Win Some Lose Some – AWOL 2

Josh PalmerBJJ, MMA Events, Training

I have had a busy couple of weeks! Think I’ve earned a bit of a rest before we start building towards the English Open 2013 on 24th November, UCMMA Contenders on December 14th and the whole slew of awesome Cage Warriors shows that are scheduled to top off the year.

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about my Amateur MMA match at UCMMA Contenders in Norwich. The main focus was to highlight my attempts to address the performance anxiety I have suffered from in past competitions. That event did a lot more for me than I thought it would… so much so that this blog post may end up seeming like the polar opposite.

At the same time I’d agreed to that contest in Norwich, I’d also agreed to take part in an exhibition BJJ/grappling match at ‘A Warrior of Life‘ (AWOL), a small MMA show taking place in Southend-on-sea. I chose to do it for many of the same reasons, only this time I had the benefit of already having gone through the whole process once. In my case: it made a serious difference.

Another reason I was looking forward to this event was the rule-set. In two of my more infamous posts Am I starting to dislike Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Reaping The Knee: The Fantasy Position of BJJ I’ve written about my dislike for some aspects of sport BJJ rules. The rules we’d be competing under had none of this. A rules summary would’ve looked positively desolate by comparison. In fact let me sum it up for you: ‘No Heel Hooks’. That’s it. Three words to govern an entire match. Pretty wicked if you ask me.

No points to worry about either, only way to win was a submission and if no one had pulled that off inside a single ten minute round then it was to be ruled a draw. Overall when you think this was taking place in a gi, but also in a cage, in a very unrestricted rule set (slams from guard anyone?!) it’s a interesting experience that not many people will have ever competed under. More people should. It’s brilliant!

So who was I going to be meeting in this strange amalgamation of grappling idea? Luke Blythe from TSG Fight School. Luke has competed in seven professional MMA bouts in the Light Heavyweight division (93Kg / 205lbs). But he’s been leaning out, and was somewhere around a very solid 87Kg for this match. He’d also been focusing on his BJJ a lot in recent times and has been a four stripe blue belt for about 2.5 years. Yes I’m a purple belt and he’s a blue belt…but throw in that he’s bigger, stronger and far more experienced in the cage and suddenly being a belt rank higher doesn’t seem like a huge advantage!

Have to say that in total contrast to my last outing in the cage I had zero apprehension and in fact, really enjoyed the whole walkout and pre-amble of the match. I still warmed up too early on what was the stickiest floor I have possibly ever set foot on (got to love low-end nightclubs) but that’s not really an issue.

Walkout was a lot of fun – had to get pushed through people crowding around the cage – actually had a nice almost underground feel to it. I was fairly pumped up by the time Luke got to the cage, so much so that I didn’t hear anything Lee Doski in my corner said to me at the outset of the match. Most importantly: “Spin him around to this side of the cage“. Instead I just went straight forward and ended up cage wrestling at the far side. Didn’t make much difference but even so considering how calm I was I probably should have listened better.

I remember jumping guard at one pint and Luke lifting me cleanly off the ground at which point I was pretty sure I was going to get slammed so I hopped back to my feet…looked like a basic guard jumping drill and I imagine quite comical to a few onlookers. After a brief wrestling exchange Luke did the exact opposite to what we expected and pulled guard. He threw up a few sub attempts none of which were particularly tight and after a short while I passed to side control. Then I fucked up.

I was far too relaxed. I actually said to Luke whilst I was in side control “Did you just try and slam me?!” and then whilst applying a decent amount of pressure with my shoulder took my eye off the ball and got rolled with a damn muscle move. I mean…seriously?! Felt like a Muppet and my punishment was ending up under Lukes Kesa gatame (the judo variety without the under-hook).

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I was still fairly calm as I have some big minsters in my gym who love this position but as time when on and I hadn’t escaped I started to get a bit winded. eventually I did manage to hook his leg and escape to the back…not so fast. Luke spun straight down for a kneebar. It was very fast, very crisp and very tight almost immediately. My knee popped once and I tried to kick him off briefly before it popped again and I tapped. Gutted.

I have to hand it to him, it was a very good move that caught me completely off guard. That didn’t bug me so much as that I was in control of that match and threw it away. These things happen and it only serves as a lesson for next time. That being said I was still pissed off for the next 24 hours as you’d right expect.

Luke and I had a good chat afterwards. He’s such a nice guy and we both agreed we loved the experience and rule set.

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Thanks to Jack Lister and Lee Doski for cornering me.

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