With a rare weekend off for the IBJJF crew, which for the first time in numerous weeks did not have a tournament scheduled, there isn’t too much to recap this week. Instead then, we will take a look into next weekend’s action as the IBJJF will return to New York City for the fifth annual No-Gi Pan Championships at City College.
Since the inaugural No-Gi Pan back in 2008, there have been some top names that have graced the mats and shown why they are considered some of the best. This weekend, some of those same names will be returning yet again to compete for more hardware.
One name that will be returning is the highly recognized No-Gi specialist, Pablo Popovitch. Popovitch has competed in this event two previous times (in 2008 and 2010) and has never lost. Coming in, the 2009 ADCC champion looks to be the clear favorite in his medium-heavy weight class and even looks like a good bet to take the absolute category as well. But, although Popovitch is the favorite in the tournament, he is not unstoppable. Remember, he did lose three No-Gi matches last year alone, which was unheard of for one of the best grapplers in the sport. So you just never know.
Another favorite that will be making his third appearance in New York is none other than the highly talented and equally highly controversial Caio Terra. The usually bold speaker, Terra will be looking to take gold for the third straight year in this event. In 2010 and 2011, Terra snapped up gold in the light-featherweight category, including an absolute bronze medal in 2010 where his only loss came to Popovitch.
This lightweight competitor is always eager to compete in the absolute divisions and most of the time walks away with a medal. Do you think the Gracie Fighter has what it takes to get to the top of the absolute podium?
This weekend should be a special one for Alliance black belt Lucas Lepri, who will be making his return to New York for the first time since moving to Atlanta. The former Alliance NYC instructor has competed in this championship every year since 2008, winning the event three times. This year, Lepri will be looking to add a fourth Pan title to his collection in the lightweight category. With Renan Borges in the mix along with Bruno Amaral, it could be difficult for Lepri, but he will still come in as the odds on favorite to take the gold medal.
Another favorite that should be looked out for in the black belt field is Samir Chantre from Gracie Fighter. Since coming away with a bronze medal at the 2011 Worlds, Chantre has only improved over time. The up-and-coming featherweight has won numerous IBJJF titles this summer and looks to add another one in New York.
Lastly, another favorite to watch out for in the black belt category is Alliance Atlanta product Ian McPherson. The second-year black belt is coming off a disappointing Atlanta Open where he lost to “DJ” Jackson in both weight and absolute categories. Looking to rebound, McPherson will be competing for gold in the heavyweight category with a field that includes his teammate Leonardo Itturalde. Don’t be too surprised to see a heavyweight category closeout with the duo of Itturalde and McPherson.
In the brown belt category, there are a lot of names worthy of attention, but the most intriguing matchup looks to be between Gracie Barra’s AJ Agazarm and Gracie Elite’s Garry Tonon in the lightweight category. Agazarm is very popular in the jiu-jitsu community, as he was a former Division I wrestler and a gi Pan and World champion, but don’t count out Tonon. Relatively quiet on the scene, Tonon is the reigning champion of this division and also won the No-Gi Worlds last year. Both Agazarm and Tonon have similar and exciting styles, so expect a serious battle if it comes down to those two in the finale.
So there you have the main divisions and competitors to look out for at the 2012 No-Gi Pan Championships. By the conclusion of this weekend, who do you, the reader, believe will be the standout name people will be talking about?
Comment below and let yourself be heard! Osss!
Photo: Lucas Lepri (R) (Luca Atalla/Gracie Mag)