Tony Ramos (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
On Friday, two-time freestyle world team member Tony Ramos will return to action and face a different kind of challenge. He is scheduled to meet Nicky Ryan in a submission grappling match at FloGrappling's Who's Number One event. Ryan might be an unknown quantity to wrestling fans, but the 19-year-old competitor has been described as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu prodigy and already holds grappling victories over MMA veterans Hideo Tokoro, Masakazu Imanari, Gesias Cavalcante and Urijah Faber.
Wrestling and submission grappling have both found their place in the internet streaming era. Both sports have dedicated fan bases who will gladly plop down $9.99 per month for a subscription streaming service or $40 for a one-time pay-per-view event.
Perhaps hoping to capture both audiences, promoters have recently been creating some crossover matches. For example, 2019 world team member Pat Downey wrestled 2019 ADCC silver medalist Nick Rodriguez under modified rules. Three-time NCAA champion Bo Nickal had a grappling match against Gordon Ryan under modified rules. Downey and Ryan also competed in a two-match series with one match under submission only grappling rules followed directly by another under freestyle wrestling rules.
In all of those matches, the rules seemed to go a long way towards deciding the winner. Downey easily dispatched Rodriguez and Ryan under wrestling rules, while Ryan submitted both Downey and Nickal under grappling rules. This does bode well for Ramos' prospects for Friday night since the bout against Ryan will be a 15-minute submission-only match.
In 2019, Ryan faced off against former WEC champion Urijah Faber in a match under a very similar rule set. Throughout the match, Faber was able to establish top position and pushed Ryan physically, but he was never really able to pass guard. In the end, Ryan took the decision and the victory thanks to his ability to attack from the ground.
Due to his wrestling background, Ramos will likely present a style that looks quite similar to Faber's approach. While Faber clearly has more experience training with submissions due to his extensive MMA career, the two-time NCAA qualifier for UC Davis still relies heavily on his wrestling base.
While aggression and pressure are generally accepted as a necessity in wrestling, those attributes can actually get a competitor into a lot of trouble in submission grappling. In fact, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Darin Senneff actually highlighted this as one of the toughest transitions for a wrestler moving into competitive grappling.
"The more methodical approach in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu often leads to wrestlers putting themselves into bad spots before they know better. A smothering and grinding wrestler might get guillotined or triangled a bunch at first, because BJJ kind of encourages competitors to be comfortable in inferior positions. There's a certain false sense of security a wrestler feels relentlessly diving onto a guy when they're not used to the bottom person being a genuine threat."
While crossover matches between wrestlers and grapplers seem to be in vogue these days, it is certainly not a new phenomenon. In 1997 pay-per-view providers began souring on MMA due to political pressure and refusing to broadcast shows. In an attempt to avoid the new sport's suddenly toxic reputation, MMA promoter John Perretti came up with the idea of pitting some of the best American wrestlers against some top submission grapplers.
Veteran journalist Dave Meltzer described the event as "probably the greatest collection of athletes ever put together on one American wrestling or NHB PPV event." And it was just about the poorest attended and least exciting shows ever...
IWF formed a partnership with USA Wrestling to be an outside sanctioning body to recognize the event. But after the show was over, with several post-show arguments, that partnership was very much threatened because the wrestling side was very disappointed that the wrestlers came out of the show not looking very good. That may be a moot point because the show wasn't expected to do any kind of a buy rate, and thus it's questionable whether they would attempt the second show tentatively scheduled for 1/31."
The Contenders event is mostly remembered these days for a match that would have been a dream match in an MMA cage. Former UFC champion Frank Shamrock scored a quick leg lock submission over future Pride FC champion Dan Henderson, but that bout was not the main event.
The main event featured a name, which is much more familiar to wrestling fans. In that bout, Olympic gold medalist Kenny Monday was submitted in only 46 seconds against Matt Hume. Monday had the clear edge in wrestling and scored an extremely quick takedown. However, he then initiated a leg lock battle, and Hume trapped him in a toe hold. Following the match, Hume spoke with Steven Allspach of the Sioux City Journal.
"I imagine there was a certain amount of martial arts against wrestling incentive, you could tell by that crowd, I'm told, but there probably isn't anyone out there who reveres or respects Kenny Monday's abilities more than me."
At the end of the day, the rules set favored Hume. He had much more time and experience in submission grappling, and it paid off in the makeshift cage. Ryan will likely have the same advantage over Ramos on Friday. Despite the seemingly long odds, Ramos should be celebrated for challenging himself in a different discipline, and if fans want to pay for it, more power to them.