Friday’s two Grapplers Quest superfights featured Shayna Baszler vs. Penny Thomas and Bill Cooper vs. Hermes Franca in six-minute submission-grappling matches.
And while Baszler and Franca brought a combined 45 fights worth of MMA experience to the mat, the grappling-circuit veterans were the ones who proved victorious in both matches.
The action, which coincides with this weekend’s heavily promoted UFC 114 event, kicked off with Baszler and Thomas meeting in the lone female superfight of the weekend.
Baszler, a Josh Barnett protegé, owns an 11-6 career MMA record with 10 of those victories coming by way of submission. Nevertheless, she was forced to grapple defensively throughout the matchup.
Thomas was the 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club submission wrestling champion and finished second in the 2009 edition of the world championship event. A Gracie Humaitá grappler, Thomas has won numerous gi and no-gi titles in her grappling career. Her experienced showed.
In the opening moments of the bout, Thomas locked in an arm-triangle choke that looked like it might end the matchup, but Baszler rolled out of the hold and back to safety. However, Penny remained aggressive on the floor and eventually worked to her opponent’s back and locked in a match-ending rear-naked choke at the 4:22 mark.
In the afternoon’s second superfight, the 23-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu whiz Cooper outpointed Franca, 4-2.
Cooper, who also defeated Joe Stevenson at UFC Fan Expo 2009, defended several leglock attempts from Franca while maintaining top position throughout most of the matchup.
Cooper worked to the back once, but Franca was able to spin free and avoid the submission.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and former WEC lightweight champion, Franca looked explosive at times, but Cooper fought off the attacks and kept his opponent in bottom position en route to the win.
On Saturday, the Grapplers Quest superfights continue with Fredson Paixao vs. Caol Uno, Jeff Glover vs. Javier Vazquez and Takanori Gomi vs. Shane Roller.
(Pictured: Bill Cooper and Hermes Franca)