Sunday, March 9, 2014

IBJJF Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championships 2014 Preview

The IBJJF Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2014 is less than a week away.  I realized I better start working on some sort of a preview because this event gets bigger every single year it seems.  As I looked at the divisions for the heavy hitters (Adult Male Black Belts) I noticed a lot of changes this year.  There are a handful of familiar faces that usually show up and dominate either sitting out the tournament this year or simply moving around within the weight classes.  I think we may start seeing a trend of the well-established black belt champions backing off these tournaments and looking for pay-days at shows like Metamoris.  I'll do my best to summarize each division.

Black Adult Rooster (11 competitors)
The biggest thing that stood out to me for this division is the lack of big names.  Both Caio Terra (1st place 2013) and Bruno Malfacine (2nd place 2013) are not present.  The three competitors that stand to be a threat in this division are Koji Shibamoto (Tri-Force), Fabbio Passos de Alencar (Alliance), and Milton Bastos (Brasa CTA).  That said if the brackets are set up like I expect them we will probably see Fabbio Passos & Koji Shibamoto in the finals.

My pick:  Fabbio Passos de Alencar (Alliance)  Currently IBJJF ranked #8 in the Rooster division

Black Adult Light Feather (7 competitors)
The biggest notable for this division is that there are no returning medal winners from 2013.  Gui Mendes is not participating this year and rumor has it that he has retired from most regular BJJ competitions outside of big (paying) events like Metamoris.  Rafael Freitas (Gracie Barra) has moved up from Rooster and should be a contender in this division.  The real exciting thing about this division is that it will be the first Pan Championships with the Miyao brothers competing at black belt.  Both Paulo & Joao Miyao will be my picks in the finals if the brackets are set up in that manner.

My pick: Paulo Miayo (PSLPB Cicero Costha)  Not currently IBJJF ranked in Light Feather division

Black Adult Feather (23 competitors)
Not only did Gui Mendes choose to not participate in this years Pan but Rafael Mendes (1st place 2013) chose to sit it out as well.  No Cobrinha (2nd place 2013) or Augusto "Tanquinho" Mendes (3rd place)!  So that being said the division will look a bit different by Sunday.  There is still plenty to look forward to in the division this year.  Justin Rader (Ribeiro JJ / Lovato), Gianni Grippo (Alliance) making his black belt debut, Osvaldo "Queixinho" Moizinho (Brasa CTA), Samir Chantre (Brasa CTA), and Mario Sergio Reis (Alliance) will be my favorites to have an impact this year.  Both Reis and "Queixinho" had a very ugly battle at last year's 2013 Worlds in the quarterfinal if my memory serves me correctly.  I'm personally pulling for "Queixinho" to win the division this year but think that if he runs into Rader he will have a difficult time.

My pick: Mario Sergio Reis (Alliance) Currently IBJJF ranked #8 in Feather division.  He has come up with 3rd place finishes at both Pan 2013 & Worlds 2013.  I think with the absence of the big three mentioned above it will pave the way for gold.  

Black Adult Light (23 competitors)
Unlike the previous divisions we will be treated to some "regulars" that tend to dominate every year.  All three returning medal owners from Pan 2013 will be present for Pan 2014.  Lucas Lepri (Alliance / 2nd place 2013), teammate Michael Langhi (Alliance / 1st place 2013), and Jonathan Torres (Atos / 3rd place 2013) will be looking to contend for the top spot.  Throw AJ Agazarm (Gracie Barra) into the division and we will have a somewhat predictable division I think but certainly some great matches.

My pick: I know the popular pick is always Langhi & Lepri to close out the division but I'm going out on a limb this year.  I think Jonathan Torres (Atos) finally gets his gold.  Currently IBJJF ranked #9 in the Light division.  I believe that his move to Atos has only made him better and will get him over the hump this year.  

Black Adult Middle (23 competitors)
This in my opinion is probably the most stacked division talent-wise.  There are so many potentials so it is very difficult to predict who is going to win this division.  The layout of the brackets will be pretty critical for some of these guys.  I'm just going to list the following competitors as ones to watch out for.  (Note the rankings are based on division rather than overall.  Some are ranked lower than you might expect due to weight class changes.)

Carlos Diego Ferreira (Atos) Currently IBJJF ranked #18
Clark Gracie (Gracie Elite) Currently IBJJF ranked #4 & 1st place 2013
Leandro Lo (PSLPB Cicero Costha) Currently IBJJF ranked #26
Otavio Sousa (Gracie Barra) Currently IBJJF ranked #2
Victor Estima (Gracie Barra) Currently IBJJF ranked #6
Victor Henrique Silva Oliveira (GF Team) Currently IBJJF ranked #3 & 3rd place 2013
Marcelo Mafra (CheckMat) Currently IBJJF ranked #13 & 2nd place 2013
Jordon Schultz (Atos) Not currently IBJJF ranked at black belt & making his debut

My pick: Vitor Henrique Silva Oliveira (GF Team)...the guy is simply a beast.

Black Adult Medium Heavy (21 competitors)
The big notables missing from this years tournament are Andre Galvao (1st place 2013) and Romulo Barral (3rd place 2013).  We do, however, have the 2nd place medalist in Gustavo Campos (Atos) returning to make a run for gold.  The other big competitors I see at the end of the brackets are DJ Jackson (TLI) and Keenan Cornelius (Atos).

My pick: Keenan Cornelius (Atos)...why?  The guy is just awesome.  He destroyed almost everyone at brown belt in major competitions and has not disappointed thus far against high level black belts.  In the absence of Galvao and Barral this one is just a no-brainer.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Keenan and Gustavo Campos in a close-out final.  

Black Adult Heavy (14 competitors)
Rodolfo Vieira historically has not competed at Pan's in case anyone is wondering; heck I even had to check and was disappointed to see that.  That said we are left with a few household names likely to be favorites. Roberto "Tussa" Alencar (Gracie Barra / 1st place 2013), Rafael Lovato (Ribeiro JJ / Lovato), and Lucas Leite (CheckMat / 3rd place 2013) are going to be the immediate favorites.  A new addition to the division is Yuri Simoes (Brasa CTA) who appears to have changed camps from CheckMat and also dropped down in weight.

My pick: Yuri Simoes (Brasa CTA).  

Black Adult Super Heavy (12 competitors)
The division this year is devoid of it's champion from 2013, Leo Nogueira (Alliance).  There aren't a lot of names that jump out at me as I tend to snooze a bit as the divisions get heavier.  Most notable contenders to win the division are Bernardo Faria (Alliance), James Puopolo (Ribeiro JJ / Lovato), and Andre Alberto Campos (Gracie Barra / 3rd place 2013).

My pick: Bernardo Faria (Alliance)...why? Because he usually wins with his dominant half-guard game.

Black Adult Ultra Heavy (10 competitors)
This has got to be the strangest division this year.  First of all, Marcus "Buchecha" Almeida (1st place 2013) and Roberto "Cyborg" Abreu (3rd place 2013) are not competing.  I'm sure all the viewers will be disappointed but the competitors will feel a bit of relief since "Buchecha" has been so dominant.  Here are my notables competing at Ultra Heavy this year.  Andre Galvao (Atos) has jumped up in weight considerably, Alexander Trans (CheckMat / 2nd place 2013)...and...Caio Terra (Brasa CTA) has decided to make the jump from Rooster.  This should be fairly interesting especially if we get to see Caio matched up with someone like Galvao.  Anyone who has followed Caio knows he has competed in the Open divisions and has had some success but not usually at this level.  I will definitely be glued to my computer screen when he competes this year.

Update:  I have on good word that Caio is not going to be competing due to health and will be pulling from the tournament.  This has not been formally announced as of yet.

My pick: Andre Galvao (Atos).  I think he will be too fast and technical for anyone in the division this year.  Of course I'd love to see Caio in the final but wouldn't be shocked if he got knocked out by the semi-finals if he makes it that far.  

The following are competitors to watch below black belt.

Black Adult Female Light Feather (3 competitors)
Very small divisions this year.

My pick: Nyjah Michea Easton (TLI)

Black Adult Female Feather (4 competitors)

My pick: Mackenzie Dern (Gracie Humaita)...I realize she is coming off a major knee surgery but hard to bet against her.  

Black Adult Female Light (4 competitors)

My pick: Beatriz Mesquita (Gracie Humaita)

Black Adult Female Middle (3 competitors)

My pick: Luiza Monteiro (PSLPB Cicero Costha)

Black Adult Female Medium Heavy (5 competitors)

My pick: Talita Nogueira (Gracie Elite)

Black Adult Female Heavy (2 competitors)
With a lack of a certain force named Gabbi Garcia I think we will see a new champion this year.

My pick: Tammy Griego (Gracie Barra)

Brown Adult Light Feather (18 competitors)
Michael Woolf Barnato (Gracie Elite) - My pick to win division.  2013 Worlds Purple Gold

Brown Adult Feather (27 competitors)
Jacob Sandoval (Alliance)
Marcio Andre (Nova Uniao) - My pick to win the division.  He won gold at both Pan & Worlds 2013 (Purple belt).

Brown Adult Light (29 competitors)
Michael Liera Jr. (Atos) - My pick to win the division.  He won gold at both Pan & Worlds 2013.
Luan de Carvalho Alves (Nova Uniao)

Brown Adult Middle (28 competitors)
Wellingon Luis Sebastiao (PSLPB Cicero Costha) - My pick to win division

Brown Adult Medium Heavy (23 competitors)
Manuel Diaz (Brasa CTA) - My pick to win division
Shiloh Roberts (Ribeiro JJ  / Lovato)

Brown Adult Heavy (9 competitors)
Timothy Spriggs (TLI) - My pick to win division

Purple Adult Feather (59 competitors)
Edwin Najmi (Gracie Barra) - My pick to win division.  The only issue I can see is he has to avoid the DQ. He has historically had terrible luck in past major comps getting DQ'd attacking ankle locks.
Matthew Fox (GF Team)

Purple Adult Light (64 competitors)
This is probably the most talented division at purple belt and loaded with a lot of guys.
Richard Slomba (Atos) - 2013 Worlds Purple Bronze
Rolando Samson (Atos) - If you don't know this kid you need to.  2013 Worlds Gi/Nogi Blue Belt Gold.
Brandon Russell (Lovato)
Dante Leon (Ribeiro JJ) - 2013 Pan Blue Belt Gold...defeated Rolando Samson to secure it last year.

I could see Dante Leon & Roland Samson in the final if the brackets play out.  For me it's pretty much a toss-up but I'll go with Rolando Samson only because I've seen more of him.  Both guys are pretty elite.

That's it for the 2013 preview.  I'll likely have a follow-up right after the event with plenty of matches for your viewing pleasure in case you miss the action.

Brackets have JUST been posted!

The schedule is subject to change but can be viewed here:

The event can be streamed live via the IBJJF website rather than Budovideos this year.