Who was the standout in Abu Dhabi? That will be left for tomorrow

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Barral got the finish in all his matches. Could he be the standout? Photo: Luca Atalla

In Abu Dhabi, anything can happen.

At home, Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed’s eyes didn’t budge from the TV, “Nice armbar,” he blurted, when Bráulio “Carcará” Estima taught him the maneuver.

At dinner after the World Pro, which kicked off this Wednesday in the capital of the Emirates, the referees ate in peace without a single athlete from the surrounding tables hissing at them.

With the finals defined at one in the morning,  appointing a standout for the first day was impossible. Indeed, because every finalist had at least one sublime showing. Nominating a standout for the World Pro 2010 really must be put off till the Saturday of the finals featuring Guilherme and Rafael Mendes (under-65kg), Gilbert Burns vs Claudio Caloquinha (under-74kg), Braulio Estima vs Claudio Calasans (under-83kg), Romulo Barral vs Alexandro Ceconi (under-92kg) and Gabriel Vella vs Ricardo Demente (over-92kg), not to mention the female and absolute divisions, which start this Friday.

Bellies full in the wee hours, black belts from six academies laughed their hearts out in the hotel and peacefully remembered stories from the days of old. “That was in 1996? Shoot, I didn’t even train…” laughed Gilbert Durinho, under 74 kg finalist. A little earlier, his opponent on Saturday, Claudio “Caloquinha” Cardoso, went to his room to rest. “Rominho and I got the finish in all our matches today, and I’ve trained with him at Draculino’s since I was a kid. But I moved on to MMA and then went to teach in the south of Spain and just wanted to party,” recounted Caloquinha, explaining where he’s been.

Vella against Alexandre de Souza. The Sao Paulo native is bound to shine at the event. Photo: Luca Atalla

“When you threw your weight over me and I pushed and you didn’t budge, I said to myself, ‘Oh go ahead, pass,’” Alexandre Souza would tell Gabriel Vella. The Sao Paulo native beat Souza. Then he played a solid top game against Marcus Bochecha’s always-threatening guard, in another great bout, and went through to the final against Demente, who swept Big Mac and withstood all the pressure from the Tozi student. “I think with a few more seconds I would have gotten my foot out of his half-guard and passed,” laughed Big. “He was right at home, I saw he was just about there,” said Ricardo.

Finalists in the most stacked division, the under-83 kg, Claudio Calasans and Bráulio dined at separate tables. On his way to getting more chicken at the buffet, André Galvão commented on his loss to Delson Pé de Chumbo in the divisional quarterfinals: “I hadn’t trained enough in the gi and there wasn’t enough time in the match; with six minutes there was no way to break Pé’s base. In the end, I tried to pull a rabbit out of the hat, but in vain,” he smiled, remembering his sweep attempt in the waning moments. “I even told Ramon (Lemos) how this is the first championship where I don’t come up with any medal at all,” he sighed.

“Chill, there’s still the absolute tomorrow,” someone reminded him. André responded with a “hey, that’s right,” his eyes beaming.

And besides André, who else from Team Atos will venture into the absolute? “All eight of them, even the Mendes’,” Ramon Lemos said, rubbing his hands together. “Someone’s bound to make it,” he said, while the table of heavyweights debated the best way not to allow any room for Rafael Mendes, who got the tapout in both his matches on Thursday.

They go at it every day in the gym, there’s no reason they shouldn’t fight” Durinho, on Mendes brothers

“And will the under-65 kg category see a true dispute between the brothers for Abu Dhabi Sports TV?” “They have to fight, we’re lobbying for it,” said Ramon. “They go at it every day in the gym, there’s no reason for them not to fight” said Durinho, egging them on.

With supper out of the way, GRACIEMAG.com bids farewell to the fighters and is about to enter the room in the Officers Club & Hotel when someone in the neighboring room sticks his nose out and asks: “Who’s there?” It was Guilherme Mendes, who exited the room shirtless, to cackles from the group comprised of Vella, Durinho and Big Mac. “Hey Big, tomorrow I’m going to fight you in the absolute, but you have to pull guard!” “You, too, big guy!” he says to Vella, who cracks an amused smile.

In Abu Dhabi, anything can happen.

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