Tarsis Humphreys celebrates his first gold medal as a world champion after defeating Romulo Barral.
From the proverbial “thirty-thousand foot view” to examination of microscopic details that others miss, not many are able to put together a review as detailed as this piece volunteered by J-Sho on the men’s competition at the 2010 BJJ World Championship. (If anyone would like to contribute a review of the women’s brackets, please get in touch.) All photos courtesy of cohost Dan. Enjoy! – Caleb
With the free live web stream provided by Budovideos and the live blogging of Caleb on the FightWorksPodcast giving many 1,000s of BJJ fans a window into proceedings, this, the 15th Mundials of the modern era did not disappoint. Upsets, submissions, controversy and the crowning of the greatest player of our generation.
10 male Black Belt finals, 2 advantage decisions, 1 referee’s decision, 1 close out, 1 injury, 2 submissions, 3 points victories – that was what this weekend came down to.
Some numbers to start us off…
28: Brazilian quarter finalists (from a possible 36). Well, it is called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu…
16: Roger Gracie’s row of submissions in these past 2 Mundials ended by a game Ricardo Abreu
15: The numbers of Black Belt medals Roger has picked up at the Mundials since 2003; the number of Mundials that Wellington “Megaton” Dias has competed in.
10: Roger Gracie’s black belt gold haul since 2003
8: The number of absolute finals Roger has been in since 2003
7: Number of degrees on those Red & Black belts now worn by Mauricio Gomes and Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti (2 of Rolls Gracie’s “Famous Five”) and Sergio Penha.
6: Felipe Costa now has six bronze medals in his division.
5: The absolute silver medals that remind us Roger is human too sometimes; the number of men’s titles Alliance took this year, matching their haul last year – still some way short of the 8 Gracie Barra managed in 2002 (admittedly after Nova Uniao removed themselves from CBJJ competition).
4: The absolute semi finals that Xande Ribeiro has faltered in (2004 Jacare Souza, 2005 Braulio Estima, 2007 Romulo Barral, 2010 Romulo again); the number of Gracies contesting black belt divisions (3 of whom were in Medio); the number of Americans quarter-finalists (Rafael Lovato Jr, Bill “The Grill” Cooper, JT Torres, Ryan Hall)
3: The number of absolute gold & double golds Roger has won; the number of Gracies contesting Medio Black Belt this year (Clark, Kayron, Kron); the number of Japanese quarter-finalists (Naoya Uematsu, Makoto Sawada, Matsumo Yoshihiko); the number of major finals Rafael Mendes has now beaten Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles in (World Pro Gi, ADCC, and Mundials).
2: The number of records Cobrinha missed out on (most titles in one division in a row; most Pan Ams and Mundials in the same year in a row);
1: Closed out finals. Granted a small number of but still 1 too many in my opinion; the number of Gracies other than Roger to have medaled at Black Belt since Royler Gracie in 1999 (Kayron); the round that saw the shock exit of the reigning champ Guilherme Mendes to Paulo Melo; the number of Australian quarter-finalists (Mick Wilson); the number of non-Brazilian Medalists (Lovato).
Tarsis Humphreys’ leg attack ends the Mundials aspirations of Romulo Barral.
Tarsis Humphreys (Alliance) vs. Romulo Barral (Gracie Barra)
A repeat of last year’s final (and with the prospect of more déjà vu for Romulo to come) saw Romulo control much of the match from the top before Tarsis caught Romulo’s foot and twisting his leg in all sorts of seemingly unnatural positions. Romulo was forced to submit due to his injury and hobbled past Roger waiting for his own match. Tarsis was ecstatic to get what some may be surprised to learn is only his first black belt Mundials gold. Fans would be left waiting to see if Romulo could possibly recover for the Absolute final or if Roger would get a walkover.
Tarsis wins by leg lock @ 6m23s.
Roger Gracie refrains from snapping Demente’s arm in two.
Roger Gracie (Gracie Barra) vs. Ricardo “Demente” Abreu (Nova Uniao)
Déjà vu for Roger as well, a repeat of last year’s finals on the cards for him as well. Gracie has submitted all en route to both finals. Would the end of this match be the same as last year? Abreu (no relation to Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu) pulled guard and seemed to try to sweep Roger but Roger’s base was proof against this initially. Another attempt and he swept Roger to get some points on the board but Roger promptly reversed, Demente then reversed, almost took Roger’s back (had the hooks in but no control) forcing Roger to regain his composure and successfully defend the position.
Abreu found himself defending from the half guard, with Roger briefly passing, taking the back, trapping an arm and leg and then engaging in some seemingly armbreaking armbar attempts from different positions. Demente, living up to his name perhaps, did not tap even though from some angles the arm seemed clearly hyper-extended. The commentators speculated Roger was being a good sportsman by not cranking it on further. With a scramble ending out of bounds, Roger pulled guard and then dragged the arm, looking for the back (as per his earlier match vs. Bruno Bastos). Taking the back again and stretching out Ricardo, he secured 4 points to take it to 4-2.
Demente’s attempts to protect his neck were initially successful but Roger then underhooked an arm, rolled to his back and then worked for a choke. Demente had put on a very solid defense, proving more game than any other competitor Gracie had faced this weekend but Roger worked to transition to the mount and started looking for his trademark choke from mount. Demente was again able to put up some very solid defense and Roger was not able to repeat his feats of last year (winning all matches by submission and beating Demente in the final by submission), winning by 13-2. Roger secured his 7th weight division black belt gold in a row and 9th Gold overall and would be left waiting to see if he would contest the Absolute final for his 10th.
Roger wins 13-2.
Bruno Malfacine (Alliance) vs. Caio Terra (Gracie Elite)
Another rematch from last year saw Malfacine looking to continue his domination of this weight, having won both the CBJJ and CBJJE Mundials last year and the Pan Ams and Brasilieros this year. The match saw Terra, representing the newly formed Gracie Elite team, on the bottom and Malfacine on the top for the majority of the match, doing an excellent job of negating Caio’s guard. Terra’s sweep attempt and scramble to take the back at the death almost unseated Bruno, but the advantage awarded was not enough to snatch victory.
Malfacine wins 0-0 (3-2).
Samuel Braga (Gracie Barra) vs. Pablo Silva (Gracie Barra)
The shock exit of Guilherme Mendes to Paulo Melo in the first round was unforeseen; the closing out of the bracket was not. Braga bowed out to Silva, taking his first gold, with Samuel giving up the opportunity to take his third. Braga gets to take this silver home though, having been DQ’d last year after showing disdain at Guilherme Mendes’ post fight celebration.
Silva wins by gentlemen’s agreement.
Rafael Mendes’ hand is raised in another defeat of his rival Cobrinha.
Rafael Medes (Atos) vs. Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles Maciel (Alliance)
The king vs. the pretender to his throne. With Cobrinha having already submitted former champ Mario Reis again and looking to surpass the kind of featherweights Royler Gracie and take his 5th consecutive gold, Mendes shot straight to pull half guard and then started working for a leg or foot lock rather than going for his trademark 50/50 guard. With Mendes and Cobrinha tied 3-3 in head to heads so far and Cobrinha’s avowed intention to retire from competition (temporarily at least), would the king leave on a high, or would he be forcibly dethroned? Mendes was 2-0 up for an early sweep but Cobrinha returned the favour for 2 points of his own at the 4 minute mark.
Leg spaghetti (trademark Caleb) ensued with both men jockeying for position and both men then going for toeholds. Cobrinha’s flexibility was defense enough but Rafael managed to score another sweep and 2 advantages in the meantime. Cobrinha threatened a kneebar and used that to get another sweep to tie the match on points if not advantages. Cobrinha snapped on a wickedly tight footlock, Rafael took one too but neither man could finish.
A kneebar by Mendes also went nowhere but 2 points appeared and then disappeared from the board for Cobrinha, 4-4 (3-1) for Mendes so far with 90 seconds left and all to play for. Cobrinha looked for another footlock, Mendes replied in kind, the clock ticked on, less than 30 seconds to go. More footlock attempts, Mendes lost his but Cobrinha is dethroned, 4-4 (5-3) and Mendes and Atos have finally stopped the relentless Alliance medal haul this weekend. Let us hope Cobrinha changes his mind and we see these two continue their rivalry.
Mendes wins 4-4 (5-3).
Michael Langhi (Alliance) vs. Celso Vinicius (Gracie Elite)
With Langhi looking for his 2nd gold and Celsinho his 4th, the number 0 figured heavily here, with no points or advantages scored in the first 9 minutes. A sweep attempt by Langhi saw some frantic attempts by Celsinho to seal his victory as this one went to the referees. Almost nothing to call between them! Would Langhi get it for the near sweep or Celsinho for maintaining his top position? Langhi had done enough with the sweep and took his second gold. By Michael’s own reckoning, he has not lost in more than 2 years. Celsinho will no doubt be looking to break that run at the next suitable juncture.
Langhi wins by referee’s decision.
Marcelo Garcia works to escape the closed guard of Claudio Calasans.
Marcelo Garcia (Alliance) vs. Claudio Calasans (Atos).
A very strong field this year with all 8 quarter finalists confident of victory (3 CBJJ world champions and 2 world champions under other federations amongst them). The final was another Atos/Alliance contest, with Calasans looking to maintain his momentum of 2010, having beaten ADCC and Mundials champ Braulio Estima twice at the World Pro Gi this year (and under BJJ math, if Calasans beats Braulio and Braulio beats Marcelo, can Claudio beat Marcelo too?). Garcia, who has dominated middleweight since 2004 and the disappearance of Terere from the competition scene, was looking for his 4th black belt gold here and probably some personal redemption having lost out to Pablo Popovitch in the ADCC final last September. He had been impressive en route to the final, but so had Calasans. Calasans attempt to launch Roger into orbit in the absolute of last year was not totally successful, but his top game was initially match for Marcelo’s guard game. Claudio pulled off a butterfly guard pass on no one in particular and then got wrapped up for a footlock sweep by Marcelo.
Calasans worked from guard and looked to work a cross collar choke, but to no avail. Wristlock fans were briefly elated then disappointed. You won’t see Marcelo’s posture in guard advocated on his instructional videos, but when you make the rules, you can break them too I guess (don’t try this at home kids). Calasans working grips to try set up an unconventional looking omoplata, tried to threaten the sweep but could not fix the requisite grips and with the clock moving regularly (even if the competitors weren’t) he would still need to score to prevent the online BJJ community inventing new superlatives to describe Garcia. Calasans shot his leg out but Garcia stuffed it and went for his high step over guard pass. Claudio worked from open, then half guard and was rolled by Marcelo in a scramble. 8 seconds to go. A takedown would be needed to draw. An awesome flurry of sweep and throw attempts by Claudio was not enough and Marcelo’s ownership of the title best Middleweight in the world continues, for the moment at least.
Marcelo wins 2-0.
Alliance’s young title hunter Bernardo Faria defeats Xande Ribeiro.
Xande Ribeiro (Gracie Humaita) vs. Bernard Faria (Alliance)
Garcia was all smiles after his final, by contrast when the camera panned to Saulo and Xande, they were deep in thought, Xande not having not had a great day yesterday, tested by Antonio Braga Neto and then beaten by Romulo Barral in the Absolute division. Pesado has seen a number of young guns emerge recently, with Alexandre Ceconi, Cyborg, Faria, Rodrigo Pinheiro adding to the elite ranks of Braulio & Xande. With Braulio injured and Cyborg campaigning successfully at Ultra Heavy this year it was Faria (who has taken double gold at the Pan Ams this year) who made it to the final hurdle. He started brightly, shooting for half guard and starting to look for his omoplata game. Xande’s day seemed brighter on Sunday, storming to another final, the last person to beat Xande in a weight category here was Roger and that was back in 2005 when Xande stepped up to Super Pesado to go after Roger.
Faria working mostly from the bottom and Xande on the top, Faria worked hard for a takedown with Xande desperately defending; Faria even pulling Xande back into the centre of the mat to try to launch the throw. Faria went back to the deep half guard, from the other side this time, 0-0 (2-1) in favour of Xande with little time left. Xande looked to flatten out Faria and work for mount, but with a double underhook Faria managed to sweep and get 2 pts. 0-2 (2-1) with 2 minutes left. The Alliance cheering squad prepared themselves to explode. 90 seconds and Xande trying to work his legs in, but Faria took control and prevented his game plan. Faria then pulled Xande back into the centre of the mat to maintain his momentum and prevent the restart. Xande indicated Faria was stalling to win the match, but he himself has probably benefited from riding out the clock before and he could not break Faria’s grip on his belt, his gi pants, or on the title.
Faria wins 2-0 (1-2).
Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu peers from the depths as Rodrigo Cavaca seals his fate.
Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu (Carlson Gracie Team) vs. Rodrigo Cavaca (Checkmat)
An oft-maligned division with few serious competitors, not this year, a very deep talent pool this year with the presence of Peinado, Cavaca, Braga Neto, Abreu, Luiz “Big Mac” Teodoro, Gabriel Vella, Roberto Tozi, Marcio “Pe de Pano” Cruz and Marcio Corleta (4 of them World Champions) making for some intriguing match ups. The surprise of this bracket surely the giant Australian “Big Mick” taking the back and choking the versatile “Big Mac”.
The final came down to Cyborg, seeking revenge for Cavaca beating him by footlock in the absolute quarter finals yesterday and Cavaca having easily triangle one legend of the game (Pe de Pano) on his run to the final, seeking a gold to help blot out the memory of another (Roger) manhandling him yesterday. Cavaca has already won this category at the Brasilieros this year and his run must have left him confident. A different Abreu (in case anyone (Caleb) wasn’t sure) from the one who went the distance with Roger earlier, had triangled Braga Neto in the semis and looked to continue a successful campaign at a weight 2 above his normal division. Cavaca fighting from guard, Cyborg looking to pass, but Cavaca with a sweep to go ahead. Cavaca eying Cyborg’s foot hungrily like Pe de Pano & Big Mac at a churrascaria, he set his grips slowly then changed his mind and went for a straight footlock. Fixing his position, then arching back and Cavaca has his first Mundials black belt title, 6 wins from 7 this year and the memory of his defeat to Vella in the final erased.
Cavaca wins by leg lock @ 2m49s.
Roger Gracie (Gracie Barra) vs. Romulo Barral (Gracie Barra).
With Romulo badly injured in his final against Tarsis, and the women’s absolute final closed out by Alliance team mates Luanna Alzuguir and Gabi Garcia, the day’s proceedings were bought to a close. Roger as three time Absolute, 3 time Double Gold winner and now ten time black belt world champion, his 2010 campaign ending on a whimper and not a bang this time, but not before making clear that closing out a division is not an option in his world and additionally that he is going to be back on these mats for some time to come. Barral was clearly disappointed to have not contested the Absolute final, but can take heart in having put on some amazing matches this weekend; we wish him a speedy recovery.
Roger wins by walkover.
And the aftermath
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, like it says on the tin, it’s Brazilian: Still only two non Brazilian gold medalists in 15 years and based on this year, no stand out likely to join them soon. Of the 36 quarter finalists, only 8 were non Brazilian with 4 Americans, 3 Japanese, and 1 Australian all adding up to 1 medal this time around. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu continues to go from strength to strength in the United States and elsewhere and there are many talented and accomplished players, particularly from Japan and the US, but it seems we are still some way from breaking the Brazilian domination of the sport.
Anti-Venom: Mendes proved again he can win by taking Cobrinha out of his comfort zone, albeit the place he takes them to is sometimes light on action. Cobrinha will surely not let the advantage of 4-3 lay with his rival for too long and I think their rivalry will continue shortly.
Many could quickly dismiss this as another 50/50 stall-fest, restating that the goal of BJJ is to positionally dominate and/or submit your opponent, but that is predicated on you actually being able to do that to them. That does a disservice to this particular final, which I think was an intriguing technical battle. Perhaps the casual observer is spoiled by getting to see Roger and others dominate and finish their opponents in short order and this raises an unreasonable expectation as to how a match should look – if you are submitting or dominating your opponent at the black belt level, it is probably because there is a gulf in skill and/or fitness between you and your opponent.
In many combat sports, when two very similarly or evenly matched people are competing, it is probable that the ensuing match will not be visibly spectacular. By the time you reach the semi finals, one should assume that the competitors are all likely to be reasonably matched. An additional consideration, to quote the old chestnut “styles make fights”, not every match is going to be the perfect visual feast of 100 mile an hour acrobatic top game vs. tricky inverse rolling guard game. Sometimes with a clash of styles or where two people with the same style meet, the resulting match will be hard on the eye. This does not mean it is not a skillful affair, just not perhaps to your taste – if you don’t like watching this style of match, then don’t.
Let us give credit where it is due; Mendes handily beat most of his opponents with the exception of Ryan Hall, in part because Ryan Hall plays a similar game to Mendes. Cobrinha blitzed all his other opponents, including a former world champ Mario Reis, seemingly able to impose his game pretty much at will. But he had to engage in the “leg spaghetti” of the final because Mendes is just as good as he is – you don’t become the only black belt to beat Cobrinha (and 4 times at that) just by being able to stall. Cobrinha in this one instance does not possess the necessary incremental skill over his opponent to impose his game or to prevent Mendes from playing his own game. Evolution in positions and movement and tactics and counters is a key facet of BJJ; the 50/50 is just one such evolution that Atos’ opponents are still coming to terms with.
Can’t tap this: Ricardo “Demente” did something improbable this weekend, somehow defending an armbar from Roger Gracie on a hyper-extended limb and thwarting multiple other submission attempts from Gracie to deny him another perfect Mundials. Reports he rushed outside to buy a lottery ticket and discovered the Higg’s Boson on his way to the store are unverified at this time.
All your base belong to us: Alliance repeated their feat of 2009 with 5 of a possible 10 male black belt golds winging their way back to Atlanta. But for Mendes, it could have been 6, a recent record, albeit still short of Gracie Barra’s 8 in 2002 after Nova Uniao pulled out of CBJJ competitions. With champions like Garcia, Malfacine, Faria, Tarsis & Langhi and strong supporting cast in Peinado, Nogueira, Lepri, Moraes & Cobrinha, let alone the small army of warriors at lower belts, they are THE dominant force on the competition scene. They took a very good new addition to the team (Malfacine) and helped him become the most dominant rooster weight in a decade, the first back to back champion at that weight since Omar Salum in 1999/2000.
That having been said, there are still a few gaps in their armory. With the departure of Gabriel Vella, they have lost a decorated veteran campaigner in the Ultra Heavy and Absolute divisions With Leo Leite turning out for his cameo appearances for Brasa these days and Comprido a). also part of Brasa but even so b). retired, they miss their other active Super & Ultra Heavy players of previous years. For a team which can claim 2 of the best 3 or 4 players in the world in Leve and Medio, they are still reliant on one elite individual in Feather and Medium-heavyweight and have arguably had no serious contender in Light Feather since Ricardo Vieira in the early 00’s.
Quibbling over this is may be like trying to point out a small speck of dirt on a fine cashmere jumper, but the Absolute title defines these games to an extent and Alliance have not had a viable challenger for the throne since Comprido back in 2000. Other teams can, for the moment rest easy knowing that there is still gold to be struck out there.
Atos Jiu-Jitsu’s cheering section celebrates Rafael Mendes’ gold medal.
A New Act: Guilherme Mendes was surprisingly defeated in the first round when many (myself included) considered him a shoe-in for the final. Melo deserves full credit for the win, although some will wonder if the weight cut for Mendes was in some way a factor. Regardless, Atos Jiu Jitsu have been consistently showing us that at major tournaments that they have strength in depth in the lighter weights, with their team of Claudio Calasans, Rodrigo Caporal, Bruno Frazatto, Jonatas Gurgel, Gustavo Campos, Gilbert “Durinho” Burns, Eduardo Ramos, Rafael Mendes, Guilherme Mendes. Alliance will have worthy competitors from this team for some time to come.
Gracie Humaita’s cheering section at the 2010 BJJ Mundials.
Look on my works ye mighty and despair: In stark contrast to the riches on their teamsheet for much of the past 15 years, Gracie Humaita have shrunk to having only a handful of potential medalists, one, granted, is one of the best of the last decade, but even he has off days as evidence by this weekend and the next best chance is his student, also in his division, limiting their options for Gold.
Royler, Saulo & Xande make up the most dominant teacher/student force in the history of the sport, with 26 black belt gold and 44 medals at the Mundials, ADCC and Copa do Mundo between them. But with the former two retired, of Humaita’s 8 golds in the last 7 years, Xande alone has won 6 and if he retires to focus on MMA or if training for MMA prevents him from recapturing his past form, does that spell the end of Gracie Humaita as a force at the Mundials at this level?
Lonely at the top: The stats are impressive: 1st 3 time absolute champion; 1st 3 time double champion; 8 absolute finals in a row; 7 weight class finals in a row; 7 weight class gold medals in a row; 2009/2010 run of 16 submissions; 15 black belt medals at the Mundials (10 Gold, 5 silver) and submitted 2 of the other champions at the weekend (Cavaca and Tarsis).
With the records books updated, we must reflect that often a Mundials will be made by Roger being taken to the wire, being beaten, even if just by the tiniest of margins, but with Xande in a poor (for him) run of form, with no Jacare prowling the mats, with Pe de Pano now gone as a force on the mats and despite the emergence of a lot of talent in the Pesado ranks, no other real contender on the scene, how long will the sport hold his interest? For Ali to be the greatest, he needed Frazier, Norton, Foreman to propel him to that peak and keep him there. Roger similarly needs at least one great rival to make next year compelling since this year was another Godzilla vs. Tokyo affair. Either Tokyo needs to learn to fight back, or one of the rival teams needs to perfect their Mecha-Godzilla and fast.
Close outs, a necessary evil?: The odds are stacked against such things happening, but some teams do have real depth in a given division – thankfully we only saw one this weekend, but to many fans it tarnishes the victory of the “winner”, regardless of the arguments that sometimes when people are team-mates and friends, they don’t want to compete against each other. At least Braga didn’t ask for a game of Rock/Paper/Scissors.
(Left to right) Sergio Penha, Mauricio “The Bear” Motta Gomes, and Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti receive certificates for their red and black belts from the IBJJF.
Three Seven Degrees: Certificates commemorating their elevation to the small group Black and Red belts were presented to Mauricio Gomes and Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti (2 of Rolls Gracie’s “Famous Five”) and Sergio Penha. These men have been living and breathing Jiu Jitsu longer than many competitors this weekend have even been alive. For their legacy, Mauricio has produced (both literally and through coaching) the greatest BJJ player of our age; Jacare, created one of the strongest sport BJJ team’s of the decade and Sergio, also a very successful coach, will always been known as the person who came closest to the impossible feat of defeating Rickson Gracie.
A Free Lunch: An amazing gift to BJJ fans, a free live stream for both days of the weekend. Gone are the days of brief text messages from people at Tijuca Tennis Club to the outside world, now with the FightWorksPodcast live blogging by Caleb, the Live stream and the Twittering by Graciemag and others, technology has helped revolutionise how we enjoy the Mundials, in as much as those not there can actually enjoy it without relying on terrible hand shot footage on YouTube or waiting a few months for the DVD.
Shawn and Caleb again did a great double act presenting the Budovideos live stream and we must all thank Budovideos for that. Having said that, with only one camera and the matches selected at the whim of the producers, often changing mid match, I wonder if there is an opportunity for Budovideos to enhance this offering, maybe have multiple cameras to choose from and to charge an appropriate fee for this service. Few might quibble with paying 20 or 30 dollars for premium access to action over the weekend.
Hail to the Chef: It would be remiss to remark about the free lunch and not mention all those who pulled together this feast of BJJ. From the organization and direction of Marcelo “Siriema” Araújo, Alvaro Mansur and others, to the referees and judges, desk staff, mat officials, first aid team, to the unmistakable voice of Tony Torres and those poor souls he DQ’d and of course to all the competitors, coaches and supporters… well done.
See you next year.