Elder Cruz continues his path of domination through the colored belts. On Thursday, the Checkmat brown belt submitted three opponents — all with the same technique — on his way to winning gold in the heavyweight division at the 2021 IBJJF Pans.
In the first round of the tournament, Cruz found himself in a bit of trouble against Felipe Teixeira. After an extended battle in the 50/50, Cruz was down an advantage with less than three minutes remaining, but he was able to escape the position, pass to side control, and lock in a lapel choke all in under a minute, advancing to the next round.
In the quarterfinals, Cruz made quick work of Matheus Alves, using a classic torreando guard pass to secure side control where he would again lock in a lapel choke.
The semifinals were more of the same, as Cruz secured a quick takedown, passed the guard to side control, and set up, once again, the same exact lapel choke. With the win, Cruz advanced to the finals where he would face Stephen Banta.
Against Banta, Cruz had his most competitive match. Banta pulled guard early, and the pair were involved in a 50/50 exchange for minutes before Banta eventually swept Cruz to go up two points. Cruz would sweep back to even the score, but Banta would then earn a sweep of his own to regain the lead. The pair worked their way back to their feet, and with about two minutes remaining, Cruz was down by two points. The tide quickly turned, though, as Banta was penalized twice for fleeing the mat to defend a takedown. Those penalty points gave Cruz an 8-4 lead with just under two minutes remaining. Another Cruz takedown put him up 10-4, and with less than 30 seconds remaining, Banta was once again penalized for fleeing the mat, resulting in a disqualification win for Cruz.
Elder Cruz is one of the fastest-rising prospects in jiu-jitsu. The Checkmat brown belt was a no-gi world champion as a blue belt and a 2020 Pans double gold medalist as a purple belt. Earlier this year, he competed at Who’s Number One where he defeated Pedigo Submission Fighting’s Jacob Couch.