The 2013 IBJJF Pan Ams had its own version of buzzer beater this March as Clark Gracie, trailing on points, choked out Marcelo Mafra in the Middleweight finals with just 26 seconds left on the clock.
Son of the great, yet under appreciated Carley Gracie, Clark Gracie has been competing in sport jiu jitsu all his life. In 2009 he was the brown belt no gi world champion and was soon promoted to black belt. There Clark has struggled to find success, coming very close at times but always coming up just short.
His performances have been getting consistently stronger. In 2011 he took bronze both at the Pans and the Mundials, but then failed to place in 2012 despite grappling very well.
It was clear from the start of this competition that Clark was determined to make a statement. He came out on fire, winning his first three matches quickly. Then he faced DJ Jackson of Team Lloyd Irvin, who had out pointed Clark at last year's Mundials. This time it was Clark who came out on top and advanced to the finals.
There he met rising star Marcelo Mafra, who had already taken out BJJ super talent Leandro Lo. Right away it looked like Clark might have to content himself taking another step forward as Mafra got a sweep and held Clark down for much of the middle portion of the match with a 2-0 lead.
With time running out, Clark started working hard for submissions, looking for his signature omoplata. At one point it looked like Clark might score a sweep to tie things up but Mafra escapes to standing, so no points were given. They started standing and Mafra pulled guard, clearly looking run to the remaining 1:30 out.
Clark stayed very active, attempting to pass guard and when Mafra scrambled to avoid giving up side control and the resulting 3 points. In that scramble Clark was able to lock on an omplata, and then went to a gi choke from the omoplata that he has perfected over the years. With the seconds winding down, and Mafra refusing to tap a confident Clark Gracie flashed a smile and thumbs up to his coaches as Mafra slowly slipped unconscious.
It was an amazing comeback by Clark and a breakthrough performance, possibly hailing the arrival of another Gracie that will leave his mark on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.