2023 IBJJF No-Gi Pans black belt recap and notable performances

The 2023 IBJJF No-Gi Pans saw a number of athletes enjoy breakout performances. Check out our recap and highlights here.

The 2023 IBJJF No-Gi Pans took place September 29 – October 1 in Fort Worth, TX, with the black belts competing on Saturday and Sunday. View the full results here.

The event featured a number of notable performances.

Dante Leon captures super-heavy gold

Perhaps the weekend’s most impressive performance came from Pedigo Submission Fighting’s Dante Leon. A 2022 no-gi world champion at lightweight and the current Who’s Number One 155-pound champion, Leon moved up in weight, giving up approximately 40 pounds to win gold in the super-heavy division.

After losing to Lucas Lira in the opening round of the openweight division, Leon stormed back in his weight division, avenging the loss to Lira in the super-heavy semifinals. And in the super-heavy final, Leon took out no-gi world champion and ADCC veteran Devhonte Johnson, capping one of the most gutsy runs in recent memory.

With the performance, Leon establishes himself high on the list of the world’s top pound-for-pound no-gi competitors. In addition to his Pans victory, he holds recent submission victories over no-gi world champion Jeferson Guaresi and ADCC veterans Ruan Alvarenga, Ethan Crelinsten, and Kenta Iwamoto.

Junny Ocasio, Oliver Taza, and Francisco Lo impress

The event saw a number of other breakout performances from some of jiu-jitsu’s more established stars. 

In the light-feather division, Unity Jiu-Jitsu’s Junny Ocasio – long regarded among the planet’s top no-gi competitors and technicians – captured his first major IBJJF title. Ocasio’s vaunted open guard game and leg attacks were on full display throughout the tournament, particularly in the final against Emilio Rodriguez, where he kept his foe largely on the defensive with near-constant chains of attacks and threats from his back.

Additionally, New Wave’s Oliver Taza shined in the middleweight division, earning a 100 percent finishing rate. The leg lock specialist appeared in top form and will look to parlay that success into a strong showing at the upcoming ADCC Trials events.

And finally, in the medium-heavy division, explosive submission hunter Francisco Lo picked up his first major IBJJF title. Lo submitted perennial top competitor Jacob Couch in the semifinal and, in the final, earned a hard-fought decision win over Clay Mayfield to take home gold.

Rocha brothers close out open class at No-Gi Pans

The men’s open class saw a special turn of events, as brothers Pedro and Joao Gabriel Rocha close out the final.

Pedro Rocha punched his ticket to the final with a sensational guillotine finish of Lucas Lira in the semifinal. And on the other side of the bracket, Joao Gabriel Rocha looked excellent in victories over Hunter Colvin and Felipe Costa.

Adele Fornarino and Deise Leonanjo shine

On the women’s side, ADCC veteran Adele Fornarino and Deise Leonanjo each enjoyed breakout performances.

A 2022 ADCC Trials champion, Grapplefest champion, and brown belt no-gi world champion, Fornarino has all the makings of a longtime elite black belt competitor and scored back-to-back submission victories on her way to capturing her first Pans no-gi gold medal in the featherweight division.

And in the middleweight division, Deise Leonanjo impressed with a pair of highlight-reel armbars, including one in the final against ADCC veteran Julia Maele, to claim her first IBJJF major title.

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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