Grande, Grey, Kovalchuk Advance Through Day One at Nationals

Day one of the 2018 Canadian Amateur National Championship is in the books from Lethbridge, Alta.

Only three bouts were needed to wrap up day one of three at the Servus Sports Centre, setting the stage for the semi-finals and finals.

Jett Grande was dominant in a submission victory by kimura over Jackson Fontaine, just 2:14 into the first round of their welterweight bout.

Grande (5-0) said he was happy to be able to get in and out quickly without taking any damage, and refocus for day two.

Jett Grande 2018 Canadian MMA Nationals
Jett Grande reacts to his victory on day one of the 2018 Canadian Amateur National Championship. (Photo by Joel Griffith)

“It was good. I got the first round submission, and I was able to take him down to the ground where I’m comfortable,” said Grande in an interview.

“I thought it was a good first fight overall.”

This is Grande’s first taste of Nationals, with the elimination-style format, in his young career.

While having to win three fights in three nights may seem daunting to some, Grande said it actually excites him.

“I’m kind of excited because it gives me the opportunity to go 3-0 in just three days,” said Grande.

“I could be 7-0 when it’s all done, and if I’m 7-0, there’s a good chance I’ll be ranked number one in Canada. This is a big opportunity and I’m very excited.”

In the featherweight bracket, Justin Grey earned a unanimous decision victory, and first victory of his amateur career, over one of the top featherweights in Canada, Justin Knoepfli.

Grey (1-2) said after the first round didn’t go his way, he and his corner made some changes ahead of the second round, which proved to be the difference.

Justin Grey 2018 Canadian Nationals
Justin Grey in action against Justin Knoepfli during day one of the 2018 Canadian Amateur National Championship. (Photo by Joel Griffith)

“I felt like I was starting to tire him out, so I just used that to my advantage, used my wrestling, and exhausted him,” said Grey in an interview.

Grey will move onto Friday’s gold medal match, and will see a very familiar face standing opposite him.

He will face his teammate and cornerman from Dynamic MMA, Albaraa Atmeh to determine the featherweight gold medalist.

Grey said he’s still going to bring his “A” game and compete for the sport, but he’s curious to see what it’s going to feel like.

“Regardless of what happens, he’s my teammate. We’re a family,” said Grey.

“No matter what happens, Dynamic comes out on top. It’s win-win either way.”

“We’re a family, and brothers will fight. But no strangers come between us,” said Dynamic MMA head coach Vince Gentile.

Also moving onto Friday’s gold medal finals will be Dan Kovalchuk, after earning a hard-fought submission victory by locking in a triangle choke on Shawn Sitthikoun at 2:00 of the second round.

With Sitthikoun taking the first round, Kovalchuk (3-0) turned to his endurance and jiu-jitsu to send himself to the finals.

Dan Kovalchuk 2018 MMA Nationals
Dan Kovalchuk and Shawn Sitthikoun exchange blows during day one of the 2018 Canadian Amateur National Championship. (Photo by Joel Griffith)

“In the second round, we both were huffing,” said Kovalchuk in an interview.

“But I have great belief in my cardio, and then when I saw an opportunity, I went for a takedown that I actually committed to, and it worked well.”

Much like Grey, Kovalchuk will now square off with his teammate at Canadian Martial Arts Centre, James Nelson, to determine the middleweight gold medalist.

Kovalchuk said this will be a challenging fight for him, both mentally and physically, and was initially “not excited” knowing he’ll be sharing the cage with a teammate.

“I felt uneasy with it at first,” said Kovalchuk.

“But after all, I decided that no matter what, we both came here for the sport. I will still do my best, but no matter what happens, he will always stay my teammate, and there will always be the respect between us.”