2021 No-Gi Pans: Previewing the Tournament’s Best Division

The first major IBJJF tournament of the year is set to take place this weekend, May 15-16, as the 2021 no-gi Pans will go down just outside of Dallas, TX. Per usual, the tournament attracts many of jiu-jitsu’s top black belt competitors across all divisions. However, this weekend, all eyes will be on the ultra-stacked middleweight division, which feature’s a who’s who of elite grapplers.

Here’s the full men’s middleweight black belt division for the 2021 no-gi Pans:

10th Planet Jiu JitsuPaul Barch
AllianceRehan Muttalib
Ares BJJHugo Doerzapff Marques
Atos Jiu-JitsuRonaldo Pereira de Souza Júnior
Breathe Jiu-JitsuDaniel-Shea Garcia Stolfi
Carlson Gracie TeamCelso Ricardo dos Reis Filho
CheckMatMatheus Gabriel Pinheiro Barros
CheckMatRenato Forasieppi Alves Canuto
CheckMat InternationalTyler James Scalisi
Detroit Jiu-Jitsu AcademyKhalil Fadi Fadlallah
Double Five Highland VillageEduardo Avelar de Carvalho
Fight SportsRodrigo Gortari Barbosa
GF TeamLeonardo da Silva Guimaraes
Gracie BarraJoshua Aaron Bacallao
Gracie BarraSaul Viayra
Gracie HumaitaMichael Ray Trasso
Luiz Palhares Jiu-JitsuJeovany Anthony Ortiz
Renzo Gracie AcademyGiann Moramarco
Renzo Gracie AcademyOliver Taza
Silver Fox BJJEnrique D. Galarza
Soul Fighters BJJAaron Michael Joseph Wilson
Unity Jiu-jitsuFelipe Cesar Silva
Unity Jiu-jitsuItalo Moura de Azevedo

Looking at the division, several names immediately jump out as potential champions. Below are the top middleweight competitors looking to make it deep into the tournament:

PJ Barch: Although he is new to IBJJF competition, 10th Planet standout PJ Barch is known as one of the better no-gi competitors in the world. He comes into the tournament following a close decision loss to Nicky Ryan at Who’s Number One. Prior to that, Barch submitted four consecutive opponents to win the Emerald City Invitational. He has an excellent wrestling base that should serve him well in points-based competition, and that pairs well with his advanced leg lock game that he’ll now be able to utilize under the new IBJJF leg reaping rules.

Oliver Taza: A Danaher Death Squad representative, Oliver Taza is a leg locking specialist that has greatly benefited from the new IBJJF leg reaping rules, and in a recent match against Gabriel Almeida, he showed much-improved wrestling. Look for Taza to do everything he can to test his opponents’ heel hook defense.

Hugo Marques – A 2018 no-gi world champion, Hugo Marques who is coming off a decision win over Taza. He is one of the division’s most accomplished IBJJF competitors, and it will be interesting to see how his elite-level guard passing will fare against some of the more modern leg attacks.

Matheus Gabriel – Checkmat’s Matheus Gabriel is just three years into his black belt career but is already an IBJJF Pans and world champion. He is coming off a double-gold performance at the New Orleans no-gi Open, in which he defeated fellow Pans competitors Tyler Scalisi and Michael Trasso by submission. Notably, the win over Scalisi came via heel hook, indicating that Gabriel may be upgrading his leg lock game.

Renato Canuto: One of the jiu-jitsu’s most exciting grapplers, Renato Canuto has used his high-flying guard passing and excellent takedown game to find success in a wide variety of rulesets, including a 2017 IBJJF no-gi world championship.

Ronaldo Junior: A top Atos competitor, Ronaldo Junior might be the division’s best guard passer. He was a 2020 Pans gi and no-gi champion. In his last appearance, Junior looked out of sorts defending leg locks against Craig Jones, so it will be interesting to see if he has been able to improve that aspect of his game when he faces more heel hook specialists.

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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