It’s hard to tell for the world at large, but for myself and many others today is a bittersweet and fairly sad day in the jiu-jitsu community, whether you took home gold or not at the 2013 Pan Championships in Irvine, Calif.

The Pan is like a special holiday that is built up for so long—we began talking about it in early January—and now suddenly it’s over. All we can do now is look back and “smile because it happened.” So, with that, let’s recap the memorable action that went down this past weekend at the Pan Am Jiu-Jitsu Championships.

Roosterweight gave us what we expected: a rematch between longtime rivals Bruno Malfacine and Caio Terra. The two are known for their epic and controversial battles at the Worlds, but this time they added another chapter to their rivalry at the Pans. Although Terra looked shaky going into the final, as he barely eked out a win versus Alliance’s Fabio Passos via judges’ decision, he didn’t look to lack any confidence going into the final with the favored Malfacine. The two dueled in a typical close contest, but this time Terra led by advantage points in the end and took his third consecutive Pan title.

Light-featherweight saw a rematch of the 2012 Worlds final between Guilherme Mendes and Laercio Fernandes. The match looked a lot like the final last year, except the result was not up to the judges to decide as “Gui” won by a 4-2 score, achieving one more sweep over his dangerous Alliance opponent.

The featherweight category, as usual, was one of the most stacked categories of the championship, yet we were given another expected final between Rubens “Cobrinha” and Rafael Mendes. Unlike last year, where Mendes submitted “Cobra” with an armlock, the contest was much more even. Although the win went to Mendes in the end, there were plenty who disagreed and believed Cobrinha should have been the winner. Either way, it was another fascinating contest between two icons of the sport, as the exchange of sweeps using berimbolo, De La Riva and 50/50 position kept the crowd enthused throughout.

Starting at lightweight, last week’s predictions begin to go down the drain. In the end, when the two are together, never doubt the Michael Langhi-Lucas Lepri duo. The two athletes imposed their skills on all of their opponents leading up to the finals, where they would meet up and close out together for the third time at the Pans. Now, can they accomplish the same feat at the Worlds? Only time will tell.

Middleweight was far worse when it came down to my predictions, but really, did anyone expect to see this result? In the most stacked division of the event, the final came down to two people no one really gave a chance to even make to the final. Marcel Mafra and Clark Gracie were those two unexpected finalists, as each had great upsets over favorites such as DJ Jackson, Leandro “Lo” and Otavio Sousa. Then, in their final, the two put on one of the best fights of the championship. Back and forth for nine minutes, Mafra led by two points, but that was until Gracie secured his signature omoplata to lapel choke. Like the warrior Mafra showed to be, he refused to tap, but instead was put to sleep with 20 seconds left, and Gracie was deemed middleweight champion.

At medium-heavy, everyone expected another showdown between Andre Galvao and Romulo Barral, but Gustavo Campos had expectations of his own. With his Atos teammate, Galvao, already with his spot secured in the final, Campos put on arguably the best performance of his career in the semifinal versus Barral. Even at 4-4, Campos broke through by passing the nearly impassable guard of Barral. From there, with Barral being more desperate and opening up, Campos was able to rack up more points with another sweep and another guard pass to make the score 12-4. In the final, Campos and Galvao had a gentleman’s agreement, and Galvao was awarded the gold medal.

At heavyweight, there was plenty of excitement to go around. Roberto Tussa stole the show though with his determination, as he grinded his way through the division. None of his matches seemed to come easily, but in the end, all of them would go his way. This included his final against CheckMat’s Nivaldo Lima, where he was able to win a seesaw affair by advantage points and claim another Pan title and another gold to add to his collection.

The superheavyweight category was left without its champion on Sunday, as Bernardo Faria was unfortunately injured during his absolute semifinal battle with Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida. But Alliance still had another ace in Leonardo Nogueira to get the points for the reigning team champions. In the final, Nogueira dueled with former Alliance member Gabrielle Vella. Past his prime, Vella did not look sharp enough to handle the young Alliance black belt as “Nog” would cruise with a 5-0 victory.

Buchecha is proving himself to be the best jiu-jitsu fighter in the world today. The reigning world absolute champion added yet another gold to his collection when he defeated Alexander Trans in the ultraheavyweight final by a 7-0 score.

From there, the Checkmat black belt wasn’t finished, as he competed in and won the absolute division to add a second gold to his weekend. After getting by Bernardo Faria in his semifinal, he was matched against Andre Galvao, who came in on a torrid streak of his own. In the end, the collision of these two champions ended up being one of the best matches of the weekend, without a doubt. Both competitors had their opportunities in the 10-minute battle, but unfortunately for Galvao, Buchecha took advantage of more of those opportunities and would win the match by a 4-2 score. Buchecha not only added points to his team’s overall point total, but the loss for Galvao kept Atos from winning the team title that was once again taken over by Alliance, along with Fabio Gurgel and Romero “Jacare.”

Now that this recap is completed, maybe we shouldn’t be too sad, because we’ll all be seeing more of this in June for the World Championships! Jiu-Jitsu season never ends! Stay tuned for next week as we start to look at what is next on the calendar leading up to the Worlds in Long Beach, Calif. Osss!

Photo: Rafael Mendes battles “Cobrinha” (Gracie Mag)

About The Author

Gianni Grippo
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Contributor
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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.