Thoughts on Kasai Pro 4
The fourth installment of the Kasai Pro professional grappling championships took place this weekend, and there is a lot to examine after the action on Saturday night.
Kasai is known for bringing in some of the biggest names and brightest talents in the grappling world for both their championship round robins and their superfights. A common assertion from CEO Rich Byrne is that Kasai brings the best athletes from both the points and the submission only worlds of grappling together. Looking at their roster of athletes over the past 4 events, it is hard to argue with that statement, as all of their events have been loaded with IBJJF World Champs and ADCC champions. But despite the star studded cast of athletes on the main card Saturday night, the event definitely failed to deliver the fireworks many were expecting, with all but one fight being decided via points.
All but one of the matches were contested under the IBJJF scoring rules, which in my opinion was why the event was somewhat of a let down. I don’t want to take anything away from the athletes, I thought the display of technical Jiu Jitsu was tremendous and the matches themselves were exciting (to somebody who understands the scoring format of sport Jiu Jitsu as the IBJJF sees it). There were 15 matches on the main card last night between the featherweight tournament and the three superfights, and interestingly, the only match to end in a submission was the ONLY match contested under a submission only ruleset (surprise surprise). Congrats to Matheus Lutes for going after it from the get go, that was a hell of a performance.
Obviously there are many other factors that impacted how the card turned out. The bizarre late scratch of the highly anticipated Gordon Ryan vs Matheus Diniz match being chief among them. The card was also plagued with an alarming number of injuries to many of the originally scheduled athletes, causing the organization to scramble to find replacements. Another head scratching change was the announcement that the main event between Vagner Rocha and Renato Canuto was going to be contested under a points format, which played a large role in the outcome of the match. An outcome that wasn’t without controversy.
Given that the matches were contested under IBJJF rules, it should come as no surprise that the tournament finalists were Paulo Miyao and Gianni Grippo, two guys who are currently at the top of the IBJJF rankings. And it should also not be a surprise that it was a frustrating night for guys coming from sub only backgrounds. Kasai prides themselves on putting out some of the most compelling matchups in professional grappling, but by adopting a scoring format that heavily favors one style of grappling, they are stacking the deck in favor of that style. I think they should seriously consider experimenting with their scoring and ruleset if they want to continue to attract top talent from both camps.
My suggestion for a scoring format would be to have a longer period of with the first ¾ being sub only and the final ¼ scored with points (similar to ADCC) followed by a sudden death period where the golden score decides the victor. One of the most exciting moments of the night, came in overtime the first superfight between Marvin Castelle and Carlos Rosado where the “golden score” rule came into effect.
Obviously there is no perfect ruleset and organizations are not ultimately responsible for the results of their events, but if Kasai wants to be the organization that all other organizations in the world of submission grappling compare themselves to, they need to make sure they are constantly looking inward to be sure they are putting the best product out there for fans of all grappling styles.
I do want to give the organization props for putting on an event with amazing production value, as well as displaying extreme fortitude in reckoning with all the adversity thrown their way in the weeks leading up to the event. I thought the promotion and the coverage leading up to the event provided by Flograppling was great, and I love seeing how this sport continues to grow and mature.
Next up is Polaris 8 in Cardiff (which is in Wales, UK. And is definitely not London) on December 9th!