2020 IBJJF Pans Recap – The Best Major So Far

This year’s IBJJF Pans can be thought of as 2020 World Championships. The event, from Oct. 8 to 11, was the first major tournament since the pandemic started. Maybe we needed a major tournament, but it was amazing to have IBJJF majors back.

Each year, IBJJF Pans take place around March. This makes this event the preview of each of the World Championships, which occur in May-June. Most contenders to the World title will generally show up at Pans for a shot at gold. This time, however, Worlds haven’t been announced yet, and it doesn’t seem there will be a World Championship at all. So let’s think of the Pans as this year’s Worlds for now.

2020 IBJJF Pans Recap – The Good

There aren’t enough characters to describe all the good things that happened over the weekend. But we’ll try to mention the most memorable ones. The first that comes to mind is up-and-comers at the black belt level. Another extremely important one is the high number of registrations. Also, its important to highlight the matches we saw over the weekend. Finally, there’s the Atos male competitors not closing out and fighting their matches.

josh cisneros IBJJF Pans results recap

Fresh new black belts – 2020 IBJJF Pans recap

They are always the hungriest and the most relentless competitors in the bracket. New black belts are generally seen as a work in progress and they are normally hot and cold at major events. At the 2020 Pans, however, they were at their highest. Let’s define new black belts as people who got their promotion within two and a half years of the competition.

The first one that comes to mind is Josh Cisneros. This madman was a brown belt three weeks ago, so he deserves a lot of respect. He won the Light-Featherweight division, and beat Paulo Miyao by decision in the process. That alone shows how good he is.

Johnatha Alves was another fresh black belt who won gold at his division (lightweight). He had five matches on his way to gold, as a low seed due to getting his promotion so recently. He faced Bruno Valdivino, Alexandre Molinaro, and Rodrigo Freitas in the opening rounds. Then, he faced Jonnatas Gracie in the semis and Michael Liera Jr. in the final: an awesome run for this up-and-comer. People have been waiting for him to get to black belt since his purple belt days.

Ronaldo Souza Junior was another newer black belt from Atos who murdered his competition at middleweight. He earned a gold medal in the process. His passing terrorized the division from start to finish. Something incredible happened in the semifinals. Souza Junior faced Lucas Valente, a man who hadn’t had his guard passed since he was a blue belt. He wasn’t fazed by this challenge though, and ended up passing Valente’s guard three times. The score at the end read 15-2 in an amazing showing for the Atos representative.

Other notable competitors

Other notable up-and-comers were Dominique Bell, Matheus Luna, Jackson, Samuel Nagai, Matheus Gabriel and Jonas Andrade. Another fresh athlete worth mentioning at the black belt level at lightweight was Gracie. He lost a razor sharp decision to Alves in the semifinals.

Number of registrations – 2020 IBJJF Pans recap

The event registration was complete a solid three weeks before the competition even started. This shows that athletes were eager to compete at major tournaments. Even though some of the registered athletes ended up not showing, this proves that athletes are willing to compete, even with all the uncertainty around COVID-19. This means that we were able to see most of the best athletes living in the US competing at the event.

Ronaldo Junior vs Lucas Valente 2020 IBJJF Pans results recap

The amazing matches

Amazing matches are what everybody wants to see. No introduction needed here, we’ll give you a quick summary of the best matches to watch from the 2020 IBJJF Pans at black belt and also a few brown belts ones.

  • Ronaldo Junior vs Lucas Valente
  • Samuel Nagai vs Isaac Doederlein
  • Mikey Musumeci vs Horlando Monteiro
  • Kendall Reusing vs Amanda Alequin
  • Josh Cisneros vs Paulo Miyao
  • Mayssa Bastos vs Pati Fontes
  • Matheus Gabriel vs Kennedy Maciel
  • Gustavo Batista vs Nizar Loynab
  • Renato Canuto vs Michael Liera Jr
  • Thiago Macedo vs Gianni Grippo

Most times it’s difficult to put a list of top matches together. This time, there were so many matches that it was tough to choose which were the best. I understand this might be because we haven’t had BJJ for such a long time, but it was great to see BJJ back.

No close outs from Atos?

You read correctly, there were no close-outs from the BJJ powerhouse team, Atos, in the male black belt divisions. This goes against all tradition in the sport, as most big teams have strict rules regarding close-outs. This is one of the most controversial discussions one can start in a BJJ conversation. Until this day, no one has come up with a solution to the close-out problem.

Some say that close-outs should exist, because competing against the people you train with may create some uncomfortable situations for the athletes. They argue that training partners shouldn’t compete against each other because they could expose weaknesses in their teammates’ game.

People who reject this argue that this is unfair towards up-and-comers, because they generally are on the losing end of close-outs. Their argument is that you can be a ranked lower, but be a better competitor. In that case, you have to give up your spot to someone due to seniority.

Both arguments are understandable. I personally wouldn’t like to fight teammates, but if I’m honest I think it’s the only way for the result to be completely fair — at least on the athlete’s side. Seeing the aftermath from this year’s Pans, I’m feel removing close-outs might be harsh at first, but in the long run, it will prove to be the more professional way of doing things. So congratulations to the Atos crew for stepping up and fighting it out.

There were two notable clashes between Atos teammates. Dominique Bell faced Rafael Vasconcelos and Gustavo Batista faced Nizar Loynab. Both matches were awesome to watch and brought the intensity up, especially in the Batista vs Loynab matchup, which gave Batista a black eye for the rest of the tournament.

2020 IBJJF Pans recap – The bad

Let’s be honest, there isn’t much to say here, but there are some things I would like to talk about. The first is the low registration count from international competitors. The second one is the Mikey Musumeci loss to Horlando Monteiro and Roberto Jimenez‘s injury resulting in him not doing his weight division. And the third was the number of no-shows (athletes that registered for the event, but didn’t compete).

Leandro Lo unable to participate - 2020 IBJJF Pans results recap

Low international competitor count

International competitors were at an all-time low at this year’s Pans. This was because of international travel restrictions, so we missed a lot of high-caliber athletes. Most athletes living in Brazil, Poland, Norway, Spain, the UK, Portugal and all the rest of the world couldn’t enter the US.

It’s clear that most of the top tier athletes lives in the US, but we missed out on some of the most accomplished black belts who live outside the US. Some monsters like Leandro Lo, Cleber ‘Clandestino’ Sousa, Isaque Bahiense, Tommy Langaker, Erberth Santos, Felipe Pena, Adam Wardzinski and Ffion Davies weren’t able to attend.

Even though the tournament was stacked, these competitors would have added more depth in each division. The good thing is that athletes from the US took advantage of that, and most of the high-caliber athletes living in the US registered.

Mikey Musumeci and Horlando Monteiro

Dissapointing losses

Before the event, there was much uncertainty around Mikey Musumeci’s appearance at the 2020 IBJJF Pans black belt division. But on competition day, Musumeci was there to fight. Unfortunately, it was a short lived. He lost in the first round to Horlando Monteiro. No shame in that, since Monteiro is one of the perennial contenders at heavyweight, and outweighs Musumeci by 60 lbs.

Monteiro came out on a mission, and he relentlessly pressured Musumeci’s guard en route to a kata gatame strangle. However, it wasn’t without having to throw everything but the kitchen sink at Musumeci. Musumeci was very close to taking Monteiro’s back from a berimbolo/crab ride sequence. Monteiro was able to scramble away and re-engage Musumeci’s guard on his terms. He put the pressure on him, finally passing to mount and tapping him.

I can’t remember the last time someone passed Musumeci’s flexible guard or the last time he was submitted, but it certainly hasn’t happened at black belt. There’s nothing anyone can say about Mikey, who took the loss amazingly well and registered at heavyweight when he competes at rooster.

Another disappointing loss was Roberto Jimenez. In this case it wasn’t disappointment on the loss itself, but because the loss kept him from doing his division. Jimenez entered the Open Class quarterfinals against Fellipe Andrew. Andrew was true to his game and snatched a nasty straight ankle lock that injured Jimenez. This left him out of the heavyweight division, so we didn’t get to see him fight on Sunday.

2020 IBJJF Pans recap – The ugly

I think everyone knows what we are talking about in this section: Refereeing. There were a few decisions by the referees that left me speechless. Others, although unfair, didn’t affect the outcome of the match overall, but are worth mentioning.

Jonnatas Gracie gets disqualified

First, the one that most people are talking about. This is the penalty against Jonnatas Gracie in his match against Johnatha Alves for the lightweight semifinals. They were tied in points and advantages and 3-3 in penalties with 30 seconds left on the clock, when Alves came up on a sweep. Gracie scrambled to stay on top and the pair was getting close to the edges. At that point, Alves started pushing Gracie toward the edge and Gracie even tried to resist the push (to avoid an advantage).

This is a clear application of an advantage. The referee should have handed Alves an advantage for an almost sweep that started inside the boundaries. But, in an interesting turn of events, the referee awarded Gracie a penalty which meant he was disqualified. The result wouldn’t have changed, Alves would have received the advantage and the win, but it doesn’t seem fair to DQ Gracie.

Daniel Aquino gets the same treatment

In a match that flew under the radar, there was Daniel Maira against Daniel Aquino for the Featherweight brown belt division. This was even worse because Aquino was winning 4-2 on points, with three penalties each. By the end of the match, with 4-2 on the scoredboard, Maira made a quick transition to the back and Aquino, in an effort to force the reset, stepped out of boundaries.

It seemed like a simple drill for the referee: Give an advantage to Maira and reset from standing. But the referee determined that Aquino was trying to flee the mat, and so was awarded a penalty point. Since they had three penalties each, this meant a fourth penalty, and Aquino was DQed. This one is subject to interpretation since it’s possible to think Aquino was trying to flee the mat. If Maira attempted to pull him in bounds, this would be fair. But it wasn’t clear if this was the case or not.

You can find out the rest of the brown belt results by following this link.

Jordan Vaisman celebrates the win, gets the loss

This was a clear case of a situation that was done by the book, but was unfair to the athlete. Jordan Vaisman was facing Keven Carrasco for the brown belt Light-Featherweight title. They were 2-2 on points, 2-1 on advantages for Vaisman and 2-2 on penalties when the match ended. Vaisman, after a hard-fought win on advantages celebrated by walking toward his corner and taking two steps out of bounds.

Carrasco’s corner from Ares was quick to shout at the referee. It seems you aren’t allowed to celebrate before the decision is official and the referee gave Vaisman the penalty, which meant two points for his opponent who then won the match.

Vaisman’s coach, Vinicius ‘Draculino’ Magalhaes took the blame. He said it was his fault because he celebrated with Vaisman before the decision was made official. This seems unfair to both the coach and the athlete. It’s perfectly normal for the athlete to celebrate when pulling off a great win.

I understand this follows the rules, but I can’t help but feel for Vaisman. That’s mainly because he didn’t run like a madman out of bounds and he didn’t do anything controversial, he calmly walked towards his corner to celebrate. This was a well-played manuever by his opponent’s corner. And they jumped at the opportunity to take the win.

Closing thoughts

Overall, it was an strong event with a lot of great matches, wins and revelations. Some bad aspects surfaced, as they always do, but all in all it was an great event. We hope majors come back, so we can keep watching this incredible sport. If you think I missed out on anything, feel free to let me know by clicking here. Make sure to follow me, and also the page by clicking here.

Michel Davidovich

Michel Davidovich is a BJJ Blue Belt from Montevideo, Uruguay. He trains under Mauro Lago, at Team MLDT. Specializing in mechanical engineering and being the BJJ enthusiast he is, his content tries to blend the two by providing an analytical and numerical perspective on the sport we all love. If you want to know more about the metrics used and how do we apply statistical analisys to grappling, hit him up on instagram or facebook!

Michel Davidovich has 28 posts and counting. See all posts by Michel Davidovich