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Metamoris 5 will renew old rivalries, and invent some new ones

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Metamoris

Metamoris works in mysterious ways. It’s a jiu-jitsu competition that features underworld greats like Rodolfo Vieira and André Galvão, but at the same time offers a platform for Brendan Schaub, who ran hot laps around Roberto "Cyborg" Abreu for 20 straight minutes one time back in 2013.

In the specific martial arts just as in the mixed, a refusal to engage can technically be called tactical (and vice versa). When Schaub peeled away, the Los Angeles crowd didn’t boo in drunken Neanderthal unison; they merely tsk-tsked.

But what I like about it is that for some reason the whole thing strikes me as a visit inside the Gracie family’s collective head. The golden-lit ceremonial look with the pristinely white canvas is the most Gracie backdrop ever. The exclusivity that sometimes leaves the media off the guest list. Very Gracie. The gong clashes. The vaguely Illuminati symbol at the center of things. The Sons of Anarchy cast in the front row. The idea that analyst Jeff Glover may just get up mid-commentary, strip off his clothes and weave limbs with Baret Yoshida, leaving Kenny Florian to fend for himself.

That’s how the Gracie’s do. When Kron Gracie and Shinya Aoki were aided by a human bunker at Metamoris 2, just as they were about to topple off the canvas, people understood. The rules are rules, but everything else is malleable (including the rules themselves).

The Gracie’s have long ruled taboo. In fact, they’ve turned the trick of making taboo fun.

What I can also dig, though, is that Metamoris founder Ralek -- as well as the sport’s spiritual stilt, Royce -- have long had an eye on old rivalries. Eddie Bravo and Royler went at it at Metamoris, and it was like vintage vinyl -- like Iggy Pop and Bowie together on TV Eye Live 1977. That’s not the worst vibe to operate under.

Saturday afternoon’s main event between Renzo Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba at Metamoris 5 carries those deep cuts that connect everything the modern world has ever known jitz-wise. The 45-year old Sakuraba is making only his second visit to compete in the States, the first being when he fought Royce in 2007 in Dynamite!. Metamoris has been trying to get "The Gracie Killer" for a long time, but -- as a sort of Japanese Bigfoot -- he’s been very elusive.

Well, Metamoris finally got him. And when he and Renzo come together at the Long Beach Convention Center (card starts at 2 p.m. PT, available as a PPV webcast), it’s all about the historical roots: Renzo, who has spawned a thousand fighters within the MMA landscape, and Sakuraba, the masked man who became an icon in Japan in the aughts, the sport’s first great entertainer.

And they have history.

It was Sakuraba who broke Renzo’s arm with a reverse ude-garami arm lock -- otherwise known as a "Kimura" -- when Renzo refused to tap at Pride 10. Back then Sakuraba was collecting Gracie scalps and hanging them above his mantel. But that he got it done with a "Kimura" was also an extra twist of the dagger. It was Masahiko Kimura that traveled from Japan to Brazil and tapped Helio Gracie using his namesake hold in 1951.

The Gracie-Kimura-Sakuraba/evolution of jiu-jitsu/Japan vs. Brazil thing is vintage theater, with strings extending back to the documented origins. And once again, it’s Sakuraba who is entering a Gracie domain. The longest MMA fight in recorded history occurred between Sakuraba and Royce at a 16-man grand prix in Pride in 2000. That fight had special rules instituted by Gracie, which allowed for no referee stoppages, and no time limits.

Royce lasted 90 minutes before his corner threw in the towel. Sakuraba went on to fight Igor Vovchanchyn that same night. He hung on for 15 minutes before succumbing to exhaustion.

Now here is Sakuraba showing up to compete in a Gracie-ran promotion, operating in the Gracie realm one last time -- a sort of afterword bout with the all the chapters already written and read -- just for the chance to break Renzo’s other arm. The original mercenaries, 92 years old combined, coming together for one chance to do each other harm.

Not bad.

Metamoris 5 has the usual fringe intrigues, too, such as a bout between UFC contender Rory MacDonald and J.T. Torres. And with Kevin Casey out with an injury, Metamoris ran a very Gracie-like open call for the chance to beat Vinny Magalhaes and make $10,000. It was like back when Rorion Gracie was advertising to beat anybody up before helping found the UFC.

The person selected to stand in against Magalhaes is brown belt Matheus Diniz, who trains with Marcelo Garcia. On a few days notice, Diniz gets a chance to fight for $10,000 like a hired gun, like a bounty hunter.

All of which, of course, is very Gracie.