The Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Championship is a barometer for what’s to come later this month, when the 2012 World Championship shakes up California. The match areas at Grajaú Country Club in Rio de Janeiro were the showcase for many of Brazil’s top competitors, but there were also athletes from all around the world—some of them taking top honors, a sign the gentle art is truly becoming a global sport. It was a Brazilian Nationals like few before it, with current champions of the Europeans, Pan and Worlds vying for gold. Leonardo Leite, whose campaign ended at Thiago Gaia, and Rômulo Barral, who only managed two bronzes, also showed up for the contest. In the stands Fábio Gurgel, Léo Vieira, Ramon Lemos, Rodrigo Cavaca and André Marola represented some of the traditional powerhouse teams that were in the running.
Glamor, dazzling matches, surprises, rivalry, controversy—the tourney had it all, and the result of this explosive and exciting formula was Nivaldo Oliveira getting crowned the new king of the Brazilian Nationals. Amid so many favorites, CheckMat rep Nil made it through unscathed and captured gold at both weight and in the absolute. Nivaldo, who has been coming up with solid results for some time now, will be going into the Worlds at full throttle.
The campaign began on Saturday, when Nil secured his place in the final of the absolute. At medium heavyweight, on Sunday, the black belt had four matches, taking on the likes of Yan Cabral, who he beat by disqualification, and Rômulo Barral, who he outdid on advantage points. In the grand decider, Nivaldo had his work cut out for him against Willian Martins, who had a 4-2 lead over him from sweeps up until the eighth minute, whe Martins was caught off guard by a snug kneebar. Nivaldo didn’t need to go through with the final of the absolute division, as his teammate Antonio Carlos “Cara de Sapato” was there to close out with him.
The first of Sunday’s finals took place at 4:20 pm. At that very moment, just a few kilometers away, Botafogo and Fluminense were playing to determine the winner of the Rio de Janeiro soccer championship, and not long later Santos and Guarani would do the same for the state of São Paulo. But at Grajaú Country Club and all across Brazil, keeping up over Twitter, attention was turned to Jiu-Jitsu. Igor dos Santos of CheckMat and Felipe Costa kicked off the series of decisive matches. Igor landed a sweep, and when Felipe attempted to recover, he pounced for a spot-on kneebar.
“I came from Búzios to train with Ricardo Vieira. Over there I teach 120 people at a goodwill project. I get on the bus and come all the way here to Rio to train,” said a jubilant Igor after his three matches for the day were done.
Haven’t heard of him? He’s José Tiago, another from Cícero Costha’s stable of fearless students. He’s been having a string of narrow misses, but he came up spades in triumphant fashion in the light featherweight division at the Brazilian Nationals. He got the tapout in his first three matches—by wristlock, kneebar and a choke from the back—and in the final as well, facing the favored Ary Farias. He took it to Ary from the get-go. He passed guard, took his back and finished up with a choke.
“I’d lost to Ary in the final in 2008, when we were purple belts. I also took second when we were browns. This time I managed to win it,” said Tiago in celebration.
Last year, Leonardo Saggioro hit a wall in the final, against Bruno Frazatto. This time the student of Ricardo Marques, the teacher who produced the black belt Bernardo Faria, secured top spot. In doing so, “Cascão”, as he’s known, submitted the four opponents he had in his way, three of them via triangle and the fourth by choke from back mount. The triangle was what he used in the early minutes of the final, against David Lemes. From the stands, the man who beat him last year could only watch, as Bruno Frazatto had been sidelined by the flu; but another encounter with Saggioro may arise at the Worlds. Promise of a great match.
Lo did it again
The current champ defended his perch, as Leandro Lo wreaked havoc at lightweight and again overcame Michael Langhi in the final. It was an evenly matched affair, where Lo landed a sweep early on and withstood Langhi’s attempts to reciprocate, to win by 2-0. Earlier on, on his way to the final, he managed a choke from the back and an americana lock from side-control. Leandro is yet another from Cícero Costha’s brood to capture gold at the Brazilian Nationals, and having also won this year’s Pan, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with at the Worlds.
Murilo Santana is a man of few words, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t packing firepower. This Sunday, he came up with the finish in every one of his matches. “I had five or four of them, I can’t remember. I don’t even know what I did, I’m still pumped up on adrenaline.”
The final was against Gabriel Rollo of Alliance, and the Barbosa JJ rep brought the match to a decisive end with an armbar while they were tied 2-2 on points. Murilo was trailing at first but didn’t let it get to his nerves, letting his game flow and capturing the title.
Ceconi at heavyweight
First, Alexandro Ceconi got the tapout with a choke from side-control, then he did it again, and in the semifinal his opponent, Antonio Ricardo, got injured and had to pull out from the match. In the decider he met up with game CheckMat rep Paulo Tarcisio, who was a finalist one year prior. After a brief period standing, Ceconi brought on the pressure on the ground. He made it to side-control and scored 2-0 with a knee-on-belly.
Alliance double whammy
Léo Nogueira and Bernardo Faria dominated the super heavyweight division. Bernardo beat two opponents by submission, one a choke from the back and the next a kneebar. But gold went to Nogueira, the current world champion and winner at weight and open weight at the 2011 Brazilian Nationals. Nogueira got the finish in his first match via wristlock from side-control, then he made it past Pan weight and open weight champ “Cara de Sapato”.
“I scored an advantage and passed at the tail end, but I don’t know if there was time left for it to get computed,” he recounted. “I saw the predictions on GRACIEMAG.com, and I wasn’t picked. That just fueled my drive to win,” said Léo jokingly.
Danish champion of Brazil
Having won everything there is to win in the lower belt ranks, Alexander Trans has been on a tear as a black belt. He won the European Championship this season and had a repeat of the final from Lisbon in Rio de Janeiro, against Nova União’s Thiago Gaia. Thiago happened to star in one of the biggest matches of the day, overcoming Leonardo Leite. The final was an evenly matched affair, tied on advantage points up until the last few seconds, when Danish national Trans notched another advantage point.
“My first match was against Vitor Hugo, a really tough athlete, and I won on advantages. Then I took on Antonio Peinado and managed to sweep and pass guard,” he recounted.
Heated combat between the ladies
CheckMat’s Michelle Nicolini provided some great moments. She ended up losing to Talita Treta of Ryan Gracie in the super heavyweight division, one of the finest and most exciting matches of the day. Treta got two takesdowns; Michelle, two sweeps. And in the last few minutes Treta got the sweep to secure victory by a score of 6 to 4.
In the final of the absolute, Michelle faced Fernanda Mazelli of Striker team and came out on top by 7-2.
At light featherweight, Bruna do Nascimento got two sweeps and then finished Bibiana Silva with an armbar. At featherweight, Marina Ribeiro of CheckMat swept and then finished Michelle Tavares of Gracie Humaitá via triangle. Luiza Monteiro swept Barbara Gomes and then finished with a kneebar at lightweight. At medium heavyweight, Fernanda Mazelli took Edika Correia of Brazilian Fight down for the win.