Words: Tom Bell
Augusto ‘Tanquinho’ Mendes has revealed that he believes any hype surrounding Eddie Cummings cannot be justified until he has truly fought and beaten the undoubted best grapplers in the world. Cummings will stand across from Mendes next month in a nogi, submission only contest at Polaris Pro 3, which will be the second time that the pair have met.
The first time the duo fought was at ADCC in 2015, where Cummings tried to implement his technical leg lock game, but ultimately went on to lose a very closely contended match via a negative advantage. It was arguably the first time that Cummings had competed against somebody who is truly ‘elite’.
Cummings is a Polaris Pro veteran and Eddie Bravo Invitation winner of immense talent. Not many can call themselves a John Danaher black belt and few can argue they captured the imagination of competitive jiu jitsu fans like Cummings last year. Despite winning multiple super fights with his seemingly unstoppable leg lock game, it was a game nullified by Tanquinho.
“He attacks a lot, he goes for the foot, the heel hook, foot locks and he was one guy that I’d never fought before,” Mendes explains. “I didn’t have too much information about him because the only fights I could see him fight was at the Eddie Bravo Invitational but I’ve never seen him fight someone at the highest level.
“I beat him by a negative point because he pulled guard in overtime but I felt good against him, I wasn’t in danger at all. I know he likes to say he had me in trouble a lot of times but like, I’ve fought the best guys in the world for a long, long time. Like, for over ten years I have fought at black belt against the best guys and I’ve been submitted maybe three, four times in ten years.”
Following their match at ADCC, Mendes went on to take bronze before losing by judge’s decision to Rubens ‘Cobrinha’ Charles. He took third place with a toe hold finish over Geo Martinez. An overall glance at Tanquinho’s grappling resume and who he has fought leaves Cummings’ paling in comparison. Mendes is, after all, a 2x World Nogi Champion, World Gi Champion and 2x Abu Dhabi World Pro Champion.
“Of course, I respect his attacks and I’m not saying it’s impossible for him to catch me there, for sure he can,” states Mendes. “I’ll be ready to fight him again, ready to fight him one more time and I think that’s going to be a different approach this time because it’s submission only, I need to open up a little bit more and let’s see what happens.”
But how do you prepare specifically for an opponent with such an extensive leg lock game? Cummings will be well aware of Mendes and his skill set, but whether or not he will opt to stick with his leg lock game this time round, following a failure the last time the pair met, remains to be seen.
“Nothing will change much for me because I believe in progressive jiu jitsu,” says Mendes. “He’s going to pull guard, everybody knows that, he’s going to attack me but I need to make progress and pass his guard, put the pressure on and try to get the mount or take his back, then get the finish.
“I definitely won’t be sitting butt-to-butt with him, attacking his foot whilst he attacks mine and we see who has the most flexible feet – that’s not my game. I will put pressure on him until I get a good position, keep progressing and not going backwards, I’ll only go forwards and get the finish.”
The last time Cummings stepped onto the Polaris mats was against revered Sambo champion Reilly Bodycomb. The grappling world expected a leg lock war, but Cummings quickly emerged victorious after just two minutes with a reverse heel hook. Cummings had taken a king to his own court.
“I think he has skills, you know,” says Tanquinho on Cummings. “He’s making his name now and he’s starting winning tournaments, but I think he’s a little limited. Maybe he’s not, but from what I’ve seen he manages to submit his opponents fast with foot locks and heel hooks but we’ve not had opportunity to see him get pushed far in a fight. He looks like he’s more of a guy who will attack the feet only and he’s good at that, it works for him, so why change?
“I’ve never seen him fight Cobrinha, I’ve never seen him fight Rafa Mendes, I’ve never seen him fight Bruno Frazatto, you know? I’ve never seen him fight Lucas Lepri or JT Torres. Of course, he trains with Garry Tonon, but Garry Tonon is another one who’s never fought the toughest guys, the ones he did, he lost.”
Cummings has gone as far as suggesting that the jiu jitsu community’s reluctance to embrace leg locks, which have risen to prominence in recent submission-only formats, is because they are seen as a ‘scathing indictment’ of the way people have trained recently.
Eddie Bravo further backs up this kind of statement in a recent episode of the Joe Rogan experience, where he explains Jean Jacques Machado strongly suggested he released a toe hold when competing in Brazil many years ago because of the negative feeling towards such attacks in earlier years.
Mendes went on to say: “So, they say it’s because it’s a submission only thing, that they prefer to fight submission only fights, that’s why they don’t do good with the points system but we’re going to find out. He has his chance to fight me now and let’s see what he brings to the table.
“If he was to come along and submit Cobrinha or Rafa Mendes, submit Leandro Lo or any other guy that has been in the game so long and is winning then his fans could definitely make a point, for sure, but that’s not case. He’s beat guys who haven’t had the most success in grappling and people seem to think he’s the best in the world at what he does.
“Maybe in his mind he doesn’t need to prove himself, maybe he has a Conor McGregor mentality and that he is the best in the world and that’s it, but I think in order to truly be the best in the world then you have to beat the best. Like I said, we’ve never seen him fight the best guys in the world and the highest-level guy was probably me at ADCC and he lost. Let’s see what happens.”
Live tickets for Polaris Pro 3 are available here http://goo.gl/OizbPe
For information on the live stream, visit http://www.polaris-pro.org/
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