MARCH 10, 2018 UCI’S Bren Center in Irvine housed another edition of the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation’s (IBJJF) Pan American Championship, arguably the second most prestigious gi tournament there is in this sport. Although this was the first day of the black belt divisions, with the majority of the weight class matches taking place tomorrow, we did see the elimination rounds as well as the bulk of the open weight class (AKA the absolute) take place – and what amazing matches they were! Starting the hostilities in California were the light-featherweights who also started the roll of upsets that would be trending today. First off was Ares athlete Jonathan Van Buren who surpassed one of the division’s most well regarded competitors Kevin Mahecha in a tight referee decision. The ATT athlete started ahead on the scoreboard but was complacent and ended surpassed by the young American. Buren did not quit until the very end and rightfully earned his spot in the next round. The roll of upsets carried on through to the lightweight division where two of the sport’s rising stars – Johnny Tama (Alliance) and Lucas Valente (Gracie Barra) were taken out by two highly talented athletes who may be lesser known to the mainstream audience, namely Kauan Barboza (Carlson Gracie) and Breno Bittencourt (Ares). OPEN WEIGHT DIVISION (MALE) In the absolute division the surprise of the tournament was Brazil’s Gutemberg Pereira who competes out of Ohio’s GFT Toledo. It seems as though the cold winter has done “Lagartão” good, he cruised through the division going by a platoon of jiu jitsu’s new generation (Mahamed Aly, Fellipe Andrew and Tommy Langaker) to reach the final. The buck of unexpected wins did not stop at Pereira, as many big names fell to younger and lesser known athletes. Examples of Lucas Hulk, who was defeated by Zenith’s rising star Fellipe Andrew (6×3) or Tanner Rice who was submitted by the experienced Aaron “Tex” Johnson were among the shockers of the afternoon, while Tommy Langaker‘s wins over Otavio Nalati and Renato Cardoso may not have been as much as a surprise, but certainly worth a mention. On the other side of the brackets Keenan Cornelius and Leandro Lo breezed past their opponents to reach the semi finals. With both athletes well aware of each others games after 6 previous encounters, we (wrongly) expected a calculated exchange between the two. Instead this was an all out war, one that ended favorably for Lo – the victor by 7×2 points. OPEN WEIGHT DIVISION (FEMALE) If you thought the upsets were reserved to the male division you thought wrong. With Bia Mesquita and Nathiely de Jesus on opposite sides of the brackets, most expected this to be the likely final for the absolute. Those who did forgot to inform Luiza Monteiro and Bianca Basilio, as the two went against all odds and will be competing for absolute gold at the finals tomorrow. Featherweight Tazmanian Devil Bianca Basilio went through larger opponents such as Jena Bishop (win by botinha), Jessica Flowers (by advantage) and fan favorite Nathiely de Jesus (by DQ) to reach the final. Absolutely flawless performance by the Almeida JJ athlete who is representing Atos at this year’s Pan. Luiza Monteiro, on the other side of the brackets had some very tough matches, namely against Sabatha Santo (advantages), Andressa Cintra (kneebar) and Bia Mesquita (2×0). Another outstanding performance by another Atos representative, we will find out tomorrow if Basilio and Monteiro will choose to face each other or close out the division.