By Mike Sloan
Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
It was almost -- almost -- the perfect Cinderella story for Joe Soto Saturday night at the Eddie Bravo Invitational 4 inside the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. Soto, a veteran of Bellator MMA and current Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight, was not expected to make it too far in the 16-man let alone all the way to the finals, but “One Bad Mofo” did just that.
Soto was like a salmon weaving his way upstream in the tourney. With the heel hook as the submission of choice for the majority of the combatants, Soto fended off leg and foot attacks en route to the final bout. Standing in his way was Renzo Gracie-disciple Eddie Cummings but against him, his luck would run out and he would fall victim to the very attack he so expertly defended all night.
Cummings is otherworldly with his leg and foot locks and he tore through the tournament by submitting all opponents -- Kevin Berbrich, Russ Miura, Baret Yoshida -- Soto -- all via heel hook. Cummings made it look easy against everybody and his brilliance netted him the $20K grand prize plus $5K for each submission in regulation and entrance into the ADCC mega event in Sao Paolo in two weeks.
But the story of the night was Soto and his ascension to the finals. Though Cummings was expected to win -- he was a favorite coming into EBI4 -- but with how Soto had performed up to that point was breathtaking. Soto had vanquished Eddie Fyvie, Geo Martinez and Joao Miyao, but only Fyvie fell victim to a submission (heel hook) in regulation. The other two were toppled in overtime when Soto won via fastest submission escapes.
The table was set for Cummings and Soto and, as expected, Eddie dropped to guard and immediately attacked Soto’s feet. Cummings was relentless in his pursuit of the heel hook, but Soto was cool under pressure, even wiping his brow a few times. Soto countered every attack from his adversary, but eventually Cummings got wise to how Soto was playing the game. When Cummings applied a deep heel hook four-plus minutes in, the Californian countered. Soto didn’t expect Cummings to counter his defense and in the blink of an eye, Soto had to tap out.
“He has a very (high) level of understanding of leg locks, much more so than I anticipated in my research,” an exuberant and gracious Cummings said after his triumph. “(But) he went for a counter, which Garry (Tonon) and I work on a lot, so I actually know how to re-counter the counter, so it ended up working out beautifully.”
Cummings will have his work cut out for him at the next ADCC, but he can come close to replicating his excellence from tonight, he might have more hardware to add to his collection.
16-man Featherweight Tournament Finals
Eddie Cummings def. Joe Soto via heel hook
Eddie Cummings def. Baret Yoshida via heel hook
Joe Soto def. Joao Miyao via fastest submission escapes following overtime
Baret Yoshida def. Randall Dolf via rear-naked choke
Eddie Cummings def. Russ Miura via heel hook
Joao Miyao def. Geoff Real via rear-naked choke in overtime
Joe Soto def. Geo Martinez via fastest submission escapes following overtime
Baret Yoshida def. Dennis Dombrow via kneebar
Randall Dolf def. Joe Murphy via fastest submission escapes following overtime
Russ Miura def. Alexis Alduncin via heel hook
Eddie Cummings def. Kevin Berbrich via heel hook
Joao Miyao def. Mike Main via rear-naked choke
Geoff Real def. Dane Molina via kneebar
Joe Soto def. Eddie Fyvie via heel hook
Geo Martinez def. Sergio Perez via rear-naked choke
Women’s Superfight Results
Alyssa Wilson def. Cora Sek
Talita Alencar def. Kyra Batara via armbar in overtime
Grace Gundrum def. Jessa Khan via rear-naked choke in overtime