Iron Man Vale Tudo – 135lbs Grand Prix
18th November 2018
Championship Playoff – Round 1
(PO1) (B1) Joe Slasher (3-1 in Tournament) (Rank3) v (A2) Polly Paulson (2-1-1 in Tournament (Rank8)
Kicking off the championship play-offs we have Group B winner Joe Slasher and he will be taking on Group A runner up Polly Paulson.
Joe Slasher, it must be said, has done fantastically to get to where he is right now. Suffering a fairly significant injury in a warm up QFC fight before the tournament, that injury would follow him into his opening group stage fight against Gichin Funakoshi leaving him looking sluggish and a far cry from the fighter that presents himself to us in this first round of knockout action. With a then record of 0-2 (0-1 in season), Slasher has battled back with two first round KO’s and a massive decision victory over group favourite Gruff Dragon to seal his place as Group A champion with a season record of 3-1. Now the heavy handed boxer prepares to continue with this good run of form and with a pre play-off ranking of 3 of 8, it is obvious that Slasher could be a one to keep an eye on over the next few events.
His opponent is Polly Paulson, a brawler from Gurton, England who managed to put together a 2-1-1 record and secure a hard fought second place finish in Group A. Paulson has looked devastating at times this season, with two brutal first round KO’s, one of which against Nilton Guimaraes clocked in at just twelve seconds. Despite this however, Paulson missed out on topping the group after a disappointing draw against Pete Peterson and a loss against Able Archer in his final group stage bout of which would have secured him a first place spot. As it was, Paulson finished second only by virtue of his heavy handed finish wins and one solitary point. Still, with a pre play-off ranking of 8 of 8, an opportunity in the play-off finals is still an opportunity no matter how it comes and with that Polly Paulson has an outside chance to take it all.
This should be a very interesting and entertaining fight as both fighters are known for their heavy hands and their love for stand up brawling. On the outside, Joe Slasher will be the more refined technician and with his remarkable boxing skills would probably have quite an advantage from that distance. Paulson has shown competence at that range but his real strength is in the clinch where he can make the best use of his respectable wrestling and muay thai combined.
Perhaps the biggest area of interest in this fight that is likely to be overlooked is the fact that Slasher has made obvious improvements in his ground skills having earned his blue belt during the tournament. Is this something that Slasher will look to use offensively against a clinch heavy field of fighters or is it purely defensive to counter some of the submission/ground and pound wrestlers? If it is the former then Paulson will really be under pressure and might not be able to clinch with the impunity that he would no doubt prefer. Still, with his heavy hands and KO power, Paulson will always be dangerous wherever he is. Can he overcome the boxing skills of Joe Slasher and the fine form that he has been displaying over the past few events? Only time will tell.
Prediction: Slasher by Dec. Slasher seems to be the better fighter overall but this is a tough match up for him and Paulson hasn’t exactly done badly at all and if the fight stays in the clinch for too long, Paulson could end up taking the decision himself.
(PO2) (D1) Balor Fino (Rank2) v (B2) Gruff Dragon (Rank7)
Balor Fino topped what initially looked to be a very tough collection of fighters in group D and comes into this playoff stage as an undefeated prospect to win it all. Technically only 3-0 in real fights, Fino is 4-0 this tournament due to picking up a forfeit win over awol fighter Makhlamed Armagedonenov but that shouldn’t take anything away from the young fighter from Iceland who’s determination has seen him victorious over fighters with arguably better inner qualities. Fino has also performed at key moments having gone into his final group stage match up in a head to head to decide who would call themselves Group D champion. Fino was the one to come out on top but he will now face a tough challenge in the first round of this championship playoff stage.
The man who will stand opposite Fino on this occasion is Group B runner up Gruff Dragon and as a fighter that was predicted to top his group, the jury is still out on this young submission wrestler as to whether he has what it takes to up his game from here. Dragon began his campaign with a gruelling draw against fellow grappler Crisostomo Ibarra and followed up with two wins in a row. One, a submission victory late in the first round and the second, a decision victory over Chris Chaitle that put him in first place in the group and on par to go through as predicted. Things, however, took a dramatic turn as Dragon was outpointed in his showdown with Joe Slasher and due to the competitiveness of the group found himself dangling precariously in the runner up spot and in danger of dropping down into the 5th Place Playoff. Dragon went into the final group stage week on a bye and had to watch imperviously as the results came in and on this occasion, things went his way and now he finds himself in the final knockout stage with a chance at overall glory.
This is a tough match up for both fighters but probably more so for Dragon who has only managed to find one finish win out of his four group stage fights. Both fighters are wonderful wrestlers but both use their wrestling in very different ways. Fino will want to keep this fight standing and has a striking game that definitely belies his meagre skills on paper and Dragon will want to get this fight down to the ground as quickly as is possible. Takedowns versus takedown defence and Fino is already two up against ground fighters whereas Dragon has not been as dominant against strikers and was on the receiving end of an absolute anti-grappling clinic when he fought Joe Slasher. Fino’s striking isn’t anywhere near as technical as Slashers though so perhaps Dragon won’t feel the pressure to get things done in a rush but he will still not likely want anything to do with Fino on the feet and that could make him somewhat predictable to a good camp like Fino’s.
Prediction: Fino by Dec. Dragon hasn’t had the finishing skills to get things done and Fino will likely be ready for his game. Fino on the other hand might be able to control the stand up and clinch but without the raw technical ability of some other strikers will find it hard to crack Dragon’s good chin and get a finish.
(PO3) (C1) Takayama Yataro (Rank1) v (D2) Tom Baker (Rank6)
Unfortunately, at the time of writing, Tom Baker has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth and has yet to sign on the dotted line for his hard fought first round play-off bout against Group C winner Takayama Yataro. A great shame as after five events of group stage fighting, you really get the sense that all eight finalists have earned their place and could potentially have a shot at taking it all. Maybe it is fitting that this preview is also being written on the 25th anniversary of the birth of the UFC which of course without, we most assuredly wouldn’t be here today. On that day 25 years ago, eight men came together in one of the most dangerous, exciting and polarising martial arts events ever seen in modern times and bravely faced their fears when so many others would have run away.
So, as it stands currently, Takayama Yataro looks set to receive a bye into the next round which can only spell trouble for everyone else as Yataro has been truly magnificent so far and is the only fighter to have won all four of his group stage fights by finish. Added to his tune up fight before the tournament began, Yataro is currently undefeated with a record of 5-0. It is fair to say that the Japanese wrestler will be the solid favourite going forward and the fact that he now looks likely to receive uninterrupted training time will only strengthen this assertion.
(PO4) (A1) Able Archer v (Rank4) (C2) Duke Nukem(Rank5)
Our final match up of this first round knockout stage features Group A winner Able Archer taking on Group C runner up Duke Nukem and this one could be an absolute sleeper for fight on the night.
Able Archer was able to come out on top in Group A after what turned out to be a very competitive and back and forth group stage. Archer’s path to the finals had a very unexpected bump however when he managed to lose a shock upset against struggling Nance Gibbord that put a whole lot of pressure on him going into his final group fight against Polly Paulson. Showing tremendous composure however, Archer got back to business and secured a first place spot with a first round submission win and adding to his current 3-1 record. With that submission win also, Archer showed us another element to his fight game as previous to that we had only seen him fighting inside in the clinch. This will only serve to make him more dangerous and could definitely be a huge factor going into this fight against an opponent that prefers the stand up side.
Duke Nukem comes into this fight off the back of a crushing return win against Anders Silver after a previous loss to eventual group winner Takayama Yataro threatened to derail his otherwise perfect campaign. Lead by an enthusiastic management team, Nukem could perhaps be quite the dark horse at this point with his current 3-1 record with all wins coming by way of first round knockout. He beat predicted group winner One Fortythree early in the group stage and followed up with a stunning KO win over Rascals Alfalfa and apart from the loss previously mentioned, has looked to be a very strong competitor. Of course, this is now where it really counts and a single loss will mean crashing out of the competition. Duke Nukem faces a very tough test in Able Archer.
On paper both are fighters that have used their wrestling as a base for a more stand up orientated game plan. Archer being the slightly superior in that area has predominantly preferred the clinch to dish out punishment where as Nukem has very much preferred standing at range and using his mediocre boxing skills to very good effect. Nukem has fought inside the clinch however and he has not yet come across anyone better than him there so this could be a very interesting showdown if any in-fighting does occur. Would Archers slightly better wrestling skills give him an advantage or would Nukem’s more technical boxing allow him to dominate?
One potential reason for Nukem to avoid the clinch however might be Archer’s seemingly newfound ability to pick up submission wins from the ground and this again might be something we see Archer attempting at a much higher rate of eagerness. With the better wrestling and a blue belt level against a white belt level of BJJ, Archer would most defintely have the advantage should the fight end up in that domain.
This fight looks to be razor tight competitive affair with both fighters holding similar records with similar finish rates and being very equal in size.
Prediction: Archer by Submission. Archer might have the wrestling skills to close the distance and shut down Nukem from doing too much damage in the clinch. Because of that I see him having at least a few opportunities on the ground where Nukem will not be able to stop the submission.
Round 2 - SEMI-FINAL
(PO5) Winner PO1 vs Winner PO2
(PO6) Winner PO3 vs Winner PO4
Round 3 – FINAL
Winner PO5 vs Winner PO6
5th Place Playoff – Semi-Final
(FP1) (D3) Brian Marais v (A3) Pete Peterson
Our first of two 5th Place Play-Off fights for fighters that finished third in their respective groups with the first being group D’s Brain Marais and group A’s Pete Peterson.
BJJ Brown Belt Brian Marias wasn’t given any chance at all of moving on from the initial group stage as pure BJJ fighters have usually fared quite poorly in past tournaments . Adding to that doubt was Marias’ managers inexperience in the game at that time but that initial conclusion, I am pleased to say, has been completely unfounded as Marias has battled his way into fighting for fifth place and, in my opinion, that would be quite an achievement considering he was predicted to finish at the bottom of the pile. Of course, there is still a way to go from here and Marias will first have to get past his opponent here tonight but with big wins over Makhlamed Armagedonenov and predicted Group D winner Eunan Moray, Marais might be quietly confident.
Looking to pick up the fifth place prize himself is Group A’s Pete Peterson who went into his final group stage fight against Abel Archer with the opportunity to actually snatch the top spot. It wasn’t to be however as Archer picked up a first round submission just before the five minute mark and Peterson was resigned to a third place finish behind Polly Paulson by only a single point. Peterson might have reason to feel a little aggrieved about that as his very respectable six point tally might have been enough to get him into the play-offs in other groups. Peterson comes into this fight with a record of 2-1-1 and will no doubt be looking to finish this tournament with a bang.
In terms of match up this fight isn’t likely to bring many surprises as Marias will only ever really be looking to get this fight to the ground. How he will achieve that however might be a cause for concern for his camp however as so far he has not managed to figure out a way past the strong wrestling stand up fighters of which category Peterson falls certainly. His may potentially get a shot at pulling guard if Peterson dares to get that up close and personal but considering his solid skills at range, Peterson will likely prefer to keep as much distance from the skilled submission artist as possible.
Prediction: Peterson by KO. This is Peterson’s fight to lose. Marias has been on the receving end of two KO losses out of four fights and without any real skills in either striking or wrestling, the only reason this fight would likely hit the floor is if Peterson chooses it to. Marias not only needs to get this fight to the floor, he needs top position too which against a wrestler like Peterson, is too much to ask surely?
(FP2) (B3) Chris Chaitle v (C3) One Fortythree
Our second 5th Place Play-Off fight is between Group B’s Chris Chaitle and Group C’s One Fortythree
Chris “Lights On” Chaitle has done well to battle back from his 0-2 start in Group B and finish in third place after big wins against Crisostomo Ibarra and Gichin Funakoshi. The Funakoshi fight in particular gave us a great insight into just how good Chaitle could be on his day as Funakoshi was looking to be a strong candidate to move into the play-offs. Chaitle has a competent base in boxing and a purple belt in BJJ meaning that he can theoretically move between two extremes and have the confidence to at least hang with those better in certain areas long enough to beat them where the are weak. A clever game plan no doubt but that could very much be put to the test here tonight as he faces brawling wrestler One Fortythree.
One Fortythree, like Chaitle, was disappointing early on in the group stage and also managed to go 0-2. He battled back well and picked up two first round TKO wins against Anders Silver and Rascals Alfalfa and managed to narrowly avoid crashing out of the tournament altogether. Fortythree has shown that he most dangerous in the clinch and also that he is no slouch on the ground as, although he lost in the end, he gave undefeated ground and pound monster Yataro his toughest fight and is the only fighter to go into the second round with him, largely off the back of his grappling defence. Now he gets a chance to continue the momentum he has gained and perhaps a little redemption for his disappointing group stage results.
This is an interesting fight mainly down to the fact that we will witness two fighters currently in good form, go head to head and with very conflicting styles. Chaitle will fight on the inside or on the ground and Fortythree will want to fight in the clinch. Chaitle has and will pull guard to good effect from the clinch and has shown a strong ground game picking up a submission win from there while Fortythree seems tailor made for the ground and managed to hang for a good amount of time with ground monster Takayama Yataro. On paper this is likely to be a real tactical affair with whoever managing to keep the fight in their domain picking up the win.
Prediction: Fortythree by Dec. Not a confident prediction at all as I can just as easily see either fighter picking up finish wins from different positions but overall I believe the wrestling to be the real key to unlocking this fight and on this occasion it is Fortythree in possession.
Round 2 – FINAL
Winner FP1 vs Winner FP2