2013 IBJJF Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship Thoughts

A star continues to shine: “Buchecha”, here in the blue gi gives Roger Gracie all he can handle at the first Metamoris in 2012. Buchecha won his weight division and the absolute at the 2013 Pans. Image courtesy Metamoris.

The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation’s 2013 Pan Championship has passed. Another blockbuster event in Irvine come and gone, with more than three thousand competitors! I was once again part of the commentary team with Budo Videos (thanks guys!) on their broadcast of the action on Saturday and Sunday. While I had one of the best seats in the house, the sheer volume of the action means that by the end of those days, if you ask any of us about the event, it’s difficult to remember much! You know how when you stare out of a moving car at the scenery as it goes by, and it’s just a blur of thousands of colors? It’s the same for us on those days except the colors are mostly limited to that of blue gis, white gis, brown belts and black belts. Faces all blend together.

Now that a few days have gone by, a few things about the event stand out to me (in no particular order)…

USADA Testing for Performance Enhancing Drugs

We cannot deny that PEDs have been present – and according to some, pervasive – at certain levels of BJJ competition in recent years (although some argue how much it matters). In late January of this year, the IBJJF announced that for the first time ever and to the tune of more than 1,000 “likes”, competitors at IBJJF events would be subject to testing for PEDs. The Pans of 2013 were the first event where that happened.

The black belt finals for male and female athletes took place just to the right of where we were seated. After being mat-side at so many IBJJF events, you tend to know most of the faces you see where we sit. If someone’s not with Budo Videos, they’re either from the BJJ media, Ethan Kreiswirth’s paramedic team, or IBJJF staff. However after these finals matches, the moment the athletes stepped off the mats they were immediately lead away by an unfamiliar man and woman in bleach-white collared shirts. Of course, they were the straight-laced USADA representatives escorting the competitors to provide urine samples for testing.

According to Pans female black belt heavyweight and absolute champion Gabi Garcia on March 27 on twitter, the following athletes were tested:

  • Gabi Garcia (Alliance)
  • Andre Galvao (Atos)
  • Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida (CheckMat)
  • Roberto “Tussa” Alencar (Gracie Barra)
  • Vanessa Oliveira do Nascimento (GF Team)
  • Luiza Monteiro (Cicero Costha)
  • Rafa Mendes (Atos)
  • Gui Mendes (Atos)
  • Caio Terra (Brasa)

So what happens now? When will we know the results? What happens to an athlete if they are found to be in violation of the USADA guidelines for PEDs?

The IBJJF is directing all interested parties to USADA for information. According to the USADA website:

Athletes tested by USADA will receive their results by mail within 2-6 weeks from the date of their test. Tests administered by USADA on behalf of other sport organizations or federations will be subject to that organization’s results management process and Athletes will not receive results for those tests from USADA.

Things we all hope to learn soon:

  • If Gabi’s list of tested athletes is complete
  • What the penalties or sanctions are for an athlete who fails their test
  • If we can expect the testing to extend beyond black belt champions and if so, how soon

Alliance Continues to Dominate… or Do They?

The results of the three top-placing athletes shall count for points in the overall inter-academy contest for each division of the competition.

The following points are awarded for each of the top three placements:

Champion – 9 points
Runner up – 3 points
Third place – 1 point

– General Competition Guidelines, Section 3 of the IBJJF Rule Book

Each In the early days of IBJJF competition, it seemed that Gracie Barra predictably earned the highest total in team results at IBJJF events. However for the past several years, Alliance Jiu-Jitsu has dominated. In fact, Alliance has earned first place in every Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship since 2010, and every World Championship since 2008!

Look at the point margins between Alliance and its opponents over the past few years. (The IBJJF only began publishing point totals along with rankings in 2011, so it’s unknown how easily Alliance may have won in earlier years.)

Alliance barely won the 2013 Pans.

Atos Jiu-Jitsu, lead by Andre Galvao and Ramon Lemos earned just two points less than Alliance.

We reached out to Alliance’s leader Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti in Atlanta, who had this to say about the narrow margin of points:

Jacare: The other teams are getting more organized in order to win the competition because we have been winning the last editions of all the tournaments and all the other guys want to find a way to stop us. Why was it so close? Atos has a very organized team, and they got some pretty good reinforcements. They got 18 points with Keenan (Cornelius). And that made a lot of difference. Plus we lost four or five finals which made the difference of those 2 points. But it’s good for us. It raises our awareness that the next time we have to do better.

The FightWorks Podcast: Do you plan to change any strategy or tactics at the Worlds in June?

Jacare: No. We don’t plan to change anything. A lot of athletes that were supposed to compete from Brazil didn’t come for one reason or another. Atos now has their headquarters in California, so they have a big school with Andre Galvao in San Diego, and another school with the Mendes Brothers, and so they were able to have a really good camp with all their guys ready to go. Our plan will be the same: to try to get the best athletes to compete, to bring the ones who couldn’t come this time because they were hurt… and try to get everybody together. The plan is the same. We keep everyone organized and training hard. But it’s good to have teams like Atos and the other teams are getting better. It’s a good challenge for us!

Womens Finals

In recent years watching the finals in the upper divisions of female competitors has really been a joy because the athletes put on a show in every match. One could expect furious back-and-forth action for the length of the match, whether the outcome came quickly by submission or if the match lasted into the latter moments of regulation time.

This year at the Pans – if memory serves – no female finals match ended in submission. All of the seven divisions’ matches went the distance and most had very low differences in points. While this may be the result of very talented opponents with equal skills, it could also reflect a greater emphasis on going out there with a mission of playing it conservative to win by points. The strategy is understandable but nonetheless it leaves something to be desired for fans.

Individual Stand-Outs

There were performances at the Pans that were arguably career-defining moments. A few that come to mind:

  • Clark Gracie’s come-from-behind victory in the middle weight mens’ finals over Marcelo “Lapela” Mafra (video). Clark was losing for the majority of this match and it looked like he was destined for a silver medal against Lapela, who looked unstoppable that weekend. Clark’s competition record in 2013 included a big bump in the road: he had recently been choked unconscious in a very short match by newly-promoted Gracie Barra black belt Magid Hage. Not only did Clark defeat Lapela… in the closing moments… after being down on points most of the match… he wins by submission… and chokes Lapela unconscious! Victories happen in every match by definition but few pack the dramatic value that this match did. The renewed attention on Clark online after the event and his good looks even lead to a visit to Good Morning America.
  • Guto Campos’s defeat of Gracie Barra’s Romulo Barral. Those in the know have been aware of Gustavo Campos and the danger he brings. But for the most part this fearsome foe’s results have been limited to finishes just on the brink of earning a medal. However this time around along his ride to a silver medal in the medium heavy division, he was able to defeat one of jiu-jitsu’s most successful and charismatic competitors in Romulo Barral. The encounter was close until about halfway, when some combination of Campos’ turning on the afterburners and Romulo’s concentration lapsing lead to a victory with a score of 10-4. Remembering a margin of victory that large over “Rominho” is not easy. It must have been a very satisfying victory for Campos.
  • Buchecha. Of course, Buchecha. Many would call CheckMat BJJ’s Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida the most exciting competitor today. While the question was always, “Who can beat Roger Gracie?” (we still lack an answer) with Roger often diverted by mixed martial arts, the void he’s left has thankfully been filled by a much younger Buchecha.

    At the Pans Buchecha steamrolled all his opponents with the exception of Andre Galvao, whom he met in the finals of the absolute division and defeated by a score of four to two. While Buchecha did enjoy a size advantage over Galvao, the scrambles and constant activity kept the audience enthralled. Large, strong, and hungry for submission victories, Buchecha is not only bringing excitement to the heavy divisions and absolute division matches he competes in but he brings “star power” to the sport itself.

Also of Interest:

One Reply to “2013 IBJJF Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship Thoughts”

  1. On your ‘indiviual standouts’, I would like to add Vitor Oliveira’s win over Leandro Lo. One of the absolute best back and forth matches of the entire Pans.

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