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There were more than 60 black belt matches on the final day of the 2020 Pan Championships. While you may not be able to watch them all, there are a few matches that you absolutely must see. Some of these contests were 10-minute firefights. Others were one-sided fights that defied expectations. Here are the top 10 matches from the black belt finals.
Ronaldo Junior vs Felipe Silva
Ronaldo put his explosive passing style on display against Felipe Silva. His dynamic style makes him one of the most exciting guard passers to watch in any competition. Silva deserves credit, too. Despite falling well behind, he didn’t concede a point to Ronaldo’s fierce passing attempts throughout the match, and even threatened to sweep Ronaldo momentarily before being viciously thrown. Ronaldo racked up eight advantages to Silva’s two in this match, but he was just warming up.
Ronaldo Junior vs Lucas Valente
This might have been Ronaldo’s best performance to date. Valente scored two points early against the Atos black belt. But when Ronaldo returned to top position, he mauled through Valente’s guard. Valente has a reputedly impassible guard. Ronaldo defied that reputation with three sequential passes, racking up 15 points. This was a masterclass in guard passing.
Dominique Bell vs Horlando Monteiro
Monteiro had two submission wins in the bracket coming into this match, and momentum behind him. But Bell seemed to have something to prove. He went on the attack from the moment the match started. A quick legdrag got him past the guard and on the back, where he snatched an armbar for the win in less than one minute. Bell went on to the final where he faced Atos teammate Gustavo Batista.
Josh Cisneros vs Paulo Miyao
Cisneros was a major underdog coming into this match. He had been a black belt for less than two months, and was seeded 12th out of 15, up against the top seed, Paulo Miyao. Cisneros pressured Miyao’s guard early, and shut down the dangerous aspects of Miyao’s game: the leg drags, the berimbolos, the inversions. The match went to referee decision, which went in favor of Cisneros, likely for his final burst of energy, which seemed to have the potential to pass Miyao’s guard.
Matheus Gabriel vs Kennedy Maciel
This long-awaited rematch lived up to the hype. Gabriel had Maciel in a triangle threat early on in the match, and it seemed as though we may see another quick submission. Instead, Gabriel used it to score. Gabriel remained ahead, despite some tricky single-leg-X-guard work from Maciel. Maciel rallied late in the match with several near sweeps from a single-leg takedown position. But Gabriel’s balance in that position is remarkable.
Michael Liera Jr vs Marcio Andre
This was one of the matches we were looking forward to most even before Andre beat Johnny Tama to make it official. The early minutes were a display of pressure passing and guard retention from both competitors. They swept back and forth, pressuring each other's guards and demonstrating champion-level flexibility. Liera earned the go-ahead score in the final minute of this contest with his top weapon, getting an advantage for a near back take.
Paulo Gabriel Martins vs Renato Canuto
These two always bring a fight. The first six minutes entailed a bit of a feeling-out process, at least by Canuto’s standards. While the early minutes were high intensity, most of the attacks lacked commitment. But with about four minutes remaining, Canuto ramped up the scoring effort, and Martins followed suit. The last four minutes were a sprint which left the match to referee decision in favor of Canuto.
Mayssa Bastos vs Pati Fontes
Mayssa Bastos earned the only submission of the black belt finals. This was a gritty match from the start, and when Mayssa got top position, she didn’t slow down with her fierce attacks. She switched her focus from attaining back control to getting the finish, a powerful Ezekiel choke from mount.
Josh Cisneros vs Pedro Dias
The light featherweight final was a bit slow to start. Dias scored two points early, and rode that lead more than halfway through the match. But with four minutes remaining, Cisneros set up an omoplata that turned the tide. They battled in that position for nearly two minutes; and near the end, Cisneros had Dias shoulder at an unbelievably severe angle, but Dias escaped without conceding points.
Cisneros got the determining score in the final minute, attacking Dias’ back. Dias rolled out of bounds for a penalty, putting Cisneros on top to earn his first Pans title as a black belt.
Thiago Macedo vs Gianni Grippo
Thiago Macedo became the Pans featherweight champion for two reasons: defense and strategy. And his opening match of the day against Gianni Grippo is the best example of both. He stole two points from Grippo at the opening of the match, intercepting Grippo’s guard pull. Then he survived 10 minutes of back-taking mastery. Grippo did everything he could to get on Macedo’s back, chasing him down and putting significant pressure on him. But Macedo demonstrated unbelievable defense and resilience.