“I’m going to grapple until I can’t walk,” the American mixed martial arts legend said after his Professional Submission League debut Friday against two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza Dos Santos. “I love to wrestle. I love the training and the competition.”
Stepping into a competitive arena for the first time since leaving MMA, the only man to hold UFC titles in separate weight divisions went to a scoreless draw with “Jacare” in front of roughly 1,000 submission-grappling fans at the Veterans Memorial Hall.
With the familiar face of “Big” John McCarthy officiating the action, Couture quickly looked comfortable on the large, white square mat that served as home for the evening’s eight matches.
Though he was quite a bit larger than “Jacare,” Couture, who said he was sick leading up to the match but refused to back out, could not muscle the slick jiu-jitsu man to the floor. Instead, the two circled and exchanged failed takedowns.
When action did move to the ground, “Jacare” flirted with Kimuras, armbars and triangles, but it wasn’t anything the veteran Couture hadn’t seen before.
Without a takedown, position improvement or near catch in the opening round, the score was tied 0-0 after one, though Santos’ cornerman Wallid Ismail (Pictures) loudly suggested to officials that his man should have received something for his efforts.
Couture was slippery with sweat and the Brazilian’s early explosiveness had dissipated as the bout moved into the second of two four-minute periods — the same round format for each bout on the card.
Ismail, now pounding on the canvas as he screamed for “Jacare” to attack, saw his man do little on the scoreboard, despite a solid bit of grappling on the bottom.
Tied at 0-0 after eight minutes, PSL rules mandated overtime in the form of two 60-second rounds. Neither man attacked in the first overtime period, and though they engaged in the final frame, neither landed an advantage, which forced a shrug-inducing draw from Couture.
“He’s a great competitor,” Couture said of Santos. “Very slick. Very quick. [I was] basically surviving.”
“It’s not a precursor to fighting or coming back,” he said when asked if this was the first step to an MMA comeback. “I’ve said all along under the right circumstance maybe I’d come back, but that hasn’t presented itself. No plans.”
Like “The Natural,” Marcelo Garcia has earned a reputation among fans as a man that simply cannot do any wrong. The shifty submission expert did nothing to diminish that reputation during a rather easy victory over respected grappler and mixed martial artist Jake Shields (Pictures).
Garcia, an Abu Dhabi and Mundial world champion, opened the scoring by putting Shields to the canvas with a single-leg takedown. The two deliberately rolled before Garcia locked onto Shield’s neck.
In an effort to alleviate the pressure, Shields fell to his back. Garcia adeptly secured top position and cranked, to which Shields tapped out with 22 seconds remaining in the opening round.
Vladimir Matyushenko (Pictures) and Vinicius Magalhaes earned the night’s first boos — and the only warning from officials — in the opening round of their heavyweight clash.
After a lackluster four minutes, Matyushenko managed the bout’s lone point with a controlled single-leg takedown. Magalhaes could not pull Matyushenko into his guard or return to his feet and the bout ended with the 1-0 tally.
King of the Cage veterans took to the mat when Alberto Crane (Pictures) met Joe Camacho (Pictures). Crane, who appeared to be the much larger competitor, mounted a game Camacho in the first period before adding three points for a catch on an anaconda choke.
In the second, Crane again landed a point for taking mount. He transitioned to armbar and secured Camacho’s left arm for the tapout victory.
With Rickson Gracie in his corner, Kron Gracie scored a shutout against Andy Wang. Gracie opened the scoring with a beautiful inside trip takedown. Despite protests from Wang, Kron scored three more points for an attempted Achilles lock.
The second period slowed to a crawl, and with four points in his pocket Gracie simply needed to defend positions to win.
Rafael Luvato Jr. dominated on points to defeat Roberto Camarago 7-0. Luvato Jr. put Camarago down with a single-leg takedown to take an early lead. He added three points to close out the first round by jumping into guard for a guillotine choke.
In the second frame a nice transition to armbar netted Luvato Jr. an additional three points, closing out the most lopsided win of the night.
Jeff Glover (Pictures) earned a 3-0 decision over Shane Rice (Pictures). Glover’s catch came as he transitioned into a kneebar during the opening period. The two exchanged interesting positions in the final four minutes, but Rice mustered little offense.
Mac Danzig (Pictures) took a 6-0 lead before catching Alan Zborovsky in a north-south choke. A near Kimura put the King of the Cage lightweight champion up, and he followed with another catch before finishing with the choke.