JUNE 28, 2021 (Monday), this weekend the Las Vegas Convention Center – in Las Vegas, Nevada – held one of the top gi events on the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) circuit, the American National Championship. As per usual, the tournament gathered some of the top jiu-jitsu athletes on the North American circuit, possibly even gaining a few big names this year given the dire tournament circumstances of our sport during the COVID19 pandemic.
Among the many side stories to tell, the biggest is the rise of fresh black belts Bruno Matias (GB) and Jessa Khan, as well as the double gold performances of Elisabeth Clay (Ares) and Fellipe Andrew. More on these below.
Rooster-Weight Division / Male
Final: LIVIO RIBEIRO DEF. HENRIQUE ROSSI – Loop choke
A solid performance by Ares’ rising roosterweight Lívio Ribeiro, whose guard continues to be a danger for anyone on the division. Ribeiro had a tough match against Roiter Lima of team GB, but returned strong for the final, taking out one of Cícero Costha’s prime representatives, Henrique Rossi.
#1 Lívio Ribeiro (Ares)
#2 Henrique Rossi (Cicero Costha)
#3 Lee Rosenfield (Form JJ)
#3 Roiter Lima Jr. (Gracie Barra)
Light-Featherweight Division / Male
Final: PEDRO DIAS DEF. JOÃO SOEIRO – Advantages (0x0 pts)
The least populated division in the male category saw only one match, a lackluster one at that. The former Cantagalo Project standout, Pedro Dias – now representing Carlson Gracie beat Gracie Barra’s Soeiro via advantages.
#1 Pedro Dias (Carlson Gracie)
#2 João Soeiro (Gracie Barra)
A solid return to the featherweight division by Atos’ João Bisnaga, who took out some serious challengers on his way to the final, namely Danilo Moreira (Ares) and Daniel Maira (Studio 76). On the other side of the bracket, Richar Nogueira looked as clinical as ever. Certainly one of the best strategists in the game today and an athlete who appears to be more confident with each passing event.
Lightweight Division / Male
Final: ALEXANDRE MOLINARO DEF. DANIEL DINIZ – 8×6 pts
One of the stories of the day was Checkmat’s Daniel Diniz beating the current Pan American Champion, Thiago Macedo (referee decision). Macedo opted to come in as a lightweight for the American Nationals – possibly to avoid meeting his teammate Richar Nogueira – but the size difference turned out to be a harder handicap to overcome than previously thought. That and, of course, Daniel’s very solid skillset.
Although extremely active on the IBJJF circuit, Molinaro often does not get enough credit for what he’s done in the sport. This win at the American Nationals may very well be a validation of his worth, given that it is his most significant tournament win since 2018 (South American Championships), a strategic and sound performance for the Carlson Gracie Representative.
What a day for Checkmat’s Mathias Luna! Arguably his biggest win since arriving at the black belt division. Although with a few losses on his record over the past couple of years, Luna is seldomly dominated, with most of his losses being a direct result of his unorthodox style, a style prone to risk-taking. Right now, with over 30 matches as a professional, Luna appears to be peaking as a middleweight as shown at the American Nationals. Luna beat an array of solid competitors with class, this included big wins over Lucas Valle (8×0) and Ronaldo Junior (penalty), two of the top middleweights in the world.
A field day for Bruno Matias, who is rapidly becoming one of the top heavyweights in the game. The former student of Felipe Pena (now residing in Texas) submitted his way through to the final, where he met Lucas Lepri’s black belt (also a recent promotion) André Góis – who had also submitted his way through to the final. A very even match decided via decision and a great future ahead for both grapplers.
Marinho submitted his way through to the final but met solid opposition against the rising Portuguese black belt, Bruno Lima, an athlete who earned his rank from Alex Machado in Lisbon but has been training for a while with Keenan Cornelius at Legion AJJ. Lima’s unorthodox butterfly guard saw him overcome one of the tournament’s favorites, Jake Watson (9×0), but was not enough to see him through Pedro Marinho.
Super-Heavyweight Division / Male
Final: JACKSON DOUGLAS DEF. LUCAS NORAT – Decision (2×2 pts)
This was a very even division and it showed. Every match was a grind, in the end Jackson Douglas of Checkmat came out with the title.
#1 Jackson Douglas (Checkmat)
#2 Lucas Norat (Gracie Barra)
#3 Daniel Hampton (Lotus Club)
#3 Ashur Darmo (TAC)
Ulta-Heavyweight Division / Male
Final: FELLIPE ANDREW DEF. AUSTIN BAKER – 33×0 pts
Fellipe Andrew was switched on this weekend, and a switched-on Fellipe Andrew is a hazard for the ultra-heavyweight division. Andrew ran through the weight class going on to repeat the deed in the absolute. Gracie Barra’s Austin Baker did look very solid during his run up to the final but was outmatched against Fellipe.
#1 Fellipe Andrew (Alliance)
#2 Austin Baker (Gracie Barra)
#3 Victor Barreto (Alliance)
#3 Leonardo D’Avila (Atos)
Solid performances by Andrew and the aforementioned Bruno Lima. Bruno ended up being DQ’ed in an “odd” decision by the referee, who classed a legal saddle position (grip on the outer leg) as a knee reap near the end of the match. Although Fellipe was in the lead via points, referee mistakes were certainly a big concern throughout the tournament as this was not an isolated case. The professional athletes who pay to compete (!) in the IBJJF deserve – at the very least – the technology to rewatch these decisions on demand.
Another solid performance by Jessa in a very small division. Khan went on to beat Fontes twice in one day, the first match via points (5×0) and the second via triangle.
Lightweight Division / Female
#1 Janaina Menezes (Gracie Humaitá)
Middleweight Division / Female
Final: DANIELLE ALVAREZ DEF. CLAIRE NORTH – Advantages (4×4 pts)
No stranger to an American Nationals podium, middleweight Danielle Alvarez had an easy run to the final but a very tough final battle with Claire North, one she overcame via 2 advantages.
#1 Danielle Alvarez (LEAD)
#2 Claire North (TAC)
#3 Heather Woods (Atos)
#3 Mayra Mazza (Alliance)
Medium-Heavyweight Division / Female
Final: ELISABETH CLAY DEF. MELISSA CUETO – STRAIGHT ANKLE LOCK
The most impressive female performance of the day, Elisabeth clay continues cashing submissions in both the medium-heavy and open weight divisions, one of the most submission-oriented black belts in the world today.
Super-Heavyweight Division / Female
#1 Mayara Custódio (Checkmat)
Open-Weight Division / Female
Final: ELISABETH CLAY DEF. JANAINA MENEZES – STRAIGHT ANKLE LOCK
#1 Elisabeth Clay (Ares)
#2 Janaina Menezes (Gracie Humaitá)
#3 Claire North (TAC)