Mackenzie Dern stole the show by stunning nine-time world champion Gabrielle Garcia before claiming her maiden open weight world jiu-jitsu title in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
On the final day of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championship at the IPIC Arena, the 22-year-old, who stands 1.57m tall, showed size does not matter as she defeated Brazilian Vanessa Nascimento 6-0 in the final.
Fans expecting to see Garcia in the final were in for a shock as the 1.88m tall Brazilian, weighing over 90kg, was made to pay after a penalty point saw short-statured Dern, who weighs 55kg, hold on to victory in the last-four.
And the American ensured the win was no fluke by putting on a spirited display against Nascimento.
“I always believed I could win and always had the belief that I could beat anyone,” said Dern, who moved up to black three years ago. I never fought against Vanessa ever before but I knew she would be really tough.
“She was defending really good and when I saw one minute left until the end, I was never going to lose my winning position from that. It’s definitely the highlight of my career.”
Super tiny Mackenzie Dern beat Gabi Garcia in the Abu Dhabi Absolutes final. Giving up like 60-70 pounds. How cool is that?
— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) April 25, 2015
For Garcia, the defeat ended her hopes of winning a fifth straight gold in Abu Dhabi, but did claim bronze following a 3-0 victory over compatriot Beatriz Mesquita.
Speaking of her semi-final loss, Garcia said: “Each fight gets harder the longer you go in the tournament. I’m very disappointed but I’m not invincible and I will come back stronger next year.”
In the men’s black open division, it was business as usual for defending champion Marcus Almeida, sealing his third straight world title with 2-1 win over Denmark’s Alexander Trans.
It was the Brazilian’s second gold after winning in the +95kg division on Thursday. And Almeida showed his class in a closely-fought encounter against Trans.
Double Gold at the Abu Dhabi World Championship!! I couldn’t be more happier! This is what Jiu-Jitsu is about ups… http://t.co/FnzOmpqL8a
— MackenzieDern (@MackenzieDern) April 25, 2015
Both got penalty points but the defending champion did enough to win his seventh gold – fourth in +95kg and third in open weight.
“Fighting against him (Trans) is always really tough and he had a different strategy. I couldn’t put mine in place so I had to try something different,” said the 25-year-old.
“All the fights were tough and the semi-finals was difficult and it was one of my toughest tournaments that I have ever fought in my life.”
Almeida, who will compete in Las Vegas and California in the next two months, added: “The victory is amazing and it feels good to be the world champion. For sure I will be back year next year.”
In other results in the Open Weight division, Brazil took a clean sweep in three categories (Black Master 1, Black Master 2 and Brown), while Venezuela’s Luis Seballos claimed his second gold in two days in the Brown Master 2.
Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum rose to the occasion on her Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship debut, winning silver as the UAE secured 12 medals on the penultimate day yesterday.
– #Quiz360: Win a 2014-15 Real Madrid jersey
The daughter of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, put on a spirited display but came short against Libya’s Odette Malkoun in the white belt +75kg final at Abu Dhabi’s IPIC Arena.
It was a strong campaign by Sheikha Maitha who defeated Brazil’s Ana Paula Tofolorio in the first round before beating compatriot Shefaa Moosa Hasan in the semifinals.
She was one of 1,000 competitors to take to the mat and her performance capped a busy day where the UAE claimed three gold, six silver and three bronze medals while Brazil continued to dominate.
Mohammed Al Qubaisi, Yahia Mansour, Musabbeh Mohamed Khatri triumphed in their men’s categories. Al Qubaisi put on a superb show (Purple Masters 1 75kg) while Mansour came out on top in the Purple Masters 1 +95kg.
Among the silver medallists were Taleb Saleh (Brown Masters 1 65kg), Jassim Saeed Mubarak (White Blue Masters 2 75kg), Eid Reehan (Purple Masters 2 +95kg), Khalfan Belhoul (Blue 85kg) and Wayel Hilal Alnaqbi (White Blue Masters 2).
For Al Qubaisi, it was his third gold in the capital after beating Russia’s Maksim Davydov by an unanimous points decision.
The 30-year-old showed no signs of being under the pressure of the home crowd, showing great skill and technique.
Describing his victory as a “proud moment” after overcoming an elbow injury earlier in his career, Al Qubaisi has set his sights on a gold double when he competes in the open weight division today.
“I’m very happy and would like to thank all the people who came to support me,” he said. “I did very well and I am very proud to win this gold. Azzedine Taj (semi-final opponent) was very tough for me but I just performed better than him and did extremely well in the final.”
Speaking of his chances in today’s open weight, he said: “I will try my best and it’s a very big challenge for me. Hopefully I can do well.”
And the UAE national team competitor, who practiced wrestling before jiu-jitsu, has strong ambitions to make his country proud.
“I want to do something for my country. It is a big chance for me to compete in the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship and my firm goal was to achieve first place," he added.
“Now my other main goal is to win gold in the open weight. When I stopped competing, I felt I didn’t do anything for my country so I feel I want to do something and inspire the youth to take up jiu-jitsu.”
It was another day to remember for the UAE as promising Emiratis took home 136 medals in the boys’ category at the World Jiu-Jitsu Children’s Cup yesterday.
Following the impressive 130-medal haul by Emirati girls on Monday, the boys rose to the occasion by winning 36 gold, 37 silver and 63 bronze at Abu Dhabi’s IPIC Arena.
Over 900 competitors aged between 10-15 took to the mat on a day where 54 weight divisions were contested. Among the triumphant Emiratis was 13-year-old Khalifa Ahmed.
He defeated Dubai-based Briton Brandon Tutton to win gold in the 50.5kg yellow junior division.
— فعاليات أبوظبي (@AbuDhabiEvents) April 21, 2015
Ahmed said: “It feels great to win this medal. I really had to overcome some stiff challenges because the competition was tough. Each fighter I faced had their own different strengths and it wasn’t easy at all.
“I’m just really happy because this is the first gold for me and to do it in Abu Dhabi in a world competition feels really special,” added the Al Ghazali fighter, who has practiced jiu-jitsu for three years.
Khaled Al Otaibi (34.5kg), Abdulrahman Mohammed (34.5kg junior) and Saif Khaled ( junior 38.5kg) delivered impressive performances in the grey belt division.
In the yellow junior 46.5kg division, UAE’s Hazaa Mohamed Aljneibi did enough to hold off Azerbaijan’s Alay Yaradanguliyev to come out on top.
And there was success for non-Emiratis as Brazil’s Raphael Ferreira Verdam added more silverware to his trophy cabinet. The 11-year-old, who practices at the famous Vasco Da Gama club, topped his division (yellow infant 34.5kg) for his second straight world triumph.
“This is one I will always remember and one I will cherish,” said the Brazilian. “I won gold last year but winning it again is really special because it was a lot tougher than last year.”
— UAEJJF (@uaejjf) April 21, 2015
Verdam, practicing Jiu-Jitsu since the age of four, has dominated with seven gold in the Brazilian junior competitions, but feels the Abu Dhabi event has proved to be his most challenging so far.
He said: “It’s a hard tournament as the world’s best are competing. The Emiratis are definitely becoming stronger and tougher which is good for the game because it widens the horizon of the sport.”
For compatriot Gabriel Consendey, the 13-year-old defeated his good friend Sultan Khamis for gold in the grey junior 62.5kg class. It was the first world gold for the Bani Yas resident who did enough to impress the judges to score a points victory.
“It just feels really cool because I’ve only been doing jiu-jitsu since September,” said Consendey. “It was a difficult final because I know Sultan well and we both fought very well and neither of us deserved to lose.”
He added: “Now I can only work harder and hopefully achieve more gold in the future.”