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Major events such as No-Gi Pans always offer huge lessons about the top competitors, and the major developments in jiu-jitsu at large. This edition was no different. While the cream of the crop reminded us why they have remained dominant over the years, several new black belts could soon be on the rise.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from No-Gi Pans.
Hulk Can’t Be Stopped
Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa has been nearly unstoppable in IBJJF-sanctioned no-gi competition for the last five years. That remained true this weekend, as he went undefeated in the heavyweight and open weight divisions, closing out the latter with Atos teammate Kaynan Duarte.
With No-Gi Pans in the books, Hulk is now 35-1 in no-gi competition under IBJJF rules. His only loss was in 2019 to Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu, a match which Hulk lost by one penalty.
Over the last few years, Hulk has achieved his dominance through his pressure passing game, and has used his explosive wrestling game to get on top. But this weekend, he demonstrated a new wrinkle in his game. In most of his matches, Hulk pulled guard and swept to earn top position. In a few occasions, the points he earned from those sweeps were the deciding factors in close matches. Once he secured top position, he fell back on his A-game, an unshakeable base accompanied by his heavy bodylock passing style.
His grueling passing game has always created a challenge for his opponents. At No-Gi Pans, he showed us he has several avenues to get there.
Kaynan Has A New Weapon
Kaynan Duarte returned to IBJJF competition in style, achieving double-gold on the day. He submitted his opponent in four of his five matches, using the same attack in each instance. Kaynan found his opponents’ backs, and locked his sights on a submission we haven’t often seen from him, a rear mount triangle. This new layer of offense could make Kaynan more dangerous, and he appears well-versed and confident in the maneuver, which begs the question: will he look to use this attack again in his upcoming match against Rodolfo Vieira at Who’s Number One?
Bodoni Could Be A Force At Heavyweight
Giancarlo Bodoni was electric in his black belt debut. He was promoted after a gold medal performance at Pans in October, and got right back to work this weekend. He locked up two submissions in the heavyweight division, and won by submission in less than a minute in his opening round in the open weight division. He also took out veteran Arnaldo Maidana by points. In both divisions, he fell to Lucas Barbosa, but held the eventual champ to two points in each match. In every other occasion on the day, Barbosa was able to score double-digit numbers on his opponents. The heavyweight division is one of the toughest for a competitor to break into, with an array of long-time champions and talented up-and-comers. Bodoni has made his case; he belongs among them.
The Daisy Fresh Squad Is Making Waves
Andrew Wiltse of Pedigo Submission Fighting made his first black belt appearance in an IBJJF tournament at No-Gi Pans, and it was a whopping success. Wiltse earned gold in the medium heavyweight division, just one of the several titles his team collected on the weekend. Pedigo Submission Fighting — the notorious Daisy Fresh squad — cashed in in the colored belt divisions, with a particularly impressive outing from purple belt Jacob Couch, who won the super heavyweight and open weight divisions. Couch secured five submissions in his six-win run. Purple belt Jorge Vallederos and blue belt Jacob Bornemann also earned gold for Pedigo.
Watch: The Highlights From The Hillbilly Hammer's Incredible Double-Gold Medal Run
Rafaela Guedes Is Staking Her Claim At The Top
Rafaela Guedes is just getting started on the black belt stage, and is already earning hardware in droves. She earned her black belt in October, and won double-gold at Pans in her debut. This weekend, she added to her collection, taking open weight gold with two submissions in three matches. She’s proven dominant so far, and has already earned a spot atop the middleweight ranks, where she sits at no. 2 behind Ana Carolina Vieira.