UFC champ Henderson and sweetheart capture gold in Arizona

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by Ryan Heilman

Gustavo Dantas held the seventh installment of the Arizona International Open on March 3 and 4, delivering another successful tournament to the Jiu-Jitsu scene. Reaching 650 competitiors, the Nova União black belt showed why his events are so highly regarded. Not only did Gustavo put on a $3000 pro division for the black belts, but he allowed the community’s lower belts a golden opportunity to have some fun and showcase their skills.

UFC champion Ben Henderson suited up and kicking back the way he likes best: competing in the gi / Photo: Many Weapons

At the brown belt level, fans in Arizona got a chance to see a couple of pro MMA fighters at work. Newly crowned UFC lightweight champion Ben “Smooth” Henderson (JCBJJ) took home some gold with the only middleweight matchup of the division. Henderson also managed to take third place in the open class, losing in the semifinals. The big winner at brown belt, though, was former Bellator fighter Jacob McClintock (GD Jiu-Jitsu), who grabbed a hold of the open weight gold, defeating Daniel Grippaudo (BJJ Revolution) in the final and submitting all of his opponents in the absolute. McClintock hopped back into the action following a short break from BJJ competition.

In the purple belt division, a pair from GD Jiu-Jitsu reigned supreme. Issa Able and Daniel Hampton won the middleweight and medium heavy divisions, respectively, and then went on to close out the open weight division; Hampton conceding the top spot to Able. The one to really take note of in the blue belt division was 17-year-old Adrian Nez from team Megaton. Nez marched all the way to the lightweight final to submit Nava BJJ’s Aaron Wilson with an ankle lock. As if not quite satisfied with the gold from his division, young Adrian entered the absolute. Although a lightweight, Nez did extemely well, making it, again, to the final. This time leaving with a silver medal, losing to the ultra heavyweight champ, Alex Centner (Lopez BJJ), by wrist lock. Also at blue, representing the females, was Maria Magna (JCBJJ). Magna, UFC champion Ben Henderson’s girlfriend, managed to win the women’s absolute, despite being a light featherweight. Magna defeated middleweight champ Kayla Reupenny from Relson Gracie in the open weight final.

The sheer numbers combined with the raw talent that GD Jiu-Jitsu Events attracts to tournaments is just a testament to the growing popularity of these functions; showing that Jiu-Jitsu in Arizona is here to stay.

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