I watched a lot of the purple belt and brown belt matches from the Worlds. I enjoy watching good lower ranks (especially blue and purple) competing. They seem to take more risks and also are an indication of where jiu jitsu is headed in the next several years. The lower ranks integrate the popular new positions and techniques much quicker than the black belts (who already have a solid game that has served them well for years).
My top five favorite brown belt matches from the Worlds revolve around 6 people: Keenan Cornelius, Sebastian Brosche, Jackson Souza, Kit Dale, and the Miyao brothers.
5. A Moment’s Hesitation: Sebastian Brosche vs Jackson Souza
This match might not at first glance be very interesting outside the fact that these are two of the best brown belt top players (“top” meaning they look for takedowns and guard passing). In fact, were I to rank guard passers, I would put Brosche at #1 among all the brown belts in the world. This absolute division match up was the quarterfinal that came after the Brosche vs Miyao match (below). Sebastian is a medium-heavy bronze medalist and Jackson is a heavyweight gold medalist.
One of the reason I like this match is because it has two people who are usually unwilling to pull guard, and going aggressively for the takedown. The biggest reason, however, is that this match captures something very dramatic about the Worlds tournament that I’ve experienced myself. You train your ass off for a year (or really for many years) for this one day. And in a single moment the tide can turn from winning to losing, because of your own screw up or some other element of confusion. The frustration in Sebastian’s face and body language is very relatable. I’ve been there. I’ve felt that. He went toe to toe with one of the toughest dudes out there and took him down to take the lead but let that slip away.
4. One for the Little Guy: Keenan Cornelius vs Paulo Miyao
I wouldn’t feel right not including this match in the top 5. I didn’t like watching the match, but the end of the match was probably the purest moment of happiness I’ve seen on the face of any competitor. I don’t think anyone works hardest than Miyao brothers. In some sense they represent the original beautiful ideal of jiu jitsu, that a little guy could defeat a much larger opponent. Most people don’t like this double guard pull style match, but I can appreciate the technical complexity and strategy of the exchange. I just hope that matches like this are few and far in between, and I think they were for the most part in the absolute division.
3. Keenan’s Closest Match: Kit Dale vs Keenan Cornelius
Keenan Cornelius submitted everyone on his way to medium-heavy brown belt gold EXCEPT for his first match where he faced Kit Dale and barely squeaked out a victory by advantage with the score tied at 2-2. The only thing more epic about the jiu jitsu in this match is Kit’s mustache:
2. War of Worlds: Jackson Souza vs Keenan Cornelius
In the minds of many observers (based on my conversations with people, the forums, and live chat during the event) this was the most anticipated and the most exciting match up of the tournament. Keenan Cornelius has become more than just a top notch jiu jitsu competitor, he is also a jiu jitsu personality/celebrity (partially thanks to Lloyd Irvin and the Kumite). He seemed unbeatable, and it was thought that if anyone could beat him it would be Jackson Souza, an aggressive guard-passing Checkmat heavyweight from Brazil.
1. Sebastian Brosche Solving the Unsolvable Miyao Puzzle
Sebastian Brosche is a guard passing genius. He has a unique style, and has passed some of the most difficult guards out there. The relentless pressure, base, grips, and balance are all on display in this match. I’ve never seen anyone else systematically take apart the guard of Joao Miyao, even going for a submission with an old school cross choke.