This year’s IBJJF Pans brought some surprising and not-so-surprising victories from jiu-jitsu athletes across the globe. Here are some of the highlights of one of the world’s biggest BJJ events:
The Return of Gabi Garcia
Multiple-time World and Pans champion Gabi Garcia returned to the competitive BJJ scene for the first time since won ADCC (again) in 2017. Having spent more time focusing on her MMA career over the past couple years, she was a somewhat surprising competitor to see back in action at Pans, but she (once again) won double-gold at the event. Garcia won the super-heavyweight category against Carina Santi via choke, then went on to defeat heavyweight champ Nathiely de Jesus by an advantage in the open weight category.
First-Year Black Belt Levi Jones-Leary Defeats Renato Canuto To Win Gold
On paper, Levi Jones-Leary has the makings of an underdog. He’s relatively unknown outside of his home country of Australia (although he now trains at Unity), and he only just earned his black belt last summer after having a highly gilded brown belt career. But when he defeated both Lucas Lepri and Gianni Grippo to win Euros earlier this year, he quickly established himself as rising star (or a rising threat, depending on whether or not you had to compete against him). At Pans, he defeated ADCC qualifier John Combs, then moved up the bracket to face 150-lb and 170-lb Kasai champion Renato Canuto. Jones-Leary won his first gold at Pans by defeating Canuto 6-4.
Ffion Davies Continues Her Black Belt Reign Of Terror
Welsh competitor Ffion Davies was a great brown belt, but since she got her black belt at the end of November last year, she’s very quickly skipped over the “up-and-comer” stage and is already one of the competitors to watch out for in 2019 and beyond. In the brief time she spent as a black belt in 2018, she won No-Gi Worlds, the Dublin Open, and the UAEJJF Spain National Pro. She took home gold at Euros earlier this year, and over the weekend, she defeated Karen Antunes (who is a World Champion in both gi and no-gi) 4-2.
Adam Wardzinski Chokes Out Leandro Lo In The Semi-Finals
Despite his long list of accomplishments — which includes a victory at this year’s UAEJJF Abu Dhabi Grand Slam — a surprising number of people are always stunned when Polish athlete Adam Wardzinski lands a big win. While he ultimately lost in the finals to Kaynan Duarte at this year’s Pans, Wardzinski managed to deliver a huge upset (and give us flashbacks to a simpler time when Craig Jones was an underdog) by submitting Leandro Lo with a choke in the semifinals. A silver medal at an event like this is impressive enough as it is, but to earn it by stopping a BJJ legend like Lo makes it even more glorious.
Lucas Barbosa Narrowly Wins The Male Open Weight Final
Last year’s IBJJF World and Pans champion Lucas Barbosa has earned another gold medal at Pans, but just barely. After closing out the medium-heavyweight division with Gustavo Batista, he found himself facing Leandro Lo in the open weight finals. Even against an elite competitor like Barbosa, it seemed as though Lo was the favorite to win — he hadn’t left Pans without a gold medal since 2013, and he won gold in both his division and the absolute category in 2017 and 2018. Barbosa and Lo had a super close match, to the point that it not only went to referee decision, but ended in a split referee decision. In the end, Barbosa was crowned the winner of the male open weight category for this year’s event.
Congratulations to all the competitors at this year’s championship!