Grappling Team Survival Match – QUINTET

QUINTET.3 coolly breezed into Las Vegas on the eve of the landmark UFC 229 McGregor vs. Nurmagomedov. Although still somewhat under the radar stateside, just six months earlier QUINTET.1 was held at the famous Ryogoku Sumo Hall in Tokyo. Sakuraba’s inaugural show had already garnered immediate excitement in Japan and raised eyebrows in the international BJJ and grappling community with Team Polaris’ victorious performance. A few months later QUINTET.2 saw an incredible set of matches unfold with Eddie Bravo’s handpicked Team 10th Planet reigning supreme. Brainchild of UFC Hall of Famer Kazushi Sakuraba, and forged in the island nation of Japan with the martial arts running long and deep in its veins, the 5-on-5 no-gi Grappling Team Survival Match tournament emerged as a breath of fresh air and in complete isolation of other international grappling shows. Herein lies the purity of QUINTET: an idea from college Judo clubs in Japan who face each other informally at different weights in a simple winner-stays-on contest in order to test their mettle and learn from each other, injected with Sakuraba’s unbridled fun and showmanship at its core. Add to this an all-star lineup including Josh Barnett, fellow Hall of Famer Urijah Faber, the Martinez “Freak Brothers”, Frank Mir, Gordon Ryan, Craig Jones, Gregor Gracie, and Sakuraba himself, and tongues were rolling by October 5th.

QUINTET.1 Final Scorecard

1st *MATCH
2nd MATCH, RNC / Dan Strauss
3rd MATCH, guillotine / Dan Strauss
5th MATCH, arm bar / Marcos Souza
6th MATCH, knee bar / Craig Jones

QUINTET.2 Final Scorecard

QUINTET.3 Final Scorecard

The rules are the crux of QUINTET’s beauty. Sakuraba was very clear about what he wanted to see – action. Of course, all fight fans want to see more action and less stalling, but until now the majority of rule sets have been made for and exploited by the fighters themselves. QUINTET prioritizes the live audience, the viewers and fans so that matches have the greatest potential for constant action and submission finishes. It might seem crazy to those raised in contemporary grappling competition rules that you might get a “shido” (caution) whilst in back mount, but this is where we get an insight into Sakuraba’s thinking. He has based his whole fighting ethics and career on taking risks – not playing safe. So, to him, even if you have a strong controlling position like back mount and you cannot find a submission relatively quickly, the onus is on you to change position and look for another way to make your opponent give up.
In top level grappling it naturally takes time to wear down your opponent and find a submission. It can be difficult to come to terms with the match being stopped and reset whilst in a dominant position and seemingly working for a submission. However, Sakuraba comes from a place of simple goals: to show the wider audience the excitement of team grappling, and to encourage all practitioners – beginner to master – to join in a more dynamic evolution of competition submission arts. These require a faster pace and the courage to fight through difficult situations – the exact embodiment of Sakuraba’s entire career.
From that, QUINTET was born. A total team limit of 430kg / 948lbs, just enough to encourage interesting match ups without a whole team of heavyweight monsters. Stack it how you like; tactically place different styles and body types in an order that plays to the team’s strengths. The idea that someone like Geo Martinez could face Josh Barnett at a potential 50kg / 110lb weight difference is something pros want to test and fans want to see. The essence of the grappling arts challenge: pitting yourself against a bigger opponent and winning by technique and craftiness over size and strength.
That one person could potentially take out a whole team is mind blowing.
QUINTET.3 and the weigh ins at the Orleans Arena were a buzz of all four teams making sure they’d cut their agreed few pounds to make the team limit. Some very open remarks on the physique of Gordon Ryan were in the air, and the familiar quiet respect coupled with everyone sizing each other up was the mood. In his speech to the fighters at the rule meeting, Sakuraba encouraged all Team Members and Special Single Match competitors to keep in mind two points of courage: “The courage to take risks and the courage to tap” harking back to his philosophy underpinning QUINTET: to touch a wider audience with the excitement of professional grappling.
Team Alpha Male, led by Urijah Faber and a last-minute injury replacement allowing Gordon Ryan to join, dominated the show. In the 1st Match, Ryan masterfully took out three members of Team Sakuraba including Josh Barnett and the Souza brothers Marcos and Roberto, with both Josh and Marcos tapping out. In the Final Match he went on to take out three members of Team Polaris with Craig Jones and Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro both forced to tap. Only Gregor Gracie and Roberto Souza went the distance with Ryan that day. And his younger brother Nicky, nothing short of a grappling prodigy, also fought in QUINTET’s first ever Special Single Match making short work of 20-year-MMA-veteran, Hideo Tokoro, with a RNC at only 2:15 in. All in all, three pairs of brothers, fighters from 17 to 49 years old, a Judo Gold Medalist, and multiple UFC champions appeared on the first North American QUINTET card.
QUINTET, in its first six months of existence, has already quickly become a pivotal force in the world of submission fighting, and not without note that it reinforces the current worldwide submission grappling continuum. With its roots in Japanese ju-jutsu (jiu-jitsu), and having interacted with the West among BJJ, Catch Wrestling, and Pro Wrestling circles – these circles have made one big full circle of shared knowledge and developing techniques. QUINTET emerged at the forefront and has already sparked a massive amateur movement along with promising more dramatic world class championship matches in 2019 as each show writes itself and grappling history.

About the Author

Stewart Fulton
Pancrase MMA and QUINTET commentator on UFC Fight Pass. Twitter @sfultonMMA Instagram @sfulton_mma

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