Kasai Pro 4
Kasai Pro 4 features an 8-man no-gi tournament and coronation of the organization’s first featherweight (145 lb) champion. The pool of competitors consists of perennial IBJJF tournament powerhouses Paulo Miyao, Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes, Gianni Grippo and Bruno Frazatto, as well as submission-rules-specialists Geo Martinez, John Calestine, Ethan Crelinsten and Ashley Williams.
The blend of diverse talent, all-submissions-legal ruleset, and aggressive competitors promises a thrilling, if grueling, tournament. The finalists will be the competitors with the most match points from each of two 4-man brackets, ensuring that the champion will have fought four matches (three from the round robin, one from the final). Each match consists of three 6-minute rounds, with a round won by submission worth 3 match points, a round won by points worth 2 match points, a draw worth 1 match point, and a loss worth 0 match points. It is possible for a competitor to amass as much as 72 minutes of match time on their campaign to win the championship.
Paulo Miyao is the man to beat as his recent tournament activity and four recent wins over fellow Kasai Pro 4 competitors demonstrate in the visualization below. Gianni Grippo is a close contender, with arguably deeper quality of recent tournament victories, notably IBJJF Pans 2018, as well as a recent win over Paulo himself. While the tournament could easily come down to a final between Paulo and Gianni, it would be foolish to count out Tanquino, since he has recently amassed a lot of experience against the world’s best no-gi grapplers. Ethan Crelinston emerges as a dark horse for this tournament, with a notable ADCC trial wins in 2017 and again just this past weekend (submitting everyone up to the finals match). Ethan has a forceful style that earned him mention in newspaper articles for audibly breaking an opponent’s arm during a submission.
This graphic depicts the Kasai Pro 4 featherweight tournament competitors’ activity since 2017, with major tournament victories (IBJJF Worlds, Pans, Euros, Brasileiros, and ADCC) worth 3 points, and professional invitational tournament victories worth 2 points. Match wins over other Kasai Pro 4 competitors are indicated by color-coded arrows that begin with the victor and point to the loser, with victories being counted from 2017 to present. Competitor portraits are taken from Kasai’s website: https://kasaigrappling.com/kp4/
Paulo Miyao has earned the highest achievement in gi jiu jitsu competition, and is the 2015 IBJJF black belt world champion in his division. Despite having only recently returned to IBJJF competition after serving a suspension for use of performance enhancing drugs, Paulo has kept very busy on the international circuit. While Paulo’s greatest achievements are in the gi, he is incredibly dangerous in no-gi, having made a deep run at ADCC in 2017 after handily winning ADCC trials in Rio with an impressive five submissions in six matches. Paulo also holds wins over Gianni, Geo and Tanquinho (twice) since 2017, giving him the most prior wins over the other competitors in this tournament in that time period.
Tanquinho won his IBJJF world championship black belt division in 2013 with victories over Cobrinha and Rafa Mendes - establishing himself as a world-class athlete. Despite his dominance in the gi, he is an ADCC veteran and his no-gi game is not to be underrated. In two match-ups against Eddie Cummings at 2015 ADCC and later Polaris 3, Tanquino was able to effectively stifle the emergent leg-lock game that was Eddie’s weapon of choice during a remarkable streak of submission victories in 2015 (that year Eddie had 14 major competition matches, having won 12 by submission with 11 of those being heel hooks, his only two losses were to Tanquino and then-teammate Garry Tonon). In a recent no-gi superfight with Vagner Rocha at Fight to Win 89, Tanquino displayed his proficiency in this contemporary leg-lock game, spending a significant amount of that bout in the 50/50 position launching countless leg lock submission attempts.
Gianni Grippo has had a very successful year, having won Pans, no-gi Pans and a slate of tournaments ranging from World Pro to Kasai 1, giving him familiarity and experience in this event format. On his way to winning Abu Dhabi Grand Slam LA, Gianni beat Paulo Miyao, proving he could compete and win against his longtime rival in what could be a prelude to a contested final match at Kasai Pro 4. Gianni is equally active in no-gi and gi, and put to rest his reputation as primarily a guard player when he displayed an aggressive pressure passing game during his superfight against John Calestine in Kasai Pro 3.
Bruno Frazatto is a perennial contender in the featherweight divisions of gi tournaments, having faced many of the Kasai Pro 4 competitors throughout his career. However, since 2017 Frazatto has had seven superfights and only entered one tournament, the 2017 Pans where he was eliminated in the opening round by submission. One of Frazatto’s superfights in 2017 resulted in a victory over Kasai Pro 4 opponent Geo Martinez.
Geo Martinez is one of a few grapplers who trains and competes exclusively in the no-gi format, a hallmark of the 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu system. Geo has an exciting and unorthodox grappling style that won him the ADCC US Trials in 2014, with all four of his wins coming by submission, and should make for compelling matches in the Kasai tournament format. Since 2017, Geo has not won any individual tournaments, but was instrumental in his team winning the 5-man team tournament, Quintent 2, and Geo holds an overtime escape-time victory over Kasai Pro 4 featherweight competitor Ashley Williams in EBI 15.
John Calestine is a Renzo Gracie black belt and trained heavily as a member of the so-called ‘Danaher Death Squad’, a group of no-gi submission experts known for their intricate leg-lock system. Since 2017, John has been active in no-gi submission competition and won EBI 15 with an overtime escape-time victory over Geo Martinez, and holds a referee’s decision victory over Gianni Grippo from a superfight at Kasai Pro 3.
Ethan Crelinsten trains at the famous Tristar MMA gym, which has strong ties to the Renzo Gracie academy in New York where Ethan regularly visits. Ethan won the 2017 ADCC West Coast Trials after five rounds in a massive tournament bracket that included Nicky Ryan, Ricky Lule, and Marvin Castelle.
Ashley Williams is the UK’s youngest black belt, and has been making appearances recently at major invitationals like EBI and Polaris. While Ashley does not have any world-level or invitational tournament wins yet, he is a promising athlete with plenty of time to grow.
Activity from 2017 to present:
Ethan Crelinsten (4 tournament victory points)- 2018: ADCC East Coast Trials Winner (+2), 2017: ADCC West Coast Trials Winner 2017 (+2)
Paulo Miyao (16 tournament victory points)- 2018: ACBJJ World (+2), World Pro (+2), Abhu Dhabi Grand Slam London (+2), Abu Dhabi Grand Slam (+2), 2017: ACBJJ Worlds (+2), ACBJJ 8 (+2), ACBJJ 6 (+2), ADCC Rio Trials (+2)
Gianni Grippo (11 tournament victory points)- 2018: Pans (+3), Abu Dhabi Grand Slam (+2), No-gi Pans (+2), 2017: World Pro (+2), Kasai Pro 1 (+2).
John Calestine (2 tournament victory points)- 2018: EBI 15
Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes (2 tournament victory points)- 2018: ACBJJ 9
Written by Emil Sandoz-Rosado of the Grappling Rewind Podcast