The 49ers bust in title game, while Bay Area jits players kick off 2012 strong

While many sports fanatics in the San Francisco Bay Area were at home or at their local bars rooting for the San Francisco 49ers against the NY Giants in the NFL’s NFC Championship game, just an hour drive from the city, competitors from dozens of Bay Area and west coast teams were donning gis. The teams were ready to begin the 2012 competition season by putting their jiu-jitsu skills to the test.

At the former home of the U.S. Open, the All Star #1 Brazilian Jiu-jitsu tournament kicked off the 2012 competitive jiu-jitsu season strong at the Santa Cruz Auditorium. The renowned organizer of the popular U.S. Open and American Cup BJJ tournaments, Claudio Franca, hosted the competition.

The standout competitor of the black belt division was Ralph Gracie’s Luis “Salvagem” Fraga (“Selvagem” meaning “savage” in Portuguese). The Ralph Gracie black belt took home double gold for his dominate performances in the Master Middle weight and Absolute divisions. The black belt has recently been involved in the opening of  “Ralph Gracie Thailand”, where he frequents to teach and hold seminars.

Four OTM sponsored fighters represented across three different belt divisions, in both the male and female categories. Brown belt middle weight Nathan Mendelsohn (Claudio França BJJ), brown belt light weight Julian Marquez (Mikyo Riggs Jiu-Jitsu/Ralph Gracie), purple belt female feather weight Christie Sullivan (Mikyo Riggs Jiu-Jitsu), and Rooster weight (although he moved up to light feather weight) Woolf Barnato (Mikyo Riggs Jiu-Jitsu).

As the auditorium was still warming up at 9:30am, the young and promising Woolf Barnato took to the mats for the first division of the day. The 19-year old moved up a weight class from his usual Rooster weight to fight 3 light feather weight blue belt adult matches. He went on to defeat all three opponents and took the gold.

In the women’s purple belt division, Christie Sullivan faced the hometown favorite, Chris Lang of Claudio França to take the gold and the top spot on the podium. Sullivan defeated Lang 8-0 win on points.

The brown belt adult male division saw some of the most heated and contentious matches of the afternoon, with the absolute division oftentimes captivating the attention of the entire auditorium.

In the brown belt lightweight division Julian Marquez and Tanner Rice battled in an evenly fought bout, with their first encounter ending in a tie in points and advantages 4-4/1-1, with Julian winning the match by referee decision. In “round-robin” fashion, Tanner went on to fight the third brown belt in the division, Tony Vida, defeating him by points. Tanner and Julian fought another close match with each competitor executing multiple sweeps on one another. Yet, their second bout was what counted most and Tanner edged Julian with a single advantage point for the gold. 

In round one of the absolute, Mendelsohn beat Tanner Rice on advantage after Tanner fielded Mendelsohn aggressive attempts to pass his open guard. After a two round rest for Mendelsohn, Marquez had the buy to face the heavier brown belt in the semis. In their match, Marquez had Mendelsohn in open 1/2 guard for most of match, & in the last minute, Mendelsohn was able to cut through the 1/2 and earn 3 for the pass. With a minute remaining and the auditorium roaring for the two fighters, Marquez quickly powered to feet looking for a takedown to try to earn the much-needed points. Marquez was able to come to the top, but unfortunately for Marquez, it was into Mendelsohn’s guard, where he quickly locked a kimura with :04 seconds remaining. Mendelsohn went on to take double gold in both middleweight & the absolute after edging Israel Ceron on 2 points by a sweep from 50/50 in the absolute finals.

Although Bay Area Niners fans had much to wallow in sorrow about, dozens of jiu-jitsu competitors and their teams had good reason to be joyous on Sunday.

Congratulations to Nathan on his double golds!

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Christie Sullivan