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.