MAY 15, 2021, With the 15th edition of the IBJJF Pan American No-Gi Championships now underway and the adult black belt division all set to start tomorrow, Saturday 15, the time has come for us to make a few predictions on who we believe has the better chance of coming out of the biggest tournament of the year (so far) with a gold medal around their neck.
The No-Gi Pans adult black belt division will include the heel-hook submission for the first time in the federation’s history, a new rule that has captivated the interest of a few new faces for the IBJJF and, subsequently, new challengers to the podium. Among those previous outliers are names such as Stanley Rosa (Renzo Gracie Bronx), Marvin Castelle (10th Planet), PJ Barch (10th Planet), Oliver Taza (DDS), Mauricio Gomez (ATT Florida), all of whom will pose serious threats to one of the most important titles on the IBJJF league. But without further ado, here are our picks for the event.
Contestants – 12
Front Runner – Livio Ribeiro
Although not a no-gi specialist, Livio Ribeiro of Ares comes in as the front-runner, with Henrique Rossi of the Sharpen Iron Academy slightly behind in favoritism.
Contestants – 13
Front Runner – Junny Ocasio
Paulo Miyao is the biggest name in the division but the big question is: what version of Paulo will show up for the No-Gi Pans?
Struggling with injuries in the past 20 months, Miyao has rarely competed since the ADCC back in September of 2019, currently going on a 1-3 record since that tournament. Will he be able to return to his previous form? That is a very big question mark we have, particularly after seeing a few eerie Instagram videos of the legendary grappler’s knee condition.
Considering the level of talent in the event, with names such as Richard Alarcon, Junny Ocasio, and Bebeto Oliveira, we will remain skeptical of Miyao’s favoritism. Unity’s Junny Ocasio, on the other hand, has climbed through the ranks of the division over the past 12 months. Although not a points player, Ocasio’s good form and continuous growth should put him ahead by a tiny margin.
Another stacked division with plenty of possible front runners. In bracket A, we will have Diego “Pato” Oliveira and Richar Nogueira as the most familiar names but keep an eye out for 10th Planet Marvin Castell as he may well be the dark horse in this race. Castell is extremely experienced with heel-hooks and has a recent submission win over Nogueira.
We will place Pato as the favorite on bracket A and Josh Cisneros as the man to beat on the B side. There (on the B side), expect Adam Benayoun and Emilio Hernandez to be on the lookout for any unlikely slip-up by Cisneros.
Contestants – 28
Front Runner – Gianni Grippo
Although Gianni Grippo is the bigger name here, winning this tournament will not be an easy task for the veteran Marcelo Garcia student. Ahead of Grippo will be Herbert Burns, Deandre Corbe, and Rodrigo Francioni, all ready to challenge every inch of the mat on the way to the final.
On the opposite bracket, Maurício Gomez will have a razor-thin edge over his challengers. On Gomez’s side expect João Bisnaga, Francisco Cuneo, Paulo Gabriel, and Johnny Tama to make the promising ATT competitor’s life miserable. Either of the referenced athletes could take home a gold medal here, on any given day.
Contestants – 23
Front Runner – undecided
Well, if it was hard to find a favorite in the lightweight division, that task only gets harder when you get to the middleweights. Stacked to the brim, it is near impossible to assess who will take home a gold medal here.
Among the most interesting match-ups is the possibility of seeing Matheus Gabriel (gi pans and worlds featherweight champion) face either Oliver Taza or Ronaldo Junior in the semi-finals of the event. That will only happen if he gets through GFT’s Leo Silva and Felipe Cesar – not an easy task by anyone’s standards.
On the other bracket of the 79-kilograms weight class, you will have PJ Barch, Joshua Bacallao, Eduardo Avelar, Renato Canuto, Hugo Marques, Italo Moura, – to name a few – making serious runs towards the final. In sum, there are no easy matches here, but tons of fun ones to watch. This is, arguably, the biggest melting pot of grappling styles in a division on this tournament.
Contestants – 21
Front Runner – Andrew Wiltse
Andrew Wiltse will have an easier path to the semi-finals, but who will he face? On the opposite side of that run-off to the semis, we have 3 athletes with very even odds. Namely João Cizeski, John Combs, and Stanley Rosa.
Contestants – 12
Front Runner – Lucas Barbosa
Only one clear favorite at heavyweight, Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa, but plenty of interesting matches on display.
Gracie Barra’s Bruno Matias will be making his debut at the highest level, since earning his black belt. He has the talent to disrupt the balance of the heavyweight division but will have a very hard path to the final.
One of the big points of interest in the division is the inclusion of Gustavo Batista, Atos’ famous Braguinha. Gustavo has been exclusively a gi athlete where he conquered 1 world title (2018) and two Pan American gold medals (2018 & 2020), but you would be foolish to count him out as he is certainly expected to make it all the way to the final.
Ghanese athlete Rida Haisam has a solid chance here as he will be the favorite to make the final from his side of the bracket. Stylistically, Haisam’s toughest challenge should be veteran Eliot Kelly, but the goal is still well within Rida’s reach. If he does make it all the way, he will be the first African athlete to medal at the Pans, at this level.
On the opposite side of Rida’s run, is Diego Ramalho of ZR Team who should take the favoritism given the run he’s had in 2021. Unity’s Devhonte Johnson will also share that same favoritism as both athletes play very well within this ruleset.
Contestants – 8
Front Runner – Victor Hugo
Possibly the easiest division to choose a favorite. Victor Hugo should take this one with a few interesting match-ups along the way, particularly in the final, where he should face either John Hansen or Tex Johnson.