If you haven’t heard of EBI (Eddie Bravo Invitational), it is one of the more popular invitational professional grappling tournaments out today. It is a submission only grappling tournament with regulation period where only submission ends the match.
Afterwards, there is a series of sudden death periods where players start in dominant positions: back mount with hooks, defended arm bar with leg control. Each player gets up to 3 chances to submit each other choosing the starting position of their choice. If a player scores a submission, the opponent has a chance to try and beat his time to submission to steal the win. Otherwise, the person who has collected the most riding time (control of these dominant positions), will get the win.
It is featured on UFC‘s streaming media channel, Fight Pass, so that is a plus to it as well. I have watched a couple of them and I have mixed thoughts on it, but mostly good and I appreciate anyone who is trying to take grappling into the main stream.
Eddie Bravo is looking to reinvigorate the tournament by adding a new twist to it: open hand strikes once the match hits the ground.
I have some experience in this style of fighting, as I got my start in martial arts with shoot fights. Depending on the show, it was either open hands to the head, striking everywhere else legal, or only strikes to the body (closed fist acceptable).
In fact, I have an OLD, and I mean OLD, video of me doing one of these shoot fights back from 1999 that I am going to share with you. Keep in mind, I probably had about 6 months training when this fight took place, so my skill level isn’t anywhere near where I am now, lol!
Based on my experience, striking on the ground definitely does open up the game. Keeping a closed guard will getting pounded in the ribs makes life more challenging for the bottom man, and also exposes the top man to more risk as well. So yes, it would be more dynamic and I believe kill a lot of the stalemates that we still see in grappling.
In fact, in this match you will see that I ended up winning because of striking from the ground. After I threw a barrage of unanswered blows to my opponents stomach abdomen, he opened his guard. I then took advantage of by finishing with a straight ankle lock.
My only issue with this is the following: why not just do MMA?
MMA is far more dynamic and exciting. For amateurs, I completely understand that they want to play in a limited scenario to protect themselves from injury. But if you are a professional, I would hope that if you are willing to trade blows on the ground, you would do the same from your feet.
The few elite grapplers that we have that are actively competing in MMA such as Jake Shields, Demian Maia, Gunnar Nelson, and Ronaldo “Jacare” de Souza have done very well for themselves. Even though some of them have limited striking ability, they have been able to dominate opponents in the cage.
My concern is that if something like this takes off, we may have a generation of grapplers practicing slap fighting on the ground. While most of my career has consisted of grappling, I have pretty much trained MMA 90% of the time. It is the same reason you won’t see me do berimbolos or sit in a deep half guard. I always grapple as if strikes can be thrown (big reason why I am mostly on top).
I’m not saying that my verdict on this is absolute. Just my humble opinion. What’s yours?