MARCH 26, 2023, FLORIDA, USA, another great day of action at the Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, the home of the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s (IBJJF) Pan American Championship.
As per usual, the IBJJF Pan Championship tournament gathered the elite of gi-jiu-jitsu in one venue for the #2 most important tournament of the federation’s international circuit. Below is a full description of the event’s action per weight class in the adult black belt division.
As a general assessment of the tournament, it is impossible not to address the female finals of this year’s Pans and how utterly uneventful some of these matches were. Obviously, boring bouts were not exclusive to this division, but some of these finals truly stood out due to the importance these matches have in the overall look of the event. We have been critics of the referees in the past, and it is hard to glance over the inability they had to penalize the clear stalling tactics being applied in so many of these matches. Hopefully something to be rectified in future events.
A spectacular division with an unpredictable ending. No Brazilians in the roosterweight final and two newcomers to the adult, black belt podium. Namely UAE’s Zayed Alkatheeri (the first athlete from the United Emirates to medal at the IBJJF Pans at this level) and Hiru Niwa of Japan.
After incredible performances on their runs to the final, the two rookies put on a fairly eventful match, very balanced, but with the edge definitely going to Alkatheeri, who is now the new Pan champion.
– Hiru Niwa def. Tadiyah Danforth via decision
– Frank Cespedes def. Rodnei Barbosa via 1×0 adv, 0x0 pts
– Jonas Andrade def. Cory Walker via no-arm triangle
– Zayed Alkatheeri advanced via WO
– Zayed Alkatheeri def. Hiru Niwa via 3×0 adv, 6×6 pts
LIGHT FEATHERWEIGHT, MALE
This was one of the most interesting divisions in the tournament as there were no easy matches here. A wide range of talent from one side of the brackets to another and exciting matches all around.
The final was decided between two young men from Manaus, Brazil, namely Diego Pato (AOJ) and Diogo Reis (Escola Melqui Galvão). Although both are very young, they have had previous history in the division, with two matches and two wins a piece, prior to the Pans.
Their match did not place big numbers on the scoreboard, nevertheless, this was a very interesting affair to follow with both athletes really pushing against each other’s defenses.
– Diego “Pato” Oliveira def. Mario Alvarado via straight ankle lock
– Yuta Shimada def. Sebastian Serpa via 1×0 adv, 4×4 pts
– Zach Kaina def. Malachi Edmond via amassa pão choke
– Diogo Reis def. Keven Carrasco via 1×0 adv, 4×4 pts
Another incredibly tight division with worthy challengers on every corner of its brackets. Although there were many of the sport’s newcomers at featherweight, it was veteran Márcio André who prevailed all the way through to the final, where he met the inevitable Fabricio Andrey, a former world champion,
André and Andrey had a fantastic match, very even but in constant motion which could have gone either way, but ultimately landed on Márcio who did his best work in the final 3 minutes to turn things around in his favor.
– Diogo Sodré def. Richar Nogueira via 10×2
– Marcio André def. Israel Sousa via 1×0 adv, 2×2 pts
– Alex Sodré def. João Victor Oliveira via armbar
– Fabricio Andrey def. Daniel Sathler via 8×6
Beautiful work by the AOJ boys, Lavaselli and Alves, who dominated the division and pleased the crowd by competing against each other, despite being teammates. The lightweight class was very even across the board, a sign of how much this sport is evolving.
– Natan Chueng def. Elijah Dorsey via 2×0
– Johnatha Alves def. Kevin Mahecha via 1×0 adv, 0x0 pts
– Pablo Lavaselli def. Leon Larman via 2×0
– Alef Brito def. Leo Silva via 0x1 penalties, 0x0 pts
– Johnatha Alves def. Pablo Lavaselli via 8×0
Again and again, Tainan Dalpra continues to prove why he will likely be remembered in the future as the middleweight gi GOAT, despite being in the infancy of his career at 22 years of age. Another flawless run by the AOJ prodigy, making a very tough weight class look easy and advancing his black belt record to 60-1-0.
MEDIUM HEAVYWEIGHT, MALE
Two very worthy finalists in Atos’ Gustavo Batista and Checkmat’s Jansen Gomes, athletes who pushed the pace in their runs up to the final and gave great performances to the fans.
In the final, we saw Gustavo do what he does best, a sleeve and pant guard as dangerous as any guard in this sport, and the passing pressure of a small rhino. To his credit, Gomes never stopped looking for openings in Batista’s game, always pushing the pace and trying to make things happen. Standing, playing guard, from the top, Gomes was always dangerous and active.
– Ronaldo Junior def. Mateus Rodrigues via 2×0
– Jansen Gomes def. Enderson Dias via 2×0
– Francisco Lo def. Sebastian Rodriguez via advantage (2×0 pts)
– Gustavo Batista def. Lucas Gualberto via kneebar
The showmanship of Fellipe Andrew was on full display yet again, this time in the heavyweight division. One of the most interesting athletes to follow in this sport, if you are a fan of forward-moving jiu-jitsu. Andrew pressed on the pedal every time he stepped on the Floridian mats, winning with creative submissions and hefty scoreboard numbers, making him, alongside Nicholas Meregalli and Tainan Dalpra, the most fun athletes to follow.
Adam Wardzinski, on the other hand, had one of the best comebacks of all time in this sport. After being down by 9 points, Poland’s top black belt managed to come back and win the Pan Championship, stealing it from Andrew’s hands in the final second of the final with a submission attempt that warranted him the advantage and the win. Absolutely incredible. If there was a Fight Of The Night award, it should go to these two warriors.
– Fellipe Andrew def. Caio Vinicius via mounted cross-choke
– Lucas Norat def. Carlos Castro via 2×0
– Dimitrius Souza def. Patrick Gaudio via decision (0x0 pts)
– Adam Wardzinski def. Filipe Pimentel via choke from the back
SUPER HEAVYWEIGHT, MALE
Sublime performance by Erich Munis of Dream Art, who faced a new face in a final of a major IBJJF event, namely Felipe “Laranjinha” Costa of Six Blades jiu-jitsu. Costa showed tremendous potential once again, after a few very interesting performances in his debut year as a black belt (2022), but, in the end, Munis was able to impose his game and show why he is the #1 ranked athlete in this division.
– Davi Cabral def. Italo Lima via kneebar (dogbar)
– Felipe Costa def. Christopher Passarello via katagatame
– Erich Munis def. Eric Schlosser via cross choke
– Paulo Merlin advanced via WO
– Felipe Costa def. Davi Cabral via 3×2 adv, 0x0 pts
– Erich Munis def. Paulo Merlin via 10×4
– Erich Munis def. Felipe Costa via arm in Ezekiel
ULTRA HEAVYWEIGHT, MALE
Nicholas Meregali continues on a mission to prove he is the most entertaining grappler to watch on the planet, and few can argue with that statement. Another 100% submission in his weight class and another gold medal, easy work for the Porto Alegre native.
– Yatan Bueno def. Gabriel de Oliveira via 1×0 adv, 0x0 pts
– Guilherme Augusto def. Ricardo Evangelista via 2×0 adv, 0x0 pts
– Nicholas Meregali def. José Unacio via choke from the back
– Roosevelt Souza def. Renato Tagliari via triangle/shoulder lock from the back
OPEN WEIGHT, MALE
A remake of last year’s open-weight final at the World Championships between two of the most impressive athletes in the sport today, two athletes with similar body types (tall and lanky), but very different approaches to the game. More of a counter-grappler, Erich is content in playing a “lazy” guard, with his back on the mat, waiting for the top player to take the initiative. Nicholas, on the other hand, is a Berzerker who always looks to be aggressive and always looks for the finish on his terms.
In this contrast of styles, it was Nicholas who came out on top, and dominantly so. The match was fairly even up until the last 2 minutes when Meregali opened up and put 9 points on the scoreboard. This was the only match that the Brazilian New Wave team member didn’t finish this weekend.
– Nicholas Meregali def. Roberto Jimenez via choke from back
– Erich Munis def. Mathias Luna via 6×0
– Guilherme Augusto def. Johnatha Alves via 1×0 adv, 2×2 pts
– Dimitrius Souza def. Javier Barter via 16×0
– Nicholas Meregali def. Erich Munis via 11×0 pts
One of the evenest divisions in the sport, a weight class where anyone could win at any given moment ended up also being a fairly uneventful category with many matches decided via decision or via advantages. Dems the breaks, but hopefully we get to see more of these talented athletes next time around as the potential is certainly there.
LIGHT FEATHERWEIGHT, FEMALE
A fantastic run by Dutch grappler Rose El Sharouni, the first athlete from Holand to make the finals of the adult black belt division. Rose nearly took gold, lighting the final on fire against one of the most dominant athletes to ever grace the female division, Mayssa Bastos, taking it to the Brazilian champ and even being ahead on the scoreboard for much of the match. Sadly, for her, Bastos kept her cool and eventually found her way back to the winning column.
Dream Art’s Anna Rodrigues, AKA A-Rod, dominated this weight class, submitting her way into the final where she was also always ahead.
Many expected Monteiro and Davies to make it through to the finals with ease and this is exactly what happened here. In the final, Luiza came in with a strong gameplan of shutting down much of Ffion’s aggressive game by entangling the Welsh grappler in her guard. Despite her many efforts, Davies was unable to release herself from a guard that, most definitely, threaded on the borderline of stalling for extended periods of the match, particularly in the final 90 seconds.
A remake of last year’s IBJJF World Championships finals between USA’s Clay and Brazil’s “Thata”, which turned out to be a very balanced affair between a classical pressure passer (Silva) versus the flexible guard player (Clay). Unable to break through each other’s defenses, the match remained a stalemate until an opening showed up around 7 minutes in. One single opportunity was all Elisabeth Clay needed to take home the gold medal, like a sniper.
Arguably, the breakthrough star of the IBJJF Pans black belt division was Aurelie Vern of the French Guiana. The 2023 European brown belt champion conquered the black belt recently and is already proving her worth at the highest level, beating two very capable opponents on her way to the semis, including veteran Polish grappler Maria Malyjasiak, decisively.
The final featured one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament. Ana Vieira and Amy Campo are two of the most exciting athletes to watch compete and have developed a healthy rivalry over the past year, having gone up against each other on a few occasions. Sadly for the fans, the match was very even and fairly uneventful up until minute 9 of the clash when both athletes opted to give it one last effort.
Interesting final between two athletes who had met twice before under the AJP ruleset, where they conquered one victory each. For the Pan American final, many were excited to see what these two athletes could offer under the 10-minute ruleset of the IBJJF. Sadly, the match was hard to follow, a theme across these finals, with uneventfulness being the name of the game.
SUPER HEAVYWEIGHT, FEMALE
A division with only 3 athletes saw another dominant performance by Gabrieli Pessana, who also graced us, the fans, with the only female adult black belt final worth revisiting in the future. Aggressive and hunting for the submission the whole time, was Pessanha who took home another gold medal.
OPEN WEIGH, FEMALE
– Gabrieli Pessanha def. Elizabeth Mitrovic via bow and arrow choke
– Ana Carolina Vieira def. Ffion Davies via choke from the back
– Tamiris Silva via ThataSilva via decision
– Maria Maryjasiak def. Ingridd Alves via decision
– Gabrieli Pessanha x Ana Carolina Vieira via 2×0