The usual host of celebrity male and female black belts competed and awed the audience with their highly technical moves, but it was Rodolfo Vieira of GF Team and Gabrielle Garcia and Luanna Alzuguir of Alliance who captured the open class and their respective weight divisions at the Pan Americans last weekend, making them the true stars of the show.
Rodolfo Vieira of GF Team “wowed the crowd” with his feats in both the absolute and heavy weight division. In the open class Vieira had four matches. In his first and second matches he finished his victims with the choke from mount, and in his third he dominated with a choke from the back. In the semi-finals, he faced Antonio Braga Neto of AB MMA and submitted him with a choke as well. In the finals he took on Bernardo Faria of Alliance for the second time that day, and beat him by points. “I knew I couldn’t mess up,” Vieira said, “I got a couple advantages during the match that gave me the edge in the final minutes.”
Vieira also captured the heavyweight division at the Pan, giving him double gold for the day. Leading up to the finals, he’d won three matches. He dominated his first match 28-0, won the second with four advantages and choked out his opponent in the third. In the Finals he faced Bernardo Faria and beat him 8-0. “It was a tough fight, but I was able to win,” Vieira said.
Vieira was very happy with his performance at the Pan. “I always trust myself,” he said, “I train so hard every day.” Vieira says beating Faria twice in one day was, “Perfect. It couldn’t be any better. Him being the title holding champion couldn’t be any better for me.” Vieira says he’s thankful to God for supporting him, along with his family and friends and his sponsors, Koral Fight. “I also want to thank Marcelo from my gym, Pro Combat, who helped me with my cardio training.”
In the female brown/black open class, Gabrielle Garcia and Luanna Alzuguir closed out the bracket for Alliance. Heading into the finals, Alzuguir, had four fights under her belt. She got a bye in the first round and took on Tammy Griego of Gracie Barra New Mexico in the second. “She’s a really good girl,” Alzuguir said, “I fought her last year. I was able to submit her with a choke from the back.” Then she was on to Vanessa Oliveira from GF Team. Alzuguir finished her with another choke from the back. In the semi-finals, she faced Beatriz Mesquita from Gracie Humaita. “It was a hard fight,” Alzuguir said, “I tried to take her back and submit her, but I didn’t get it.” Alzuguir pulled out a 4-0 win, sending her to the finals.
In the meantime, Garcia also had four fights leading into the finals. She got a bye in her first match and her second was against Katrina Weilbacher of Paragon Academy. “She’s very technical and strong,” Garcia said, “She’s a tough girl.” Garcia ended up winning on points. In her third match she went up against Gracie Barra’s Fabiana Borges and beat her on points, 2-0. In the semi-finals, Garcia faced Luiza Monteiro of Checkmat BJJ and was able to finish her with a kimura early on in the match.
In their divisional matches, Alzuguir fought in the brown/black female middleweight division, a change from her usual lightweight status. “I fought different girls this time,” she said, “I trained a lot for this tournament.” Alzuguir had a bye in the first round and then faced Vanessa Oliveira in the second. She finished her with a foot lock. “It was a very difficult fight,” Alzuguir said, “She’s really good and she has really long legs, so it was hard, but I was able to get the foot lock in.”
In the finals she took on Hannete Staack of Brazil 021. “She’s my idol,” Alzuguir said, “I was so happy to fight her. She’s so strong and her Jiu-Jitsu is so good. She doesn’t block or hold positions. She fights.” Alzuguir said the match was a very important one for her. “We fought in 2007 at the Worlds and she won by two points. Now we fought again and I won by one advantage.” Alzuguir went on to say that this match was the most difficult she’s ever had. “If you make one mistake with her, she capitalizes on it. You have to be perfect to fight her. So, I didn’t open to her at all. I played a very tight game.”
In Garcia’s brown/black female heavy division, she had a tough road to the finals. She said her fights this year at the Pan were the toughest she’s had in two years. She said she normally submits people early in her matches, but was unable to finish all of her competitors this time around. Garcia got a bye in her first round and then faced Katrina Weilbacher in the second. In the semi-finals she took on GB New Mexico’s Tammy Griego. The crowd went wild when Griego got a takedown on Garcia. She played a smart game against Garcia, but eventually succumbed to her in the end, giving Garcia the gold in the heavy weight division. “It was a good fight,” Garcia said, “Tammy’s a really good girl. She’s really tough. She’s an American girl and the new generation of Jiu-Jitsu. What she’s doing is important for the girls in Jiu-Jitsu. She has my respect.”
Garcia and Alzuguir were very excited with their wins and believe they are always fighting together, regardless of their divisions. “Whenever I’m fighting, I know Gabi’s making good fights, too,” Alzuguir said, “We always want to close out together.” Garcia agrees, “Seeing Luanna fight, motivates me.”
At the Pan this year, with both of them closing out the Open Class, emotions could not be higher. “I got to close out the finals with my best friend and sister, Luanna,” Garcia said. Alzuguir concurs, “We always want the best for each other. I always hope she wins and she always hopes I win.” The two are thankful for their professor, Fabio Gurgel, whom they say, holds their feet to the fire. “We train all the time,” Alzuguir said, “We train a lot. We are always ready to fight.