APRIL 26, 2019 – ABU DHABI MUBALA ARENA where the magic of the United Arab Emirates Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) World Pro finals took place. After an exhausting day, yesterday, the remaining adult black belt athletes returned to the mats to establish this year’s champions, of what is an important event in our sport’s international circuit.
The fact that so many of our top tier athletes gave this year’s Abu Dhabi Pro a pass created a window of opportunity for a few lesser-known competitors to shine, names such as Oliver Lovell (ENG), the Victor Estima black belt and Gracie Barra York instructor, who yesterday went through none other than Levi Jones-Leary (AUS), Darragh O’Connell (IRE) and Bradley Hill (ENG). Ahead of Lovell in the final was IBJJF World silver medal Tommy Langaker (NOR), an athlete who was expected to be Lovell’s toughest challenge on this tournament. That proved to be right. Although with a brave performance, Langaker’s offensive pace proved to be more than what Oliver could handle, with a choke from the back for sealing the deal for Tommy and for Norway. This was the second consecutive gold medal at the adult black belt division for the Scandinavian country after teammate Espen Mathiesen won this same division last year.
Another person who had a brilliant day yesterday was Gabriel Sousa of the ZR Team. Sousa came into the Abu Dhabi Pro as the #1 ranked athlete of the federation’s circuit, and in order to secure his spot as the 2018-2019 season champion, all he needed was a podium placement. His performance during the qualifying rounds of the 62-kilogram division, yesterday, was outstanding, flawless even. 3 matches, 3 wins; two by triangle choke and one on points (29×0) secured him the hard fought prize of UAEJJF league champion. Today, however, Sousa had a very tough opponent in João Miyao, one of the very best light-featherweights our sport has to offer, nonetheless, Sousa found his path for victory on advantages, conquering his first gold at the tournament as a black belt, after winning it last year in the brown belt division.
One of the most off-putting aspects of the Abu Dhabi Pro was the shielding of local athletes. Yesterday we had seen this protectionism with hometown hero Faisal ElKetbi being somewhat ‘carried’ on to the finals by the referees on the mat, particularly during his matches against Devhonte Johnson and DJ Jackson. Today we expected more of the same, but although there were a few odd choices by the referees in this final today, in the end, our worries did not come to fruition as when the uneventful match came to a decision, the referees raised the hand of the only athlete pressing the action. A decision win for Rudson Mateus.
Maybe seeing what had happened with Faisal, João Gabriel Rocha did not give room for refereeing ambiguity and put on a huge performance in the final against another local athlete, Yahia Hammadi. Rocha conquering victory by way of choke early on, in the match.
The female division had two very interesting matches lined up for the finals: The roosterweight clash between two extremely savvy grapplers and teammates – Mayssa Bastos / Thamires Aquino, and the barn-burner that we anticipated for the Beatriz Mesquita vs Ffion Davies bout. Although Bastos vs Aquino was a lukewarm match taken by Mayssa by 1 advantage, our Bia x Ffion prediction did come to fruition with these two athletes proving why they are regarded as the best of the best. Mesquita was the favorite to win, being bigger and more experienced, all factors that came to play against Davies, who put on a solid performance defensively but could not stop one of the top 3 ‘pound for pound’ black belts in the world today.
Another shout out for two brown belt athletes who conquered the female brown-black mixed division. These were Thamara Ferreira and Gabrielle Pessanha, who both submitted their opponents in the final with class. Fantastic future ahead for these competitors and a #1 ranked female athlete spot secured for Pessanha.
GALO/ROOSTER MALE 56KG
Hiago George def. Carlos Alberto Oliveira by 2-2, 2-0 adv
#1 Hiago George
#2 Carlos Alberto Oliveira
#3 Massaki Todokoro
LIGHT MALE 77KG
Tommi Langaker def. Oliver Lovell by choke from the back
SUPER-HEAVY MALE 110KG
João Gabriel Rocha vs Yahia Hammadi
#1 João Gabriel Rocha
#2 Yahia Hammadi
#3 Ricardo Evangelista
HEAVY FEMALE 70KG
Thamara Ferreira def. Alessandra Moss by armbar
#1 Thamara Ferreira
#2 Alessandra Moss
#3 Samantha Cook
SUPER-HEAVY FEMALE 90KG
Gabrielle Pessanha def. Claire-France Thevenon by triangle choke
#1 Gabrielle Pessanha
#2 Claire-France Thevenon
#3 Nathiely de Jesus