Yesterday’s absolute conjured up memories from the 2004 Worlds.
The magazine needed to be at the printers on Sunday, and I had to turn in the write-up on the the absolute on Saturday night, the final between Roger and Jacaré still yet to come.
But as much appeal as there was in the grand finale, the division’s story could already be told. After all, there were epic encounters like Roger vs. Tererê, Roger vs. Garcia and Jacaré vs. Xande, just to point out three of a plethora of spectacular moments. After all, we’re talking about the 2011 Pan, not the World Championship from seven years ago.
There are huge expectations surrounding the divisional decider soon forthcoming between Rômulo Barral’s favorite to win, Rodolfo Vieira, and the current champion, Bernardo Faria. But one mustn’t forget what happened on the mats yesterday in Irvine.
Rodolfo made it past Braga Neto in a semifinal match that started out very tactically, with Braga Neto trying in vain to push ahead on takedowns. Losing by 2 to 0, all the Gordo student could do was pull guard, and Rodolfo thus let out all the fuel he’d been saving until then, in a full-on assault that saw him get back mount and finish.
Braga was left in his wake, and if we only take into account the result, we’d skip past the phenomenal match he had against Ricardo Demente, exacting revenge for his loss at the 2009 Worlds and laying waste to one of the the greatest powers in present-day Jiu-Jitsu, who bravely defended his back till the final whistle, the clock interrupting the blitz on his neck that had gone on to extend into the protection area.
Bochecha lost to Bernardo in another semifinal in another match exhausting even to spectators, so lively it was. He started out taking the lead with two points, but Bernardo’s omoplata tied up the score, leaving to the sweep exchange (two to the winner, one to the loser) the task of filling in the scoreboard with 6 points to 4, a few advantages left over for Bochecha from near passes and back mounts.
Again it would be injust to look only at the upper part of the bracket. After all, the quarterfinal match between Bochecha and Gabriel Vella also went all the way. The Cavaca student with the slick guard started out launching a surprise attack by going for takedown, shooting in on the legs of guard-passer Vella, who landed setting himself up in the half-guard, to soon thereafter sweep and slap on a single-leg. Gabriel put on the pressure and pushed the pace until nearly the end, when in a comeback worthy of a champion, Bochecha freed himself from a tight guard pass and tacked on a sweep to land positioned sideways on his opponent. Vella didn’t give up and regained his composure, battling until time was up, as always, but with Bochecha taking the W.
A side-note here in praise of Vella: he’s been a black belt for over ten years, was champion of the 1998 Pan as a purple belt, when Bochecha was – if memory serves correct – 6 or 7 years of age. And he’s still at the top of the heap. He lost on a trifle and has what it takes to make it, as he showed in his prior match, with the sweet armbar caught on camera by John Lamonica:
Vella the "veteran" shows his armbar technique. Photo de John Lamonica.
Look, to wrap things up here is still selling this absolute short. Anyone who watched it on Budovideos.com with the excellent commentating from Rafel Lovato (who sat out this Pan after competing in twelve in a row – that’s right, according to him, he’s been in all of them since 1999) will remember the unbelievable sweeps of Leo Nogueira, including one on Rodolfo, who retalliated with one of his own and a choke from back mount. And, of course, among other scenes, the achievement of star from Arizona Ryan Beauregard, who tallied up 6 to 0 on the ginormous Big Mac and looked good to make history, had the veteran from São Paulo not rallied back for the win. But Big was a no-show when it came time to face Bernardo in the quarterfinals.
And even if Rodolfo and Bernardo manage to do what Roger and Jacaré did in 2004, putting on a final that overshadows the preliminary matches worth just as much as the finals in 99% of the Jiu-Jitsu championships out there, the sweat of others will never be forgotten by anyone with a good memory – or by anyone who writes about it the night before they happen, faced with a deadline from the printers.