Marianas Open defending champion Keenan Cornelius faced off against Felipe Pena in the final of the Absolute Black Belt Championship on April 16 at the Father Duenas Memorial School's Phoenix Center, losing by a 4-2 decision.
Pena and Cornelius had only fought once before, and that time it was Cornelius who was awarded the win by decision.
Pena was determined not to let the prior loss affect this fight and came out strong, earning two quick points by sweep. Cornelius responded with a sweep of his own, leaving an even fight until the seventh minute. Pena was able to get one last sweep to take control for the final three minutes, and was named the new Marianas Open champion. Pena was awarded the $10,000 cash prize for the title.
“I’m really happy to be here,” said Pena. “To have gone out there and win, it’s a really good feeling. It was great being in Guam. I love the people, the island and I am looking forward to defending the title next year.”
Marianas Open founder Steve Shimizu was impressed with how competitive all of the fights were, including the championship bout between two of the best fighters in the world. His goal was to send the message that Guam is a place for competitive jiujitsu fighters to come to, and he believes that message was sent.
“It shows that jiujitsu can go any way,” he said. “You have the reigning champion get dethroned, but they fought hard. It shows that the level is here. Guam is the place for them to come now and they know that we do just as good of a job as anywhere else in the world.”
Cornelius was awarded $3,000, while third-place finisher Igor Schneider was awarded $2,000. Schneider fought against Guam native Terrence Aflague, going up 29-0 and finishing it with a submission by armbar.
Prior to winning the championship, Pena defeated Aflague in the semifinal bout. Pena was able to rack up seven quick points, passing guard into a mount. From there, Pena wore Aflague down until he was able to get him in a bow and arrow position, leading to a submission.
The other semifinal fight, between Cornelius and Schneider, also led to a bow and arrow submission, though the fight was more evenly matched, with Cornelius only landing two points by sweep prior to the submission.
The first fight of the day was between Pena and Guilherme Augusto Santos. Santos put up a good fight against the future champion and it wasn’t until the final minute that Pena was able to earn two points by sweep and win the fight.
Aflague faced Joel Bouhey for the second fight of the day, winning by a score of 3-0. The fight began slow with the fighters in a 50-50 guard, but Aflague was able to pass guard about six minutes in and earn the three points he would need to advance to the semifinals.
Cornelius faced Jacob Guerrero of Barrigada in the first round of fights. Guerrero stepped up to fight on short notice after Rhalan Gracie withdrew Friday night due to an injured right knee. Unfortunately for Guerrero, he was mismatched against Cornelius and lost by submission after a painful bicep slice.
The third Guam fighter, Bryant Pangelinan, was matched against Schneider for the fourth fight of the day and final of the first round. Schneider was able to control Pangelinan after a sweep into a back mount gave him the position he needed to win the fight by a 6-0 decision.
Nick Calvanese won the Absolute Brown Belt division — and airfare, hotel accommodations and registration entrance fee into the Pan Asia BJJ tourney in the Philippines in May.