ONE Championship has brought submission grappling back to its live events in a big way this year.
Some of the greatest athletes in the sport inked deals to compete in the promotion, with legendary veterans and young phenoms showcasing skills inside the Circle over the past six months.
Before the next showcase goes down between Jessa Khan and Amanda Alequin at ONE 159: De Ridder vs. Bigdash on Friday, 22 July, let’s recap each of the submission grappling bouts in ONE since the calendar flipped to 2022.
Mei Yamaguchi Vs. Danielle Kelly
Former ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title challenger Mei Yamaguchi has built her reputation as an elite MMA competitor, but the BJJ black belt was ready to step up and welcome Danielle Kelly to the global stage under a different rule set.
They squared off in a 12-minute match on Part I of ONE X back in March, and it was rising star Kelly who pushed the pace against her veteran rival.
With plenty of recent grappling experience competing at prestigious events like WNO, EBI, and Quintet, the American went after Yamaguchi relentlessly throughout the contest, coming close to a finish with armbar and leg lock attempts.
However, “V.V’s” solid defense kept her alive, and with no submission inside the allotted time, the matchup went to a mandatory draw.
Still, Kelly’s high output was enough to earn her a US$50,000 performance bonus from ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong, and she vowed to get the tap in her next outing.
Reinier De Ridder Vs. Andre Galvao
The undefeated mixed martial artist had called out Galvao following his previous World Title defense against Kiamrian Abbasov in February, and the multiple-time IBJJF and ADCC World Champion gladly obliged.
De Ridder applied pressure with his wrestling for the early portion of the match, while Galvao was happy to play from his guard and look for attacks off his back. “The Dutch Knight” – a BJJ and judo black belt himself – stayed out of trouble for the most part.
But heading into the final third, Galvao switched gears and landed a single-leg takedown, which led to his most successful spell. “Deco” passed De Ridder’s guard and got to mount, but his foe managed to escape and regain his feet before the final bell.
Again, the bout was rendered a draw by default, as the 12-minute time limit had elapsed without a submission.
The pair could be on a collision course again in the future – but this time in MMA.
Mikey Musumeci Vs. Masakazu Imanari
Following the two draws at ONE X, a judging criteria was introduced that would award a decision win to the athlete with more submission attempts. However, Musumeci didn’t need the judges to claim a victory.
The 25-year-old, who’s also a fan of lower body attacks, exchanged leg entanglements with “Ashikan-Judan” at the start of the match before opting to work from top position.
Musumeci took the mount, swiftly moved to back control, and then never let up.
He trapped Imanari’s arm with his legs – severely limiting the Japanese athlete’s ability to defend his neck – and then finished the match via rear-naked choke at 4:09, impressing Sityodtong enough to get a US$50,000 performance bonus.
Kade Ruotolo Vs. Shinya Aoki
ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs. Vienot hosted the latest batch of submission grappling contests in May, with the prodigious Ruotolo brothers making their promotional debuts against experienced stars.
First, Kade Ruotolo faced off against iconic Japanese grappler and former lightweight MMA king Shinya Aoki. “Tobikan Judan” has the most submission victories in ONE history, but he couldn’t come close to securing anything against the 19-year-old phenom.
Meanwhile, Ruotolo constantly looked for innovative ways to attack, although the Japanese veteran used his savvy to survive and escape some tough spots.
It seemed like the young American could have secured the submission from a buggy choke in the dying seconds, but he ran out of time with a new limit of 10 minutes.
All was not lost though, as Ruotolo became the first competitor to benefit from the new judging criteria and earned the win via unanimous decision.
Tye Ruotolo Vs. Garry Tonon
After his twin brother’s victory, Tye Ruotolo went one better with a stunning submission of former ONE Featherweight World Title challenger and BJJ superstar Garry Tonon – breaking records in the process.
The Californian needed just 97 seconds to secure his trademark D’Arce choke against “The Lion Killer,” earning the fastest finish to date in ONE Championship submission grappling bouts.
Tonon opted to work from his back after a takedown attempt from Ruotolo, but the 19-year-old immediately went on the offensive. He passed to north-south position and started to thread his right arm under his fellow American’s armpit.
Ruotolo then cinched up his choke, trapped Tonon’s leg to stop him from escaping, and finally elicited the tap from his powerful squeeze – getting a US$50,000 performance bonus in the process.