SubStars at the Fillmore Preview

The final line-up for the latest SubStars event has been announced and it is already in the early running for most-stacked event of the year. Scheduled for the 21st of February in Miami, Florida the card boasts 15 submission only super-fights with over half of the bouts being contested between top-ten ranked athletes in their respective divisions.

Honestly, any of the matches on the top half of the card could easily serve as the main-event of any other super-fight event. We’re absolutely spoilt for choice.

On top of the pure grappling there will be a round-robin celebrity sumo tournament between UFC standouts and pure sumo athletes. If nothing else it will hopefully introduce fans to professional sumo beyond the usual stereotype of fat men in diapers knocking each other over.  We break it all down below.

Substars Grappling Superfights

Garry ‘The Lion Killer’ Tonon vs Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier

The card was set to be headlined by ‘The Lion Killer’ Garry Tonon against ‘The Diamond’ Dustin Poirier. Tonon has pulled out of Substars however after he suffered a gnarly cut on the eyelid of his left eye that would put his next MMA fight in jeopardy. At this time, it’s unclear if a replacement will be found or if this match will be run back some time down the line. We hope it’s the latter as the match promised to be absolute fireworks. In a great show of generosity Tonon had also pledged to donate the money earned from his ticket sales for the Substars PPV to the We Defy Foundation.

Roberto’ Cyborg’ Abreu vs Rafael Lovato Jr 

Cyborg looks to continue his recent streak of dominance as he takes on Lovato Jr. The Fight Sports heavyweight has racked up an impressive run of victories over the last 12 months, taking out the 2019 IBJJF Heavyweight Grand Prix, the 2019 IBJJF World No-Gi Championship and the Kasai Pro 7 Heavyweight Tournament. Cyborg looks to continue his winning ways against Rafael Lovato Jr, who returns to the super fight circuit after relinquishing his Bellator Middleweight Title due to his cavernoma. While it is unclear whether Lovato will return to the cage, the former IBJJF World Champion and ADCC vet is wasting no time staying busy in the competitive grappling scene. This should prove to be a hotly contested bout between two legendary competitors.

Gordon ‘The King’ Ryan vs Aaron ‘Tex’ Johnson

This match could be billed as the battle of the BJJ anti-heroes. Both men are polarising figures, but they also share similar grappling tool-sets with remarkable leg attack games. The bout serves as a rubber-match as both men boast a win over each other from Grappling Industries events in 2016 and 2017. It’s fair to say however that Ryan’s game has improved considerably since that first defeat to Tex all those years ago. Compared to Ryan’s flawless recent record, Tex’s record has been a lot spottier. Will he be able to put his recent losing streak aside and again rise to the occasion to take another big scalp as the underdog? 

The match also features an intriguing dynamic with the spectre of mutual opponent Felipe Pena. Gordon Ryan has dropped matches to Felipe Pena twice, once by RNC and once by points in the finals of the Absolute at the 2017 ADCC. Tex, on the other hand, cemented his legacy as one of a handful of men to have ever submitted Pena in competition via heel hook at Kasai 5. The result of this match between Ryan and Tex could potentially lay the groundwork for another showdown with Preguiça. 

Like Tonon, Ryan had also generously pledged to donate the money earned from his ticket sales for the Substars PPV to the We Defy Foundation.

Keenan Cornelius vs Patrick Gaudio

The first and only time Keenan and Gaudio met in competition, the results stirred the grappling community into quite a frenzy. The semi-finals of the 2018 Worlds saw Gaudio walk away with an extremely controversial referees decision win over Keenan following a flurry of activity in the dying seconds of the match resulting in a draw on points. Gaudio, to the surprise of some, picked up the nod over Keenan despite being in deep waters earlier in the match. 

Gaudio and Keenan have been competing well in the gi lately (to the surprise of none). Both men recently took out their divisions at Euro’s (both losing to Fellipe Andrew in the Absolute Division), while Keenan recently had a strong showing against Roberto Jimenez at Who’s Number One, despite losing the match. (Jimenez is also competing on this card!) 

This bout on SubStars promises to put the matter to bed. No draws and no referee decisions this time. The match is to be contested in the gi, with a 10 minute sub-only regulation period. If there is no winner in regulation then unlimited 2 minute-long golden-score rounds will be used to determine a winner. Will we see the lapel master successfully wrap his foe up? Or will Gaudio’s relentless passing and top game prove too much for Keenan to handle? We can’t wait to see. 

Remainder of the card  (bout order TBC)

Vagner Rocha vs Thiago Moises

Enrico Cocco vs Ethan Crelinsten 

Dan Martinez vs Roberto Jimenez  

Nick Rodrigues vs Roosevelt Sousa (rematch) 

Maggie Grindatti vs Luiza Monteiro 

Jasmine Rocha vs Nathalia Santoro 

Andy Perez Vs Alex Moran 

Eduardo Roque vs Felipe Porto 

Carlos Andrade vs Hector Acosta 

Julian Perez vs Jacob Brown 

Mauricio Gomez vs Josh Garcia 

Celebrity Sumo Round Robin Tournament 

Sumo may seem like a straight-forward push and shove contest but bouts are often extremely intricate affairs decided by split-second decision-making and subtle technical details. While the bouts promised on this card probably won’t reach that particularly high level, they should prove to be entertaining nonetheless. 

For the uninitiated, sumo is an ancient Japanese sport steeped in tradition and ritual. It has survived many hundreds of years of history relatively unchanged and finds itself in the modern-era as an extremely popular spectator sport. Sumo bouts are contested in a circular ring called a dohyo. In Japan these rings are painstakingly crafted from clay and straw in the lead up to tournaments. Outside of Japan however it’s more common for a relatively hard matted surface with a slightly raised perimeter to be used.  

Competitors start the bout in the center of the dohyo. The match commences with a mutual clash of bodies (the tachiai) as soon as both competitors have touched both hands to the ground. The victor wins by forcing any part of their opponent’s body (other than the soles of their feet) to the ground, or by forcing their opponent out of the dohyo. Open handed strikes and head clashing is permitted, as is grabbing the belt (mawashi).  

While three of the men are relatively similar in weight (Rumble, Blaydes and Takeshi tipping the scale around the 200-230lb mark) Yamamotoyama weighs nearly as much the other three Substars competitors combined, tipping the scales at well over 600lbs. He also holds a significant experience advantage over the other men, having competed at the highest level in sumo in Japan for five years before being forced to retire under the cloud of a match fixing scandal. While size and experience aren’t everything in sumo, they do count for a lot. It will be interesting to see the smaller men will bring to the table against the behemoth, particularly noting the ability to open palm-strike for the two MMA standouts! 

  • Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson (22-6 MMA Record. Former #1 ranked LHW in UFC)
  • Curtis ‘Razor’ Blaydes (13-2 (1) MMA Record. Current #3 ranked HW in UFC) 
  • Yamamotoyama Ryūta (former maegashira #9) 
  • Takeshi Amitani

This event is available on Pay-Per-View.

Or for tickets to the live event, click here.

Joe Mills

Joe Mills is one of the writing staff here at Grappling Insider. Living in Auckland, New Zealand, Joe has been training out of Atos Auckland/City Kickboxing for about five years. Joe is a self-professed technique nerd and follows as much competitive grappling as he can get his eyes on. You can follow him on Instagram @obearded for cat pics and occasional training snaps.

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