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2012 Pan IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship

The Pan Ams Are Here!

It's the most wonderful time of the year!  Southern California is buzzing with excitement as competitors from around the world make their way to Irvine to participate in the Pan Jiu Jitsu Championship (aka "The Panz").  It's difficult to walk around West Los Angeles without tripping over a current or former Brazilian Jiu Jitsu legand.  Just last night, our academy hosted Pe De Pano, who further honored KingOfCrazy by repeatedly and effortlessly tapping him, and popping a blue belts arm a couple of times.  (It takes some of us longer than others to learn to tap loudly and unambigously, particularly when sparring with a very large Brazilian.)

Brown Belts

Before we go onto the black belts, I wanted to bring up an intriguing brown belt fight.  In the first round, Jordon Schultz from Lloyd Irvin will face off against Francisco “Sinistro” Itturalde of Alliance.  There has been a lot of attention on Jordon this year due to his departure from Alliance.  I am not sure how extensively they trained together as, up until recently, Sinsitro was based in Ecuador – he (and his incredibly badass nickname) now teaches in Miami. 

Though exciting to see a fight with such a back story, I for one wish this was saved for the finals.  Schultz and Itturalde are clear favorites in their division, but since the IBJJF uses a random name generator to do the match ups in the lower belts, they are facing each other in the first round.   Recall the 2010 first round brown belt match up between Ary Farias and Michel Langhi, also two heavy favorites.  A less obvious example is this year's first round match up in the Ultra Heavy Division between Orlando Sanchez of Gracie Barra and Willie Leonard of Lloyd Irvin.  This could easiliy be a division final as well as the final of the Brown Belt absolute – which now can’t happen as only medalists from the divisions can enter the absolute.  This would be like Van Damme facing Bolo Yeung in the first round of the Kumite, which is so rediculous I doubt the screenwriter of Bloodsport even considered it.

It takes a lot of time and effort to seed brackets manually (I have great respect for the IBJJF officials and head coaches of the various teams) but the brown belts are the stars of next year.  I think it would good for the sport, the fans and the teams to have the head coaches get together and take a shot at manually seeding the brown belts so that matches up like this don’t happen till the later rounds. 

Black Belts


Will Caio Terra compete, or will he not?  Some say he has an injury, but a recent picture posted by Budo Jake shows them training in So Cal together.  There have been other rumors that he is preparing for a late run as the Republican presidential candidate, which would seem unlikely as the United States requires presidents to be born here (ha, ha).  But if Caio is in, he has to be the favorite, especially with his perennial adversary Bruno Malfacine moving up a weight class due to his newfound love for Haagen Daz peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.   On the other side of the bracket, the semifinals will likely see a rematch from last year’s finals between Felipe Costa and Rafael “Barata” Freitas. 

If Caio is out, look for a final combination of Fabio “Monstrinho” Passos from Alliance vs. the winner of the Costa/Freitas fight.


Gui Mendes is the current World Champion of this category and, based on his performance at the recent Abu Dhabi Trials, appears to be in top form.  I would be hard pressed to predict an upset before the finals.  The possibility comes in the form of Samir Chantre; if they were to meet it would occur in the semifinals. 

The second half of the bracket appears to be the heaviest.  We have possible finalists in Bruno Malfacine, Laercio Fernandes, and Pablo Silva.  Bruno is fighting up a weight class; he is the current world champion at galo.  A couple weeks ago he competed at the New York Abu Dhabi trials.  The weight classes there are a little different but Bruno was clearly undersized but still won the tournament.  Bruno could pose a threat to Gui but before doing so would have to get past some very tough opponents.

Laercio Fernandes is an absolute talent that seems to go a little under the radar.  He has medaled at previous mundials and won some very large domestic tournaments.  Though representing Lotus Club, he has been training pretty extensively with Cobrinha.  He recently lost to Gui at the San Diego Abu Dhabi trials and I am sure he is looking to get a rematch


Justin Rader just can’t catch a break!  In his second fight he’ll have to square off against the king of the division in Rafa Mendes.  These two have been competing against each other since the lower belts and it appears Justin hasn’t had much luck figuring out Rafa’s game.  Here at, we suggest that Justin doses Rafa's water bottle, or at least do something a little more proactive this time around.

Rafa’s side of the bracket sets up a great semi final when he squares off against Mario Reis.  I think this is Mario’s first major tournament since leaving Gracie Barra for Alliance.  He has been preparing for this tournament with Rafa’s nemesis Cobrinha.

Speaking of Cobrinha, I have to say I was a little surprised to hear he was competing.  He has been extremely busy with growing his new school and I am not sure how much he has been training for a tournament of this magnitude.  That being said, he is still one of the best, as his seeding shows.  On his way to a rematch with Rafa he’ll have to beat a svelte Michael Fowler (newly minted Atos member), Wellington “Megaton” Dias, or Renan Borges (keep an out for this guy; he has been extremely impressive as of late).


No Michael Langhi this year but Lucas Lepri, the 2nd half of Alliance’s dynamic duo will be there.  Looking at Lucas’s side of the bracket it doesn’t appear he would have too much trouble making it to the semifinals where he would meet Claudio Mattos from Gracie Barra.

The 2nd half of this weight bracket looks to be the tougher side with names such as Zak Maxwell, Bruno Amorim, Leandro Lo, and Phillipe “Furao” Dela Monica. 

Zak Maxwell is coming off a victory over teammate and jiu jitsu royalty, Kron Gracie.  If Zak can continue this momentum he has a strong shot at making the finals and giving Lucas Lepri a run for his money.

Leandro Lo is probably the favorite of this side of the bracket.  Leandro beat Michael Langhi at last year’s Abu Dhabi World Pro; this was Michael’s first defeat in many years.


This is a very compelling bracket as there are several names that have equal shots at wining this tournament.

Side 1 of the bracket has Victor Estima, Marcos De Souza, Kron Gracie and Murilo Santana.

Victor finally got away from his brothers shadow last year by winning the No Gi Mundials.  He took the tournament by storm with what people have dubbed as the “Estima Foot lock.” 

Marcos Souza is may appear as an unknown to the casual observer.  But trust me when I say that he has a very good chance of winning this division.  Marcos usually fights up a weight class and should be bigger and stronger than most of his opponents.  He has also been getting ready with Atos down in San Diego for this tournament.  Be sure that the Bull Terrier Kimonos owner will be in top form to make a run for the gold.

Fighting up a weight class, Kron Gracie looks to forget about his disappointing loss at the San Diego Abu Dhabi trials.  Kron has had a lot of success that last few years fighting in the light division, not sure why he has decided to move up.

I feel strange calling Murilo Santana a dark horse but he just doesn’t seem to get the recognition he deserves.  This Barbosa Jiu Jitsu team member is a tough draw for anybody.  I would not be surprised if he made it to the finals from this bracket.

Side 2 of the bracket has who I believe is the favorite in the division in Claudio Calasans.  If there is someone who has a great all around game it is him.  He has a judo black belt and an amazing guard to go along with it.  Standing in his way in this bracket will be Clark Gracie, Abmar Barbosa, and Otavio Sousa.  Luckily for Claudio, Clark faces Abmar in round 1 and the winner gets Otavio in their 2nd fight. 

Medio Pesado

The big news here is that Andre Galvao pulled out of the tournament.  He is suffering from an injury and wants to be ready for the Abu Dhabi Pro’s in April.  Aside from Galvao, it looks like that Rafael Lovato  is out as well, he had originally signed up for this division but has moved back up to Pesado.  This narrows the favorites down a little more for us.

A big question everyone is asking, is can Romulo Barral regain his pre knee surgery form?  From 2007 to 2010, it can be said that Romulo was only second to Roger Gracie.  But ever since the knee injury he suffered to Tarsis Humphries in 2010, Romulo appears to be out of sync.  At times he has showed flashes of his old self, but in others he seems to fall short – for instance his first round loss at the 2011’s ADCC.  I for one am a huge Barral fan.  He has been a huge influence in my game and I really hope he can come back strong and get back the glory.

Barral’s teammate Kayron Gracie looks to close out the division with Romulo.  Kayron won the Pan Am in 2010 but since then has saddled by injuries.

Looking to stand in the way of the  Gracie Barra duo are Oliver Geddes (this Roger Gracie student has a big submission win over Marcos Souza at this year’s Euros), newly minted GF team black belt Alberto Ramos, and Erik “AnderSLAM” Anderson. 

We also want to give a shout out to Lucas Pires of Werdum Combat team.  He is a friend of Pullingtheline and this is his first competition back after a couple year hiatus.


Is it a coincidence that when Rodolfo decided not to sign up for the Pans that this bracket filled up?

Yuri Simoes makes his debut at black belt.  Yuri has had great success at the lower belts and I think he can continue with his winning ways.  But to get to the finals he’ll have to get past Gustavo Pires, Leo Itturalde, and Rafael Lovato – not an easy task!

Lovato had been signed up for the Medio Pesado division but has now moved back to his usual weight class.  He has to be the immediate favorite in this group.

The surprise in this division is that Lucas Leite is in it.  Usually Lucas fights at Medio but has decided to move up to pesado.  This isn’t the first he has done such a move, Lucas won the No Gi Mundials in this division.

A match up I look forward to would be between Renan Vital (assuming he wins his first match) and Roberto “Tussa” Alencar.  Both have similar aggressive styles of Judo influenced Jiu Jitsu.  Should this match happen it will be a very entertaining one.  I think that the winner of this fight will meet Lovato in the finals of the division.

Super Pesado

I don’t know if this is a hoax or not but it looks like JT Torres will be competing here.  Is JT is summoning his inner Terere?  JT has been sick all week and had even had a brief spell in the hospital.  Last I heard he is competing, and since the brackets are final, I guess JT is competing with the heavies! 

Antonio “Cara De Sepato” Carlos has been someone I’ve been watching since the lower belts.  I remember in watching him 2010 when the hoopla was all about his teammate Buchecha , and I was  very impressed.  I still believe what I thought then, Antonio has the tools to be a big star in this sport just like Buchecha. 

Bernardo Farias seems to have bulked up this year moving up a weight class.  Should he make the finals he is going to have killer of a semi against Joao Assis.  Look for a Farias, Assis, and Carlos combination in the finals of this category.


Ahhhhh.  I love Pesadissimo because the competitor's bellies are as big as their hearts (and in some cases, much much bigger).  Sometimes, I daydream about letting myself go and competing at Pesadissimo, but I realize that would be a slippary slope to morbid obesity and eventually a talk show host cutting a hole in my wall and driving me to the hospital on the back of a truck to rescue me from myself.  

But this division is a great example of how much Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has evolved.  For the most part, gone are the days where two giants stomp around in a ten-minute grip fight.  The favorites in this division are just as good on top as they are on their backs with several of them possessing dynamic guards that would be at home in the Galo division!  One such, and probably the division’s favorite, is Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida.  He has a guard that would give any one fits and foot locks that would make Palhares proud.  If all goes to plan, Buchecha should meet his Danish teammate, Alexander Trans, in the finals.  Alexander is brand new black belt but was probably one of the most successful competitors in 2011.  He doubled up (gold in weight and absolute) at essentially every tournament last year except for the Brasilieors where he decided to sit out the open.  The only person to beat him in 2011 was Fabricio Werdum at the London ADCC’s.  Though these two are teammates I am not sure to what extent they have trained together.  I am hoping they don’t close out the category and fight the final.