barnett’s performance at Metamoris IV showed just how effective catch still is in a grappling world dominated by worm guards and berimbolos, it was really his crushing top pressure that allowed him to soften up, and finish, Dean Lister. Sakuraba won’t have that same luxury, and while he’s made a career out of winning fights from bad positions, he faces an uphill battle against Gracie. Renzo plays a power game (win the takedown, work to mount, finish); it may not be as flashy or en vogue as complex open guard play, but it finishes fights and minimizes his susceptibility to getting caught in a flash submission.

Let’s also keep in mind that these are two men well into their forties, and conditioning will play a factor in the submission only format. Sakuraba in particular has seen better days physically, and there’s always the question of whether or not he has fully refrained from his occasional forays into the cigarette carton.

Pick: Gracie via Rear Naked Choke

McDonald vs. Torres

Rory MacDonald’s MMA grappling talent is unquestionable, but translating that into success against a pure Jiu Jitsu talent like JT Torres is a tall order. In his fights against Demian Maia and BJ Penn, MacDonald relied on his striking and didn’t provide many clues as to how well he’ll perform without the option of unloading his heavy hands. MacDonald does come in with a distinct size advantage, but Torres’ speed unparalleled guard passing ability should force MacDonald to play defense through most of the match. Twenty minutes is a long time to hold off a grappler like Torres, who is so adept at transitioning and attacking from a near limitless number of angles.

Pick: Torres via key lock

Yuri Simoes vs. Keenan Cornelius

This is the rubber match in a series that features two of sports Jiu Jitsu’s most exciting young stars. At 21 years old Cornelius has already earned his place in Jiu Jitsu history after winning double gold medals at four major IBJJF events in the last two years. His length and dynamic open guard game make Keenan difficult to catch in a bad position, but Simoes’ ability to isolate limbs from compromising positions should give him opportunities to finish without fighting for dominant position. If Gracie vs. Sakuraba is this card’s celebration of the old school then Simoes-Cornelius III is the embodiment of contemporary sport Jiu Jitsu. Expect twenty minutes of innovative guard play in what is the early runner for fight of the night.

Pick: Draw

Vinny Magalhaes vs. Matheus Diniz

Diniz is coming into this as an extremely last minute replacement. The Marcelo Garcia brown belt was selected from an open applicant pool and will receive $10,000 dollars if he can submit Magalhaes (a draw or loss and he leaves empty handed). Training directly under Garcia separates Diniz from the pack at brown belt, and he’s been extremely successful, of late, in major competitions. Diniz is a prospect to watch; however, Magalhaes is a step up in competition that he has yet to face. Best case of Diniz, he comes up with a hard fought draw, and makes a definitive statement that he can compete at the highest level of the sport.

Pick: Magalhaes via leg lock

Garry Tonon vs. Zak Maxwell

Gary Tonon hasn’t received the same amount of public attention as fellow starlet Cornelius, but that hasn’t stopped him from diving into the professional circuit headfirst. He looked great against Kit Dale at Metamoris IV, showing off the aggressive neck attacks and leg locks for which he is known. As aggressive as he is, Tonon is also extremely comfortable working off of his back; take a look at his 2013 match against a much larger Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida to see just how active his guard game can be. Maxwell is no slouch, having notched wins against the likes of Kron Gracie and Robson Barbosa, but he has yet to show consistent finishing ability at the highest levels. I like Tonon to take this one, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Maxwell grind out a draw.

Pick: Tonon via guillotine

Scramble Sakuraba vs Renzo Gracie Commemorative Shirt

Sakuraba vs. Gracie

About Jan Gaetjens

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