What: Boston Iron vs. Phoenix Rise

Where: Utah Valley Convention Center, Provo Utah

When:  Wednesday, September 7, 2016, 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET

Tickets: Click here for ticket information.

Online: Watch LIVE on GRIDTV.NPGL.com

Press conference: Post-match press conference will stream live on our Facebook page.

Starting lineups (subject to change):

Phoenix Rise

Men
Danny Nichols
Blaine McConnell
Marcus Filly
Ryan Rapenport
Braden Rubey

Craig Kenney
Bryan Miller

Women
Carmen Bosmans
Laura Poling
Valerie Calhoun
Bjork Odinsdottir
Jessica Phillips

Jamie Hagiya
Emily Loeffler

Boston Iron

Men
Chris Zardas
Mike Abgarian
Anthony DiFrancesco
Tola Morakinyo
Alec Smith

Kurt Garceau
Brandan Jones

Women
Britt Ringstrom
Quiana Welch
Jessa Lemoine
Whitney Gelin
Jaime Gold

Amanda Deller
Briana Hamilton


Overview

Well, the Gridmaster is not often wrong. Early in the season, I predicted — much to the ire of some of the winningest teams and their coaches — that the Boston Iron and the Phoenix Rise would meet in the championship match.

You can read my entire dissertation here. It takes you through the entire match in great detail. There are, however, some changes to the overall expectations both during the match and the final outcome, based on how both teams have performed to date, current personnel, injuries and more.

Key players


The Rise have played almost flawlessly this entire season. Coach Mike Lee has created gameplans that perfectly suit his team, and the team has expertly executed those plans. On the men’s side, Blaine McConnell has performed in such a way as to suggest he could easily be the league MVP.  He has consistently been a clutch player, rarely if ever faults and his Quadrant 4 strength and speed are not to be matched.

Additionally, Marcus Filly is a consistent presence through the entire GRID, working Partner Forward, the Echoes, Triads and more with panache. He is another MVP potential. Watch, too, for Braden Rubey, who is coming into his game in a big way, and Craig Kenny, the workhorse of the squad. Lastly, it goes without saying that Danny Nichols, the 2015 MVP, will be a major force in this match. Nichols has gotten better and stronger with each match, following knee surgery in the preseason. He began the season at about 80 percent strength and I believe he is at near full-strength going into the final match.  

The Iron’s men include Chris Zardas, who moves weight pound for pound with Nichols. While he may not have the same highlight reel as Nichols, has has been a major force for the Iron, especially in Quadrant 4 and in the Eastern Conference Final against DC, where he was blistering fast on the dumbbell burpees-over-box. Kurt Garceau and Kris Kling were both stars of that match, as well, in different ways. However, If one compares the Nichols-McConnell-Filly matchup to the Zardas-Garceau-Kling team, it’s hard not to give the edge to Phoenix on the basis of how each of those triplets have performed thus far.

For the women, the Rise’s Jessica Phillips is 100 percent reliable, strong, and fast. She is a Q4 monster, and no one save for perhaps Boston’s Devonia Long moves a barbell as quickly. That said, I am not convinced Long will play this match due to injury. Laura Poling has been an amazing asset to the Rise this year, and Jamie Hagiya and Bjork Odinsdottir have both been all-around demons on the GRID from the start line to the finish line. Boston’s Quiana Welch is her usual strong and solid self, but watch for rookie Amanda Deller, who is a candidate for Rookie of the Year based on her clutch performances both against the Baltimore Anthem and then the DC Brawlers. We are likely to see more of Deller due to Long’s injury. Deller learned GRID-speed quickly and applied it without mercy against both those foes.

Race to watch

Race 1, Partner Forward, consists of deck press and weighted double-unders. Deck press involves pulling yourself up off the ground with two dumbbells and getting them overhead. This all comes down to speed of transitions and not tripping on double-unders. Deftness wins over strength here, which is why this race should go to Phoenix.

The Mirror is a back squat — 345 lb for the men, 225 lb for the women. This is aggressively heavy.  If you saw Phoenix move smoothly through the Mirror in the Western Conference Final, you know that they careened down the GRID with no issues at all, and Nichols took both Quadrants 1 and 4. This will be a combination of not only speed, but also whether each athlete has the muscle endurance to do an unbroken set of eight for a full quadrant, and do it quickly. I suspect we’ll see the same lineup for both teams as we saw in the conference finals — Boston lost the Mirror to DC, Phoenix won it against San Francisco. The Rise are very very good at this race.

Referring to my earlier prediction of this match, you will see that the Echoes will largely be decided by the bar muscle-ups. As that article points out, Val Calhoun and Bjork Odinsdottir can bring the pain in the Women’s Echoes while Alec Smith and Tola Morakinyo in the men's. That is not to say that each team won’t have athletes to answer, but the Women’s Echoes lean toward Phoenix while the men’s lean toward Boston. But those Echoes end with 40 snatches at 145 for the men, and at the current rate of play, Phoenix has been absolutely cleaning up on Quadrant 4.  

If the match is close throughout, and if it comes down to Race 11, then Race 11 will come down to the final four elements. Overturns Start to Finish at 550 lb

12 Backward rolls-to-support
5 Deck-to-back flips
3 Cleans at 365 lb

The overturns from start to finish have proven to be fairly nightmarish for teams. This is a heavy and very taxing, slow element. It will take a fresh athlete who is tall and strong. For example, Morakinyo. The backward rolls-to-support will need to be unbroken. That will be Smith and likely Rubey for Phoenix or Odinsdottir or Calhoun. Deck-to-back flips likely will see either Calhoun or Odinsdottir for Phoenix and Jaime Gold for Boston. If Phoenix on the strength of say, McConnell, can muscle the overturns down the GRID quickly, his teammates can dispense with their elements and get Nichols to the cleans.  

As I said in my previous review of this matchup, Zardas would need to arrive at those cleans a full 10 seconds ahead of Nichols. As we saw in the Phoenix match against San Francisco, reaching the final element ahead of Nichols is no guarantee of finishing before him. You need a serious lead.

I see Phoenix taking this race unless some catastrophic event stops the forward momentum of the team at some point along the chain of elements.

Prediction

The question as to how this match plays out depends largely on which Boston Iron team shows up. The Iron who was manhandled by DC in the regular season, or the Iron who did an about-face and commanded the Brawlers in the postseason. I strongly suspect that it will be the latter.  

That said, Phoenix currently has very few holes in their roster save for perhaps an Alec Smith prototype. Otherwise, the scales all tip toward the Rise on womens body-weight, strength and generalist and on men’s strength and generalist. It’s not a huge gap, though.

I think we’ll see a back-and-forth, blow-for-blow barroom brawl-style match here, but in the end, I believe we’ll see the Phoenix Rise hoisting the Pinnacle Trophy.  

About GRID

GRID is a sport featuring two teams racing head-to-head to complete a series of weightlifting, body-weight and other athletic elements. GRID teams must possess intense speed, explosive strength, deep strategy and precise teamwork to complete the races in the fastest possible time.

The National Pro GRID League (NPGL) is the world’s first professional co-ed team sports league. Each two-hour match features two 14-person teams (7 women, 7 men) going head-to-head in 11 races. The NPGL teams: Los Angeles Reign, New York Rhinos, Boston Iron, DC Brawlers, Phoenix Rise, Miami Surge, San Francisco Fire and Baltimore Anthem. Visit NPGL.com for more information and follow National Pro GRID League on Facebook, @TheGridLeague on Twitter, @GridLeague on Instagram.