Quintet always feels special. The rule set, with only submissions counting, allows all styles and practitioners to freely open up, showcase their skills and express themselves. The team format sets up storylines and drama, as tactics and game plans play an intricate part in the final results. Quintet FN 7 delivered as expected, with possibly their best line up of athletes yet, the level of competition was truly world class.
Team Wolf vs Team Tri-Force
Judo specialists from different era’s hit the mats first as 23 year old Naoki Hirata locked horns with 43 year old 2x Olympic Gold medalist Masato Uchishiba. Not intimidated by the reputation and status of his opponent, Hirata started strong. Looking to slide in a guillotine Choke (Mae Hadaka Jime) and pushing for a head and arm choke (Kata Gatame), the youngster never really came close but sent a clear message that he was not to be taken lightly. In return Uchishiba utilized fantastic guard passing. A stout, thick frame combined with well executed technique allowed the Olympian to put enormous pressure on Hirata. As the match progressed Uchishiba scored mount and committed to a “Juji Gatame” armlock before switching to a “Sankaku Jime” Triangle choke. Hirata escaped and caught the esteemed Judoka with a slick “Kosoto Gari” sweep from behind. The exciting back and forth bout went the distance, ending in a draw.
Tri-Force Team leader Nobuhiro Sawada was up next to face team Wolf’s Seiichiro Ito in a battle of both teams lightest and fastest. Sawada struck first, isolating the arm he remained poised to wrench out a Kimura or roll and transition to a straight armlock. Ito retained perfect balance, remaining heavy to force a referee restart. Very comfortable working from a sitting position, Sawada fell to his back repeatedly until the inevitable “Shido” penalty was applied. Grapplers are allowed to drop to the ground but must make contact first. As Sawada targeted the legs, Ito worked the neck with choke attempts, creating a stand off. Ito was clearly the more physical athlete and, after cartwheeling to try to pass, the MMA veteran leapt over the guard straight into a tight armbar. Relaxed, Sawada worked out of trouble and the contrast of approaches continued, Ito standing and fired up and Sawada relaxed on his back. Near the end of the 8 minutes the referee penalized Ito, feeling he was not engaging legitimately. With an even number of warnings the match of speedsters came to a close as time expired.
Currently enjoying the number 1 spot under the Japanese Brazilian JuJitsu Federation submission hunter Shinji Morito was up next. Standing across from him was Tri-Forces multi disciplined veteran Daizo Ishige. From wrist control Morito slipped a leg passed the head of Ishige to work a triangle choke. Once locked in he manipulated his opponents arm for the armlock before once more attacking with the triangle. Grabbing his own ankle, the BJJ stand out tightened the choke, finally finishing by pulling the head down for the tap. At 2:06 Team Wolf pulled out the first submission of the evening and Morito remained on the mat to face the next competitor.
Kousuke Nakajima possesses an aggressive style and attacked early with a straight leg lock. Shinji Morito was able to praise his leg out and use the opportunity to pass to the side. Nakajima turned to defend but Morito was one step ahead, snatching back control. Methodically breaking down the defense, Team Wolf’s BJJ ace was unable to get the arm across the neck. With incredible strength he instead cranked the face, placing huge pressure on the mandible for the tap at 2:45.
Under considerable pressure to keep the team in the competition, Tri-Forces Kazuhiro Suzuki went all out. Throwing out straight leg locks, kneebars and lower body submissions. There was a little desperation to the attempts and Shinji Morito anticipated and defended well. Taking his foot of the gas for the most part, Morito jumped past guard straight into a triangle attempt but was Suzuki prevented the lock sinking in deep. A slick spin into a kneebar had Morito in the most trouble so far but Suzuki could not find the angle to leverage a tap out. The world class BJJ practitioner used small movements to keep his leg safe while not opening doors to other attacks. With the draw Team Wolf moved on to the finals in a strong position, with 2 members yet to compete.
Team The Body Ride vs Team Brave Gym
Team Brave Gym’s Toshiyasu Sagae brought innovation and modern guard play. Old school veteran Kohei Yasumi relied on strong foundations and considerable experience. The 43 year old Team The Body Ride wrestler was able to consistently place Sagae on his back as he attempted to pass guard. Sagae was adept at fighting from his back however and fished for submissions and sweeps from open guard. An evenly matched spiral of attack and defense commenced with neither breaking through to a key position to progress. Known for his defensive capabilities, Yasumi appeared happy to go the distance, eliminating one of the threatening participants from Team Brave Gym.
It was a high level, high stakes clash of Leglocks vs armlocks as Team Brave Gym’s Masakatsu Imanari squared off against Tomoshige Sera from Team The Body Ride. Pioneer of leg submissions, as Imanari got older he got wiser. With a tendency to pick the perfect time to strike rather than go wild, Imanari started the bout quite inactive. Sera dominated early, passing straight to an arm triangle/ head and arm choke. Completely stoic and unemotional, a sleepy looking Imanari casually pulled his arm free. Sera threw the legs aside, shifted to side position, then north south, before settling for mount. Imanari held on, receiving a “Shido” penalty as the match was restarted. Sinking in another head and arm choke, this one very tight, Sera seemed on the cusp of victory. Leveraging his hand against the armpit/shoulder muscle the leglock wizard swung with his body stiff and straight to somehow break free. Upping the gears Imanari came alive for the final few minutes, with “Imanari roll” attempts and scooting for legs. Too experienced Sera kept his hips low, shutting down any entries as time ran out. In the end Sera and “Houdini” Imanari went the distance.
Giving up 7kg in weight, Tatsuki Saomoto surprised Daisuke Nakamura, snatching a double leg, hoisting him up and planting him on the mat. Lightning fast, the Team Brave Gym wrestler flew over Nakamura’s guard to lock up an arm. With Kimura or straight armbar options open, Saomoto tried to bait the Team the Body Ride captain into moving. Nakamura skillfully turned and rolled out and immediately went for the spinning choke/ Brabo. Saomoto went to his hands and knees to defend and held on. As Nakamura rolled to make an angle, Saomoto turned inwards and out of danger. The pro wrestling inspired veteran surrendered his back to chase an arm but instead got trumped by Saomoto, who took Nakamura’s arm for the straight armbar. With the arm fully extended, Nakamura circled to relieve pressure until he could pull his elbow in and rotate out. With a smile from Nakamura, both got right back into the scrambles. Nakamura tried leg scissor chokes, armlocks and finished with a strong set up for a Kimura as round expired. With the draw, the lighter Saomoto appeared proud to take one of the “Armbar Trio” and Team Body Ride captain out of the competition.
The highly anticipated bout between formidable submission machine Sotaro Yamada and one of Team The Body Rides “Armbar Trio”, the flashy finisher Shutaro Debana got underway. Yamada is a threat from every position and elected to drop to his back, perhaps wary of the strong Judoka’s throws and flying armbars. Debana stayed tight in top position with a wide base and as Yamada worked on the shoulder to isolate an arm. From open guard the muscular Brave Gym representative spun for the legs and it was not long before Debana was on his back playing defense. From 1/2 guard Yamada spent considerable time working on an arm in guillotine. Content to prioritize defense, the dynamic Judoka held on until the referee stepped in to give both a warning. Debana shot a single leg, wrapping his legs around his opponents he stretched out and straightened Yamada’s leg, applying pressure to the knee with his hips for a modified kneebar. A grappler with the stature of Yamada shrugged off the attack and countered by going for the neck. Debana knew that he must defend above all else and reverted to a safe position. As the clock ticked down Yamada demonstrated his flexibility in guard, hoping for a last second chance at a gogoplata but the time ran out. Debana implemented a sharp and careful gameplan to draw with Team Braves ace, the renowned and feared submission king, Yamada.
The contest between the teams went right down to the wire as the final representatives stepped out in a match that would determine victory. Team Brave Gym owner and captain Kazuyuki Miyata was quick to use his primary skillset, applying excellent, textbook takedowns throughout the bout. Grasping a single leg, the Sydney Olympic wrestler hit and angle to perfectly put Naoyuki Kotani down. Later in the match, an arm drag, stepping off centre, unbalanced the MMA and grappling veteran to force him to the ground once again. Well-versed wherever the fight takes place, Kotani was comfortable off his back but could not create openings for submission set ups or reversals. Both grapplers knew what was at stake and that the slightest error could spell disaster, the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. The final match was deadlocked, with both competitors were given “Shido” warnings twice. With 4 warnings to Brave Gyms 5, team The Body Ride moved to the finals by the narrowest of margins.
Iron Man Special Rules Bout: Sakuraba Family vs Garittochu Fukushima
Kazushi Sakuraba and “Sak Jr” provided some light entertainment as they took on comedian and TV talent Garittochu Fukushima. The comedian entered the mat wearing super small speedo trunks, thankfully changing into shorts and a rash guard. Special rules were set, upper body submissions only and tap outs would signify points rather than the end of a match. The 1st tap came quick as “Sak Jr” hits a modified armbar from the bottom. Garittochu escaped a triangle but shortly after fell victim to another armbar as Sak jr transitioned from the back for the tap. After a time stop Sakuraba senior decided to take over. Fukushima ran to his corner to get moisturizer from his comedy partner. While doing so Sakuraba jumped on his back for an easy Rear naked Choke finish. Having had enough, Fukushima sat down and pushed his fellow comedian corner man in. With no experience he was tapped repeatedly. With both comedians playing the “Paper, Scissors, Stone” game to see who would take Sakuraba on, the amusing “bout” ended with 7 tap outs to Sakaraba family.
Special Single Match: Shoya Ishiguro vs Yuki “Submission” Takahashi
In a non tournament match up, 2 incredibly slick competitors, Shoya Ishiguro and Yuki “Submission” Takahashi took centre stage. Ishiguro is a all Japan BJJ Champion who has not lost since becoming a Black Belt. “Submission” has no BJJ experience and has adapted and modified his own methods of highly effective grappling. Neither approached directly or predictably, instead adopting rolling entries, tying up legs with advanced grips and planning multiple steps ahead. Rolls, inversions, cartwheels, both went for the legs in almost mirror image sequences. Ishigiro managed to come close to passing but “Submission” was extremely skilled in guard, fending off every attempt in a brilliantly technical match. As it was a single match, Judges were brought in with all 3 leaning towards Shoya Ishiguro for the victory.
Team Competition Finals: Team Wolf vs Team The Body Ride
Grant Bogdanove made his first appearance for Team Wolf. His match up was Kohei Yasumi in a youth vs experience bout. Bogdanove’s speed and aggression was evident from the get-go. Scrambling to back position with one arm already under the chin he threatened early. Yasumi stayed calm and focused on keeping a grip on his opponents 2nd arm as he shuffled his body out of danger. Favoring the single leg, every time the 43 year old clutched, Bogdanove sprawled and went straight for the back. The Brave Gym participants grit and determination frequently got him out of trouble, briefly turning the tables to take top position and look to pass. From butterfly guard though, with 2 hands on 1, Bogdanove pulled his tough opponents arm across his body to open up the back. Nearing the 8 minute time limit the Team Wolf member lifted Yasumi into the air from behind and slammed him down, his Judo roots on display. The young American dominated but could not finish Yasumi, who played the role of “the shield”, throughout.
Also making his fist showing, team leader Michihiro Omigawa had the unenviable task of tackling dynamic finisher Tomoshige Sera. The strategy was revealed early as Omigawa relied on his Judo to maintain posture and position, giving the BJJ expert no room to breath. Grinding on top, Omigawa was active but clearly not wanting a scrambling exchange. “Armbar Trio” member Sera reversed and attacked with chokes and guillotines. Hanging tough, the Neo Judoka received a warning for holding on under the constant pressure. The match ended with a frustrated Sera seeking a kneebar submission. With the draw both participants exited, with team The Body Ride losing one of their heavy-hitters
With the biggest size difference so far arm collector Shutaro Debana carried an extra 9.4kg over fellow Judo specialist Seiichiro Ito. Just short of the 10kg weight difference needed to allow a 4 minute match the bout was a full 8 minute. Debana took advantage right off the bat, a double wrist lock standing led to a Kimura/ Sakuraba roll. Instantly in trouble, Ito succeeded in achieving 1/2 guard which gave him a little respite. As Debana sneaked his leg up towards the head and tried to break the grip, the 58kg Ito burst out of the position. On the feet both looked for “O Goshi” style hip tosses. With time running down, Debana unleashed the “Tobi Juji” flying armbar! As anticipated from the “Armbar Trio” member. Ito’s resilience could not be denied, he hung on, slowly inching his elbow clear. While the weight difference was considerable, Debana was fast for his size and Ito remarkably strong. The entertaining bout went the distance with the 2nd submission specialist for team The Body Ride failing to take out team Wolf’s representative.
In a battle of the big guns, Judo powerhouse Masato Uchishiba collided with robust all-rounder Naoyuki Kotani. Uchishiba took the back, heaved Kotani up him up and drove him into the mat. Uchishiba kept his hips low, locked his opponent down and attempted to pass. Kotani adeptly reversed and got to work on top but clearly had problems with the core strength of the Olympian. With the pace slowing both were given a warning by the referee. A “Kosoto Gari” outside trip and Kotani was on his back. Uchishiba kept wrist and shoulder control on top, shutting down attacks before they can get going. The decorated Judoka dropped for leg lock, bailing when Kotani looked to counter. With little time left, unexpectedly Uchishiba pulled guard, allowing Kotani to isolate an arm before trying a desperate kneebar as time ran out.
Unorthodox old school armbar specialist Daisuke Nakamura was pitted against tournament standout, BJJ master Shinji Morito. Clear from the initial exchange, Nakamura’s tendency to sacrifice position in order to pull a rabbit out a hat was not going to work bell against the positional accuracy of Morita. “Armbar Trio’s” final member, team captain Nakamura, could not get space to scramble and his submission arsenal was rendered obsolete while locked down. Morita had little trouble progressing through the positions to full mount. From a high mount he stepped a leg through for the triangle but sat back for the armlock for the tap at 1:52 of the final match of the tournament.
Team Wolf’s tactical approach worked very well. The strong Judoka dominated the top positions and control the bouts, claiming draws against dangerous submission specialists. In doing so they paved the way for their submission guru to apply their world class BJJ and tap opponents. Team Wolf emerged as a fearsome team to watch out for in the future!