The war between Michelle and Kyra and other battles at the Worlds

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Michelle smiles as time on the clock runs out. Photos: Ivan Trindade.

Only those who’ve trained for a World Championship know the sacrifice. That’s why it’s such a joy – and the pain of undesired defeat comes at the same intensity, but in the opposite direction.

Before heading to the Long Beach Pyramid, Michelle Nicolini (CheckMat) told how her trek to the title – and her likely encounter with Kyra Gracie (Gracie Elite) – would be: “I hope we fight. That would be special, wouldn’t it?”

Indeed, it was a striking showdown. Striking for the balance, and the desire exhibited by both parties, the technique of the two lightweight athletes (actually featherweights on the day) who have reached the top of the absolute in the past. In other words, they are admirable athletes.

“The two are very technical, strategic, and have plenty of heart. But I feel Michelle was the more aggressive,” whispered a CheckMat teacher.

The contest was flowing freely when the crucial moment arose, one of the most discussed of the championship. Michelle hoisted Kyra into the air and brought here to the ground. To the center referee, Muzio De Angelis, the movement began while the two were clinging to each other on the ground – that is, it didn’t count for points. To the two side referees, however, it amounted to a takedown – their interpretation was different from that of the center referee, who being the minority, had to award the points. Four to four on the scoreboard and Michelle had a one-advantage point lead – an ecstatic, striking and grueling victory.

It was even more grueling for Kyra, who in an emotion-filled scene burst into a sea of tears on the gymnasium floor – so overtaken with grief that she didn’t even hear Muzio commenting on the occurrence, backing the Gracie up.

The girls’ result was one of the three most debated by teachers, referees and the crowd in Long Beach. In another tense bout, a semifinal, ultraheavyweight Rodrigo Cavaca had Marcio Pé de Pano by the foot, when the veteran absolute champ yelped, “ai,” requesting that the referee check whether Cavaca had crossed his leg over his knee, a prohibited move. None of the referees attested to the leg being inappropriately crossed and Pé was disqualified for shouting over a hold that was in place – the yelp being equivalent to tapping out.

The other much debated war was the lightweight quarterfinal between champion Gilbert “Durinho” Burns and Lucas Lepri, where both sides argued over wrongly awarded points on the scoreboard.

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