What is the greatest no-gi grappling match of all time?

Jiujitsu and grappling fans often debate this question – what is the best grappling match of all time? You could be just trying to find the best match to watch on YouTube, or looking to introduce a friend to the wonderful world of grappling but not sure if they are into 20 minutes of two guys scissoring each other in 50/50.

There are a number of possible candidates, but as we have a close connection with the professional jiujitsu show Polaris, we have a slightly biased viewpoint. However, we think we can make a strong case that Garry Tonon vs Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares, held at Polaris 3, is the greatest no-gi match of all time.

It currently stands at 1.7 million views on YouTube – an incredible feat.

The match took place in England at Polaris 3, on April 2, 2016. Garry Tonon was one of the hottest prospects in grappling at that time, submitting everyone. He asked Polaris if he could fight Palhares. Initially, the team at Polaris were hesitant. At that time, Toquinho had a reputation for injuring his opponents – wilfully. In fact, he had been let go from the UFC for exactly that reason. The man was big, strong, and dangerous. Garry had been very small for his previous Polaris outing against Imanari.

However, the team at Polaris managed to make the match happen, and from the second it was signed, the banter from Garry started. People could not believe the size of that man’s testicles – understandable. Palhares was – and remains – a formidable foe.

I was, in fact, matside for that event, and my heart was in my mouth for this match, almost literally. I was sweating and my heart was pounding. I had no idea what was going to happen. Palhares had cut a lot of weight to get down to the agreed upon 83kg, whereas Garry had been eating all the burgers he could find to get up somewhere near 83. 24 hours later and Palhares was looking absolutely monstrous. When he took off his Scramble hoody, the whole place erupted in ooh’s and aaah’s.

And then, the match started. I felt as if I was holding my breath the whole time, and the match did not disappoint. While Palhares was able to dictate some of the positions using his overwhelming strength and size, Tonon was not phased in the slightest, and transitioned smoothly from defence to offence, having the big man in a lot of trouble. It was my personal opinion that, had the match continued, Garry would have ended up with a submission on the little treestump.

When speaking to Palhares afterwards, he made it clear that he was on his best behaviour during that match. He was hinting that he had ‘held back’ a little, in order to make amends for his previous bad behaviour. Whether that was true or not, it made for an incredibly entertaining match.

See for yourself!

If you’re interested in some of the techniques exchanged in this match. the video from our library currently most suited would be Tom Halpin’s exploration of leg locks and modern jiujitsu:

Plus, you could take a look at the free Masakazu Imanari ‘Master of Leglocks’ video, which unlocks as soon as you open an account here on Techniqly.