The finals for the black belt absolute division are set and the up-and-comers in search of gold will have to wait another year to try again.
11-time World champion Marcus Buchecha Almeida’s path through the bracket began with a win over the big man Otavio Nalati. Buchecha was explosive but cautious, using takedowns and cycling through positions to rack up 13 unanswered points.
His next match was a much closer technical battle with Felipe Pena, a draw on points that went to a split referee’s decision in Buchecha’s favor. His semifinal match did not take place as Fellipe Andrew withdrew from the bracket unable to continue.
On the other side Leandro Lo had his hands full with matches against Gustavo Elias of Ribeiro JJ, Luiz Panza and Keenan Cornelius. The match with Elias ended in an uneventful 2-0, but Lo showed a more aggressive game to tap out Panza with a shoulder lock from the reverse triangle.
The match with Keenan went down to the wire with Lo getting a unanimous decision thanks to his takedown attempts and work rate. He showed technical smarts in shutting down the American’s late game, although it’s not unfair to say Keenan looked wasted after his quarterfinal match with Meregali. Just watch our post-match interview with Keenan and see how drained he looks.
Buchecha and Lo will advance into the finals on Sunday for the third year in a row. They fought in 2017 with Buchecha winning on points after a hard-fought war, and Buchecha gifted Lo the gold in 2018 after Lo dislocated his shoulder in the super-heavyweight final.
The Keenan-Meregali Match Everybody Is Talking About
One of the most anticipated showdowns of the absolute division delivered beyond expectations. Keenan Cornelius managed to derail Nicholas Meregali’s dream of a gold medal in the absolute division by beating him in a charged quarterfinal match.
Keenan went up 2-0 thanks to his lapel trickery. Meregali chased after him for over half the match with triangle and loop choke attempts, but couldn’t secure anything on the slippery American. He racked up 8 advantages but maybe got blood hungry– he was so focused on the submission that had he sought out the sweep instead he maybe could have clawed it back.
The crowd went crazy when Keenan won– they cheered him like he was the hero of the tournament, and even some of his former Atos teammates could be heard chanting his name. Meregali is no hero around these parts, and they relished the fact Keenan denied him a chance to make it to the absolute podium.
Scroll down for full absolute results and links to watch the match videos
Black Belt Men’s Absolute
First Qualifying round
Felipe Pena def Hygor Silva via choke – watch video
Igor Schneider def Francisco Iturralde via points – watch video
Otavio Nalati def Charles Macguire via submission – watch video
Fellipe Andrew def James Puopolo via armbar – watch video
Vinicius Ferreira def Jimmy Lugo via north south choke – watch video
Riccardo Evangelista def Joseph Moku via toehold – watch video
Gustavo Elias def Orlando Castillo via choke – watch video
Arnaldo Maidana def Eduardo Lopes via armbar – watch video
Tanner Rice def Fellipe Trovo via 6-4 – watch video
Second Qualifying round
Felipe Pena def Igor Schneider via choke from the back – watch video
Vinicius Ferreira def Victor Honorio via adv – watch video
Marcus Buchecha Almeida def Otavio Nalati 13-0 – watch video
Luiz Panza def Ricardo Evangelista via ankle lock – watch video
Keenan Cornelius def Arnaldo Maidana via choke from the back – watch video
Nicholas Meregali def Tanner Rice via armlock – watch video
Leandro Lo def Gustavo Elias 5-0 – watch video
Fellipe Andrew def Vinicius Ferreira via points – watch video
Keenan Cornelius def Nicholas Meregali 2-0 – watch video
Marcus Buchecha Almeida def Felipe Pena via split decision – watch video
Leandro Lo def Luiz Panza via shoulder lock – watch video
Marcus Buchecha Almeida vs Fellipe Andrew – DNF, Buchecha advances
Leandro Lo def Keenan Cornelius va referee’s decision – watch video
The absolute final goes down is scheduled for approx 6:00 pm on Sunday, June 2. Watch it live or on demand ONLY on FloGrappling.