Find out who dazzled at the American Nationals

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The 2010 American Nationals black belt divisional finals kept everyone on their toes.

Laercio Fernandes and Giva Santana. Photos: Deb Blyth.

In the adult light featherweight final, Caio Terra of Gracie Fighter faced Laercio Fernandes of Lotus Club BJJ. Terra, coming off his big win in the open class the day before, told on Saturday that he was unsure whether he wouldo compete in his division on Sunday because of a back injury he suffered in his open matches. However, he chose to compete anyway, and he and Fernandes went at it, with Fernandes pulling off the big win.

Fernandes won on points, 4-2. “It was a hard fight,” an excited Fernandes says, “He’s a world champion. I trained really hard for this tournament.” This was Fernandes’s ninth tournament of the year.

“I had a good experience,” he says, “I’m very happy I got to fight Caio Terra. Thanks to my master, Giva Santana, and to my team.” Next up for Fernandes: the No-Gi Worlds in November.

In the adult featherweight division, the final was between Wellington “Megaton” Dias of Gracie Humaita and Samir Chantre of Gracie Fighter. Chantre won with an arm bar. “I pulled guard, swept him, and then fell into mount,” Chantre says, “He tried to push me off and he extended his arm. I caught it, waited for my points, and then went to the arm bar.”

Samir Chantre

Chantre says he uses this sweep often. There is no name for it, but it seems to work for him when he applies it because he recently won another tournament with it. “I’m not totally stabilized when I do it, so everyone tries to push me off and they extend their arm,” he says.

In the semifinals, he was excited to face Baret Yoshida. Chantre and Yoshida have a personal competition going. “He beat me in the 2009 No-Gi Worlds,” Chantre says, “This was a rematch. He tapped me out last time. This time I won by an advantage.”

Chantre competed in the black belt open on Saturday, but did not medal. He lost in the last thirty seconds of his match. He tried the same sweep maneuver on a heavier competitor, but he pulled his arm back, so Chantre didn’t get the submission he was looking for, but Chantre was still happy with his performance. “Caio Terra is my training partner and roommate and he has been helping me a lot,” he says.

Rodrigo Simoes and his GB Team

In the adult lightweight division finals, Rodrigo Simões from Gracie Barra Manhattan Beach competed against Zak Maxwell of Gracie Humaitá and won on points. “I pulled to guard,” a happy Simões says, “I swept him, then he swept me, and then I swept him again.” After all the back-and-forthing, it became a bit of a “dog fight” at the end as Maxwell fought to pick up points before time ran out. Simões ended up winning 4-2 to pick up the gold in his division.

Simões competed in the open class the day before, but did not medal. He won his first match by an advantage, but got caught in an arm triangle to Caio Terra in his second match.

“I trained really hard for this tournament,” Simões said, “I’ve been taking a special conditioning class with Kayron Gracie, Fabiana Borges, and Mikey Gomez. It’s really been helping.” Simões’s next stop will be the New York No-Gi Pan.

In the adult medium weight class, the division ended with Ryan Beauregard and Clark Gracie, both of BJJ Revolution, in the finals. They tried to come up with a gentleman’s agreement, but were unable to come to terms, so they decided to compete for the gold, with Gracie tapping Beauregard out to win it.

Clark Gracie

Gracie says that he and Beauregard couldn’t agree on who should take the gold and all that talk got him out of his zone. “I came out not in tune for the fight,” he says, “It was hard to go 100% against a friend, but as soon as I felt his intensity, it woke me up, and I knew I had to match it.”

Beauregard was winning 4-0 when he ended up in Gracie’s guard. “I finished the match with an omoplata,” Gracie says, “I choked him from that position.” Gracie later informed that the referee told him the score should have been 4-2 because he hadn’t counted Gracie’s takedown. Regardless, the points were not a factor because of Gracie’s submission.

Gracie’s first divisional match was against Marcelo Mafra. “It was a good fight,” he says, “I had never competed against him before, so I didn’t know his game. I played it safe.”

This is Gracie’s fourth time winning a gold at the American Nationals in other belts. “This is my first medal as a black belt,” Gracie says. He received his coveted belt on May 29, 2010 from his father Carley Gracie. “I’m really excited to be stepping up as a black belt,” Gracie says, “I’m getting ready to face the best guys in the world.”

Gracie is now back training and teaching at his academy, Gracie La Jolla, in San Diego, but he will be back facing all the best guys in the world at the 2010 No-Gi Worlds, which he won last year as a brown belt.

At adult medium heavyweight, Marco “Sharpei” Machado from Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu and Bruno Antunes from Gracie Barra found themselves in the final together again. They met in the same position at the Las Vegas Open, with the same results. Machado took gold again.

Machado’s first match was DQ’d, so Antunes was Machado’s first and final fight. Machado won by five advantage points. “I went to take him down, and he tried to fight on top. After a couple of minutes, I pulled to guard. I laid a lot of pressure.” Machado almost passed his guard twice and almost took his back twice.

“I had a lot of fun,” he says, “I like this tournament.” Machado is proud of his Drysdale team. “Our team is growing a lot. Everybody fights really well.” Machado will be at the Miami Open in October and then the No-Gi Worlds in November.

In the super heavy adult division, Bruno Bastos of Nova União, not fully recovered from his loss to Caio Terra in the absolute on Saturday, won his first and final match against Alberto Silva Vilanova from Gracie Barra and took home the gold for his academy.

“I swept him, then passed his guard,” Bastos says, “We both got penalties in the match because we weren’t moving. I passed his guard again and won by points.” Bastos says at one point Vilanova almost got him in a guillotine. “I almost tapped,” he says, “Then I heard Gustavo (Dantas) say ‘there’s only one minute thirty seconds left,’ so I tried to control my breathing and I was able to escape. He was a really tough guy.”

Bastos says he was still tired from the open and he refereed all day, so that had an impact on his performance, but he carried on anyway. “I have to support the sport to keep it growing,” he says, “It’s a pleasure to help grow it in the U.S.”

This was Bastos’s first time at the American Nationals. “I really liked it,” he says, “Gustavo Dantas brought lots of students and I brought some, too, but I hope to bring more next year to get a trophy. Thanks to Nova União and Octagon in Dallas for their support.”

Leandro Santos and Stephen Hall

In the adult ultra heavy weight class, Leandro Santos of Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu fought Stephen Hall of Alliance and won the gold medal for his efforts. Santos was coming off a third place win in the absolute.

Santos hadn’t competed in over a year because of a triceps injury. “I felt more confident today than yesterday,” Santos says, “Everything was clearer today. I was able to move better and think clearer. I pulled guard to feel him out and ended up in his guard. I was able to pass. I felt loose by the end of the fight.”

Santos wasn’t feeling 100% at the tournament. “I was more confident in my grip exchanging, but I can’t grip well. I missed so many competitions. I was only performing at about 40% this weekend.”

Santos says during the open class on Saturday, he felt foggy and was late getting into positions. “Competing is way different than in the gym,” he says, “Split-second decisions count and I definitely paid for my mistakes. Thanks to Saulo and Xande for being my masters, and Cory Miller, Gazze and Mica for all their support inside and outside the mats.”

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