From the treasure chest: Pan 2006, the Roger-Xande rivalry begins

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At the 2006 Pan, GRACIEMAG witnessed the crowing of some monsters of Jiu-Jitsu, like Demian Maia, Bráulio Carcará, Rolles Gracie, André Galvão and Bibiano Fernandes. And it reported on the birth of one of the greatest rivalries in present-day Jiu-Jitsu, between Roger Gracie and Xande Ribeiro. In the article, the Ribeiro brothers analyze Roger’s and put together a strategy to beat him. In the superheavyweight division, the plan works. In the absolute, Xande taps.  (If you haven’t yet signed up for the Pan 2010, sign up here!)

There was clear discomfort on Roger Gracie’s face when he stepped up to receive his super heavyweight silver medal at the Jiu-Jitsu Pan-American championship, held last April 7-9th, in the Dominguez Hills University Gymnasium in California, USA.

The division only had three athletes – Alexandre Ribeiro, Diego Balouta and Roger Gracie, who waited for his opponent to be defined in the bout between Balouta and Ribeiro. That said, the super heavyweight can be defined like this: after finishing Balouta with a kimura, Ribeiro faced Gracie with cold calculations and the strategic thinking of a chess champion who knows how to protect his king without putting a single pawn at risk.

We noticed Roger’s judo had flaws.” Saulo Ribeiro

The division only had three athletes – Alexandre Ribeiro, Diego Balouta and Roger Gracie, who waited for his opponent to be defined in the bout between Balouta and Ribeiro. That said, the super heavyweight can be defined like this: after finishing Balouta with a kimura, Ribeiro faced Gracie with cold calculations and the strategic thinking of a chess champion who knows how to protect his king without putting a single pawn at risk.

The final played out mostly on foot, exchanging grips on the gi, until Ribeiro earned an advantage point with an attempt to take down Gracie:”It was a wrestling move called the duck-under,” explained Xande days later. Gracie didn’t react immediately, letting the clock run out, and causing a great deal of despair among the Gracie Barra fans who warned him time was running out.

Xande with his knee in, on his way to half-guard. Photos: GRACIEMAG archives.

Just three minutes from the end, Gracie pulled his rival into his guard and Ribeiro was one move ahead, putting his right knee forward and forcing it through. The position was very similar to the one the Gracie uses to apply one of his traditional sweeps (much like the one he applied on Ronaldo Jacare in the finals of the 2005 European Championship), but he couldn’t and Ribeiro moved to half-guard, scoring another advantage point.

The action moved back to the feet. Gracie tried to pull guard again with mere seconds to go. Saulo Ribeiro started his celebrations as soon as the whistle blew. Leaning against the divider cordoning off the match area, he congratulated his brother for carrying out so perfectly the strategy they had drawn up together after watching Gracie’s matches at last year’s Jiu-Jitsu World Championship.

“We noticed Gracie’s judo had flaws. So we improved the way Xande would move during the grip exchange, forcing Gracie to be on bottom if the match went to the ground,” explained Saulo Ribeiro, who had said backstage his brother losing to Gracie would be very unlikely. His predictions were spot on until that point of the competition.

Hence the discomfort on Gracie’s face while receiving the medal. He was so bothered by the loss (his forth as a black belt: one to Pe de Pano and two to Jacare) that he took the medal from around his neck as soon as was off the winners’ podium. Gold seems to be the only metal that pleases Roger Gracie and he was going after it and after Xande minutes later in the Open class final, on that cold California evening.

Open class

Held a few miles from Hollywood, the Pan had a Hollywood moment in Roger Gracie’s open class campaign, on his way to the gold medal. The screenplay went more or less like this:

Scene 1: The slender looking fighter, with disheveled hair and U-shaped chin finishes all three opponents on his way to the final: Thiago Gaia and Vinicius “Pezao” Magalhaes (open class champion at the last world championship) tap out. Rafael Lovato asks to stop when caught in an armbar.

Scene 2: Between his fights, Gracie sits with his legs crossed on the sidelines and watches his soon-to- be opponent in the grand finale, who also works his way through the competition. Owner of an already folkloric northern Brazilian accent, shaved hair and ripped body, Ribeiro finishes off Jorge Vidal with a forearm choke and defeats a tough Demian Maia (by advantages) and Braulio “Carcara” Estima (4-2). Those results lead at 11:25 pm to the closing scene. The scene that represents the Big end to the movie that is the 2005 Pan, with all the drama, adventure and action it had shown to that point.

The opening moments of the final showed Gracie and Ribeiro exchanging grips just like they did in the super heavyweight final. The gymnasium is silent and the silence lasts until the chair referee slips up. Marcio Feitosa yells: “Don’t let him get away,” warning Roger, his Gracie Barra comrade. The slip is well noted by everyone, including Ribeiro’s brother, Saulo. He smiles to Feitosa who apologizes in his usual playful manner. In a sense, the slip helped to calm the nerves of the fans, who had begun to get restless.

The grip exchange continues until the clock goes past the 2-minute mark. That’s when Gracie puts a foot to Ribeiro’s crotch as he was going to pull the him into his guard, but the movement seems to be wider than that. At a given moment, Gracie’s legs wrap around Ribeiro’s left arm (still standing) in an omoplata while Ribeiro’s arm is well out of Gracie’s guard and his right arm is within the guard. Seconds later, (Ribeiro on his knees) what seemed to be a guard pull with possibility to a shoulder lock turns out to be a crafty triangle.

“Brother, what the hell was my arm doing there?” Ribeiro would ask days later while watching the images capturing the move on the screen of GRACIE Magazine’s digital camera. “I was carelessI blinked and Gracie caught me,” said in summary. End of fight. Gracie raises both arms, open hands waving in the air (his usual way of celebrating), and runs to his crew by the fence. Referee Marcio Feitosa returns to being a fan and applauds. Saulo Ribeiro congratulates Gracie with a wave.

Roger's deadly triangle.

“I chose the wrong strategy but the bottom line is that I was cold. That was the difference between my first and second fight with Ribeiro. I was already warm at the time of the second fight,” says Gracie, now with satisfaction written all over his face. Few meters away, Saulo Ribeiro explains how his brother was submitted: “The difference between the two matches was that my brother had to overcome Demian Maia and Carcara to get to the open weight final. I don’t want to take any credit from Gracie but Ribeiro was tired, which resulted in that carelessness moment. Now we have to keep on training hard and let’s see who wins over at the world championship.

Ultra heavyweight

Rolles Gracie, master at his cousin Renzo’s academy in New York, went to California complaining of knee pains. The injury didn’t keep him from competing at the Pan, something he had not done for about 10 years. He started by finishing James Foster with a choke from behind and then went in to the final against Arthur Cesar, who beat Fabio Costa. The final had a curious moment that put the three-referee system (an experiment that has now become reality) to the test. Rolles took Cesar down and was winning 2-0 when he was brought to the ground by a movement that seemed to be a takedown to some and a guard pull to others. Two referees felt it wasn’t worth points and that allowed Rolles to hang on to his advantage until the end, becoming the champion.

Heavyweight

Right before the 2006 Pan, Braulio Estima (the eagle from the northeast of Brazil), was caught watching tapes of Eduardo Telses, from TT Jiu-jitsu, his sure-to-be opponent in the heavyweight category final. “His game is hard to beat,” explained Carcara, who defeated Carlos Eduardo Francis, from Yamasaki Academy, right before facing Fernando Terere’s partner in the final. Telles got to the final after beating Rafael Lovato in a controversial decision by points. His elastic and creeping fight style was stopped by Estima, who was not only very well educated regarding his opponent but also very dedicated. The fight was decided with an armbar.

Demian vs Givanildo.

Medium Heavyweight

Demian Maia was after a title he didn’t yet have. So he used his calm and efficient Jiu-Jitsu to overcome Paulo Gazze Junior and Romulo Barral before facing good-fellow Givanildo Santana in the Medium Heavyweight final. Santana had beaten Filipe Oliveira and David Vieira. The fight was a classic between two Sao Paulo academies (Brasa vs Lotus Club) and was decided on points. Demian applied a sweep but Santana responded with a takedown. Maia passed Santana’s guard and stabilized the position. Santana managed to escape and tried for another takedown but the clock favored Maia.

André Galvão on top.

Middleweight

Andre Galvão arrived at the 2006 Pan after participating in a Jiu-Jitsu supermatch at Show Fight, of the night of April 6th. Victorious, the black belt from TT Jiu-Jitsu hopped a plane to California. Even so, his jetlag didn’t prevent him from putting on a show at the the 2006 Pan, on the night of Sunday, April 9th. He started by finishing Alexandre Crispim (choke from the back). Then he defeated Sergio Lourenço by points, which led him to the final against Michael Fowler, from Lloyd Irvin academy, who put in good performances against Jorge Vidal and Igor Gracie. Despite all that, Fowler tapped out to a choke.

Lightweight

Thiago Gomes Dias was one of the big names of the 2006 Pan. Lenny Kravitz, as he was known at the event, due to his afro hairdo proved to be very well prepared – both physically and technically – after taking second place in the world championship: ”Unfortunately I was hindered by a referee mistake in that final.” This time he was unstoppable. Dias defeated Marcus Cacella, Rafael Monteiro, Theodoro Almeida before the final, where he committed a sin: for the first time somebody finished black belt Mario Reis. “He suffered a foot injury in his first fight (against Joao Silva) and I told him I was not going to attack that foot.” Indeed. And Reis tapped to a choke.

Featherweight

“I went up in weight just to find out how it would go. I want new challenges,” explained Bibiano Fernandes, an intrepid black belt. He is known as ‘The Flash’, because he would win his fights with ultra-fast moves and finish early. It looked like things would be no different at the 2006 Pan. Fernandes forced David Jacobs and Wilson Reis to tap out. In the final against tough Jonatas Gurgel, Fernandes had it rough, suffering a choke from behind. Everyone knew The Flash was a good attacker and discovered he was also skilled in defence. He managed to free himself of the choke and won by 2-0 (sweep).

Surfer Joel Tudor showed up at the Pan 2006.

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