With the New Year approaching in a matter of days, I have been feeling inspired to share what I believe are some of the best matches and significant moments that went down in the year 2011. But, although I go to many of the top competitions and watch many of the others I cannot travel to, I can’t see them all. So although it is impossible for me to rank the “best” matches in 2011, I will try my best to give my take on the best that I saw this year. If anyone saw any other matches that I do not mention below, please feel free to comment and even post a link of the match, I’d love to see it as much as any other Jiu-Jitsu fanatic!

Claudio Calasans versus Marcus “Bochecha” Almeida at the 2011 Pan-Americano

Although it was a small event held deep in the heart of Brazil, it was still possible for me to find this match of two of the better black belts in the world and simply be blown away! In this absolute final matchup, “Bochecha” showed why he is one of the most popular new black belts in the game by putting up an amazing display against the former World Pro champion Claudio Calasans. The match was a back-and-forth battle where momentum would swing from side-to-side by the minute. Also, there was no lack of positions and points where they fought from every position and there were more than twenty points scored between the two competitors. In the end, “Bochecha” would take it by back-mounting Calasans and scoring a final four points, but both have to be deemed as winners for the excellent technical display and heart they both showed the audience.

Ary Farias versus Bruno Malfacine at the 2011 Europeans

In this light-featherweight final, like “Bochecha,” another black belt rookie would stop the veteran as Farias, in his first black belt tournament, would upset four-time roosterweight World champion Bruno Malfacine. Although Ary won the title clearly, it wasn’t a walk in the park, as his fight with Malfacine was an all-out war! For the majority of the ten minutes, the two athletes would exchange sweeps and footlock attempts, with neither able to get a significant lead at any time during the bout. In a match that would have been difficult for any referee to keep up with, Farias would end up with one sweep more than Malfacine and the final score would be 6-4, giving Ary his first title at black belt and Malfacine only his second loss in nearly three years!

Kron Gracie versus Leandro “Lo” Nascimento at the 2011 Worlds

At the 2011 World Championships, besides seeing how Rafael Mendes’ and Augusto Mendes’ rematch would play out, the most intriguing black belt for me to watch was Cicero Costa’s Leandro “Lo.” In only his first year at black belt, “Lo” has dominated the scene in Brazil and around the world, winning prestigious events such as the World Pro in Abu Dhabi and the Brazilian Nationals. In the process of winning his two major titles, he beat two-time lightweight World champion Michael Langhi, twice! So even in his first Worlds in the U.S., “Lo” was already being deemed a favorite to win the 167.5-pound title. But he ran into a wall named Kron Gracie, who finally had his break-out tournament as a black belt in his fourth year. In the beginning of the match, it was all “Lo,” who would sweep and take the back of Gracie, and many including myself believed it was over. Kron then proved everyone wrong.

Once Gracie escaped, he put to display his deadly closed guard and swept Nascimento and brought him to the mounted position, scoring six points. Trying to escape, “Lo” turned his back and Kron scored another four points for back mount. In a matter of one minute, Kron went from being down 6-0 to being up 10-6. Soon after, Kron would grab a firm hold on Nascimento’s collar and choke the Brazilian National champion into submission for the win. Kron would eventually end up as the runner-up, losing to Gilbert “Durinho” Burns in the final, but certainly let himself be known in that epic quarterfinal match with Leandro “Lo.”

Jonathan “JT” Torres versus Lucas Lepri at the 2011 Europeans

In a battle between two familiar foes, Lepri proved yet again that he is still one of the top dogs in the lightweight category and cannot be overlooked. But at the same time, even with the loss, Torres continues to show that he cannot be overlooked either and brought everything he had at Lepri, capturing the full attention of the crowd in Lisbon, Portugal. In their semifinal match, the two never stopped moving for the ten minutes and one wrong move would spell doom for either one. For most of the match, it looked like JT had things under control, and he even had the lead with less than a minute to go, up 4-2. But with 30 seconds left, Lepri put everything into his sweep that would tie up the score at 4-4, and it would remain that way until the time went up. In the end, due to a single advantage point given to Lepri for an attempted guard pass, he was deemed the winner and would go on to close-out the category with teammate Michael Langhi. So although Lepri was saved from fighting in the final, he had worked hard enough just to get there and get by the American, “JT” Torres.

There are four of my favorite matches of 2011. What were your favorites? Comment below and make sure to stay tuned every Tuesday as we start to give you the big tournaments and big matches coming up in the New Year. Happy Holidays and happy New Year everyone! Osss!

Photo: Marcus “Bochecha” Almeida

About The Author

Gianni Grippo
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Contributor

Gianni Grippo is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Marcelo Garcia and trains at the Marcelo Garcia Academy in New York City. Besides being a big fan of the sport, Gianni is also an avid competitor and has ranked among the best in the World from blue to brown belt winning 6 IBJJF World titles and 7 Pan Championships. Still at 21, Gianni looks to continue to compete for many years to come as his main goals are to win the World championships at black belt and win the ADCC title.