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Third Coast Grappling 8: The Underdogs HOT TAKE

October 20, 2021

Written exclusively for FITE By Danny O'Donnell

For the first time in the promotion's history, Third Coast Grappling will venture away from its native Houston to bring its unique brand of jiu-jitsu to Phoenix, Arizona. On Saturday, October 23rd, in an event appropriately dubbed "The Underdogs," eight of the sport's best grapplers at 180 lbs. will take on a group of mainly local grapplers looking to make a name for themselves and catapult their status from underdog to elite.

Since the start of the pandemic, live entertainment companies have struggled to adapt and find a way to promote their shows while navigating rules and regulations that seemed to be changing on a daily basis. For Third Coast Grappling, it was no different. Per President/CEO Ryan McGuire, "The main struggles during COVID were all the drastic changes. We went from a live crowd driven business to losing our ability to keep going. We got creative and we drove forward. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't easy, but we are better off having went through that phase."

From these struggles, however, Third Coast course corrected and is now in a better position than ever. McGuire partnered with Fight to Win CEO Seth Daniels, who has helped to breathe new life in the organization. Seth's contributions include better production quality and the means to take the show on the road, among other things.


Partnering with Seth has been great. It started with us working together on Fight to Win and then I pitched the idea of us piggybacking the Fight to Win schedule once a month around the country and moving forward with our expansion. He has been nothing but helpful and supportive. As far as new life, he gave us the ability to leave Houston and hit markets he's built and grown over the years with his analytics. It's been great and we have a lot of great things planned for rest of this year and 2022."

The "Underdogs" event will be the first event using this new format, and the first round match ups have fans eagerly awaiting the action on Saturday night. The "Elite 8" consist of Jeferson Guaresi, Andy Varela, Hunter Newton, Oliver Taza, Renato Canuto, Estevan Martinez, Pat Downey, and Jake Shields. These grapplers have won important tournaments such as No Gi Worlds, No Gi Pans, and ADCC Trials, among NCAA wrestling and mixed martial arts credentials.

Looking to put their names on the map and move into "elite" status are Kemoy Anderson, Gabriel De Los Santos, Erik Anderson, Adrian Nez, Thiago Aso, Aaron Wilson, Geno Morelli, and Eric Alequin. Although these grapplers are lesser known than the elite, they are well known in their local grappling communities and have competed and won important matches in jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts competition.

On paper, one of the favorites of the bracket is Jeferson Guaresi. He represents Unity Jiu-Jitsu and received his black belt from one of the sport's best coaches in Murilo Santana. Although Jeferson has won both gi and no-gi events, his most significant accomplishments at black belt have been in IBJJF no-gi tournaments. Jeferson is a two time No-Gi Pan Champion and recently won gold as a medium-heavyweight at the 2021 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds. His ability to wrestle up from the bottom position to score sweeps and his dynamic guard passing will present problems for anyone in the division.

Oliver Taza is another elite level grappler who will be at the top of the list of favorites to take the division. Taza is a product of the Renzo Gracie lineage, having done much of his training under John Danaher and Gordon Ryan. Danaher is widely considered one of the brightest minds in the sport. He's revolutionized the leg lock game, creating a systematic way of attacking heel hooks that his athletes have proven to work at the highest levels of competition. Taza most recently won the ADCC European Trials, punching his ticket to the ADCC World Championships in Las Vegas in 2022. Look for Taza to implement his precise leg attacks and guard passes to advance through the bracket in Phoenix.

A third favorite in the bracket is Renato Canuto. Canuto represents team Checkmat and has been winning important titles in the sport since he earned his black belt in 2016. He's known for his dynamic style and amazing athletic abilities, often jumping and/or back flipping past his opponent's guards. His most significant accomplishments in no-gi competition include winning a No-Gi World title and the Kasai Grand Prix.

A fourth and final favorite is mixed martial arts legend Jake Shields. In addition to being a highly accomplished fighter in the cage and winning the Strikeforce Middleweight title, Jake also has plenty of submission grappling accolades. Among his most important grappling accomplishments are a first place finish at the IBJJF Pan Ams and a bronze medal finish at ADCC.

While the credentials of the "elite" competitors may have you thinking that the underdogs stand no chance, think again. Adrian Nez is a black belt under Gustavo Dantas and has been competing in no-gi among the best black belts in his division since he was a purple belt. Nez is a guard player who likes to enter into various leg entanglements and attack heel hooks. He's found a lot of success recently in the Sapateiro Invitational tournaments, winning the 205 lb. title in August. Nez's first round match is against Oliver Taza. This match will likely be a leg lock shootout as both men excel in lower body submissions.

Another "underdog" to keep your eyes on is Aaron Wilson. Aaron is a black belt under Augusto "Tanquinho" Mendes, one of the best competitors of all time. Under Tanquinho, Aaron has placed a much greater emphasis on his no-gi training, adding skills to complement his already impressive takedowns. His first round matchup is against the "Giant Slayer," Estevan Martinez. If Aaron advances, he'll likely take on Renato Canuto in a match that is guaranteed to entertain.

If the 3CG8: The Underdogs is any indication, the promotion is going to garner plenty of attention going forward. Ryan McGuire states, "it's scary planning too far ahead. But seriously, we'll be hitting a new city every month in 2022. We'll get West Coast Grappling and East Coast Grappling out there and branded. We're going to continue to spread our brand of grappling to the world and having a good time doing it."

You can catch 3GC8: The Underdogs live from the Sheraton Hotel in Downtown Phoenix or order the global pay-per-view exclusively on FITE on Saturday, October 23 at 9:00pm/6:00pm ET/PT. Check out the live and free event prelims on FITE at 8:00pm/5:00pm ET/PT by clicking HERE.