When you read this, everything that transpired on Sunday at the 2011 Jiu-Jitsu World Championship will no longer be news.
You know who won, may have even watched live over the internet.
Well, just as the Monday newspaper does, the Worlds Blog brings you more.
The details, drama, joy, heartbreak, utterances, controversy… the bigger picture.
And to start…
The life of 21-year-old Carioca Rodolfo Vieira changed drastically a little after 7 pm on Sunday, California time. That was the moment he was crowned Jiu-Jitsu absolute world champion, an honor so far reserved for just eight other men throughout the championship’s 16-year history.
The 9 to 0 score over Bernardo Faria stuck an exclamation point at the end of the sentence the Jiu-Jitsu world has been repeating for some time: Rodolfo Vieira is the best Jiu-Jitsu competitor of the year! He was unmatched in Long Beach. Bringing on plenty of pressure, a good standing game bolstered by takedowns and an almost endless gas tank, Rodolfo submitted Claudio Calasans, Sérgio Moraes, Marcus Bochecha and Rafael Lovato Jr. Over his two encounters with Bernardo Faria on the day, he outscored his rival by 12 to 0. The title was well deserved and recognized even by his opponents, like Sérgio Moraes, for example: “We’re always gunning for whoever is at the top and the one at the top today is Rodolfo. He came on way strong,” he remarked.
Rodolfo himself, however, still seemed incredulous that his life had changed. “I still can’t believe it! It’s a dream what I’m going through!” he said with a broad grin. Besides disbelief, his winning the absolute division stirred up memories of his recent past. “When I showed up and beat some black belts in 2009, they criticized me saying my game was sneaky, that I was fooling the referee into thinking I was doing something when on top but was really stalling,” he said. He felt hurt by the criticism, and his reponse came two years thereafter: “I always knew I had an attacking Jiu-Jitsu game. I really enjoy letting the game flow in the gym and that’s what I do at championships too.” Rodolfo addressed the underlying reasons for the superiority he demonstrated in Long Beach: “I don’t have an ego when I train. I let my game go and I’m evolving. The funny thing is that I usually train on bottom, but at championships I end up playing from top position more and still do well.”
To incite a response, the pesky reporter brought up Roger Gracie, the opponent everyone was hoping would be at the other end of the mat to see how Rodolfo would do. The young man didn’t lose his cool: “To me he’s still number one.” ADCC 2011 could turn out to be the occasion for this first encounter.
But, for the time being, it’s time to celebrate and get used to his new life. From here on out Rodolfo will have some privileges, with a special spot on tournament brackets. There will also be demands and challenges. He’ll take more photos with the fans, hand out more autographs, be invited to teach seminars the world over. By the same token, his game will receive a lot more scrutiny. He’ll become everybody’s target of choice.
If he handles his new life the way he’s been handling his opponents’ guard, he’s got everything it takes to be successful.
Gabrielle versus (almost) everybody
This time around she didn’t have her buddy Luanna Alzuguir backing her up. The Alliance lightweight sat out the absolute due to a cracked rib. So Gabrielle tore into the absolute contest on her own. Well… almost on her own. She had the whole Alliance cheering section on her side.
The problem is that the rest of the crowd in the Long Beach pyramid was rooting for the opposition. Gabrielle is used to it, though, it’s always been that way. Being big in female Jiu-Jitsu is an advantage with a lot of drawbacks. The crowd in Long Beach chanted: “The art is gentle!” Alluding to the accusation that Gabi only wins because of her size. “Let them talk! Only I know how much I train and how much I deserve to be where I am,” Gabi spat back, already with her absolute and heavyweight gold medals dangling from her neck.
And she speaks the truth; Gabi’s been a lot calmer lately. She no longer shakes her fists at the crowd after winning. At the 2011 Worlds, only in the open weight final (pictured) did she let her nerves hamper her performance. With the entire gymnasium breathing down her neck, the Alliance black belt scored 2 to 0 over lightweight Beatriz Mesquita, who put on quite a show of defense against a nervous Gabi.
After stepping down from the podium, much calmer and her smile in harmony with her pink-colored fingernails, the two-time world champion performed some self-analysis: “I’m not invincible, far from it, but I train to improve!”
When in action Marcelo Garcia tends to be explosive; when the Minas Gerais native speaks he exudes serenity. “Every year I feel a great desire to compete, but it gets harder every year, with more injuries, more commitments,” he replies, when queried as to how much longer he’ll keep at it.
In Marcelinho’s response lies what motivated the question. When you consider how the last opponent to beat the black belt was Fernando Tererê, way back in 2003, it only makes you wonder why he continues testing himself. This Sunday Marcelo began the trek to his fifth gold medal in seven years by scoring 3-0 over Victor Estima. He followed up by latching onto Guto Campos’s neck and scoring 2-0 over Lucas Leite in the final.
The other half of the question is: for how much longer will we be seeing Marcelo Garcia competing at the highest level? “For as long as I can show pretty and attacking Jiu-Jitsu. I’ll stop when I no longer manage to perform the positions I always did.”
Even Gilbert Burns himself confesses that on previous years he arrived in Long Beach in better position to take the title. “In 2009 and 2010 I was on a roll from previous results but ended up losing,” he recalls.
In 2011 Durinho watched the finals at the European Open, the Pan and the World Pro from the sidelines. What’s more, Kron Gracie squeezed on his neck in Italy, two weeks prior to the Worlds. “God has a purpose in life for everyone. I trained a lot for the Worlds and the match against Kron; I protected my neck well,” said Durinho about the fortune that smiled on him in Long Beach.
Starting with the quarterfinals at the Worlds, he didn’t have it easy. Durinho edged out Lucas Lepri on advantage points and outpointed Jonathan Torres by 4 to 0. In the final, against Kron Gracie, he passed guard and swept on three occasions, racking up the 9 points to 2 that catapulted him to a new career benchmark: that of world champion. Has anything changed now? “Nothing, it just motivates me to train even more,” he said.
Still on the lightweight division, you can’t not address Celso Venícius, Michael Langhi and Kron, three of the stars responsible for the weight group being considered the toughest of the 2011 Worlds. Langhi lost the semifinal to Kron by judges’ decision. The two-time champion of the event spoke of the setback: “I’m upset about the result, but I’m satisfied with how I trained for this Worlds.”
Celso was outdone by JT in the final seconds. A sweep unseated him from contention for a fourth title. In attempting to remedy the disadvantage the three-time world champion demonstrated bravery and strength. He came up short, but the effort drew well-deserved applause from the gymnasium.
Kron, the runner-up, showed his usual courage and determination to finish. Competing in the new division to him after falling victim to a virus that cost him a lot of weight, Kron is pondering staying at lightweight: “I was happy with my performance. At middleweight I felt the weight difference between me and my opponents but at lightweight I feel fine.”
Malfa four times over
Competing at light featherweight at the European Open and the Pan, Bruno Malfacine had to settle for two silver medals, losing to Ary Farias and Caio Terra. He returned to the top at the Brazilian Nationals, but the big test would come in Long Beach, at the World Championship.
“I can’t say I’ve been having a bad year, since I made it to the final at all the big championships. My game changes a lot between rooster and light featherweight. I’m more comfortable at roosterweight,” said Bruno in assessment.
At the Worlds, he finished Brandon Mullins, drubbed Josef Manuel by a score of 10 to 0, and went through to the final to face Caio Terra again – the third time in three years and the third time he wins it. Even so, his recent loss to Caio at the Pan prompted the Alliance rep to tread carefully: “I studied his game more so I could make it to positions without running any risk.”
Now four-time champion of the world, Malfa remained modest. Are you or aren’t you the greatest roosterweight of all times? “I’m not the judge of that, but the results are there.”
Gui Mendes’s diet
Last year Guilherme Mendes lost his very first match at light featherweight. However worthy his slayer, Paulo Melo, the main villain behind his setback was the scale. “To fight at light featherweight I have to shed seven kilos. In 2010, on the day before I was 4 kg over,” he recollects.
This year everything was different. Free of the injury that caused him to have to lose weight at the last minute, Gui Mendes did everything just right and with professional accompaniment. “I consulted a nutritionist. I lost nearly two kilos a week at the right pace. When championship time came I was at just the right weight,” he recounts.
The proper planning reflected on the mat. “I had four matches and got the finish in three of them,” Gui runs the numbers, after finishing Laercio Fernandes, outscoring Samuel Braga by 4 to 2, and closing out the final with Ary Farias, who made it to the decided with a 5-0 advantage point lead over Pablo Silva and a 3-0 score over Samir Chantre.
Sérgio’s life and Rômulo’s farewell
The injury that kept Tarsis Humphreys from defending his medium heavyweight title was an opportunity for Sergio Morais to conquer his second world championship title. The São Paulo native from Alliance moved up in weight to accomplish his mission: “It was Fabio Gurgel’s strategy,” reveals Sérgio.
The strategy proved to be the right one. Morais scored 4-0 over Eduardo Zanetti in the quarterfinals and then went straight through to the final, since he was crossed with Alliance teammate Rogel Monsalve in the semifinal.
The decider against two-time champion of the division Rômulo Barral was evenly matched and the outcome was determined by a takedown Sérgio successfully applied towards the end. With his title secured, Morais gushed: “This is my life!” Later, a bit calmer, he added: “We put in 100% and want to get 200%”
Rômulo didn’t make it to the gold, but he touched everyone by announcing his retirement from competition. The Minas Gerais native left his gi on the mat to applause from the crowd in the pyramid. He’ll be missed.
Rafael Mendes’s new strategy
The controversy he was embroiled in last month in Abu Dhabi made its mark on Rafael Mendes. The judges’ decision favoring Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes led to Rafael making a simple but effective decision: “I started training to get the finish in every match and I’ll never leave the decision in the hands of others,” revealed the now two-time featherweight world champion.
In Long Beach, Rafael didn’t manage to get the finish in all his matches, but he did show his well-known offense, now melded with a good dose of strategy. He finished Leonardo Sagioro in the quarterfinals and scored 4-2 over Mario Reis. The final would see him rematch Tanquinho, who had taken out Cobrinha.
“Tanquinho is great at escaping from positions. He’s really good at breaking grips,” said Rafael in assessment, further revealing that the rivalry that arose between the two had been resolved somewhere unexpected: “We met in the restroom before the match and agreed that there was no reason for us to be badmouthing each other. That just denigrates our image,” he recounted.
Once again the decider was an evenly-matched affair, but Rafa kept his promise and nabbed his second world title after a sweep swap from 50/50 guard had his ahead by one advantage point.
The new photo on the mural
When he saw the Worlds Blog reporter approaching for an interview, Léo Nogueira preempted him “I ruined your prediction!” referring to a post from last Wednesday where I bet on who the winners of each division would be. I’d bet on Marcus Vinícius “Bochecha” to take the super heavyweight division. I was wrong.
While joking about the blog post, Leo was dead seriously about the main reason behind his conquest: “I train six hours a day and that’s having its effect. I could have fought in the absolute but Fabio decided to go with two world champions from the team,” he revealed. Next year Leo will be able to fight on even terms for a berth in the open weight class.
The referee decision following the 3-3 draw with Bochecha will make it so the leader of Alliance will have to make another change to the recently-inaugurated headquarters in São Paulo. An almost life-sized photo of Leonardo will adorn the wall of the main mat area, adding to the other world champions on the team. “It will be great,” said Léo, smiling about the news.
The stranger in the nest
On Saturday Antônio Braga Neto lost the third match in his march towards the absolute final. He was subbed by Bochecha. On Facebook he wrote: “Now I’m focused on my weight group, tomorrow!”
Promise fulfilled and with safe performances, Braga caught Michael Wilson by the foot, scored 9-0 over Roberto Cyborg, and 7-0 on Rodrigo Cavaca in the decider. The two-time world championship win was more than enough to strike Saturday’s setback in the absolute from his memory. And it was all the more special for being a conquest by a “little guy” in the heaviest division in sport Jiu-Jitsu.
More excitement in the female division
Leticia Ribeiro crowned six-time champion!
Michele Nicolini took gold at featherweight after a controversial match against Kyra Gracie.
Luanna Alzuguir overcame a broken rib to finish Luiza Monteiro by the neck.
Hannette Staack landed the sightliest sub of the Worlds and notched her seventh world title with a picture-perfect flying armbar on Ida Hanson.
Talita Nogueira tapped Penny Thomas and got her black belt to boot.
Gabi Garcia tapped out Emily Watson.
1 – Alliance – 127
2 – Check Mat – 59
3 – Atos JJ – 44
1 – Alliance – 43
2 – Gracie Humaitá – 31
3 – Lloyd Irvin – 21
You dig this issue? There’ll be more in 2012!