Another week has gone by and another major IBJJF tournament has gone down in the record books. This run by the IBJJF has been quite memorable, to say the least, as each championship has lived a life of its own and each has a story to tell with countless classics being fought out each week.

Now, you can add the inaugural Atlanta Open to the list of memorable competitions. This past Saturday, there was no shortage of excitement as there were plenty of surprises and standouts that walked away with some hardware.

In the land of Team Alliance (Atlanta being where their headquarters stands), there was obviously an overwhelming amount of “Team Eagle” support, as competitors from white to black belt helped contribute to an eventual team title. But the road to the title wasn’t easily won, as another Atlanta-based team in Roberto Traven BJJ gave Alliance everything they could handle, only losing by less than twenty points in the team standings.

Looking at the individual results on Saturday, one could say that one of the most dominating teams was actually Team Lloyd Irvin, who came to Atlanta with a small group yet still walked away with plenty of gold medals.

One of Lloyd Irvin’s biggest standouts was their middleweight brown belt Keenan Cornelius. Cornelius has been one of the hottest competitors on the scene this year. He is just coming off becoming the first-ever competitor in IBJJF history to win his weight and the absolute at all four major IBJJF championships (Europeans, Pans, Brazilian Nationals, Worlds). Going into this tournament in Atlanta, some wondered how he would fare against some of the best brown belts, and he certainly aced his first test. Cornelius won both weight and absolute, submitting his main opponent, Francisco “Sinistro” Itturalde, in both finals. It’s safe to say he is already a big favorite to win it all again as a brown belt in 2013.

At black belt, another Lloyd Irvin middleweight, who goes by the name of “DJ” Jackson, was the big standout of the day. “DJ” has only been a black belt for a short period of time, yet he has already fought many of the best and had his best performance by far this Saturday.

Coming into the medium-heavyweight category, Jackson had his work cut out for him against Ian Mcpherson, but he got through his first challenge of the day by defeating McPherson for gold. In the absolute, after getting through Mcpherson for a second time in the semifinals, Jackson would lock horns with former black belt World champion Lucas Lepri. Lepri has had an amazing 2012 campaign, making the final in every major championship he has been in, so it was obvious that he was the clear favorite.

Disregarding any statement of who was favored, Jackson brought it to Lepri and as usual would not let up for ten whole minutes. After scoring a takedown to tie the score at 2-2, “DJ” stayed aggressive, working for the guard pass until the very end. Although he was unable to score, the officials felt that Jackson’s aggressiveness was enough to award him the win and his second gold medal of the day.

All-in-all, Team Lloyd Irvin proved why they might very well be America’s greatest team today. Even with a small group, they took third place in the team standings and they captured all the male absolute titles from blue to black belt, including Cornelius’ at brown and Jackson’s at black. The sky is the limit for this crew, and in a few years we could easily see them on the team podium at the Worlds.

What do you, the reader, think? Can an American team not only win the Worlds at black belt, but possibly the team tournament? If so, is Team Lloyd Irvin the team to do so? Comment below and let your voice be heard! Osss!

Photo: Keenan Cornelius (blue gi) (Gracie Mag)

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.