It was a bold move for KASAI to run their Super Series event in Orlando on the Fourth of July, but there were fireworks both on and off the mat.
KASAI President Rolles Gracie and KASAI CEO Rich Byrne both asked me after the event if I thought it was the most exciting show to date, and I found it hard to say no.
There was the controversy over whether Dante Leon– down by one point with the scoreboard at 5-4 in the last 20 seconds– had scored a takedown as the time ran out or whether Renato had avoided the score by initiating a guard pull.
The referees took a long look at the video replay and determined that the result went in favor of Canuto. Until that point it had been a frenetic exchange of takedowns, flying submissions and more– words don’t do the match justice, it’s best to watch it for yourself.
It's a good thing I'm not a referee. I was convinced at the time that it was two points for Dante, but the video did show Canuto puling guard at the beginning of the sequence. He's such a smart competitor and knows how to play the rules so well, refs need to be on top of their game to get it right with him.
Leon was reflective in defeat and called Canuto "the best grappler in the world at 77kg". He made no excuses, but felt that there were multiple times during the match where he should have been awarded points for various attacks. "But I can't say too much, just get back to work and hope for a rematch soon."
Vagner Rocha’s use of the “python” spurred vigorous debate once again. The infamous smother choke he uses from his vice-like back control is a divisive tactic. Some people– mostly Brazilians, I should add– hate the technique and consider it unsportsmanlike and ill-mannered. Vagner is unrepentant and he played up to the crowd and the cameras when he managed to put it on toward the end of the match, no doubt aware of the comments that would fly in!
Rocha takes great pride in the fact that one of his videos on our Instagram page gained over 1000 comments as people went to war over whether his move was dirty or not. The discussion isn’t slowing down, and right now the latest post has around 350 comments, plus another +200 on our Facebook. Insane.
The main card saw five submissions out of 12 matches, five matches won by points, one match decided via sudden-death overtime, and one decided via a penalty.
In the matches won on the scoreboard, there were never less than 4 points scored; the matches went 8-0, 5-0, 6-3, 4-2 and 5-4.
With submissions, high-scoring matches and more than a dash of controversy, KASAI Super Series Orlando definitely proved to be one of their most explosive events to date.