An interview with rising Canadian prospect Tyler ‘Squidvicious’ VanKill

Tyler Vankill does a "sleeping" pose towards a camera inside an MMA cage. Tyler Vankill didn't even need a full round for his second pro win. Photo Credit: Unified MMA / UFC Fight Pass

Sitting cageside at Unified MMA 40, I was repeatedly impressed by the vast array of talent. Round after round, bout after bout, some of Canada’s finest MMA fighters exhibited their prowess in every discipline of the sport. Highlights included a compelling war between Maged Hammo and Neil Anderson, and Graham Park’s defense of his Unified MMA Light Heavyweight Championship via first round TKO.  A full breakdown of these fights can be read here.

However, of all the performances that night, one stood out to me as being particularly exceptional – Tyler ‘Squidvicious’ VanKill’s first round submission of Andrew Mavridis.

Going into the super lightweight (165 lb) bout, both VanKill and Mavridis were undefeated in both their amateur and professional careers. Mavridis had amassed seven consecutive decision wins at an amateur level and had impressed in his pro debut with a first round knockout. VanKill, on the other hand, had won each and every one of his five MMA fights via submission. 

At the start, both fighters found themselves in the center of the cage sizing each other up and throwing shots with intention. After just 30 seconds, VanKill had pressed his opponent against the side of the cage. From the moment the clinch was engaged, Mavridis was expertly manipulated to the mat and mounted. VanKill began flattening him out, making deft use of the underhooks and body triangle he had secured. From the back, he slipped his arm under the chin of Mavridis, and put him to sleep with a flawless inverted arm triangle.

The fight lasted two minutes and 26 seconds.

What made this fight so astonishing was how inevitable it felt. Across both his amateur and pro careers, VanKill had now entered the ring six time- and he had ended every single fight with a submission in the very first round. In his last three fights, in fact, he had been able to pull off the exact same technique, finishing Djavan Coleman, Davis Rapagna and now Mavridis with a seemingly inescapable inverted arm triangle. How is it that VanKill is able to exert his will so consistently? Are his dominant performances the result of careful strategic planning, or spontaneous adaptation? I was able to speak to VanKill after his dominant win and ask him.

“I just embrace the fight that happens, and [I] take what’s given to me,” He said. “I don’t get paid overtime! I’m a well-rounded fighter, and I’m ready for whatever anyone has prepared for me. I enjoy all aspects of the fight … My ideal scenario is to finish in the first round, and to me, how this finish happens doesn’t matter. I just want to inflict damage and ultimately make them quit.”

Whilst he is rightfully regarded as a Jiu-Jitsu specialist, VanKill certainly showed technical striking ability in the opening moments of his bout with Mavridis. Rather than simply using striking as a means to set up his dominant ground game, the undefeated fighter regards it as an integral and important part of his skillset. He is prepared to finish fights standing up in the future. 

“I work on my striking all the time. All fights start on the feet and I’m more than capable of putting someone on skates. But, I’ve taken my last two opponents down easily and submitted them taking no damage. Seems like a solid deal to me! But it’s definitely there for whoever needs it,” he said.

VanKill was given the name “Squidvicious” by his teammates at Arena MMA/Baret Submissions HQ, after they remarked on his tentacular grappling ability and ruthless fighting style. The way in which the Canadian grapples is far from orthodox, and he utilizes a style that is defined by adaptation and spontaneous ingenuity. At Unified MMA 40, commentators Ryan Rother and Sheldon Westcott remarked that they would likely need a dictionary to decipher his unique movements on the ground. 

“Creativity is everything!” He told MMA-Prospects. “I feel it’s why I’m able to be as effective as I am in the cage. I have finished my last three fights with this specific choke, and people still don’t know what it is. So many people are so concerned with winning in the gym, that they don’t put themselves in positions and situations where they truly grow. Being creative is gonna get you smashed sometimes, but that’s the best part- figuring out the puzzle! I’ve failed so much that now I can only succeed!”

This developmental mindset, coupled with his already substantial abilities, will undoubtedly propel VanKill to new heights as he continues his professional career. I am excited to watch as he progresses through Canada’s impressive roster of talented fighters, and explodes onto the landscape of international MMA.