10 athletes to watch at the 2023 IBJJF Pans

We look at 10 black belt competitors poised to have standout performances at the 2023 IBJJF Pans, set to go down this weekend.

The 2023 IBJJF Pans take place on March 22-26 in Kissimmee, Florida, with adult black belts competing over the weekend. It is the second IBJJF grand slam tournament of the year and will bring together a number of the world’s top gi jiu-jitsu competitors.

Check out all the tournament brackets, courtesy of the IBJJF, here.

Each and every division across both genders will feature top athletes. With that said, we’ve narrowed down 10 elite black belt competitors to keep a close eye on this weekend.

Steffen Banta – Men’s super heavyweight

Alliance’s Steffen Banta might have been the most dominant brown belt on the IBJJF circuit in 2022, and he looks to continue that success in his black belt grand slam debut at the 2023 IBJJF Pans. 

Last year, Banta captured gold at the IBJJF gi and no-gi Worlds, gi and no-gi Pans, and the gi and no-gi American Nationals, making him one of the most promising rookie black belts of 2023. 

He comes into the tournament as the #4 seed and can look forward to a potential semifinal showdown with 2022 openweight Pans champion Erich Munis.

Mayssa Bastos – Women’s light featherweight

Mayssa Bastos has long been considered one of the most technical pound-for-pound competitors in the world, and she aims to solidify that status this weekend as she shoots for her third black belt Pans title.

The Unity Jiu-Jitsu representative recently found herself on a multi-match losing streak, but that was only against elite competition and at a higher weight class. She now returns to her natural division of light feather to reassert her dominance. 

Bastos won’t face an easy path to the final, though, as she could potentially face ADCC veteran Adele Fornarino and no-gi world champion Amanda Alequin on her way.

Elisabeth Clay – Women’s middleweight

A multiple-time no-gi world champion feared for her seemingly impassable guard and dangerous leg locks, Elisabeth Clay seems poised to capture her first major gi title this weekend.

The Ares BJJ athlete comes into the tournament following a spectacular run through the Polaris grand prix, defeating 2022 ADCC champions Ffion Davies and Amy Campo in back-to-back matches.

Clay will want to build on that success and prove she is just as dangerous in the gi. As the division’s #3 seed, she can look forward to an opening round match-up with the accomplished Raquel Canuto, and, if she wins, a semifinal showdown with Thamara Ferreira, who submitted Clay in a no-gi match in 2021.

Tainan Dalpra – Men’s middleweight

Undefeated in IBJJF black belt competition, Art of Jiu-Jitsu’s Tainan Dalpra is widely regarded as the top pound-for-pound gi competitor on the planet. The 22-year-old possesses some of the best guard passing ever seen in jiu-jitsu and is the clear favorite to take home his third Pans title this weekend.

Fans won’t want to miss any of Dalpra’s matches; each one is an opportunity to see the world’s top competitor in action.

Ffion Davies – Women’s lightweight

Last year, Ffion Davies accomplished one of grappling’s most impressive feats by winning gold at both the IBJJF Worlds and the ADCC World Championships, effectively cementing her status as the planet’s top female pound-for-pound grappler. Now training full-time at Essential BJJ under the tutelage of JT Torres, Davies hopes to bounce back from a no-gi submission loss to Elisabeth Clay at Polaris 23.

Davies is skilled in all areas but arguably owns the best overall top game in the sport. Look for her to utilize her guard passing and relentless pacing throughout the tournament.

If she makes it to the final, Davies could potentially face multiple-time world champion Luiza Monteiro or the hard-charging Janaina Lebre.

Uanderson Ferreira – Men’s medium heavyweight

Still less than two months into his black belt career, Uanderson Ferreira already holds wins over the likes of Tommy Langaker, Jansen Gomes, and Isaque Bahiense. He enters the medium heavyweight division as the #28 seed but has the proven skills to take home gold.

Of course, the rookie black belt will face a difficult road to the final. In the opening round, he takes on 2022 Brasileiro champion Matheus Spirandeli and can look forward to potential match-ups with established competitors like Ronaldo Junior, Murilo Santana, and Gustavo Batista.

Nicholas Meregali – Men’s ultra heavyweight

After a foray into no-gi competition that saw him earn two medals at the 2022 ADCC World Championships, New Wave’s Nicholas Meregali is back in the gi and aiming to pick up his first Pans title.

Meregali is a three-time IBJJF world champion and one of the best submission hunters the sport has ever seen. Fans won’t want to miss a potential semifinal showdown with recent ADCC veteran Roosevelt Sousa.

Samuel Nagai – Men’s featherweight

The men’s featherweight division might be the most stacked bracket of the tournament, but Checkmat’s Samuel Nagai seems ready to take home his first Pans title.

Known for his explosive and entertaining style, Nagai already holds a pair of wins over the #1-seeded Fabricio Andrey. But before he can even think of another clash with Andrey, he’ll have to first get past potential opponents Marcio Andre, Diego Sodre, and Richar Nogueira.

Diogo Reis – Men’s light featherweight

Although he might be best known for his gold-medal run through the 2022 ADCC World Championships, Diogo Reis was first an elite gi competitor. He comes into the 2023 IBJJF Pans as the light featherweight’s #3 seed.

Reis is an all-around technician and master tactician, and he’ll need to lean on those skills in this talent-rich bracket. If he makes it that far, he can look ahead to a possible semifinal match against the dangerous Malachi Edmond and a potential final showdown against Diego “Pato” Oliveira – the man who narrowly defeated him at last year’s IBJJF Worlds.

Anna Rodrigues – Women’s featherweight

Dream Art’s Anna Rodrigues will try to continue her run of dominance in the featherweight division and pick up her third straight Pans title this weekend. 

Undefeated at this weight class in IBJJF competition, Rodrigues possesses both elite guard passing and guard play, and as the division’s #1 seed, she will be the odds-on favorite to take home gold once again.

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

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