Saturday, March 11 saw Polaris host a historic women’s grand prix. Polaris 23 comprised showdowns between eight of the most dominant female jiu-jitsu athletes on the planet – including both ADCC 2022 champions, Ffion Davies and Amy Campo. These eight women duked it out on a northern English stage for a cash prize of $20,000 in what was perhaps the biggest women’s event in jiu-jitsu history.
The heavily talent-stacked bracket was eventually whittled down to a final showdown between longtime rivals ADCC queen Amy Campo and no-gi world champion Elisabeth Clay – with Clay eking out the win this time on a single point.
However, getting to the finals was no small feat for either athlete, both of whom faced a night of absolute war on the mats with some of the most talented female grapplers alive. In an event that saw seven matches total, five of them ended in submission victories – speaking to the ferocity of the talent pool on this card.
It was a performance that bodes well for the future of women’s jiu-jitsu. It also sends a clear message to any promotions looking for female athletes: these ladies go for the kill.
FULL GRAND PRIX RESULTS
Ffion Davies def. Giovanna Jara (Points, 4-1)
In an early matchup between the smallest – but arguably pound-for-pound best – grappler on the card, in Welsh ADCC queen Ffion Davies, versus the largest, in Dream Art’s Giovanna Jara, the ADCC champ pulled guard immediately to avoid a takedown battle with the far heavier Jara. Each athlete scored a point under Polaris rules for a sweep apiece, before Ffion found her way to a second sweep and lightning-fast back take against Dream Art’s brown belt sensation in the waning minutes of the match. A slick transition to mount earned Ffion a fourth point. Though Giovanna was eventually able to reverse the position, it was too little too late. Ffion finished the match with a three-point lead, securing her victory.
Ffion Davies scores a big takedown! 💥#Polaris23 is LIVE NOW on #UFCFIGHTPASS pic.twitter.com/x9J7PoRekq— UFC FIGHT PASS (@UFCFightPass) March 11, 2023
Elisabeth Clay def. Joanna Dineva (Submission, Reverse Triangle)
Elisabeth Clay pulled guard straightaway on Joanna Dineva, the IBJJF no-gi Euros champ. Famous for her unusual style of attacking from turtle, Dineva dropped into her signature position. Clay, unfazed, captured Dineva’s back. Dineva countered with an attack attempt on Clay’s knee – in an interesting mirror of their last matchup at ADCC trials. Clay, continuing to look utterly unencumbered, shook Dineva off, grabbing a gift wrap grip to set up a reverse triangle. The entry into the submission allowed Clay to chain several other submission attempts, including her notorious gogoplata. Dineva briefly managed to scramble out of danger, but her insistence on continually returning to turtle to hunt Clay’s legs also opened her up to another onslaught of attacks from Clay. Eventually, Clay found her way back to that initial reverse triangle position – and this time, she earned the tap.
Elisabeth Clay with a slick triangle 🔺#Polaris23 is LIVE NOW on #UFCFIGHTPASS pic.twitter.com/e6AiLjQPeF— UFC FIGHT PASS (@UFCFightPass) March 11, 2023
Amy Campo def. Julia Maele (Submission, Rear Naked Choke)
ADCC champion Amy Campo squared off against Norway’s Julia Maele in a match that opened with the first true wrestling sequence on this card. Campo scored the first takedown, with Maele – the smaller of the two athletes – wisely locking up closed guard on the way to the mat. However, it didn’t take Campo long to force her way out of closed guard – and Maele’s briefly-considered leg lock setups didn’t do much to faze the ADCC champ. Campo fired back with an ankle lock setup of her own, before electing for a smash pass into a reverse cradle. From there, Campo climbed onto Maele’s back, where the ADCC champion very efficiently locked up a rear-naked choke to secure a submission victory.
Amy Campo locks in the choke #Polaris23 is LIVE NOW on #UFCFIGHTPASS pic.twitter.com/coFTnwkeam— UFC FIGHT PASS (@UFCFightPass) March 11, 2023
Brianna Ste-Marie def. Maggie Grindatti (Submission, Armbar)
ADCC silver medalist and Canadian sensation Brianna Ste-Marie opened her match against Atos star Maggie Grindatti with a guard pull before immediately wrestling up to hunt for the back. Though Grindatti defended with a well-timed scramble, Brianna snatched a kimura trap from bottom half guard. Grindatti attempted to roll free – but Brianna wasn’t having it, and insisted on the position by trapping Grindatti’s leg. Ste-Marie’s momentary switch to a wristlock finally gave the Atos representative a chance to escape and hunker down into top position. Ste-Marie, however, hung on to half guard, and stepped over into a nasty-looking armbar for the tap – making her the fourth woman in the bracket to move on to the semis.
Brianna Ste-Marie gets it done! #Polaris23 is LIVE NOW on #UFCFIGHTPASS pic.twitter.com/J7oEzaXJzT— UFC FIGHT PASS (@UFCFightPass) March 11, 2023
Elisabeth Clay def. Ffion Davies (Submission, Toehold)
In this first ever matchup between Clay and Davies, we saw a double guard pull, though Ffion immediately came on top with a knee cut attempt. A scramble sent both women into a leglock shootout. Though Ffion attempted to regain top position, another vicious scramble put Elisabeth deep into heel hooking territory on the ADCC champ. A brutal toehold finally earned the tap from Ffion, who was seen returning gingerly to her feet post-match, as Clay took home the victory.
Amy Campo def. Brianna Ste-Marie (Submission, Rear Naked Choke)
ADCC heavyweight champ Amy Campo wasted no time taking down the smaller and lighter Ste-Marie. Brianna, however, rallied by playing from half guard, a position from which she’s traditionally been highly dangerous. Campo went to work with top pressure, forcing Ste-Marie repeatedly to her back. Ste-Marie recovered a sitting guard, but Campo dove into a knee slide pass that put her on Brianna’s back. Brianna proceeded to hunt for a leg entanglement that forced another scramble – and while Brianna remained on bottom, she began to employ a more aggressive guard game. Campo, though, was still able to force Ste-Marie on to the defensive for the majority of this exchange – and ultimately submitted Ste-Marie with an unusual rear-naked choke attack from side control.
Elisabeth Clay def. Amy Campo (Points, 1-0)
The finals of this grand prix treated us to a showdown between two young, gifted, and fiercely competitive rivals. Clay and Campo, who currently hold both multiple victories and multiple losses against each other on some of the biggest stages in the world, once again went after blood in a rivalry that is quickly becoming the stuff of combat sports legend. Clay, characteristically, pulled a sitting guard. Much of the match saw the unstoppable force of Campo’s passing pressure colliding with an immovable object of Clay’s tremendously tricky guard work. With less than two minutes remaining and a score of zero-zero, Clay finally managed to score one point against Campo for a sweep, thanks to Campo falling back for a failed leg attack.
After a day of brutal submissions, and time running short on the clock, that single point ultimately won Elisabeth Clay the match – and $20,000 in cash. It’s a testament not only to Clay’s grit, but also her tactical brilliance, and ability to adapt her game to almost any ruleset.
With victories over both ADCC 2022 champions under Clay’s belt now, the Ares BJJ phenom — who’s still only 22 years old — may have already cemented her spot as a true superstar of the sport with this weekend’s performance.