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IBJJF Pan American 2020 Preview – The Male Black Belt Division

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Heel Hook Instructional by John Danaher

From tomorrow, October 8th, up until Sunday, the 11th, we will be tuned in to the 2020 edition of the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) Pan American Championships – streamed at FloGrappling, a tournament that will be running for the first time in Kissimmee, Florida.

The IBJJF Pan Ams of 2020 will be the biggest event in the sport’s international circuit this year, given the current COVID19 pandemic. The Pans have been regarded as the 2nd most important tournament in the sport, behind the World Championship, since the event first started during the mid-1990s, this being the first time the competition will feature, almost exclusively, residents of the United States due to the current travel restrictions imposed by most of the industrialized world. Below is a short preview of what to expect from the event’s male black belt, adult divisions, to check the female side of the tournament, click here.

ROOSTER WEIGHT

A talent stacked roosterweight division, one of the densest roosterweight brackets we have seen in a while. Expect Pinheiro to be the favorite here, he who has been more successful as a light-feather, but opted to return to his old weight class for another shot at Pan American gold after two silver medals (2016, 2017). His biggest challenger here should be Jonas Andrade of Cicero Costha.

Key Players:
Lucas Pinheiro (Atos)
– Matheus Magalhães (GFT)
Jonas Andrade (PSLPB)

LIGHT FEATHERWEIGHT

Most of the top new light-featherweight black belts are currently stranded in Brazil (Fabricio Andrey, Raul Basílio, and Meyram Maquine), as such, the only rookie with a real shot at gold here should be the 2019 brown belt Pans silver medal, Josh Cisneros. That said, Josh will have an extremely tough bracket ahead, with the talented João Pedro Soeiro in the first round, followed by Paulo Miyao before even making it to the semi-final.

Coming off a loss in nogi at Who’s Number One is Paulo Miyao, who, given his resume, should be the favorite to the Pan title. Another strong contender is the dark horse, Hiago Gama of Alliance. Gama was extremely successful in the colored belt divisions but has not been particularly active in his black belt career, yet, he holds wins over big names such as Koji Shibamoto, Eduardo Barboza, and Livio Ribeiro, so the talent is there to make it all the way. In his path will be the experienced Bebeto Oliveira (GFT) or Pedro Dias (Carlson Gracie).

Key Players:
Hiago Gama
Paulo Miyao
Josh Cisneros

FEATHERWEIGHT

Expect a fiery quarter-final between longtime rivals, Matheus Gabriel and Kennedy Maciel. If it happens, this match, quality-wise, could easily be a future World Championship final, this really shows how stacked this featherweight division is.

Another exciting match in the early rounds will be between black belt newcomer, Samuel Nagai and the veteran submission machine, Isaac Doederlein. This should be a battle for the ankle locks and an exciting one to follow as both grapplers love to finish. Whoever comes out of this match alive will have a very strong chance to take home the gold medal. Below is a short list of who we believe are the top challengers for gold.

Key Players:
Kennedy Maciel
Matheus Gabriel
João Bisnaga
Isaac Doederlein
Samuel Nagai
Gianni Grippo
Adam Benayoun
Thiago Macedo

LIGHTWEIGHT

Newcomer Johnatha Alves has, arguably, the easier path to the semi-final, where he will likely battle one of these 4 monsters: Jonnatas Gracie, Edwin Najmi, Jeremy Jackson, or Mathias Luna. That side of the bracket could be a professional jiu-jitsu grand-prix on its own, given the quality of the athletes involved.

Bracket 2 is not much easier. In fact, it might be even harder with Johnny Tama facing Márcio André in the 2nd round, after which one of these men will likely face Michael Liera Jr. The bracket will also have one of the event’s favorites, Renato Canuto, as well as former no-gi world champ, Hugo Marques and the always game Paulo Gabriel Martins. No easy matches here, there is plenty of talent up and down these brackets.

Key Players:
Johnatha Alves
Edwin Najmi
Jonnatas Gracie
Márcio André
Johnny Tama
Michael Liera
Renato Canuto

MIDDLEWEIGHT

Another stacked division, the middleweights will feature the black belt debut of Jackson Nagai, 2019’s brown belt silver medalist. This weight class will also have an army of former lightweights come up in weight to conquer the middleweight division, namely, Levi Jones (Unity), Guthierry Barbosa (Carlson Gracie), Pablo Lavaselli (Renzo Gracie), Leo Silva (GFT), Lucas Valente (GB) and André Gois (Alliance).

Expect Guthierry, Lucas Valente, and Ronaldo Junior to be at the forefront of the division, but don’t be surprised if Aussie, Levi Jones-Leary pulls an upset here.

Key Players:
Levi Jones-Leary
Guthiery Barbosa
Lucas Valente
Ronaldo Junior

MEDIUM HEAVYWEIGHT

Interesting division with plenty of firepower. Former middleweight world champion Otávio Almeida will be making a return to medium-heavy, a weight class he competed in extensively as a brown belt. Sousa will not be alone as the high-class veteran making a comeback at MHW. Ulpiano Malachias will make his return to the adult division also, as will Unity’s team leader, Murilo Santana, another incredibly tough veteran.

Arguably, the favorite here will be Manuel Ribamar, with Gabriel Almeida coming in also with a lot of steam under his gi, though both have tough brackets ahead.

Key Players:
Otávio Sousa
Gabriel Almeida
Murilo Santana
Manuel Ribamar

HEAVYWEIGHT

One of the exciting side-stories of the tournament is the current roosterweight world champion, Michael Musumeci making his debut at heavyweight in a pretty competitive division. We have high hopes to see him go up against one of the best guard-passers in the world, Mr. Gustavo Batista, but that will only happen if both athletes go all the way through to the final.

Key Players:
Gustavo Batista
Roberto Jimenez
Horlando Monteiro
Mikey Musumeci

SUPER HEAVYWEIGHT

A solid division with very capable athletes, but expect the gold medal to be hanging on either Fellipe Andrew or Keenan Cornelius’ neck. Other dangerous athletes here are Tex Johnson, Devhonte Johnson, Guilherme Augusto, and Arnaldo Maidana.

Key Players:
Fellipe Andrew
Keenan Cornelius

ULTRA HEAVYWEIGHT

This is the smallest bracket from the male black belt adult divisions (7). The great news here is the return of Luiz Panza to the competition circuit. Himself and Max Gimenis will be the favorites to take home the gold medal.

Key Players:
Luiz Panza
Max Gimenis

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