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Coaches Corner: Reflections from US Open & Legends Muay Thai

Saturday, October 26 was a big weekend for the Evolve Training Center family. 8 members of our kids and teens Jiu Jitsu team faced opponents at the US Open in San Jose, CA. While 50 miles north in San Francisco, 11 members of our Muay Thai team stepped into the ring with competitors at the Legends Muay Thai Championship. Coach J and Coach Mark were so impressed by the teams and Evolve’s performance that they’ve decided to share their competition takeaways. Enjoy this round of Coaches Corner!

BJJ US Open - Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, San Jose, CA

Saturday was the kids and teens portion of the U.S. Open tournament. We brought eight competitors and earned 7 golds to go along with 1 bronze medal. Jake Yankovskiy got the party started with an impressive submission victory (Saulo Choke). Pretty much at the same time, Dion Pautin was choking his opponent with the (Helio Gracie) choke from the guard. Both went on to win their finals match to get our first 2 gold medals of the day. Jake’s journey began a little over a year ago at Evolve and he’s been so committed and dedicated to learning Jiu-Jitsu. He told his dad, “I think it’s time for me to test myself in a competition.” He went out there and used his favorite techniques from class and was able to handle the pressure and stress of competing with ease. Jake said he was able to execute his techniques while being able to connect and listen to his coaches. We are super proud of Jake!

Likewise, Dion began his journey over a year ago and wanted to test his skills in a competition. Unfortunately for Dion, no one signed up for his division so he agreed to jump up nearly 3 weight classes (almost a 25 pound difference!). I was hesitant to allow the matches to go on with such weight disparity, but after talking it over with coaches and Dion’s parents, he said “Coach, I can do this” and he certainly did. He showed that Jiu-Jitsu can work for the smaller opponent and came away with 2 very decisive wins to earn himself a spot at the top of the podium. Very impressive!!!

Up next we had our 2 newest members of the Evolve family, Maverick Peck and Alex Martinez. These 2 youngsters bring the heat!! They’ve been with us just about a month, and they bring so much to our kids program with their skill level and willingness to push their teammates. First up was Maverick who had 3 very tough matches and submitted his first 2 opponents while showing tremendous heart and toughness to win in the finals. Alex had a tough first match, but once he found his rhythm he was an absolute terror coming from behind and submitting his opponent in the semis, then steam rolling through his opponent in the finals. Maverick and Alex were able to combine techniques they’ve learned at Evolve this past month with their already potent games to come away with victories. They have their sights set on some big tournaments next year and we are so excited to help them on their journey.

MJ Cordero was up next, and like Dion, he had to move up in weight class for this tournament. This was his best tournament by far, and he was able to take a lot of the Jiu-Jitsu he’s learned in class and apply it in competition. He came so close to turning the tables in his matches that would have definitely changed the outcome. He kept his matches very competitive and earned himself a bronze medal. Great job MJ, we can’t wait for the next one!

Jonathan Mezheritskiy, one of our most active competitors, had 3 tough matches and was able secure 2 submissions in those victories. He combined technique and mental toughness to these competition and put up a tough match for all his competitors.

Up next was Sage Gon, one of our most technical Lil Warriors. In the finals, he showcased all of his arsenal by using a leg throw (Osoto Gari) to take his opponent to the ground, demonstrating great pressure on his way to the mount then hitting a beautiful arm bar to secure his gold medal.

Last, but definitely not least, was the superstar of the day Azaiah Navarro. Azaiah went out there and just dominated his opponents, submitting all of them with his patented triangle to armbar. Azaiah is a 2 sport athlete who trains Jiu Jitsu then goes straight to his basketball games. Although he is super athletic, his timing and understanding of Jiu-Jitsu technique is what impressed me. Looking forward to seeing Azaiah take the next step on his Jiu-Jitsu journey.

All in all it was a great day for us. We didn’t bring a large group to the tournament, with a lot of our top competitors sitting out this competition (Aaliyah Cuartero, Prince Marcelino, Tre AbadDJ Sanchez, and Austin Navarro) but they played a huge part in getting the competitors ready. Teammates like Aaliyah, Domenic Martin and Angel Walsh were there to support their teammates as well. Of course it’s great to win so many medals but the teamwork and the ability to handle the pressures of competition and how it brings us all together is very gratifying. Remember we just don’t want champions on the mat but off the mat too!!

Coach J


Legends of Muay Thai - Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA

When you lose, Sunday always comes, and Monday we’re back at it. When you win however, Sunday always comes, and Monday we’re back at it. As a coach, a teacher, and a person that just wants to bring out the best in others, this is a philosophy I follow and one that I try to implement with my students.

On October 26, the Evolve Muay Thai team went out to test their skills, take risks, and seek victory at the annual Legends Muay Thai event in the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. A “magnificent 11” competitors showed heart, determination, tremendous skill set, and honor to their team, opponents, and themselves. Always a crowd pleaser, when the Evolve team steps into the ring you can bet on beautiful and intense skills, a relentless forward pressure, and an unbreakable spirit to win.

When you win, act like it was supposed to happen. After all, you put in the hard work and dedication it took to achieve victory. When you lose, forgive yourself. For you were one of the very few that took a risk to put yourself on a stage that most people won’t. This is true in competition as it is in any facet of life.

AJ Villaluna - (our kids Muay Thai Coach) perfectly executed everything he teaches our kids. Win.

Mitch Sy - dominant performance like we trained it to be. Win

Patrick Co - First ever competition. Still new to the game, great performance and gave opponent run for the money. Loss.

Tyler Tuiasosopo - dominant performance like we trained it to be. Win

Cody Huey - dominant performance like we trained it to be. Win

Johnny Gonzalez - dominant performance like we trained it to be. Win

Kris Neri - this is a tough one to swallow. I’m so impressed by his growth and grace in his fighting style. Still learning the “game” of competition, the match slipped through our fingers by a single kick. Loss

Teo Ortiz - dominant performance like we trained it to be. Win

Yang Xiong - dominant performance like we trained it to be. Win

Ramon Mata - dominant performance like we trained it to be. Win

Cameron Beliso - our kids Muay Thai Coach. In arguably the fight of the night, Cameron stepped into the ring with a much bigger opponent. “Slick Muay Thai“ is Cameron’s forte and he danced and traded with his game opponent. Through cheers and tremendous energy from the crowd, the two traded blow for blow, elbow for elbow. Unfortunately, we walked away with a loss via stoppage in one of the nights most entertaining bouts.

In our team’s main event, Tre Abad took a bout in 1 and a half week’s notice to fight for the 82lb Legends Title, after a kid dropped out of the original bout. Not much for training camp, Tre was game for the opportunity. It’s not easy for anyone, adult or child, to step into the bright lights of any situation. And bright lights they were. Complete with a 2-story banner of Tre’s face displayed in the venue, he was a main attraction of the promotion. Although we didn’t come out with the win, it is these exact experiences that will grow and shape this young champion. Growth, humility and a definite sign that he “belongs” among the best, is what we walk away with. On to the next. Sunday came, Monday all 11 trained back at the academy.

Forgive my lack of social media posts on this. Forgive my lack of “story” for those that won, and those that didn’t. You see, the stories are told on the mat. The stories continue on the mat. The stories you’ll have with you and in your hearts forever. The stories should ground you. The stories should grow you. Never defeat you. 6 - 15 minutes is what we spend in a competition. A lifetime is what we spend on the mat. A lifetime is what I want to share with my students.

I am tremendously proud of our team. Not just the competitors. But the energy of each and every student of our academy that bring their positive energy and discipline and share it towards the success of us all. “Martial arts competition is a solo sport built on the backs of your team.”

To many more stories, and a lifetime of skill, grace, discipline and determination. Let’s get it team!

Coach Mark