I get paid to watch grappling. All I do in my free time is train, think about jiu jitsu and watch jiu jitsu, yet last night I wanted nothing more than to log out of UFC Fight Pass and close my laptop. Before I explain my disdain for Submission Underground, I want to preface it by saying I am a big Chael Sonnen fan and I think he is a great personality, but with that being said SUG needs to make some big changes.
I was critical of Eddie Bravo’s Jiu Jitsu Overtime and while it wasn’t for me, I can see why some people might like it. Unlike Jiu Jitsu OT, SUG presents itself as a full grappling match, but the truth is the vast majority of their matches go the distance and grapplers are incentivized to stall for 5 minute matches and then try their luck in overtime. 5 minutes is not enough to make a grappling match exciting and the rules can easily be exploited by people looking to stall as was the case in Mason Fowler’s first match against Craig Jones. 8 matches went to overtime last night and the ones that didn’t were mismatches like ADCC medalist Craig Jones vs. Bellator fighter Brent Primus.
While the amount of matches going to overtime is annoying, the fact that Sonnen seems to forget everything he knows about BJJ when he is on the mic is infuriating. As I mentioned, SUG matches tend to go to overtime a lot, so is it too much to ask for the commentator to know what EBI overtime rules actually are? At one point Ryan Bader transitioned from the back to an armbar position and Sonnen remarked that it should be counted as an escape for Johnson. Anyone that has watched an EBI rules event before would know that as long as you are transitioning between submission attempts the time is still live.
During the match between Cowboy Cerrone and Dos Anjos, Sonnen said he “wondered what it must be like to transition from fighting MMA with strikes to just a BJJ match” on the surface this seems like a fair comment, but when you consider Chael transitioned to compete at ADCC he could provided some insight instead of pretending he was clueless. The most infuriating moment of the night was when RDA was attempting to push off Cerrone’s leg to escape and armbar, Sonnen remarked that you can’t do that as it might look like a tap and this is wrong. RDA did a valid escape and to make matters worse, Chael has a history of controversial taps and disputing it after the fact.
Chael’s knowledge of wrestling is amazing, but when he talks about leg entanglements he often says the wrong thing completely and when you compare Sonnen’s commentary to people like Dan Strauss, Tom Barlow and Xande it is clear that Chael needs to work on his knowledge or get a co-commentator. As much as he infuriates me commentating on BJJ, I do still love Chael’s MMA analyst work.
Another aspect of SUG that annoys me beyond all else is their insistence on booking mismatches. They booked Fabricio Werdum vs. Anthony Johnson… they booked an ADCC champion and an all-time great against a guy who has been submitted by rear naked choke 5 times in his UFC career. Why on earth would you book Anthony Johnson vs. Werdum? That’s almost as bad as booking Mayweather vs. Logan Paul. They also recently booked Roberto Jimenez who is one of the best prospects on the planet against Jesse Taylor.. can you guess who won?
While these mismatches disappoint me as a fan, it also annoys me that events like Submission Underground are spending their big purse money on MMA fighters instead of investing it in young and developing talents. Events like Polaris use big named MMA stars, but they clearly use it as a way to build their talent. Having Garry Tonon face Rousimar Palhares at Polaris 3 helped to make Tonon the star his is today. Spending money on Cowboy vs. RDA does nothing for the BJJ community.
I think Submission Underground has a lot of potential and maybe post covid, Sonnen will revert back to a better commentary team, but now is the time they need to revamp the match duration, invest in BJJ talent and stop putting ageing MMA fighters in pointless matches.