On August 18, Kasai Pro 3 will finally kick off, showcasing some of jiu-jitsu’s top competitors in three superfights and an eight-man tournament organized into two round-robin brackets. The matches are using a unified IBJJF ruleset with all submissions legal, with match lengths of 15 minutes. The last two Kasai Pro events have been unforgettable, and from the looks of it, the third installment will be just as exciting.
Here’s what to expect in the superfights:
Craig Jones vs. Rousimar Palhares
In perhaps the most anticipated matchup on the card, the rules for this superfight deviate from the other two in that it will only go to ten minutes, with a five-minute overtime under Kasai rules. Palhares walked away with three heel hooks to become the 2011 ADCC runner-up: a feat that will be difficult to replicate against Jones. A purple belt only two years ago, Jones has aligned himself with the Danaher Death Squad in preparation for the New York-based Kasai tournament. Palhares comes in to finish with bad intentions and makes headlines for that reason. If the 2016 Polaris matchup between Garry Tonon and Palhares is any indication, this match could potentially be one for the ages.
Gilbert Burns vs. AJ Agazarm
The 2011 lightweight world champion, “Durinho” Burns walked away from a full-time jiu-jitsu career to pursue MMA, currently with nine UFC fights under his belt while managing to stay modestly active on the jiu-jitsu scene. “Durinho” holds a win over Agazarm from a superfight in 2014, a point victory that will certainly be on Agazarm’s mind coming in. Agazarm, for his part, took this match after some heated back-and-forth on social media with 10th Planet star Geo Martinez — Martinez had originally accepted Agazarm’s challenge to denounce 10th Planet if he lost, but later had to pull out of the match due to injury. Burns stepped in to take his place and will now face Agazarm, who has a formidable wrestling background and was the runner-up at last year’s ADCC championship.
Gianni Grippo vs. Jon Calestine
In a cross-town rivalry that pits the Marcelo Garcia product against a leg lock specialist, this 150 pound no-gi Manhattan matchup promises to provide a lot of movement and calculated leg entanglements. The EBI 15 champion Calestine trains under his coach Daisuke Yamaji (Renzo’s first Japanese black belt and nogi specialist), Eddie Cummings and at Bancho MMA with Matt Kaplan where Jon also teaches classes. Grippo comes in with a more seasoned pedigree, being a four-time Pan American Champion at the black belt level. It should be noted that this super fight is 15 minute match and a referee decision if no one gets submitted. It will be interesting to see how the “All About the Bolo” artist Grippo will approach the rising star in Calestine, given that both of their games are very much effective at countering the other.
Here is a breakdown of the competitors in the round-robin tournament:
CheckMat representative Canuto comes in holding the Kasai Pro lightweight title as well as the 2017 IBJJF No-Gi World Champion title at his weight class. Canuto performed strongly at Worlds in 2018, defeating the likes of Victor Silverio, Vitor Oliveira, and Michael Langhi before succumbing to Lucas Lepri in the final of the lightweight division. The dazzling passing and explosive takedown game of Canuto should play to his favor in the Kasai rule set.
Rocha holds the rare distinction of being both a UFC and ADCC veteran, the premier organizations of MMA and submission grappling, respectively. Having taken home bronze in the 77-kg division at ADCC 2017 with a victory over Garry Tonon, Rocha has been active on the competitive superfight scene since. The Combat Jiu-Jitsu Champion holds a 14-4 MMA record with eight victories via submission, notable in that he continued to compete at the highest levels of jiu-jitsu throughout his fighting days.
The Bellator and UFC veteran is coming in with a professional MMA record of 24-7 with thirteen victories by way of submission: a relatively seasoned career considering he is only 26 years old. “The Polish Prodigy” holds a black belt out of Gracie Barra Bastion Tychy, receiving the distinction after twelve years of training at the age of 21 to make him the youngest black belt in Poland. A legend of the Polish grappling scene, Held recently won his first ACB MMA fight by way of heel hook. Two of his three matches at the Quintet tournament in April were won by way of kneebar, and it will be interesting to see if history repeats itself at Kasai 3.
Less than a year removed from his narrow overtime defeat to Vagner Rocha at EBI 13, the Eddie Bravo black belt is only gaining momentum as he heads into Kasai 3. Barch is coming off a monumental team victory for 10th Planet in Japan at Quintet 2, serving as leadoff hitter in the team tournament format. Barch displayed strong performances in both submission-only matches, dominating positionally for a majority of the matches and helping the team in eliminating both of his opponents from continuing on in the tournament. Based out of Southern California, the 10th Planet Spring Valley head instructor is giving up weight to some of his competitors, which could play to his favor based on the clinch-favoring 10th Planet style.
Flying in from Japan is Iwasaki, a Marco Barbosa black belt that holds a notable win over Kasai Pro Champion Renato Canuto at the 2018 IBJJF European Open. Iwasaki is coming off a strong win against Hugo Marquez at the Spyder Invitational, displaying beautiful half-guard transitions and winning in dramatic fashion with a sweep as time expired. A native of the city of Kobe, Iwasaki is fighting out of Team Carpe Diem in Tokyo, noted to be one of the strongest teams in Asia. Iwasaki also holds a victory in 2018 over Kasai 3 super fight competitor Gilbert Burns in addition to a win over Edwin Najmi at the European Open. He has as good a chance as anyone at turning a lot of heads this weekend.
Although only a brown belt, Lutes defeated five fighters in the Kasai 3 Pro qualifiers to take his rightful place on this loaded card. Lutes comes in as a two time IBJJF No-gi world champion and a five-time No-Gi Pans champion. A representative of the Marcelo Garcia academy, Lutes also holds extensive experience training with the Miyao brothers at Unity Jiu-Jitsu. Lutes has been ramping up the medals in 2018, with golds at the New York BJJ Pro Open, the IBJJF New York Spring Open, and the IBJJF Washington DC Spring Open. Lutes will get his opportunity to make a career statement in the Hammerstein Ballroom as a local favorite.
Andre Galvao black belt Perez is looking to improve on his second place finish in the 185-pound division at Kasai 2. The two-time ADCC Trials champion is coming up on one year as a black belt in October, continuing his growth with the Atos team from his move to San Diego in 2013 as a blue belt. The 2016 Atos Brown Belt of the Year recently fought to two victories and two defeats at the World Series of Grappling tournament. Perez may find these rulesets favorable as he won no-gi Worlds as both a purple and brown belt.
The Matt Serra black belt and Renzo Gracie competitor comes in with the backing of the Danaher squad, being a regular in the submission-only scene as he enters Kasai 3. Rau is certainly no stranger to elite competition, being highly active as a superfight competitor and training with the best of the best when it comes to no-gi grappling. He presents with a dangerous reverse de la riva guard, a position which he has released content for and fits perfectly in line with the leglock game. Look out for his “Kiss of the Dragon” sweep, which he uses to take the back and enter leglocks.
Tune in to FloGrappling on August 18 to catch all of the action. The undercard starts at 6 PM eastern time and the main card starts at 8 PM eastern time.